With new shows stumbling over one another to open before May 7, the last day that they’ll be eligible for this year’s Tony Awards—The Country Girl, Thurgood and Les Liaisons Dangereuses opened this past week and Boeing-Boeing, Glory Days and Top Girls are scheduled to make their bows this coming week—there’s more than enough for me to blog about. But I’m taking time off from my regular Saturday post because I’m spending this weekend at The Commercial Theater Institute, the three-day workshop that the Broadway League and the Theatre Development Fund run for people who are thinking about becoming producers.
No, I don’t plan to be a producer. But I am interested in everything that has to do with Broadway and so I sent in my $435 registration fee and showed up at the New World Stages theater complex early on Friday morning. I thought there would be around 50 people or so. Instead, there are 350 of us. It’s a fascinating group. There are lawyers and MBAs, actors and directors and I even ran into a woman I know who’s a life coach. People have flown in from all parts of the country. And the group is more racially and age diverse than I’d thought it would be—a definitely good sign for Broadway’s future.
The line-up of speakers is terrific too. They’re not the names that average theatergoers know but they’re the people who make Broadway run. On Friday alone, we got to hear from Producer David Stone, whose shows include The Vagina Monologues, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Wicked; General Manager Abbie Strassler, who is currently overseeing the budgets of Macbeth and Spring Awakening; the incredibly knowledgeable entertainment lawyer Richard Garmise, who spoke for an hour and a half straight and then drew the most questions from the audience; and Ted Chapin, the head of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and an all-around mensch who hung around and chatted with folks during the cocktail hour at the end of the eight-hour day.
Jed Bernstein, the former head of the Broadway League when it was called the League of American Theatres and Producers, is running the sessions and asked right at the beginning that everyone treat the comments of the speakers as confidential so that they’d feel free to really talk about things. I’m going to honor that request. But I will say that I had a great time on Friday and can’t wait for the Saturday session when we're scheduled to hear from, among others, the producers Tom Vertiel (the current revival of Gypsy) Randal Wreghitt (Grey Gardens) Jeffrey Richards (August: Osage County) Ben Sprecher (Kevin Spacey's Moon for the Misbegotten) and Steve Traxler (Spamalot).
When I come down from the weekend's high, I’ll get back to blogging about the new shows in Wednesday’s post.
I did this last year. It was $435 well spent.
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