theatre accelerator 2020 spring cohort For the past 2 weeks, my husband and I (for our musical TRUE NORTH, previously known as Come Find Me) participated in the Spring 2020 Cohort of the Apples and Oranges Arts THEatre ACCELERATOR. Three hours a day for 10 days we met with producers Tim and Pamela Kashani, a variety of Broadway mentors, and writers from 13 other new musicals.

The THEatre ACCELERATOR is not for the faint of heart. It requires a significant time and energy commitment and an equal amount of openness to exploring alternative paths to production. 

Getting Ready

Before the week began, we were required to submit a 500-word (max) synopsis, and a 25-word (max) logline. That was an intense exercise in itself. Up for a challenge? Give that a whirl for the show you’re working on. 

We were also asked to read The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest getting a copy. It will become a reference book you’ll revisit over and over. 

Finally, we had to send in our show art for Apples and Oranges Arts to begin promoting Sing Tank (the final live pitch session). Don’t have show art yet? I can help. Email me here and let’s chat.

For those of you with shows ready to submit, the THEatre ACCELERATOR could be extremely beneficial. Our takeaways from the overall session were threefold and included:

  1. Clarifying the show’s theme and product market fit
  2. Exploring production alternatives and determining immediate next steps for 2020
  3. Creating a 5-minute pitch video with a clear ask

While those were the main thrusts overall, there were also educational and inspirational daily micro-lessons. The following are several that were extremely helpful.

Know Your WHY.

First, we explored the WHY of our show. WHY is the project important to us? WHY does the world need this show? Using a model similar to Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle,” we explored our motivations from the inside out. 

simon-sinek-golden-circle

 

We used our WHY to continue to refine our logline and theme (ours did a total 180º from the one we submitted prior to class!). We also developed a mood board, which was a fun exercise that provided a working foundation for future development and marketing.

Recommended Reading: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Know Your MARKET.

Tim Kashani, a Tony Award-winning producer as well as a Silicon Valley tech guru, melded his love for both industries to create the THEater ACCELERATOR. One of the goals of the THEatre ACCELERATOR is to help writers identify the product market fit for their project.

Using his expertise in the business and tech startups world, Tim encouraged us to explore Persona Mapping, Product Market Fit, Total Addressable Market, and Minimum Viable Product. For an in-depth look at how these concepts apply to the theatre industry, read “Product Market Fit – Your Musical as a Start-Up Business.

Know Your BRAND.

Branding is the process of giving meaning to your show by creating and shaping a specific image, impression, or emotion in consumers’ minds. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s what differentiates you from others in the market.

Branding can be established by building off the style of music (Rock of Ages, Motown the Musical), the time period (1776, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie), the setting (Hadestown, Into the Woods, Once on this Island), a character (Gypsy, Phantom of the Opera), a central theme (Mean Girls, Next to Normal), a main prop (Kinky Boots, Hands on a Hardbody), or an event (The Prom, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee). 

musical branding

During the week, we assessed what makes our musical distinct in the market. Then, we examined whether our current branding (which in early development may just be key art and a social media presence) was consistent and aligned with those distinctions.

Need an analysis of your current branding? Email me at [email protected]

Know Your PLAN.

At the end of THEatre ACCELERATOR, each team presented a 5-minute pitch during “Sing Tank.” Sing Tank is a live, Shark-Tank-style pitch session where participants present their shows to theatre and tech industry veterans. (Ours included Broadway producers Deborah Barrera, Arvind Ethan David and Brian Moreland, Cinematographer Alice Brooks, Investors Frank Kavanaugh and Jonathan Ledden, The Shubert Organization’s Kyle Wright and CEO of Show-Score Deeksha Gaur.) 

We devoted a large portion of the second week of class to polishing our theme, pitch and presentations. Tim and Pamela Kashani offered private coaching sessions, and other team members were available to help with tech questions (SingTank was held over Zoom). 

The shows receiving the highest “virtual investment” from the pitch panel were the ones with the clearest Why, Market, Brand, and Plan

Our cohort fell during the quarantine/COVID-19 season of 2020. As we prepared to pitch our show, we had to be nimble and creatively think of ways to continue to move forward in development during a season where theaters are indefinitely closed. There were a variety of ideas presented by the different teams, each with unique financial and developmental asks. To hear the pitches and feedback received, view the 2020 THEatre ACCELERATOR Sing Tank on Youtube.

Theatre Accelerator takeaways

We walked away from THEatre ACCELERATOR with an overflowing toolbox of new concepts, resources, platform awareness, marketing assets, pitching tools, immediate and long-term goals, and new industry contacts and colleagues.

If you’re actively submitting your musical, consider submitting to the next cohort of THEatre ACCELERATOR. It’s a sizable time and effort commitment, but for those really ready to work, it will prove well worth it!


Many thanks to Tim and Pamela Kashani and the team at Apples and Oranges Arts for sharing their insight and expertise to musical writers through the THEatre ACCELERATOR. To learn more about how A&O strives to merge business and tech principles and strategies with the arts, or to apply for the next TA cohort, read our article on submitting here or visit https://nycoc.org/ta/.