Production: Master Class (Working In The Theatre #245)

(APPLAUSE) It is with pleasure that I once
again welcome you to the American Theatre Wing Seminars on “Working in the Theatre,”
which are coming to you from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. It is the 23rd year of these seminars, and
they have been the most exciting thing that I think we have done. It is also fitting that I tell you that this
is the 50th Anniversary of the Wing’s Tony Awards, which is also a very exciting time
for us. The Wing does what it has been doing for these
past fifty years, in every way that we can, to say “theatre” to the community. We go to hospitals, nursing homes, and AIDS
centers. All of this is done with the people who work
in the theatre. It stems out of, really, the belief of a woman
named Antoinette Perry, for whom the Tony Award was named. And perhaps we are best known for the Tony
Award, but year-round, the American Theatre Wing does what the Tony Award stands for,
theatre. It’s not created to reward the longest line
at the box office or the best review, but to reward the achievement of excellence in
the theatre, and to pass that along to the community. So year-round, we work. We go to high schools, and we say, “Theatre
in high schools is very important.” We bring the people that work in the theatre,
the designers and the directors and the singers and the actresses and the producers, to tell
the young children in the high schools what it is to work in the theatre. We have a program that’s called “Introduction
to Broadway,” and that program is just that. It brings students from the five boroughs
of New York to see a Broadway show, most of them for their very first time on Broadway
and their very first time in a Broadway house. It’s a wonderful, exciting, and very heady
experience for them. And one not only that excites them to see
the theatre, but also gives them role models, because from time to time we are able to have
discussions with the people who they have seen as well as the stage manager and the
house manager, who show them that there are other areas of the theatre that they can work
in. We also have a scholarship and grant program,
and that has the same qualifications. We give monetary awards to Off-Broadway and
Off-Off-Broadway shows, and these awards are given to honor an achievement of excellence
over the years of what they have produced, what they have created, and what they have
contributed to the community. And so, you see that we are hard at work doing
what we do. We enjoy what we do, and I think that through
the years, to have the reputation that the Wing has, we have been doing it fairly well. And speaking of reputations, it is the American
Theatre Wing’s reputation that brings the kind of people to these seminars that we do. And this seminar is no exception. It’s on the production, the production of
MASTER CLASS, that most exciting and wonderful play that’s on Broadway right now. And this is the producing team that made it
all possible, so you will learn how easy it is to produce a successful Broadway show. (LAUGHTER) George White will take over now,
and introduce the cast of MASTER CLASS. Thank you, George. (APPLAUSE) On my far right is the stage manager, Dianne
Trulock. And immediately to her left is casting director
Alan Filderman. And on my immediate right is producer Lewis
Allen, who produces both for theatre, motion pictures, and also for television, and whose
Broadway credits include I’M NOT RAPPAPORT, TRU and A FEW GOOD MEN. Now, on the far left is Doris Blum, who is
assistant to the co-producer of the project, Robert Whitehead. And immediately next to her is Jim Weiner,
advertising representative from LeDonne, Wilner and Weiner. And immediately to his right is Bill Evans,
who is the press agent and public relations. And immediately on my left is Karen Kay Cody,
who plays the role of Sophie in the production, and originated the role at the gathering in
Big Fork in Montana, so she goes back to the very beginning of this. So, here we go with the master class on MASTER
CLASS (LAUGHTER), if you will. I wanted to start, not just because she is
dressed so beguilingly as a captain (LAUGHS), in reality, she is a captain, a captain of
the ship. And I’m sure all of us in the theatre know
that if there wasn’t a decent stage manager, indeed an incredibly critical part of the
whole production revolves around the captain of the ship here. So I wanted to start with Dianne. If you would, first of all, do a couple of
things for us, and that is, tell us a little bit about what the stage manager does, the
care and feeding that goes therein, and also how you got to be a stage manager. Well, there is now, I know, classes in some
conservatories in stage management, but it never came that way. No. Well, what we have to do to keep the show
going is, basically, we’re responsible for the running of the show. We’re in rehearsals. Usually, we’re in rehearsals from the very
first day. And we are responsible to take down all of
the blocking. Also, to listen very closely to what the director
is telling the actors and to keep those intentions, because once the show opens, the director
leaves. And many times, a stage manager will have
to go and say, “Remember, we worked on this and this and this.” So you’re basically a caretaker for the
director. Once you go into the theatre, you start working
with the designers, the lighting designers, the set designers, the sound designers. And they create a look and a style for the
show, and they work in collaboration with the director. And once the show opens, the designers leave,
and it’s the stage manager’s responsibility to keep the integrity of the design team,
also. We’re also responsible for every time you
see a light change or you hear a sound cue or you see a piece of furniture moving on
and off stage. There’s somebody, the stage manager, back
stage, telling a crew member to do that. So basically, if we were sitting here and
this table was on a track, many times, and it tracked on or off, we would be telling
a stagehand when to do it. It’s our responsibility to keep the show
as close to the original intention as possible. Also, to work with understudies and make sure
the understudies are capable and ready to go on at a moment’s notice, and believe
me, it can be a moment’s notice! (LAUGHTER) And basically, to keep the show going. Any problems that happen backstage, we have
to take care of them. Many times, problems out front, too. Somebody’s talking in the audience, whatever,
we have to go out and try and make sure that they are calmed down or whatever. (LAUGHTER) So we’re keeping it all up in
the air. And also, it’s very important to keep the
integrity of the production and of the designers and the directors. Now your other question was how did I [start]? How you got there. Yeah. Well I started off, interestingly enough,
as I think probably everybody did, as an actress. I couldn’t sing, so I lost a lot of work
that way. But I wanted to stay within the creative end
of it, and I started working in a production office, and I was answering phones. And they knew I was interested in stage management,
and so, a show was available. I had to read for the show as an understudy,
and I got the role as an understudy, and I think I got it on my reading, too! (LAUGHTER) And that’s how I learned. And it was very unique. I learned on Broadway, which is a very unique
thing. Usually, it doesn’t happen that way. Well, let’s go from the captain to the admiral
(LAUGHTER), to keep the nautical metaphor intact. And that is Lewis Allen. Would you talk a little bit about, one, how
you pulled together all of the pieces that a producer does to make this show happen? I know it started in Montana, and we’ll
get onto that. And then, Doris, if he says anything that
is not true (LAUGHTER), you can correct him from that. All right. Because you are also in the middle of all
that. But, Lewis. Well, of course, it did begin in Montana,
before I was involved. And Terrence McNally wrote this play with
Zoe Caldwell in mind. Zoe did it there. I was not there. Were you there? You weren’t there, either. No, I wasn’t there, either. In any case, it went very well. And then Bob Whitehead, who is the primary
producer of this, we share an office together and have worked together a great many times
in the past, gave it to me and said, “Would you read this? Would you be interested in co-producing it?” Well, I read it and I went crazy. Instantly, I said [yes], that very day, I
think, or the next day. It’s a wonderful play, because it just leapt
from the pages. I thought the most overtly dramatic script
I’ve ever read. And I said, “I’ll co-produce, I’ll take
any part of this you want.” And my wife, who is a playwright and screenwriter,
she was in Europe. When she came back, and I knew she would,
she had the same reaction. I mention this because I was curious, because
Bob Whitehead had sent it to various other producers. I think he was very insecure about the money
raising of the thing. And I’m kind of shocked at how few people
understood it. I had sent it to a couple of theatre owners
in that regard, and they said, “Well, you know, after your opera buffs, who’s going
to want to see this play?” (LAUGHTER) I couldn’t understand that. In any case, it was a long, slow process,
because we started in Philadelphia well over a year ago. I think it was something like February of
last year, at the Plays and Players Theatre, a tiny 350-seat house, and they presented
