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Well You’re Not the Only One

Are you reading Ken Davenport? Why not exactly? I will hold confession for all y’all really bad people at whatever bar SXSW hasn’t eaten for the week.

In his latest post, which features Force of Nature David Ortiz, he talk about the success that the producers of In the Heights have had, and what lessons can be drawn from it.

Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller, have produced Rent, Avenue, High Fidelity, In The Heights.

Mr. Davenport talks about four factors that go into the shows (save High Fidelity) being hits, and garnering grassroots audience response. He broke it down as geography, taking risks on talent, being frugal/responsible with production costs, and being true to the show instead of spectacle.

I’m paraphrasing.

I kept waiting for the obvious conclusion to be drawn explicitly… but it never was.

Why are these producers successful?

The same exact reasons we’ve been talking about.
They took shows about the area they were performed in (Theatre is Local! Even for puppets!) They didn’t import Big Names. They didn’t create needless spectacle. They  focused on doing the show the way it needed to be done, with the Right People to do it.

Further? They created community around the shows, something Mr. Davenport doesn’t mention despite it being a feature in his iPhone ad… the Rent kids, and to a lesser extent Ave Q fans (and definitely Altarboyz fans) were/are evangelical. The Us/Them dynamic was exploited to leverage the underdog into profitability.

Reparaphrased:

Create honest product aimed at your community, featuring the right talent from your community, be responsible with your production costs, and invest the audience in growing the show.

Yeah. I can get behind that.
“But Travis, that’s too simplistic!”
Of course it is. It’s the truth, not a road map. If I had a road map I’d be producing on a different scale now wouldn’t I?


Isaac asks why we get our buildings sponsored and not our people, in a continuation of the simmering semi-discussion of Edifice Complex 2.0. I find the discussion timely as Austin is in the process of opening their own $77M facility (I’ll be there in May – plan now!) while I fell $1200 short of being able to pay my performers for Transformations.

Why wouldn’t companies be interested in “endowing” chairs for paid positions? Because their’s no prestige in it. If our media was still in the business of making stagefolk stars we could drum up at least some interest in it. But if there’s no way to trumpet the fact that you’re doing it? There’s no reason for a company to do it.

Though if Mangia Pizza wants to endow an in-kind program I’m willing to listen.