November 1st, 2016 marks the one year anniversary of ShowBuzzNYC.com and I want to say thank you for reading these reviews. I’ve hit some amazing highs this year, like the first time I saw my review on BroadwayStars.com or when I was listed as a Critic on Show-Score.com. I’ve written 52 posts in 52 weeks, not including a couple of reviews for TimeOutNY. But most of all, I am having the time of my life seeing shows with friends and writing reviews. So thank you for your support and I promise to keep it short and not too nasty (unless it is earned). XO Laura
I once knew a Producer who sold his wife’s jewelry to finance a show. The marriage did not survive, but the show was a hit. I knew a Producer who gave away most of his shares in a production just to get it on its feet, only to watch his partners become rich while he struggled to make rent. I knew a Producer who mortgaged his family’s home to renovate a Theater he didn’t even own.
It has been suggested that Producers are mercenaries, feeding off of artists for financial gain. Granted, the Producer is the only position in the Theater that is not hired and it only takes one thing to be a Producer; Money. So you would think that Producers would come in a variety of personalities, but actually, there are traits that most Producers share.
Lead Producers in Commercial Theater are a quixotic group. They have to be. They are setting themselves up in a business known for failure. They are achievement-oriented and risk-taking optimists, working in a field where you have to be in love with the art of Theater to put yourself through such insane pressure with an unforgiving deadline. Theater, like the Church, is a “calling,” not a vocation.
It drives me crazy when people say that Producers aren’t creative. Producers weigh every decision they make for its artistic merits. If they didn’t choose that particular play with those creatives, the show would not go on, no one would have jobs or the potential for continued income or even, perhaps, glory.
It drives me more crazy when Producers are blamed because a show folds. It’s the nature of the business; all shows close eventually. Sooner or later, the audience will wander and money will run out. NO ONE feels the pain of closing a show so acutely as Producers; watching years of negotiating, charming, wheedling, maneuvering, and begging come to nothing as their dream disappears overnight.
Sure, there are a few bad apples who keep two sets of books or move money around illegally from one production to another as if they will never get caught. (You can probably guess who I am implying.) But they eventually do get caught.
The changing regulations of the Theater Industry have not helped Producers. Up until 1996, the New York Investor Protection Bureau required that all signed Investment paperwork and funds had to be in before the first paid public performance of a theatrical production. This gave a rock solid deadline for Producers to use to raise money. But 20 years ago, Congress passed a law called the National Securities Markets Improvement Act (NSMIA) that preempts the states’ powers so there has been no law whatsoever requiring a producer to have the financing secured by any particular date or milestone in the production cycle. Some attorneys and producers responded to this change by setting up their own deadlines in the production’s offering documents, others have left it open-ended. I have seen offering papers that used a deadline of one year after the official Opening Night!
As a result, in the past 20 years we have seen more shows fold before rehearsals start, because if you have a group of risk-taking optimists and take the pressure of a deadline off of their investors, chaos ensues and funds promised do not always materialize. Producers should be praised for responsibly pulling the plug before the first rehearsal, rather than berated for lost income.
Believe me, no one hates closing a show more than the Producer. It is their lifeblood, their reason to be.
Let Laura read it to you======>
Theater is a temporal art; shows open, shows close and we move on. New York City is constantly changing; midtown has recently lost some of our favorite haunts with Cafe Edison, Colony Music and McHale’s Bar and Grill closing. Last year I retired and gave up most of my possessions to live in a smaller place. I moved on. Change is our status quo.
There is one painful memory where I find moving on isn’t so easy; it was too monumental. During the eighties and nineties, the Theater Industry was devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We lost Producers, Directors, Choreographers, Designers, Actors, Crew and more. The Stage Managers’ Association was started after a number of Stage Managers banded together to try to help colleagues who were suddenly incapacitated due to this unknown disease. I was one of those Stage Managers. We would go through a list of people suffering and note who needed food, who needed a hospital visitor and who had disappeared. It was common to have good friends just disappear, never to be heard from again. Most came to New York because they didn’t fit in at home; many were forced to return home to die with the families that had shunned them. Others, many others were at the city morgue.
What would Broadway look like now if all the victims had survived? How many hits would Michael Bennett have directed? How many shows would Howard Ashman have written? Here is a link to a partial list of those we lost, but due to privacy laws there is no definitive directory and just these few names are devastating. In 1991 alone, the total casualties from HIV/AIDS were near 20,000. The Broadway Community banded together to create The Producers Group (later known as Broadway Cares), Meals On Wheels, Equity Fights AIDS, and such. We were living in a war zone, triaging the new cases as we mourned the deaths.
The face of New York is different now. There are new young people who are Producers, Directors, Choreographers, Designers, Actors, Crew and more. Most of them have only heard about HIV/AIDS from television or if they saw “The Normal Heart.” Urban planners are building The NYC AIDS Memorial downtown, however it doesn’t address the specific devastation of Broadway’s talent pool.
Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Broadway Community rallied together and established a permanent Memorial in Duffy Square as a tribute to those of us who died too soon? Even just a plaque could serve as a reminder. Broadway is so adept at Opening Night greetings, Sunday potluck brunches and entertaining skits. Let’s stand up for something more substantial. Why not use our power to commemorate our departed friends who were victims of this horrible disease during Broadway’s darkest days? They lived their lives rushing across Duffy Square to rehearsals and performances. Future generations should be reminded of their loss at this crossroads of the theater district.
If you agree with me, please help me get word out by sharing this on social media and emailing it to friends.