it as part of their season. It was very successful, and we were expected
to go from there into New York. However, the part is, as many of you know
who have seen it, a monumental, theatrical part. And I think Zoe Caldwell felt, even four weeks
there, she was just getting into the part, and before we had gotten that far, we had
also spoken to Gordon Davidson at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and from the Kennedy
Center, both wanted it to come there. And so we decided, “Well, let’s go ahead
and play, let the thing develop.” It was an extraordinarily difficult part. So after a hiatus of I think a month or so,
we went to the Mark Taper, where it was enormously successful and extended the run. And then, again a short hiatus, to Washington,
to the Eisenhower. Same thing happened, it was sold out and extended
a bit, and then on to New York. But basically, that was the process. By the time we got through, I would say, to
Los Angeles, we were inundated with everybody you ever heard of calling, wanting to invest
in the show. It was a very easy one in that regard, though
it wasn’t that simple at the very beginning, because of this sort of reservation about
being an elite show about opera. So that’s what happened. Do you have a cadre of investors that you
go to each time? I do, yes. And Bob has, too. Yes, I have various people. I mean, it doesn’t apply to major musicals,
you know, you’re getting in the millions. But in the shows I’ve done, I mean, we did
VITA AND VIRGINIA, for example, $400,000 Off-Broadway, which is remarkable. Or this was $600,000. These are very modest [amounts]. And therefore, individual investors loom very
large, as they used to do in the old days, when almost everything was financed that way. Once you get up into the big musical field,
it’s a totally different ballgame. You have to go to record publishers and theatre
owners and movie companies and so on. But I do have a very loyal group of investors,
and they just come into everything I do. And Doris, it’s your job to make sure when
they call, they can get these people on the phone, I assume? (LAUGHTER) That’s right. Partly that, sure. Were you in on it at the beginning? Right then, when the script went to do its
[workshop]? Yes. Oh, Doris has been on it longer than I have. Yeah. No, I knew when Zoe went out. Zoe hesitated about going out to Montana. And she thought, “Oh, my God, way out there.” And she was tired. She had just finished working on VITA AND
VIRGINIA, she was the director of that. And so she was pretty exhausted and she thought
she didn’t want to go out to Montana, and Robert really convinced her to. And there she met the charming Karen and really
started to get involved in the play. Well, now we’ve brought up Karen, and before
we get to Karen, we want to know how Karen got to the production, which brings me to
Alan. And although he said Terrence McNally wrote
the play for Zoe, where does that leave you? I know that, that’s a rhetorical question,
but we have to find other people in the production. Actually, I came on after Karen was involved,
because I came aboard after the Montana workshop. It was workshopped in Montana, Karen was a
part of the cast there, and then they decided to do the play at the Philadelphia Theatre
Company, which is Sara Garonzik’s theatre in Philadelphia. I happen to be their casting director. So I was brought in to meet with Mr. Whitehead
and Mr. Foglia. Luckily, I have a background in casting opera
as well as theatre, so I got the job. Karen had already played the role in Montana,
and so I came aboard after Zoe and [Karen], although we weren’t totally sure that Karen
was going to come, because Karen lives in Seattle and has a happy life in Seattle. We were never quite sure that she was going
to want to come. But Karen was already involved and Zoe was
already involved. I was brought on for the other roles. Well now, tell me, I know there are singers
and there is also an accompanist who has to be, in a sense, cast. It isn’t just somebody who plays the piano,
although he has to play the piano. Absolutely. So how do you find the people? Because as you say, you cast opera, which
is, you know, would seem to me a fairly new thing. In the old days, you have the “Impresario”
that does this. Luckily, because I had been hired to do some
crossover opera pieces for the Houston company, I had at my beck and call a list of opera
managers, which is a different world than theatrical agents. And I just knew how to get in touch with them,
I knew who they were, I knew who to call, which helped certainly in casting the tenor. And because I’m a casting director who casts
a lot of musicals, I work with a lot of musical directors, and I’ve always known who those
people are. When I was presented with this play and I
saw I had to have someone who played the piano beautifully, but could also act and be on
stage for over two hours, David came to my mind immediately, because I knew he moved
to New York to be an actor, I knew he was in the original cast of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG,
and I knew that he was, you know, a diva piano player. I mean, I think he was the first name on my
very first list for the role. It was interesting because yesterday on these
seminars we had Lennie Foglia and he said also, it was wonderful, because this is the
one person when you had the call that actually sat erect through the whole thing. (LAUGHS) Yes! You know, and was into it, rather than, you
know [DEMONSTRATES SLUMPING OVER]. Which came first, in your seeking for the
cast, the operatic or the musical part or the actors? (SIGHS) It’s an unbelievable combination
of both. I mean, especially whoever was going to play
Sharon and whoever was going to play Tony. It has to be totally believable that they’re
opera singers. They both sing full arias. Lennie and Terrence always wanted to not have
Broadway singers doing a good stab at an aria, but for it to sound like a true opera singer. But they have full scenes, and on stage they
have to be able to act. And it always was presented to me that it
had to be both. They way I approached it, though, was to find
opera singers who could act, as opposed to find actors who could sing opera. You can always find actors who can sing. Actors who can sing opera would be trickier. I approached it from finding opera singers
who could act, and luckily, I think we did. Karen, how did you find Montana then, in Seattle,
and wend your way to Montana and then here? Well, a girlfriend of mine does this play
conference in Montana. And I would just go out there basically as
a vacation, you know, which a lot of people did. I mean, that was part of the attraction of
going to Montana. She would write to playwrights and say, “We
can offer you two weeks — “ Where in Montana? In Big Fork, a little resort town. She would offer the playwrights two weeks
in beautiful Montana and a company of professional actors and that the playwright could work
on whatever they wanted to work on, which for playwrights is really rare. Usually, they’re commissioned. They’re told, you know, “We want you to
write this and this and this for us.” And for a playwright to be offered the chance
to work on whatever they feel like working on is really rare. And so, a lot of playwrights found this as
their writing home. They would say that if it wasn’t for Big
Fork every year, they wouldn’t sit down at the typewriter. So it was a great experience for everybody,
and Terrence, of course, brought this script out, and he had the first act written when
he got there, and I think he finished the second act there in Montana. Well, but you’re an opera singer. No, no. (LAUGHS) You’re not? Okay. Not at all. I sing musical theatre, but I’m faking it. (LAUGHTER) I see. Ah-ha! Don’t tell anybody! (LAUGHTER) No, no, no, that’s right. Do you go on vocal rest? We heard about “vocal rest” yesterday
(LAUGHTER), which gives you [TO ALAN] an Excedrin headache, I imagine, because these people
do go on vocal rest. They do, but luckily, we also have spectacular
understudies. Yeah. And it hasn’t been a problem. When a couple of the cast members have had
to go on vocal rest, their understudies have been spectacular, and I don’t think anybody’s
ever been disappointed at all by an understudy’s performance. Well, they almost aren’t understudies, then. They almost, like, interact. Exactly, absolutely. And some have been on quite a bit, others
not at all. Well, now, we heard about the first thing,
which is, Lewis, you know, the reaction of some theatre owners and people saying only
opera buffs would like this. Yes, right. Which means that both Jim and Bill have your
work, seemingly, cut out for you, if that is indeed the take that people are going to
make on this. How do you get around that? Which one came first of you? Who came first? How old are you, Bill? (LAUGHTER) I guess we came to the project
at about the same time. Who makes that decision, that it is Bill and
it is Jim? The producers. The producer does. So when you’re casting your ship, in a sense,
they come on, at the beginning. Right, right. And so, obviously, you interact very, very
closely. You have to, for all of these things. We’ve worked together before, yes. And I suppose that the same thing would be
true for Bill as it is for me in the advertising field. We try and keep abreast of all of the productions
that are going to be coming to Broadway or Off-Broadway, and maintain contact with the
various producers, in an effort to get their attention, as anybody connected with the production
