Recently, I was accepted into the Commercial Theater Institute’s 14-week program, “Advanced Topics for Commercial Producers and Managers.” Headed by CTI’s Executive Director, Tom Viertel, it is an intensive course comprised of fourteen Monday evening classes, during which some of the most successful Broadway producers, theater owners, advertising agency/p.r. executives, and Tony Award winning creative teams present and facilitate in-depth discussions on the commercial producing process.
My producing experience thus far has been as a co-producer of “Gutz” a one-man show written and performed by Todd Wall (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0908493/ and http://wall2wallreels.weebly.com/), for which I also functioned as dramaturg. A couple of year prior, I was co-general manager of an evening of short plays called “7-11,” one of which I wrote and starred in (“11 Minutes In Macy’s”). I am also the author of the play “Mine,” which I hope to further develop some day.
In previous years, I took CTI’s Three Day Intensive (held at the Helen Hayes Theatre — soon to be renamed following its purchase by Second Stage) and “Producing Workshops, Readings & Showcases.” The impetus for applying for the 14-week program was my experience as the lead in ‘What’s In A Name’ by Timothy Nolan and directed by Greg Cicchino at The Chain Theatre in Long Island City.
“What’s In A Name” is the story of Susan Price, a Catholic School student who becomes involved in the fight for racial justice in the early 70s, tragically finding herself embroiled in a bank robbery gone wrong. She goes into hiding for thirty years, raising a child and living under an assumed name. The play opens on her as a middle-aged adult, emotionally unraveling as her son leaves home for the first time and the ghosts of her former life return to view. I really enjoyed playing the role — the play’s intense combination of painful emotion, political idealism, and its exploration of a fascinating period during U.S. history were very compelling artistically and intellectually.
And I love the small and artful “Chain Theatre.” Please check them out. They present a variety of new and original work, and also curate film festivals, new play readings and visual art in their lobby gallery. http://www.chain-theatre.org/
But I did want to see this play find a larger audience. And let’s be honest — I wanted more people to see me in a part I felt I played well.
Tim and I discussed producing his play in Manhattan, but having had some unfortunate experiences, he had doubts about our ability to do it ourselves. “We need a real producer,” he said. I had doubts too – mainly because the part is 183 pages long and takes my character through a nervous breakdown, which is a lot to combine with a producer’s responsibilities — but I have always have my mother’s refrain in mind: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
However, since Tim was not fully confident, the project was set aside. And I decided to educate myself on all that a producer does. I applied to CTI.
Further disclosure: I am also the legal and compliance associate of a private equity firm (and a corporate mergers and acquisitions paralegal for several years prior), and have learned a tremendous amount about law and finance. Since I am looking toward developing a more fluid relationship between my creative life and my business experience, I hope to channel my creative sensibility toward investments and projects to which I feel artistically and emotionally connected.
Cut to: first class where producer Kevin McCollum (“Rent,” “Avenue Q, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “In The Heights,” “The Last Ship” and many more) proclaims that there’s no way to learn how to produce and even he doesn’t understand it fully.