GUEST BLOG by Tim Donahue: What a strange 100 years it has been for theater prizes!

In 1918, the first Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama went to a forgotten—and forgettable—comedy entitled “Why Marry?” Two years later the prize went to a female playwright, because the Jury thought it would be a “handsome” thing to give the prize to a woman, although they wrote, “It is not a great play but it is original and interesting.”

The Pulitzer Drama Prize was so often laughable that in 1935 a group of Broadway reviewers formed the New York Drama Critics Circle expressly to give better awards. One of the founders, Brooks Atkinson, summed up the Circle’s accomplishment almost thirty years after its beginning, writing, “The average taste of the Critics Circle is no more discerning than the average taste of the Pulitzer judges. Neither the Circle nor the Pulitzer prizes can be intimidated by genius; both of them have on occasion preferred commonplace plays to classics.”

In the late 1940s, the Tony Awards began as a small event for the theater community sponsored by the American Theatre Wing, a charitable group from the war years. The presentation happened at a banquet with dancing in a hotel ballroom, with the prizes chosen by an ad hoc handful of people. In the first year, a Tony was given to Vincent Sardi, Sr., in thanks for Sardi’s Restaurant!

Twenty years later the Wing was in financial trouble and it joined with the Broadway League to continue the Tony Awards. Within a year, the ceremony morphed into a big television event. That changed everything about the Tonys and a lot about Broadway theater.

Still, being on television hasn’t prevented the Tony Awards from making major gaffes.

There have been past seasons when the resulting prizes, Tony Awards and others, can still provoke healthy argument. For example:

Harvey won over The Glass Menagerie
Hello, Dolly! won over Funny Girl
The Music Man won over West Side Story
Nine won over Dreamgirls
The Sound of Music won over Gypsy

These competitive years make one wonder what best play and best musical awards mean.

Today, there are six major, very different organizations giving best play and best musical awards, for diverse reasons, chosen by very unalike procedures. It feels great if your show gets one, but does it have any sure, lasting meaning?

In short: so many prizes; so little to celebrate. Even after 100 years.

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Tim Donahue is the author most recently of Playing for Prizes: America’s Awards for Best Play and Best Musical. He is the co-author of Stage Money: The Business of the Professional Theater and three other books on theater.

Broadway Grosses w/e 4/8/2018: At least the sun is shining on the box office!

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending April 8, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

Should actors be “required” to stage door?

In 1991, I moved to New York City and while making my way to my tap class on 53rd St., I discovered my first Stage Door.

It was the Broadway Theatre’s SD and Miss Saigon was playing at the time.

“So that’s how all the actors I admire so much get into the building,” I thought.  “Wow they walk through that very . . . ” and before I could finish the thought, the actor playing Thuy, Barry K. Bernal, stepped up to the stage door to cross the magical threshold from the street to the stage, and prepare for his matinee.

“Have a good show,” I mumbled, a bit nervous to be speaking to an actual Broadway star.

He smiled, grateful for being recognized, thanked me and in he went.

As you can tell, I’ll never forget it.

A lot has changed since then.  Unfortunately, Barry K. Bernal passed away at the tender age of 31 years old, three years after I saw him at that Door.

And Stage Doors are no longer empty, vacant areas where actors just come and go as they please.

Now, fans flock to the doors, before and especially after each show, for a chance for a sighting, an autograph and maybe even a few kind words from the stars they admire.

One of the great things about the theater is that our stars are so accessible.  You can’t “stage door” a football game or a rock concert in the same way you can a Broadway show.  It’s just not logistically possible.

And with Broadway booming, the crowds around the doors of hit shows often spill into the street, as selfies get snapped and autographs get signed by the hundreds.

You can’t buy that type of promotion . . . because when people fall in love with actors, they also fall in love with the show they’re in.

Last fall, “stage dooring” reached a tipping point when a controversy erupted when Ben Platt, who was practically puking up his heart onto the stage at Dear Evan Hansen every night, said that there were some nights that he just couldn’t do it . . . and still deliver the type of performance the next night’s audience paid to see.