would, and apply for work. We requested that we get a copy of the script
early on, and we were privileged to do so. And as Lewis said, we fell in love with it
immediately. All of us who read it at the ad agency thought
that it was just a dynamic property. And when you speak about the opera world and
the drama world and Broadway in general, there wasn’t a problem with that. I didn’t listen to any of the music the
first time I looked at the piece, and yet, it all came to life, right from the written
page. And it seemed to me that it was going to attract
a wide audience. That was never a real problem. We had three great entities, as we crassly
put it in my field, to sell. And that’s the wonderful play that Terrence
wrote and the marvelous actress who is Zoe Caldwell, and thirdly, and not unimportantly,
Maria Callas, who is a worldwide, renowned entity, even today. And those three elements gave us a wealth
of material with which to work. Now how did you choose — I’m learning a
new advertising speak — the “icon,” which I just learned was the symbol for the show? After all these years, I didn’t know what
an icon was, except something that was in a Russian corner that people bowed to. (LAUGHTER) But anyway, who chose the symbol
of Zoe? Was that you? Or how did you come to that, in terms of the
marketing? Well, it’s a developmental process that
takes a little bit of time, in this case. We presented rough ideas of how we thought
the play should be presented graphically to the public. It did not include such a dominating illustration
of Zoe to begin with, but as we developed the piece, we felt that that was most important. We combined the images of Maria Callas — It’s very clever, as you can see. It’s extremely clever, the window card that’s
done. Well, we went through images of Callas to
begin with, at great length, for a long period of time, until we found something that we
all thought was the appropriate piece. The producers, of course, in anything that
I have to do, have the final say. And eventually, we all fell in love with the
image that you see ghosted in the artwork. We began to feel that Zoe’s portrayal was
so magnificent, so large, and she’s got such a great following in theatre, that it
was very important to make her the focal point of the piece. And we combined photography and illustration
and involved the third element, which is the beautiful set, as a backdrop for the artwork. And those three things came together, in a
long process, to arrive at what you see today. And Doris, it was your job to ride herd on
pulling all these things together from the producer’s point of view, I would assume. Meetings and juggling all of that? Yeah, that’s true. We always had to schedule meetings with all
the department people, Lewis and the other producers. And one of our producers lives in Boston,
so she had to be notified when there was an important session, and Bill and his staff,
and Jim. And Doris was also a key coordinator between
Lewis and Robert and Spring and Zoe, because you’ve worked with Zoe a very long time
as well. And Zoe Caldwell immerses herself in her roles,
and there’s so much to immerse in, if that’s the correct terminology. And she had all these books, and Doris would
get more books and then there’d be more books. And then there’d be a favorite photo that
Lewis found or Robert found or Zoe found, and this would get to Jim, and Jim’s art
director, Patrick Flood (PH), who actually did the piece. Also, my feeling is that all of us do what
we do, I think, pretty well, but we’re not artists. So if we can express what we have in our heart
or soul or sense of the show, it’s an articulate group, and if that art director and Jim and
his staff can hear what they’re saying and then go away and think, “I think I know
what they’re after. I think I can [do it].” And the dream, and in this case I think it’s
true, is that they go away and they come up with another spin that’s even better than
maybe what my own non-art directing imagination can pull together. And this was, I think, an inspired piece. And in color, in the New York Times, when
we took our announcement ad, it’s a newish thing in the New York Times. It was sensational, yes. It’s for them to make lots more money, and
they do, of course. (LAUGHTER) But it’s also up to speed in
the world of graphics that people are used to seeing. And we live in a world of videos and CDs and
the most sophisticated MTV graphics. And you know, we’re bombarded with all this
stuff. And the kids growing up, the MTV style of
cutting everything, you know, and here we are presenting a show about an opera singer. And you know, the reaction that some of Lewis’
theatre owners and so forth had, we didn’t want to get stuck there. So ultimately, I think it’s sort of a sophisticated
sense of the marketplace. And in this marketplace, where there is gangsta
rap and everything else, I feel that this piece represented, when you put your money
down and you bought a ticket and you went to see MASTER CLASS, it coordinated with the
sense you got when you opened the New York Times that day. And the color and the texture of it and the
feeling of it, I think it’s extraordinarily successful, and it’s a very hard thing to
do, to get it right. And I think the collaborative thing, in this
case, was the real success, and Patrick Flood. Well, the hard thing to do was to develop
a piece that would be as classy as the show is, to represent it in that high manner. Does cost come into it? Do you say there’s just so much money for
this, to go out and bring this in, the piece that will be right? Well, money is a concern, of course, in all
the endeavors. That’s always a factor. But you’re not constricted in the budget? No, no. We wouldn’t quit till we get it right. It took a long time, I might say. (LAUGHS) We spent an awful lot of effort on it. It took a long time to get it just so, just
perfect. And from my point of view, that really wasn’t
a factor. We’re not in the charity business, but by
the same token, that’s our work, and it has to represent us as well as the show. And so yes, money is a factor, but we weren’t
going to let that stand in our way of developing a piece that we thought was perfect. Well now, you mentioned about that they took
a long time. I mean, you had both a challenge and a mission
to convey — Well, one of the first pieces of art you presented
was that drawing in its essence, the face of Callas and this, which we liked. Yes. But it was a long process of working on it
and honing in on it and getting it right. It probably took several months, I think,
didn’t it? Definitely, yes. (LAUGHS) There was one point when we were standing,
I think it was in Doris’ office, and Zoe came in to see it. And Lewis and I and Doris were standing there
and she was looking at it and she goes, “Does my picture have to be in it?” (LAUGHTER) And we said, “Yes! Move on!” You know, because we’d been grueling (SIC)
over this thing, and “Yes!” was the answer. And then once she accepted that, she also
was very enthusiastic and supportive about it. Yes. And that’s a part of it, too, that you want
everybody to feel good about it. Isn’t that unusual to have your star come
in for that? Well, yes and no. Ultimately, though, if it’s any kind of
a likeness of the star, then it would not be unusual. They would probably have it in their contract
that they would have any likeness of them that we had control over, meaning photos that
we shoot ourselves for our publicity purposes or advertising purposes or artwork, that we
would explicitly get their permission. I don’t think so, explicitly. A lot of big stars really are very tough about
that. Oh, yeah. They have it in their contracts and they go
over every photograph. Zoe doesn’t really seem to care. If you do something she doesn’t like, she’ll
tell you. Right. But one would always clear it with the star,
because you don’t want them to be unhappy. And to that point, we had to actually work
directly with Zoe. We worked from a sketch of her, in profile
to begin with, to develop from the point that Lewis mentioned, where we had a rough layout
that gave us the general idea that we wanted. But at some point during the Philadelphia
engagement, I took an artist down there and we sat with Zoe in her dressing room and sketched
her and worked directly with her on that image from which this developed. That was simply a pencil sketch, but it gave
us a springboard to develop what you finally see. And the other end of it, from the pencil sketch,
is Lewis happens to be very computer literate and art literate. And he got the idea, and Jim was able to implement
it. We went over there one day and we were morphing
in their computer, where, you know, “Okay, let’s have 10 percent of Callas’ face
and 90 Zoe, and let’s get 75 Zoe –” And what we got sort of looked like Betty Crocker
to me (LAUGHTER), and it didn’t work. But it was really interesting. The idea was to get across a face that looked
both like Zoe and Callas, but of course, it looked like neither one, finally. Yes, but it’s just indicative, I think,
of the kind of depth that this producing team cares about getting it right. And I hate to sound like the PR guy, but I
will say that this project is one, and I’ve been doing this for 24 years now, and every
now and then it comes together in a way that every part of the producing unit as well as
the creative unit, somehow it all comes together and it comes together well. And it has to do with Terrence McNally, who
