My Three Hats: Producer, Director, Publicist

CaptureOver the last few weeks, I have had several conversations on my contribution to the world of theatre. My favorite description of my experience is one I use in many a bio:

She’s served the theatre in many aspects of which she’s very proud – actress, director, producer, stage manager, costume designer, prop designer, theatre reviewer, publicist, radio presenter, and writer/monologist.

I remember thinking that it seems very broad. The cliche “a Jill of all trades, a master of none” sometimes crosses my mind but then I think to myself that I have been on an amazing journey. I learned so much about what I love and what I excel in and what I am not comfortable with and not as passionate about anymore.

I love is creating and promoting theatre. I love producing as I get to figure out how I am going to make a show happen. When I direct, I am lost in the words of the playwright and get to collaborate with actors and designers on bringing a show to life. If I am producing and directing, I am innately promoting. That’s my personality and as a result, all three resonate strongly within me.

When I decided to become a director in undergrad, I knew I wanted to go to grad school. I knew it was the only way I would be able to immerse my mind, body, spirit in the craft. My MFA in Directing at the Actors Studio Drama School was the foundation I needed before embarking on the next leg of my journey.

After graduation, my husband, Ian, some friends and I started Black Henna Productions. For 12 years and counting, I learned how to be a producer and a publicist. All of it through trial and error and taking a class here and there. When you are running a company, directing the show, and promoting it, you get really good at a few things:

  1. Creating a schedule;
  2. Building a team; and
  3. Developing a product.

After the death of my best friend and co-collaborator, Cas, I took a step back to see my vision. I thought I had to have one role in this world. However, my one vision for my world of theatre is a to be able to promote and support artists in their truth and craft so that they can pay it forward to the next artist. All too often we forget about why we create by focusing on competition rather than specialization. My mentors, Michael Roderick and Ken Davenport, said that to me years ago and I never forgot it. It’s a personal mantra. And with that, when I am working with any artist as a producer, director, and/or publicist, I ask: Why are you doing this show? The answer then propels me to ask: What sets you apart from the several other shows being produced?

These are the questions I ask myself and my team when are developing any project. Then without fail, I sit down and draft the schedule. Then I set out to build the team. Then we begin developing the product. What ties us together is the vision and trust. If we don’t have either then we have a rough road ahead of us.

In a conversation with a fellow producer, we touched on some points about why I created Theatre Beyond Broadway, my PR company and community. I created it so there would be a connection and the fostering of relationships. I told her about my 3 hats and she said, ” We have three people doing your job.” I said, “I know. It’s a lot to juggle but I love it”.

Truth: I didn’t have a choice. I jumped in and just did it. As I continue to do this day.

A Festival of Fun (or Tears) or Producing 201

FestivalTruth be told, my upcoming article for The Write Teacher(s) is about participating in the many theatre festivals offered in our country. I wrote about the experiences of being in a festival and the benefits of having your show as part of it. Then Ken Davenport wrote an excellent blog on the many festivals around the world but went even further and listed them. I want to personally thank him for doing this because I had started the research.

This morning I sat down with a printout of the shows participating in FringeNYC. There’s no way I am going to be able to see all of them but I did highlight 45 of them including The Pawn Broker (I’m doing their PR). The next step is to then cull from those 45 what will fit in my schedule. When I did the Fringe tour last year, I think I saw about 15 because I didn’t fully plan the tour a month in advance. I was busy working on Naked In Alaska and See Jane Give Up Dick that I totally spread myself thin. I also was working with the EstroGenius Festival on their season. Festivals are great way to get your production in front of an audience. Like Ken says, you are definitely one in a million and you have to work 5 times as hard to get your piece to stand out. At the end of it, though, you come out ahead because you’ve learned how to produce a show.

Here’s the list:

Theater Festivals From Around The World

The Big Ones:

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland

Festival of New Musicals, New York, NY

London International Festival of Theatre, London, England

New York Musical Theatre Festival, New York, NY

New York International Fringe Festival, New York, NY

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA

Other Awesome Ones:

Bard SummerScape, Annandate-on-Hudson, NY

Barrington Stage’s Musical Theatre Lab, Pittsfield, MA

Berkshire Theatre FestivalStockbridge, MA

BSU Discovery New Musical Theatre Festival, Muncie, IN

Children’s Musical Theatre Festival, New York, NY

Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Shepherdstown, WV

Dorset Theatre Festival, Dorset, VT

Downtown Urban Theater Festival, New York, NY

Dream Up Festival, New York, NY

Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin, Ireland

Estrogenius, New York, NY

Festival of New American MusicalsLos Angeles, CA

Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, Auburn, NY

Fresh Fruit Festival, New York, NY

Frigid Festival, New York, NY

Junior Theater Festival, New York, NY

KO Festival of Performance, Amherst, MA

Midtown International Theatre Festival, New York, NY

Minnesota Fringe Festival, Minneapolis, MN

National Black Theatre Festival, Winston-Salem, NC

The New York Children’s Theater Festival, New York, NY

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR

Pacific Playwrights Festival, Costa Mesa, CA

Planet Connections Festivity, New York, NY

Revolutions International Theatre Festival, Albuquerque, NM

Rogue Festival, Fresno, CA

The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, New York, NY

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, SC

Strawberry One-Act Festival, New York, NY

Thespian Festival, Lincoln, NE

United Solo Theatre Festival, New York, NY

Village Theatre: Festival of New Musicals, Issaquah, WA

The West Village Musical Theatre Festival,  New York, NY

World Stages International Theater Festival, Washington, DC