And oh, the tweetlash that he received, including one “fan,” calling him an “a**hole” and “garbage.”

And I’ve seen plenty of other comments on message boards and across the twittersphere hating on actors for wanting to save their voices, and keep their energy up, by skipping out on what can be an added hour or more to their day.

Actors in Broadway Shows are not only more accessible than any other “celebrity” out there, but in my experience, our actors WANT to be more accessible than any other performers out there.  And as fans and Producers we should be so thankful that they’re willing to give that extra hour or more that it can take to sign every Playbill and take every photo before they can head home.

And, of course, as Ben unfortunately learned, they take more of the heat than the actual show if they choose to opt out of appearing for their fans.

So if that’s what they decide, we must trust that they know best, and they are doing it to protect what is most important . . . the show and themselves.

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Are you an actor?  Read one of my most popular posts . . . My 10 Audition Tips for Actors by clicking here.

 

 

Broadway Grosses w/e 4/1/2018: The Easter Bunny Brings Good Business to Broadway.

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending April 1, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

The newest additions to our slate.

I made some pretty juicy announcements about some new musicals we’re developing recently, and yesterday I realized . . . I never blogged about ’em!

Well, today’s the day . . . especially since these two will definitely count towards our #5000By2025 mission we announced here two weeks ago.

So here are the two new musicals we just announced and more importantly, why we’re producing them.

JOY

Like so many people on earth, I first met Joy Mangano when I was hanging up a shirt.

That’s right, if you have a velvet hanger in your closet, then you know her too.

Joy is also the woman behind the Miracle Mop. And the mini steamer.

But this isn’t a story about consumer goods.  This is a rags-to-riches story about an unstoppable single mother of two, who defies the odds and turns a dream into a reality and then into a mega-million dollar empire.

Hollywood spun her story into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, but there’s so much more to it than that.

It’s a joy-filled tale of a female who triumphs over adversity. . . which is exactly what Broadway needs right now.

Oh, and the dancing mop number is going to be amazing.

BROADWAY VACATION

I’ve been after the rights to the Vacation movie franchise for years.  Literally years.  Every twelve months, an alarm would go off on my ToodleDo and say, “Bug Warner Brothers for the rights to Vacation.”

Well, not too long ago they finally said they were open to it . . . and they also said, “Hey, you know who also has been bugging us?  Kurt Deutsch.  You two should talk.”

Talk we did. And then we secured the rights . . . but not to do the movie on stage.  But instead, to take those iconic Griswold characters, and set them out on a new adventure.

That’s right, you’ve seen Vacation, European Vacation, Vegas Vacation  . . . here comes Broadway Vacation The Griswolds take Manhattan.

As I mentioned in my Facebook Live video on the day of this announcement, I’m a believer that if you’re going to take a big brand and adapt it into a musical, you gotta do something different with it.  It has to be unique.  You can’t just put a movie on stage . . . that’s not the medium that the story was designed for!

But when you can take the characters and create a new story (like what Harry Potter has done) you get all the value of the original brand, and you get the excitement of creating something new.

We’ve got a long “Holiday Road” ahead, but we’re excited.

(Oh, and note to you folks trying to get the rights to something . . . in business, “No” often means “not now.”)

Both of these rights acquisitions have been in the works for some time, and are all part of a new focus of mine towards the development of large-scale new musicals (In the last year, I even raised money for a “front money fund” to pay for the development of up to ten musicals so I could focus solely on the creative).

You’ll see a few more announcements in the coming months about the other shows that I’m growing up from the ground floor.

And they are just as exciting as the above.

Stay tuned.

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I announced both of these shows LIVE on my Facebook Page.  Join me every day for an impromptu Facebook Live giving you a glimpse into the day and the life of a Broadway Producer.  Click here to see the past videos . . . and make sure you like the page, and turn your notifications on to see the next time that I go LIVE!

 

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