is a playwright at the top of his game, won the Tony Award last year for LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, wrote a script from the rock
bottom of his soul about someone who had inspired him from his earliest years. Lewis and Robert and Doris are in the producing
royalty of Broadway, who have been here producing Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, everyone
you’ve ever heard of, and they care about the quality. Zoe is just a talent beyond description. And they listen to you, these people listen. We also have a young director making his Broadway
debut, Lennie Foglia, and the collaboration between Terrence and Lennie and the producers. We have two people making their Broadway debuts
on the stage, Karen Kay Cody and Jay Hunter Morris. Also, Audra McDonald is a wonderful star who
burst on the scene in CAROUSEL. Somehow, all of these quality things, starting
in Philadelphia for us and in Montana for you, everybody was encouraged and supported
to do what they do, and you go to the wall. And you go to the point where the producers
have to make the decision, ultimately. However, they listen and encourage and want
to hear. And it develops, it really does. I agree that the result is everything that
you say, and it’s interesting to hear how it all came together. But I’d like to take you back a step. Why did Terrence come to Bob Whitehead and
Allen first? Was there any connection? Have you done anything with him before? No, he came because of Zoe. He wrote it for Zoe Caldwell. Zoe is married to Bob Whitehead, as I suppose
everybody knows. Yes. Zoe did a play called A PERFECT GANESH at
the Manhattan Theatre Club, and that was the first experience she had working with Terrence
and Terrence working with her. And I think that he saw her talent in a big
way, and I think he’s the kind of playwright who usually has somebody in mind when he writes
a play. And he thought of Zoe for this particular
play and approached her. And he himself had attended many of Maria
Callas’ master classes at Juilliard. So this was a thought and a thing and an embryo
that was growing in his head and heart, I think, for many years. And then Zoe was the personification of it. She could bring it to life, and so, that’s
how it [happened]. Well, now that you’ve got it, and you’re
all set, who’s the first one that comes into line? Is there a general manager? Or where do you start building your [team]? Once you have the project together. Everything is set now, you’re ready to go,
and you know this is what you want to do, you and Bob and Doris. Well, we worked with a general manager, who
was supposed to be here, Stuart Thompson, but unfortunately he is managing AN IDEAL
HUSBAND. He’s general managing. He’s managing AN IDEAL HUSBAND, which is
the name of a play. (LAUGHTER) Tell me who’s the first one that comes on. Well, Stuart, as a general manager, is on
from the beginning with us. Right. That’s what I want to know. In fact, he shares in our office. Doris and Bob Whitehead and I and Stuart all
have an office together. So he is right from the beginning, because
he has to do all the construction, do all the contracts, and all that. Does he hire you? Yes, he does, in tandem with — Well, Dianne has been with us for quite a
while on a number of shows. And she has been with me and with various,
you can tick off some on the list. (DIANNE LAUGHS) So in fact, we have a kind
of cadre of people we work with regularly. A group, yeah. And Bill Evans has done, I don’t know how
many, every show we’ve done, right? For some time, several years. Right, right. And Jim. So you’re one of the few production companies
that are constantly in business, with offices and a staff and the same people to call upon. Right, exactly. There are not many of that around any more,
are there? Well, there are some, but a lot of them, you
know, there are the major ones, such as Cameron MacIntosh and so on, which are industries,
in effect. When I think of the smaller, there are not
very many smaller independent producers. That have a real team or ongoing offices? Yeah, that’s ongoing. Yeah, I think so. Okay, now where does the nitty-gritty come
in? Where do you get your money? Where do you get your investors from? Well, as he says, we all have our old friends
that invest regularly anyway. There are a lot of professionals, when they
smell something coming in that’s hot, they all jump in, want to get into it. As I said, in this case it was slow at first,
but in my case, I just said, “I will commit to whatever it is, the whole thing, anyway,”
going in. It was a question of who you would let in,
in this case. And I guess if you were a young or starting-out
producer, I don’t know, you might start with your Christmas card list? I don’t know. That’s exactly it, yes. (LAUGHTER) I wanted to also go on, getting back to Alan
for a moment, obviously, you were brought in pretty early, I would assume, in the process. Yes. And that’s one thing. What was the charge given to you, apart from
you talked about opera singers, not singing actresses. (LAUGHTER) But at the same time, a little
bit more about, for people who wanted to get to a casting director, what do you do? Do you go around and see things? Obviously, you must. But how do you get your stable? Sure. Again, for this play, the process was a little
different. But in general, yes, certainly going to see
as much theatre as I possibly can. Also, going to see as many movies and watching
as much television — it’s a hard life (LAUGHTER) — as I possibly can, and I naturally just
pay attention to the actors and try and remember names, always look at cast lists. The other thing, I think, is having very good
relationships with agents, and knowing who the smart ones are. Knowing that when the smart ones call you
and say, “You have to see this person,” being smart enough to say, “Okay,” and
not “No.” And always trying to have an open door so
that I’m constantly meeting new people and new talent, most of which would come in handy
for everything except this play. Again, I was extraordinarily excited when
this was happening for me, because I was the casting director for Philadelphia Theatre
Company, I had cast a production of LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART — Why not stop for a minute and tell us about
the Philadelphia Theatre Company? Why did they go there? Tell me a little bit about it. Well, actually, I think it’s because, and
I’m not an expert on this, but I believe it’s because Sara Garonzik had produced
a production of LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART the year before that Terrence came down and
saw and was extraordinarily impressed with. I believe this is true. And Sara, being an extremely intelligent woman,
then just opened the door to Terrence and said, “If you have anything new, ever, please
come here.” (TO OTHERS) If I’m getting any of this wrong,
[stop me]. And so I believe that Terrence then when he
had a new play and wanted to do something out of town, not bring it right into New York,
contacted Sara about getting the process started there. Is that [right]? That’s correct. He also felt that that theatre was perfect
for that show. I mean, the theatre itself. Exactly. What kind of a theatre is it? Tiny. It’s old, 1911 or something. Is it a regional theatre? Is it a not-for-profit theatre? They rented a theatre in Philadelphia called
the Plays and Players Theatre, which is a jewel box recreation of a larger theatre in
Philadelphia. It used to be called the Shubert, now it’s
the Merriam (PH). This is a scaled-down version of the same
theatre. And I mean, it’s just a very, very beautiful
physical place to do it and a very good place to do the show. And is it a regional theatre? What is the class? Yes. The Philadelphia Theatre Company is a LORT
regional theatre. Do you want to explain what LORT is? League of Regional Theatres. It’s the League of Regional Theatres, and
there are regional theatres all over the country, hopefully in as many cities as possible. LORT stands for? League of Regional Theatres. They’re non-profit. It’s different than the Broadway for-profit
productions and the contract is different that the actors work under. All the rates are different. And most of the theatres around the country
are LORT theatres. There are some commercial houses in each city. That get touring packages. Right, that get touring packages. But most of the theatres that exist all around
the rest of the country, outside of New York, are non-profit, different contract theatres. You know, you bring up something, also, we
were talking about the theatre, we’re talking about the physical theatre and they’re talking
about “perfect for the play.” Now, who made that decision? Is that Terrence? Is that Leonard? Because, obviously, you’re now also in a
relatively small Broadway house. Well, Terrence wanted it done there. And several people looked at it. Everybody just agreed that it was a wonderful
place to do it. Rather than doing it [in a bigger house]? I mean, you’re going to be sold out, but– No, it’s supposed to be a concert hall,
as they played it, and it just seemed to fit that description. A beautiful theatre and you felt that you
were in a lovely concert hall. It was no problem, and everybody agreed that
it was a perfect place to do it. So you’re, in a sense, casting the theatre
as well? Oh, absolutely. You always do that. Yeah, yeah, indeed. And I think it’s an important consideration,
particularly in this piece. And speaking of this, now we’ve been talking
a great deal about, again, the icon, the image of Zoe Caldwell. But I know that shortly, she is leaving the
