Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Random lessons learned from off-off Broadway

Clearly I am bitter about my recent off-off Broadway production experience. Will I ever do more theater again - hell yeah! Even though there's at best, little money to be made in it. And my finances were hammered this time around. It's going to take me months to recover. But what else yah gonna do in this existentially meaningless reality on the way to eternal oblivion?

And as Megan McArdle will tell you (see previous post), Thomas Edison had to go through lots of wrong versions of the light bulb before he got it right. He learned from his mistakes. So will I.

So let us review a few random mistakes. This is not a comprehensive list by any means.

1. Trying to be friends with actors. You have to remember they're your employees. Too many actors will lose respect for you if you get too chummy. And just because someone is a good actor does not make them a good person. You're just asking to have your heart broken if you forget that.

2. Casting friends of cast members. This pretty much never works out - they tend to form little cliques and either gang up on actors who they don't like for whatever reason, or gang up against the stage crew. Or the producer. They will probably form cliques anyway, but you don't want to expedite the process.

3. Neglecting to build a core of backstage people. Casting is the most important aspect of a show, but a solid core of backstage people is the second most important. You have to make sure you have a good solid team even before rehearsals. They have to be good communicators, they have to be able to think on their feet, and they can't get huffy or surly if the actors don't treat them with respect. They have to know how to push back.

4. Not learning to say "no." I let an actor talk me into buying a smoke machine for one scene. It was a pain in the ass, and it couldn't really be used properly under the conditions we had - almost nobody saw the smoke. And did the actor feel bad about making me spend the money and making me deal with the hassle of trying to get it to work right and making sure that Equity was OK with it? Not in the least - he was too busy making lists of mistakes made by me and the stage crew.

5. Paying for things with credit cards. Don't do it. But this is a good rule for life in general.