Booking It! Producer Ken Davenport on Getting Your Show Off the Ground

By Adam Hetrick
25 Apr 2014

Talk about producing new, contemporary work that may not have an outright commercial appeal. What are the risks involved? Is it worth it to take the risk?
Davenport: My business model is simple - if my shows don't make money, I don't eat. So I always have to think about a show's commercial potential. That said, I like finding a way to give something that doesn't seem commercial a real shot at making money. It's a challenge. I do things that I love... That's what all producers should do, commercial or not.

Many young people are passionate about theatre but might not be performers. Can you describe some of the creative facets of being a producer and what the role encompasses?
Davenport: Producers are like the CEOs of companies. We're in charge of it all.

Can you speak about what attracts you to produce certain projects, especially new works? Does it change for each production or are there common triggers that speak to you?
Davenport: It differs. But I have to be passionate about it to want to work on it. Producing theatre is too hard to work on something that you don't enjoy every day. And since so many shows don't work out, you want to make sure you love them. If I wanted to make money, I'd do something else. There are a lot of easier ways to make money. I produce theatre because it makes me happy.

What are some mistakes you have made in the business that turned out to be really helpful to you and that you were able to learn from the most?
Davenport: I learn more from the shows that don't work than the shows that do. And everything that hasn't worked has always been worth it in the end, because it has opened some door for me.

During your career you've nurtured new work and also produced revivals. Some people bemoan the amount of revivals we see on our stages, but can you speak a bit to the value of both? 
Davenport: I don't believe people bemoan revivals. I think people bemoan bad revivals. Revivals can be fantastic because they can make you look at something in a totally different light. Read a book when you are 20 and then again when you're 30. It could affect you in a totally different way. That's what is so terrific about great works of art.