show and you have Patti LuPone. What are you going to do and whose job is
it to do what? Are you going to change the icon? Well, I guess some of the same things occur
that occurred in the original developmental process. We collaborate, we discuss first how we think
the transfer should be made. We’re already working with images of Patti
LuPone, in an effort to present her in as dynamic a way as we have Zoe Caldwell. And we will develop a transition piece and
replace Zoe’s image with Patti’s image. It may not be identical, but it will be close
enough to retain the feel that we developed initially. From Day One, we all wanted this play to have
a long life, and we knew that Zoe would do it for a period of time, in the best of circumstances. So from the very beginning, there was always
thought of “How will we proceed?” We had that in the back of our mind when we
developed the piece initially. And so, it will evolve into a piece that presents
Patti. And Bill, what will you do? What’s your role? Yeah, I would imagine that you would have
to do a whole new marketing approach. I think also, picking up on what Isabelle
just said, in many people’s minds, that production, that work, that play is so much
Zoe’s. That’s true. In a lot of theatregoers minds, you are left
with quite a marketing job, and what are you going to do. Well, I think it’s one of those double-edged
swords, because you certainly don’t want to play that down prior to coming to New York
with Zoe Caldwell. And we didn’t. However, I also think that, like Terrence
McNally, Zoe is a creature of the theatre. And she is enormously well-known to people
who love the theatre and have gone over the years. However, as a mass media celebrity star, it’s
not something she’s ever sought or been interested in and her world, you know, is
very much the theatre. So we were aiming at a certain audience initially,
the core group that would respond to that. And we were all happily surprised, a little,
to hear that Patti LuPone was the choice, because it’s not immediately what you would
think. And I think people were expecting something
much more traditional, an actress of long-standing who’s been around forever and done worthy
things. And it’s a very difficult thing to do. And Patti is a great person on the stage in
terms of strength. We have seen her be a diva. She is a great diva, you know, anyone who’s
seen EVITA. She holds the stage in a very powerful, theatrical
way, which is what Zoe does in Zoe’s way. Patti does it in her way. And I must say that the reaction, to everybody
in the press and in the theatre community has been uniformly positive, saying, “What
a good idea!” And of course, Patti, you know, has been very
much in the forefront of things over the last few years, and personally, had her own show
earlier this season on stage. And oddly enough, she came to see a matinee
on the day that she didn’t have a matinee. So she came to see Zoe in the afternoon and
saw the performance and went back and was so knocked out by Zoe’s performance that,
you know, she thought, “Well, I can’t go out on the stage now! I can’t do this!” So anyway, she went out there and she ended
up at this part of her show where she conversed with the audience. She talked about Zoe Caldwell and talked about
Maria Callas and how thrilling it was and all of this and she did that for a few days
and we’d get reports backstage, “She talked about you again today on stage!” So there was this little something going on
there, you know. And Patti was very stimulated. And then very much without any idea, ever,
that she’d end up being the one to come in. And she’s very, very up about it and very
scared about it, and all the things that Zoe was, too. And so, I think that we have a wonderful kind
of basic good feeling. Sometimes you have plays or replacements or
stars where they go, “Oh, no! You know, you can’t! You’re not going to do that!” But on the other hand, you can’t use a theme
of, you know, “If you thought Zoe was wonderful, wait until you see!” (LAUGHTER) So how are you going to turn around
and say, “This is an exciting opportunity”? Well, you’ll see a photograph of Patti with
a ghosted Callas in the background. And the photograph and the art treatment of
it is going to hopefully be exciting to look at. Patti also will bring her own personality
and acting to it. And where will you focus your particular area? I think basically, and this is a great reminder,
too, that this is not a vehicle. This is not a one-woman concert. This is not a master class, it’s a play. And while Zoe brings all of her electricity
and personal stamp to it, there’s no question that director Foglia is going to come in and
collaborate with Patti and they’re going to come up with their own things. And you’re going to see the master class
experience and you’re going to see Patti in it. And hopefully, there’ll be the person after
Patti, you know. Your publicity is going to be that? Well, also Patti is a personality. She’s well-known. People know her. I’d like to find out what publicity is,
in this case. Oh, well, the first thing is the announcement,
and we’ve had an announcement. Announcements of this order get leaked, you
know. Nothing to do about it, no matter how hard
we try, and one has to give up the idea of control, which is very — Isn’t that somehow useful? If you know it’s going to come. If you’re the one playing the cards. Sometimes, it can be quite un-useful, especially
if a deal isn’t set, you know. That can be quite unfortunate. But in this case, it was, and it was fine. And when you’re dealing with somebody of
that level, it’s hard. Sometimes yes, you can plant, you know, as
the White House does, you whisper. “What a surprise this leaked!”, you know. (LAUGHTER) But you also want to shape it and
you want to make an announcement. And Peter Marks in the New York Times has
in his column. It’s been in the other papers. And then, of course, Patti did a tremendous
amount of publicity for her own show earlier. So we are very much in tune with that, and
Philip Rinaldi (PH) who did the press on that show, because she’s hit many of the places
already that one would ordinarily go to. And also, you want to give Patti a chance
to play this in front of an audience. So at some point, there will be critics. And that, if you will consider that publicity,
in a sense, it is because it says, “She’s here. They respond to her. And you know, she’s in this role now.” And so then it becomes also, how much can
Patti do in one day? How much can Zoe do in one day? And the practicalities of it, one has to really
be sensitive to. And the truth is, my theory is, that the only
absolute job they have is to go out there and do their stuff on stage. And if we can make it comfortable enough and
appropriate enough and the right things. And Zoe is so not connected to the idea of
publicity. It’s always like a surprise or, like, why
am I asking her, you know? And you have to sort of explain it and make
it seem worthwhile, because she really concentrates so fiercely every day. And Patti, also, is very intense. She approaches it in the same intense way. So we try to only ask the important things. We try to put them in an order where, if the
New York Times has announced it and the other papers have announced it, it’d be great
to make a network television morning show, or in some cases, 20/20 or CBS Sunday Morning
or all these magazine shows. Will they go on early morning shows? Will Patti do this? Yes, they will. Now, you can’t book them for, you know,
a crazy tour of doing everything in one week, which you couldn’t do anyway. But you have to really be selective. And again, my job is to coordinate what the
needs are of the Today show, if there’s an interest and a slot, to get someone, A,
who’s going to interview you who’s seen the show. Many times, or sometimes, they get to the
show and the interviewer says, “Well, I haven’t had a chance to see you, but I hear
you’re great. Tell us about your show.” (LAUGHTER) And it’s like not a good thing
for people who work from, you know, integrity. Picking up on that, what do you say? This is not a seminar today in acting, but
would you give us a kind of [example]. What do you do when you pick up the phone
to the Today show? What do you say to get through? “Hey, you want to do an interview? Because I’ve got an interview for you!” (LAUGHTER) What do you do? And I understand that you know these people,
but still. Right. As Lewis goes to his long-time investors,
these are people that you build up relationships with over the years. And hopefully, as Alan says it of the agents
that tell you the truth, over the years you have a shred of integrity with these people
and they know that it’s worth taking the call at least and talking to you. And one of the great things on MASTER CLASS
was, we had Philadelphia and then we had a break. Then we had Los Angeles and we had a break. And when they say, in the old days, that the
drums started beating, I’m telling you, the timpanis were loudly sounding. And so people would get the word. And the best thing I can do is encourage my
contact at the Today show, “Get on the train and go to Philadelphia,” or “If you’re
in Los Angeles, go see the show.” Because then they get, I can suggest and tell
them what’s up, but they don’t have all day either, they’ve got their needs. So my job is to make it easy for them, wave
the flag a little bit and say, “Pay attention to this one, really.” And be selective. I guess that’s the most important. Yes, yes. And not drub them every single day with a
