Booking It! Producer Ken Davenport on Getting Your Show Off the Ground
By Adam Hetrick
Playbill.com's new feature series Booking It asks leading industry members to share professional insights, need-to-know tips and essential tricks of the trade for up-and-coming and established theatre artists. This week we speak with Tony Award-winning producer Ken Davenport.
Davenport, who writes the theatrical industry blog TheProducersPerspective.com, is the man behind such Off-Broadway productions as Awesome 80's Prom and Altar Boyz, as well as a producer of the Broadway productions of Mothers and Sons, The Bridges of Madison County, Macbeth, Kinky Boots, Godspell, Chinglish, Oleanna, Speed-the-Plow, You're Welcome America, Blithe Spirit and 13.
The innovative producer, named one of Crain's "Forty Under 40," also ushered in a new era of Broadway fundraising with his 2012 revival of Godspell, which welcomed theatre lovers and first-time investors to back a Broadway show for as little as $1,000.
Davenport also runs industry-related seminars for actors, producers, writers and more. Check out the upcoming workshops here.
His current projects include his adaptation of the novel and film Somewhere in Time, which recently premiered at Portland Stage Company, as well as the musical Gettin' the Band Back Together, which played an acclaimed run at the George Street Playhouse last fall.
Below, Davenport shares his thoughts on the current landscape of theatrical producing, as well as some of his tips for aspiring producers and actors.
How much is an above-the-title producer involved in the show's creative decisions? Are they, in any way, involved in casting or the creative process?
When you are involved in casting - what do you look for in an actor's audition (monologue or song). Davenport: I have a simple casting rule. I look for people that I want to hang out with for 2.5 hours... in the dark. Actors have to have incredible charisma to stand on a stage and keep the attention of 2,000 people.
What are some challenges that actors face now that are new to the industry as it evolves?
In a producer's eyes, how weighty is representation for actors and/or writers, creatives, etc.?
How does one break out into the world of producing? How do you get started in making investments into commercial productions?
To start investing in Broadway shows, find a producer whose shows you like and reach out to them. Get on their list. Go to readings. Be proactive. Investment opportunities aren't that public, so you have to put it out there that you are interested.
What is the best way to start saving money, raising money and meeting investors?
Is it worth it, as an up-and-coming producer, to start with Off-Broadway or the New York cabaret scene?
What are your thoughts on the cabaret scene, with both composers and young producers?
Talk about the self-producing composer. Do you think this is beneficial – producing your own work to establish your voice?
What are programs or internships young producers should be investigating?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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