Commentary: Aspiring Broadway producer? Welcome. Don't quit your day job.

Brisa Trinchero, Make Musicals blog, 8/24/12

In a recent blog, Ken Davenport noted the severe lack of young commercial theater producers. His figure for "producers under 40" came it at a paltry 8%. As a member of that 8% I'm not in the least surprised by that statistic. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about the glamorous lives of theater producers. In reality, producing requires a massive amount of work, risk, and stress, and in the vast majority of cases, yields absolutely zero financial return. Broadway producing is not, I repeat, not a viable day job. Let's debunk a few myths, shall we?

Myth: Theater producers have oodles of money.

Fact: Most great producers I know came out of the same "starving artist" ranks as the writers they are producing. Theater producers have to have access to money but that doesn't mean they are rolling in it themselves. Most producers end up spending tens of thousands of dollars of their own money in option payments, legal fees, developmental workshops, etc - this is where you hear stories of passionate producers taking out second mortgages and raiding their kid's college fund.

Myth: When the show opens, the producer becomes rich and famous.

Fact: [When] the show opens on Broadway, the writers will start getting royalty checks, notoriety, a rave review perhaps. What does the producer get for their investment of years and hard earned money? A producer doesn't start taking home significant profits until the show recoups on Broadway... and less than 20% of shows ever recoup.

Myth: Once you are a Broadway producer, you can "quit your day job."

Fact: Most producers have to work full time at other things to earn the money they spend on producing. According to David Stone, ["there are probably only about two dozen full-time, working-all-day Broadway producers."] And there are 40 Broadway theaters and a zillion off-, off-off, and off-off-off-Broadway theaters packed with shows each night. You do the math.

As costs rise and recoupment statistics fall, it's no wonder that smart, ambitious young people (most with college debt and NY rent due) aren't flocking to sign up. Nevertheless, the 8% of us who have opted to throw in our lot with this crazy business are massively passionate, endlessly resourceful and entirely dedicated to this incredible art form. We are grateful for the theater legacy we are carrying on and we're hopeful that there is a bright and beautiful future for Broadway. We thank you in advance for your continued support.


Commentary: Aspiring Broadway composer? Try YouTube. Don't quit your day job.

Ryan Cunningham, Huffington Post, 9/18/12

If you lived in New York in the early 20th century and wanted to hear the most popular music of the day, you only had to walk over to 28th Street and 6th Avenue -- Tin Pan Alley. You'd hear the cacophony of dozens of pianists banging out the greatest songs of the era, enticing you to buy [their] sheet music. But times changed, and by the middle of the century, Tin Pan Alley was only a memory. So where do people hungry for the newest songs of the musical theater go now? [Composers are] debuting their music on YouTube, and their songs [are] going global. For the lucky few, this worldwide exposure [leads] to sheet music sales -- and suddenly, theater writers [are] making money from their writing without ever enjoying the benefit of a Broadway show. It's a model that hasn't been available to working artists in over 70 years. That being said, the results haven't exactly been a windfall. In 2006, I wrote an Off-Broadway musical with Joshua Salzman that has seen success in album sales, sheet music sales and licensing. A few years after the show closed, we posted clips on YouTube and immediately saw an increase in all these areas -- and now more people have seen the clips than ever saw the show Off-Broadway. But even with this increased exposure, Josh and I still maintain day jobs. Internet-fueled success still isn't enough to make a living, and so the goal for many writers is to land the big show. As it was on Tin Pan Alley so many years ago, writers still want to get the attention of a Broadway producer. Has anyone actually made the leap form YouTube to Broadway? Yes. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul [became] YouTube sensations when they were at University of Michigan. Pasek says: "The Internet allowed our music to be heard and once the music caught on, we got our first agent. It was through our agent that we were brought in to write the music for A Christmas Story, which is coming to Broadway this fall. In the end, getting that 'traditional theater success' definitely started with just getting the music heard, and the internet allowed that to happen without having to make an expensive demo CD, or spend years developing a show to get it to New York."


An aspiring Broadway actress whose 'day job' is helping female comedians

Megan Angelo, The New York Times, 8/26/12

Like most actresses in New York, Glennis McCarthy, 33, has to juggle callbacks and performances with her day job. But unlike most actresses Ms. McCarthy has a day job that involves keeping her peers united, inspired and working. She is the brains behind Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy. It began as a blog just under two years ago and has bloomed into an informal society of New York's brightest comediennes. GLOC has regular stand-up shows, open-mikes, a podcast series, and an online resource center [for] fledgling comediennes. 

Q. How did you become part of the New York comedy scene?

A. I moved to New York when I was 19, on my own, no help from the family. I wanted to be on Broadway, but I quickly realized you really need to be trained. I fled the scene and started doing short-form improv.

Q. What pushed you to chase your dreams without a day job?

A. I worked at a law firm for eight years, in H.R. Every idea I came up with was too weird, not P.C. enough. Before I walked out of there the last day, I wrote an e-mail to the whole office, saying, "I'm going to find my bike, like Pee-wee Herman."

Q. What would you say to a 19-year-old girl coming to the city with dreams of comedy stardom?

A. Explore all your options. Don't get caught up in the bull; don't get caught up in the popularity contest. Find your own audience. Don't feel like you have to go where the cool kids are.


Tony winner: "I'd love to a show about the survival jobs I've had"

Jena Tesse Fox,, 9/16/12

It all started when Daisy Eagan, the youngest female Tony-winner ever, decided to get back into show business after several years away, and documented her return through Twitter. On Monday night, she [premiered] her new cabaret show, gleefully entitled "Daisy Eagan: Fuck Off, I Love You." While [searching for the show's] theme, she also searched for a temp job. In late July, she submitted a quip to her Twitter account: "I have a job interview tomorrow for a temp job packaging human breast milk. I also have a Tony award." The tweet generated a rapid response from the theater community. "It changed the game and got me new attention," she recalls. "People enjoyed what I had to say. It was different from what I was expecting..." The reaction did impart an important message to Eagan: "I thought I was making people uncomfortable," she says of her public persona, noting that she had even created an anonymous Twitter handle to share her thoughts. "I thought I was protecting my career by not being me, and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't know what career I would have if I wasn't being myself -- if any career at all. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to be who I am." After the tweet tripled her Twitter audience, she found TV comedy writers and other celebrities taking notice of her humor, and taking interest in her career. "I'd love to do a show about the survival jobs I've had -- like customer service for a psychic hotline. I've had some doozy jobs. And I'm really getting into the idea of doing standup comedy...I do tell jokes and riff and I like the idea of developing an act with songs. It could definitely be fun."


Commentary: I used my day job as a NY Times editor so I could review theater

From Neil Genzlinger's profile on the New York Times website

Before I became a full-time television critic for The Times in August 2011, I was a sort of multipurpose freelance critic, reviewing television, theater, film and the occasional book once I'd completed my day job as an editor at the paper. What I learned as a freelancer still holds true now that I'm a full-time critic: The best part of the gig is being able to bring some attention to a hidden gem. I reviewed hundreds of plays as a freelancer -- not the star-studded Broadway stuff, but low-budget work in tiny theaters, generally with unknown actors. And though, sure, I would have liked to be the guy to review The Producers for The Times, there was real pleasure in instead being the guy who told a wide audience about the daffily brilliant Jollyship the Whiz-Bang or the sublime, stripped-down Cymbeline by the inventive Fiasco Theater.

Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."