new idea that clearly they couldn’t use. Well, the other thing now, I want to go back
a second, because you know, there’s the old saying that a good idea has a million
fathers and a bad idea is an orphan. (LAUGHTER) Who had the idea for Patti LuPone? ‘Fess up, somebody. Maybe Doris will tell us? Well, I think, Alan? Terrence. It was Terrence. I had made up a spectacular list, I thought. (LAUGHTER) And we sat and everybody came in
with their list, and Patti was actually on Terrence’s list. And the idea is Terrence’s. That’s interesting. We’ve been involved with these producers
before. And I chat almost every other day with Doris. And we knew that this time was coming, and
Doris sort of said, “Who would you think of?” And among the several names that we kicked
around in our office, my partner, John Wilner, suggested Patti LuPone as well. Now, it was put off, and I would assume a
totally independent decision on your part, but some of us did think of her as such a
dynamic personality. And of course, any great idea. We said, “Oh, it was our idea!” Right. So several people, obviously, would have thought
of it, because it is such a great idea. Doris, what is your job in this? You’re being very quiet. (LAUGHTER) I mean, you’re a traffic cop. That’s about it, a traffic cop. I would say Doris is just as important on
our production side, it’s the same thing that Dianne does for the theatre or the show
itself. Basically, it’s kind of coordinating, yeah. Exactly. Do you speak for Bob, for example? Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes I do, because I kind of know what
his answer would be. And occasionally, I hesitate and say, “No,
I must really finally check with him.” But I’ve worked with him for so many years
that I can kind of second-guess him. And it’s a matter of just the opposite,
being in the office, what Dianne does on the stage, is to coordinate with all the departments. And make sure the right people are talking
to the right other people. Right. And sometimes, Doris is the only one who has
all the pieces of the puzzle. Oh, yes. She knows what Lewis said and Robert said
and what I called and asked this morning and Dianne said this. And Doris sometimes is the only place where
you finally get all the pieces. Now if I was a playwright or a director or
an actor and I wanted to get to Lewis Allen or Robert Whitehead, and I would probably
get to you first, maybe. Yes. How would I get by you to them? (LAUGHTER) With difficulty. (LAUGHTER) Exactly. But what might compel you to do that? I realize that I’m asking you professional
secrets, but I think that it’s an interesting [thing]. Is there anything that maybe makes you go
to either Bob or Lewis and say, “You know, this person — “ Have you ever had that
happen? Yes, I’ve had certain things. Why? It’s sort of like Alan answering that he
pays attention to what’s going on and sees a lot of things Off-Broadway and in workshops. And I’m also affiliated with a school called
the Neighborhood Playhouse. And Robert is the president of that board,
too. So being part of that, I see all of their
productions, and so, I know if there’s a great new talent that’s coming out. And that maybe that person should be seen
by someone, at least have a meeting, get counsel. Or I’ll have them come in to the office
and talk to me about giving them a little bit of the truth and the hurt of it and the
encouragement. But playwrights do submit scripts and people
do send in their photographs, and we try to read as much as we can, but it’s almost
impossible to read the plays that come in. But you try to pay attention. At this point, hold it, remember what you
said, because you’re going to continue when we get back. We have to take a break now, and only for
a couple of minutes. And please don’t go away so we can come
right back again and continue this discussion on “Working in the Theatre,” on the production. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) This is CUNY-TV, Channel 75. (APPLAUSE) We’re continuing the American
Theatre Wing seminars on “Working in the Theatre.” And this seminar is on the production, the
production of MASTER CLASS, that wonderful, exciting show that’s playing on Broadway
right now. We have the entire team that brought it to
light. And behind them stands still another team
that is not with us today. But these are the spokespersons for the production
of MASTER CLASS. And as we were talking, we talked about how
it started, how it started in the office of Doris Blum and went on to all the people that
are here. George White is our co-chairman, and George
is president of the O’Neill Center in Waterford, Connecticut, and on the faculty of Yale, and
a marvelous director, both here and abroad. And so, George, with all of those credits
on your shoulders, it now behooves you to bring out the best here! Thank you, Isabelle. Well, it’s easy with this crowd. But I wanted to get on to something. We talked a little bit about the selection
of the theatre in which it’s playing, because of the sense of a concert hall and intimacy
and all of that. But also, it is a member, I believe, of the
New York Theatre Alliance, which other than being a cabal, I wonder if you could perhaps,
Lewis, tell us a little bit about what the Alliance is, because it’s a rather revolutionary
concept. Right, right. I’m sorry Bob Whitehead isn’t here, because
he really was almost the primary founder of the Alliance, through the League of American
Theatres. It’s called the Broadway Alliance. It was set up because of the enormous cost
of doing plays on Broadway. And it seemed so prohibitive that it has become,
and still is, very difficult to do a straight play on Broadway. So working with all the unions and the League,
they put together this structure whereby most of the people working on the play — I think
it runs from all the designers to stage managers, the company managers, the press agents, everybody
— It’s all the unions, yes. All the unions take a 25 percent cut in their
normal fees. The production itself has a cap of, I think,
it’s $2500 a week now for any salary. You can’t pay anyone more than that. And let’s see, what else? And of course, the ticket prices then are
limited to the top price of an Off-Broadway show. Now, you can see this does make the whole
production cheaper, it makes it cheaper to run and so on. And that’s the idea behind it. There are a couple of problems with it, too,
I’ll get into in a moment, but this is how we did the production. So we were able to do the whole thing for
a modest $600,000 sum. The participants take all these cuts, if the
show is profitable, when it goes into profit. Ten percent of the profits go into a profit
pool that’s held for them and they all share in that pool when the play finally closes. So in effect, if the play is successful, they’ll
finally end up not only making back what they’ve cut, but making back more. The strange thing, the only other play that’s
made a profit was LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! on the Broadway Alliance, and
that barely made a profit. It moved to Broadway and just barely paid
off, so a lot of things hadn’t been tested. We’re in a peculiar position now of coming
up, we were able to get Zoe Caldwell because she’s my other partner’s wife, Mrs. Robert
Whitehead. (LAUGHTER) And so, she has a back door participation
there, but it’s a very difficult thing to get any major star to commit to doing a play
on Broadway with a $2500 top. That’s one thing. I think they’re going to raise that. Coming up in May, we hope that will be raised
somewhat. Why is that? Why will you raise that? Because it’s very difficult. How many stars are going to come in and work
for that amount of money on Broadway? It’s very difficult to get them. And the whole point of this thing is to make
productions possible, but if you make it difficult to get stars, then — But then you’re going to get right back
into what caused you to focus on an Alliance theatre in the first place. Well, but it would go to $3500 probably. That is what is being talked about. And that is not, again, you know, much of
a salary for a Broadway star. In any case, it’s always evolving. Every few months, they meet and they make
a few changes and adjust. They keep fine-tuning it. Now, does that go theatre for theatre? Or can any theatre get in on this? Well, there are certain theatres designated
by the theatre owners, and what they have done is pick the theatres that are the least
desirable, the most difficult for them to book. They become Broadway Alliance theatres. I see. (LAUGHS) The Golden is kind of an exception, because
I think the Golden is a lovely theatre, and it’s right on 45th Street, it’s got a
marvelous location. I think we’re lucky. I think it may be the best one of all the
Alliance theatres. Well, it’s an intimate theatre, too. Yes, it’s intimate. But that does affect — what is your top ticket
price, as opposed to what it would normally be? Well, it’s 45. We got a special dispensation to go to 50,
because finally, Zoe could only do seven performances a week. And cutting down to seven performances, making
one less, and holding the ticket price at 45 made it a very dicey proposition financially,
you see. So they gave a special dispensation, only
as long as Zoe is in it. And that’s made the difference. Did you get that special dispensation from
the unions? Yes. We had to go back to the League and through
the unions, yes. And doing only the seven performances? Everybody agreed to that, yes. Now, actually, Dianne, you’re really the
