We all want some knight in shining armor to ride in…and take us to a land of Tony awards and big royalty checks, but you know how you get one of those? You put something up that gets noticed. So somehow, get your stuff on a stage.
The next producer on the hot seat is Ken Davenport, Tony award-winning producer of Once on this Island, Kinky Boots, and many others.
Ken is a good friend and colleague, so I ran a few of these questions by him. Ken is a mover and shaker and real theatre (and general business) mastermind. He has taught me so much about producing, raising money, marketing, and theatre business in general. If you’re not familiar with his The Producer’s Perspective podcast, go check it out. There’s much to learn!
How do you feel about Crowdfunding projects?
Ken Davenport: Crowdfunding is not only a wonderful way to raise money for your show, but it’s a way to raise a “marketing army” for your show. People that invest will also promote. And the more investors you have, the more promoters you have.
How do you prefer to first connect with a writer?
Ken Davenport: I don’t have any preference, but writers should want producers chasing them down. How we do that is to see their stuff on a stage. So get your stuff out there!
What are the biggest mistakes you see writers make when trying to push their show forward?
Ken Davenport: One of the biggest mistakes writers make is thinking their show is for everyone. No show is. Know who your audience is and go after that audience.
Do producers typically have a preference on cast size?
Ken Davenport: Writers tell me all the time, “I kept the cast size down to make it cheaper.” Cheaper doesn’t mean better! Did Wicked keep their cast size down? Did The Ferryman? Make the cast size appropriate for your artistic mission. I’ve never not taken a show on because it was too big. I may get into the budgeting process after I option the piece and asked if there was some efficiencies we could find . . . but Producers are out to make things that are good, not cheap. And on Broadway, bigger is often better!
What typically is the first thing that attracts you to a show?
Ken Davenport: I don’t know . . . but I know it when I see it, hear it, or feel it. It’s like a punch in the face that wakes you up and says, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”
Do you encourage writers to self-produce?
Ken Davenport: Without a doubt, unequivocally, yes. If you won’t produce yourself, who will? I know we all want some knight in shining armor to ride in, sweep us off our feet and take us to a land of Tony awards and big royalty checks, but you know how you get one of those? You put something up that gets noticed. So somehow, get your stuff on a stage. Even if that stage is a 2 x 2 square in a basement bar. But get it up.
Do you accept invitations to readings?
Ken Davenport: Yes.
Do you have any preferences or opinions on adaptations vs. jukebox musicals vs. original musicals?
Ken Davenport: My only preference is material that thrills me in some way. It’s why I produced shows from Alan Cumming’s one-man Macbeth to Spring Awakening to It’s Only A Play to Kinky Boots to Gettin’ The Band Back Together.
Should the writer be required to raise money?
What are the ins and outs of bringing in a co-producer (rich friend!) to help raise money?
Ken Davenport: It’s a great strategy. Producers don’t need a license to do what they do. They just need to be passionate about the show…and about YOU. So finding a friend to be your Producer is a terrific idea. They can learn the other stuff. And you can get them a great General Manager or Executive Producer to help with the logistics.
Any other tips and suggestions you have on getting a producer’s attention?
Ken Davenport: It’s advertising. Rarely does someone “buy” on a first impression. It may take 5 contacts, 10 contacts or even 100 contacts with the same person before they accept an invitation or read a script or invest in your show. Just keep letting people know of your activities and success.
Special thanks to Ken Davenport for taking the time to share his insights and tips!
Ken Davenport is a Tony Award-winning producer of Broadway and Off Broadway shows, including most recently Once on This Island (2018 Tony Award Best Musical Revival), Gettin’ the Band Back Together, Groundhog Day: The Musical, Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, and The Play That Goes Wrong. Davenport has revolutionized the Broadway market with his diverse approaches at engaging audiences through his shows, as well as supported the Broadway ecosystem through a number of his own subsidiary businesses. He is an internationally recognized and award-winning writer of several Broadway and Off Broadway shows as well as several books about producing, Broadway investing, and how to raise money for shows. Additionally, he is the Executive Producer for North America for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. Ken’s blog and podcast, The Producer’s Perspective, has garnered international attention and has been featured in Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, The Gothamist, and more.