point person for the union as well, aren’t you? At least for Equity. I mean, not in terms of negotiating, you’re
not the Equity deputy, I know. But basically, you have to control all the
Equity people and you’re on top of that. That’s right, yes. And I actually act as kind of like the middleman
between the actors, the unions, and the producers. And if indeed, at some point, they want to
set up a rehearsal or whatever, the producers will have to come to me. They say they want to work on the day off,
I say, “I can’t do that. The union won’t allow us to work on the
day off.” And so, yes, I’m kind of like the middleman,
you know. And so then, you work under this Alliance
contract, as the actors do? Yes. But I am a member of Actors’ Equity. Stage managers are members of Actors’ Equity. That’s interesting that they come under
that union. Yes, I know. When you sign a performer to your production
that’s going to open, do you have to state that it’s going to be an Alliance production? Yes. Right from the very beginning? Oh, you have to cover that from the beginning,
absolutely, yes. You can’t make the decision afterwards that
you think this show will be better off at an Alliance theatre? No. You go in on that basis. The problem is, you get in, you can’t get
out. Yeah! (LAUGHTER) And all the contracts — You can’t get out. That’s one of the problems, when you finally
get in. Even though we’ve paid out and run the full
course of all the contracts, we still have to stay on that as long as we’re in New
York. Well, it’s like an irrevocable trust. Yes, exactly. How many Alliance theatres do you think Broadway
can support? Well, they have a lot more than there are. There are very few Broadway Alliance shows. I mean, they just stand there waiting and
as far as I know, let’s see, is there something else on this season? Is BURIED CHILD a Broadway Alliance? BURIED CHILD I think probably is going to
be a Broadway Alliance. I think, yeah. I can’t think of any other ones. I wanted to get quickly, there was a story
indicated about how the production went, the beginning. How did Terrence come to write this play? And I think, isn’t it true, Karen? You shared this with me at the break. It had to do with a Manhattan Theatre Club
benefit? Yeah, Terrence tells this story. At a benefit, I guess Nathan Lane did a piece
from LISBON TRAVIATA and then Zoe got up and did a piece from PERFECT GANESH. And somehow, things just clicked in his head
and he got the idea for Zoe doing a play about Maria Callas. And he wrote on the napkin, he said he had
the opening line and closing line of MASTER CLASS right there on his napkin, and just
had to fill in everything in between. (LAUGHTER) I thought you should all know why you’re
here. (LAUGHTER) Got here, because that was how
these great moments come about. I’d like to go back quickly to Bill a little
bit more, and Jim, too, because we have talked about what you do and how you do this, but
I wanted to also talk a little bit about, for instance, Jim, you have a stable of whom? I mean, you obviously have graphic artists. Are they part of your company? You have to have a lot of people that interrelate
to Bill’s work, too. Could you tell us about the stable of an ad
agency, specifically in the Broadway theatre milieu, if you will. Sure. We have — Why don’t we stick to Broadway Alliance
here? Okay. I think I’d like to know more about that
as how that relates to you, to your end and to yours, Bill. Are you both — Do you all get cuts? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Get cuts because of that. Yes, we do. But as far as the work goes, there is absolutely
no difference. Right. We all come to the theatre, I think I can
speak for everyone, out of love for the theatre. It’s a privilege to work on Broadway. And I think I can say that about everyone
that works in my office. And my partners, Peter LeDonne and John Wilner
and I, have done this for our entire professional lives, about as long as Bill has. We’ve all known each other that long. And we have developed a group of people that
work with us. Yes, we have artists on staff. Our art department, as Bill mentioned, is
headed by Patrick Flood. Patrick is a brilliant young artist that we
hired several years ago. He assisted for a while, as assistant art
director, and moved to the position of art director as time went by. And he has hired three others, who support
him in his work. We have a television production editing facility
within our offices. And Peter LeDonne is the creative director,
works with our relatively small staff to develop ideas for projects as they come up. Everybody’s involved. Anybody who has an idea is invited to voice
it and to help in the creation of good advertising. The relatively small group of people that
we have on staff are supported by talents wherever we can find them. We don’t hesitate to hire graphic artists
or directors or other creative people to produce good communication tools, as the project calls
for it. We’re fortunate in that the people we have
on staff are very talented, and very often, we can do everything that we have to do with
the people that we work with on a daily basis. But there are a wealth of very talented freelance
people in this city and elsewhere, and we use them all. Bill, do you have a large staff? Well, it changes, due to the work load. And the nuts and bolts are that I am in a
union, which is Press Agents and Managers for Theatre, and the company manager and often
the general manager and the press agents are in this union. If I work on one show, I can work on it myself,
which of course, you can’t, you’d have an assistant. But in terms of the union, two shows, I have
to hire a union associate, at a certain salary level. Two of us can handle three shows. If a fourth show comes in — Different level, on an Alliance? It’s just all 25 percent less. Oh, in other words, when you submit a budget,
and you know it’s going in the Alliance, it’s 25 percent [less]? Right. Is that true with you, Jim, or not? We’re a bit more forthcoming. We work at half the usual compensation for
a Broadway Alliance production. Really? Yes. Now, let’s say the print media or television,
do they pick up on that? Do they charge 25 percent less? Well, to a certain extent. The New York Times gives us what’s called
“the Off-Broadway rate,” which is a reduced rate for the space that we purchase in the
Times. Is that for Alliance theatres? Yes, yes. Only for Alliance productions. Broadway theatres pay a certain rate structure
in the New York Times, and it’s a rather high one. What is it? Even for the full page ad in the Times? For whatever we do with the New York Times. They saw the wisdom of helping develop more
healthy theatre, and so they have contributed to that extent. The rest of the media, unfortunately for the
Alliance, we do the best that we can in negotiating it, but there is no set formula, per se, unlike
the Times, which has been a little bit more responsive. Is it just the Times, or does the Daily News,
the Post, have the same deal? Those are negotiable to a certain extent,
but there is no formal relationship. You mentioned that the ticket price was comparable
to the top ticket price of an Off-Broadway show. Right. Is that spelled out like that, or is it $45
or $50? No, I understand it’s spelled out like that. It is spelled out like that. There’s certain talk of some Off-Broadway
show going to $50, in which case the Alliance shows would go there. But if the Off-Broadway shows reduce their
tickets, can you reduce yours? Well, that doesn’t happen. (LAUGHTER) Well, some of them do, and there’s some
marketing that’s being done on reduction of tickets. Do you have any rush tickets or do you have
any tickets that are a lower price for students? Or that goes to TKTS? TDF? No, not at the moment, we’ve just been selling
out. We almost always go to TDF, early on when
we open a show. But in this case, it was virtually sold out
from the beginning, you know? I don’t remember that we did anything like
that, did we? From the first preview, it was totally sold
out. Nobody could buy a ticket. There is a cancellation line at every performance,
though. And I think, every time at least somebody
gets in. You can always get something. Every time, what? At every performance, at least somebody who
shows up and is willing to wait a little bit in the cancellation line is rewarded, does
get a ticket. You know, I’ve neglected to mention one
important factor in the Alliance. The theatre owners, the Broadway Alliance
theatre owners, give you the theatre rent-free until the show pays off, which is significant. (MURMURS OF APPRECIATION) I might add, however,
that you do pay the expenses of overhead, which are fairly large. (LAUGHS) But above that, normally you’d
pay, I would say, five percent of the gross, rental in addition to that, which they waive
until the show pays off. And when it pays off, then will you go back? You go right back to the normal, pay their
extra five percent. But also with the reduction of 25 percent? No, no reduction. They’ve taken their reduction by giving
it to you rent-free. No reduction? I see, like a concession. Right. Well, one other thing. What does it take, what does it cost? I mean, you both have budgets, I know Bill
and Jim have budgets that you have to deal with that are agreed upon, both the Alliance
and not. What does the average ad nowadays cost in
the New York Times, a full page, half page, etc.? The full Broadway rate is $60,000 for a full
page ad. It’s an expensive proposition. Incrementally, of course, there are smaller
units. Is that the same as it would be, let’s say,
if I wanted to take a full page ad for Nike sneakers on the sports page? (SIGHS) They get a better rate. The theatre has the highest — am I right? You’re absolutely right. The New York Times page rate for advertising,
the highest rate is for the theatre. Yeah. Sad state of affairs, to some extent. Is it higher, I mean, is that theatre and
film or just theatre? The Broadway theatre pays more than any other
industry in the New York Times. Interesting, yeah. We have some questions here now. So here I am, interrupting again. What would like you like to ask? And to whom? Hi. My name is Margo Evan (PH). I’m an actor. And this question is directed to Dianne. Because of vocal rest, we understand that
understudies are often called upon to go on. Who handles the rehearsal process? It’s basically me. We’re responsible for getting the understudies
prepared. Making sure that they have correct costumes,
if there has to be a new costume made for them, getting in touch with the designer. And also, doing all of the rehearsal. And many times, a director will come in and
also work with them. And we’ve been very lucky, because Lennie
has done that with each understudy. He’s come in and he’s seen rehearsals
and he’s given them notes and things. But if somebody gets sick, the actor will
call me, I will call the production people, and we’ll call the understudy. And if indeed they need to rehearse with Zoe,
which has happened, you know, we will come in and we will rehearse. And actually, this is a very, very rare thing,
but Zoe has come to an understudy rehearsal and has done the rehearsal, which is quite
extraordinary and very rare. How long will you be rehearsing with Patti
LuPone? We’re starting at the very beginning of
June, officially, and I believe that she’ll probably be working with Lennie before that. But officially, we will start at the beginning
of June. When does the cast come in to work with her? Right at the very beginning? That would be at the beginning of June, yeah. So approximately how many weeks would that
be? It’s scheduled for a four week rehearsal,
which will be approximately three weeks in a rehearsal room, and then the final week
on stage, which is important to get used to, the configuration of the stage. Also, our set has a dome, which for singers
changes how they sing, because it bounces. And the singers have found that there’s
a certain spot that if they stand there, it just throws their voices out. Well, Karen, you know that. Yeah. You can walk back and forth and hear the difference. Do you want to add to that? Is there something you want to say to that
process? The rehearsal process? Or you mean, finding the live spot on stage? (LAUGHTER) It’s great to find that spot. It’s really wild how the dome really makes
a difference. You’re suddenly standing here. You take one step forward and you sound like
you’re on a microphone. And so, it’s great. The reverberation is really wonderful. Next. Hi, my name is Carly Rush (PH). I’m also an actor. And my question is for Miss Cody, and I think
to a certain extent, Mr. Allen. If you could comment more on the development
of the script, any changes that were made from Montana to Philadelphia to LA to New
York, and what role the producers play in that as well. I was surprised at how little the script had
changed, because you know, he had just freshly written it in Montana. And that was in April, and then, we got together
the following January to start rehearsals, and I sort of figured that there would be
lots and lots of changes, but they’re really weren’t. I think it really came out of his head pretty
much the way he liked it and was satisfied with it. There’s been a lot of cuts, you know, tightening
things up and moving some sections around, but it pretty much stayed the same. (TO THE OTHERS) I don’t know about [your
experience]. No, very little changed. I don’t recall ever doing a play that had
so few changes from the first to the last. I don’t ever recall one. Yeah. Well, your character obviously didn’t change
at all. No. I figured I’d go from this much [BIG GESTURE]
to this much [LITTLE GESTURE], but I was still that much [BIG GESTURE]. (LAUGHTER) I was amazed. Yes. Hi. Ellis Nassour (PH). I’m a writer and a playwright. And Mr. Allen, I have a question for you. The Wing programs in the high schools expose
a lot of the young students to different roles that they can play in the theatre, and a lot
of the students always ask, “How do you become a producer?” (LAUGHTER) They always seem to think that
producers are immensely wealthy, but that’s not always the case, right? No. Aren’t you? (LAUGHTER) If I were, I wouldn’t be producing any longer! (LAUGHTER) I started off, actually, working
as a script reader for Bob Whitehead, way, way back. And we had known each other before, in the
war, believe it or not. And I ran into him, I had started a little
import/export business that I was working in. I was going to quit and go back to college. And I was in a Nedick’s, having a hot dog
and an orange drink, and Bob and his wife came by — this was pre-Zoe, well, of course
— and said, “Hello!” And we got together and I started having dinner
and he was raising money for MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, the play. And I loved the play. In fact, I was trying to be a writer. And I helped him raise a little money, and
then it was successful. He invited me to rehearsals, and then when
it was successful, he said, “How would you like to come and read scripts for me?” And I said that was great. I didn’t have to keep strict office hours. I got to see a lot of shows and read scripts. And then, the following year, he made me his
assistant. And we did it another play series, five plays
in five months there, and I was his assistant. He moved me right up and I worked as his assistant
and with Harold Clurman, who was doing a lot of his plays. I was Harold’s assistant on eight plays. I would sit at his side and take notes for
him, all through rehearsals, out of town. So I acted as both director and producer’s
assistant. I stayed on with Bob for a while and then
eventually, I just started on my own, when I found some projects that he didn’t want
to do, particularly a couple of films and he wasn’t really interested in movies. Well, that’s a great [story]. I cannot think of a better pair of teachers
than Harold Clurman and Bob Whitehead. Well, it was wonderful. And you know, almost every night, at Bob’s
house we’d have dinner or something. And there, almost every night, was Harold
and Bob, of course, and what’s-his-name, the cartoonist — Hirschfeld, Al Hirschfeld,
and Boris Aronson. That was the talk, and late into the night. I went through all that, plus going to these
plays, and I feel that I probably have more of a background, aside from Bob, say, really
in the workings of the theatre than any producer I know, anyway. Because that was eight plays with Harold,
as I say, and that was right through rehearsals, out of town, always at his side. Well, he was also, again, a wonderful director,
a great critic. Yeah. And you might want to say something, we won’t
quote you, but it’ll be on the air anyway, so you’re stuck. But you bring that up. Today, I’ve heard so many people say, “There
aren’t any old-time — and that’s not a matter of age any more — old-time producers.” Would you care to speak to that? Because a lot of people have made a lot of
money somewhere else, either in the market or something, and suddenly hang out a shingle
and say, “I’m a producer.” Has that been your take? Well, that is a symptom, in part, of the cost
of shows, of raising money. And I say “the old-time producers,” I
never recall when I worked with Bob, ever, almost never thinking about the money side
of it, because they cost $75,000 and it was mostly friends and people that worked in the
theatre. They put up $1,000 or $1,500 or $2,000 and
it just happened if you had a good show. And now, as it’s escalated, the cost, more
and more you have to get people to come in with a lot of money. And therefore, they want their name on it
and they’re producers. So you see a bunch of names up there of producers,
and how much experience? You know, it varies with them, but most of
them don’t know a lot about it. And have not had that training. Oh, of course. Oh, no, no. But there are some left. There are some left. (LAUGHTER) I think that I’m going to have to interrupt
you once more and say that this is the Production seminar of the American Theatre Wing’s “Working
in the Theatre” seminars. And we’ve been extremely fortunate to be
able to have the people that brought to the stage the wonderful excitement of MASTER CLASS,
a play that’s now playing on Broadway, and it is really one of the most exciting, beautiful,
theatrical experiences that anyone can possibly be. And I thank all of you for being here. I wish there was more time. You’ve been so kind to share the knowledge
that you have in who does what and what goes into a production and how it’s produced. We in the audience see the magic, the lights,
and the performances. But to be able to hear all the planning and
all the problems and all of the work that goes in before is extremely important. It’s important to us, and it’s important
to our students, and it’s important to the American Theatre Wing, who brings these seminars
to you. Thank you all for being here. (APPLAUSE)

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