Wednesday, June 29, 2005

What the hell does a producer do?

I always wondered that myself. In case you're wondering, this is what I found out.

My first job as a producer was to secure a venue for the show. I wanted to do this show at Second City because they provide a lot of great benefits. They take a healthy cut of the box office, but in return you get: free rehearsal space at the training center (which is HUGE -- space rentals can bust the budget of shows this size); a technical director (the guy who runs the sound and lights); ushers and box office services (another huge benefit); and of course the Second City name and location. Groups who put up shows can usually fill all these positions, but since I'm doing this solo, it's critical to have that support provided.

{A note before we go on about "Second City." I'm using that term in short-hand, but it is actually the Second City Training Center, which has a nice 80-seat theatre space called Donny's Skybox that's used both for student productions and for people like me. So this is not Second City in the sense that it's the mainstage where Belushi and others performed.}

SO. I selected the venue, then I had to put together the application and get it accepted. This is a process that's getting more and more competitive, so it was in no way a sure thing that my proposal would be accepted. And it's a nice honor, I think -- hopefully a testament in part to the quality of the scripts and my track record producing my last show.

I imagine part of it also was that I asked the head of the training center to direct it -- lining up a director being another key responsibility of the producer. One of the concepts for this show was to cast performers from the various training center programs -- a kid from the youth program, students and alums from the adult program and maybe a faculty member (that last one was Rob's idea, and a good one at that.) So having the president of Second City Training & Education behind your show was a good way to accomplish that.

On top of all that, Rob's a great director. He's done dramatic, non-sketch stuff, which appealed to me. And we get along well -- I've been "interning" there for a couple of years now, doing PR work in exchange for tuition.

So what else? As producer, I'll be organizing the auditions, which Rob will actually run. Then from there, most of my responsibility will migrate to marketing -- getting butts in seats, as they say. Getting posters, postcards, and programs designed and printed. Creating and sending press releases and photos out to the media to get listings and, I hope, reviews. It's a lot of work. Especially since I'll also be performing in the show, and am still finalizing the scripts.

Oh, and lastly, the producer fronts all the money for the aforementioned marketing materials, plus for any props or costumes we can't cobble together ourselves, and all the other expenses related to the show. If I do my job right, most of that can be recouped at the box office. After Second City takes it substantial (and well-deserved) cut.

I actually enjoy producing. And I'm pretty good at it since much of it involves marketing and that happens to be my day job. Second City even gave me a semi-faux award for marketing!

So that's what a producer does. At least in this process. Thrilling, huh?

Monday, June 27, 2005

A show that's ABOUT something

So my proposal for a show has been accepted by Second City. This is something I've been sweating out and working on for the better part of this year.

The One-Eyed Cat & Other Tales of Need is my second self-written, self-produced show, following last summer's There's No "i" in Improv, which managed to generate good-sized audiences and a decent review in the Chicago Reader. That was sketch. This one is a collection of five 10-minute plays. Next step, I suppose, is a full-length play, but we'll take one thing at a time here.

The plays are a mix of comedy and drama -- probably more drama than comedy, actually. Though even the dramatic ones have their light moments. But all of them I think have something to say. One of my biggest peeves in going to shows, especially sketch and improv shows, is when they don't really say anything. I mean, it's great to make people laugh and all, but my attention really drifts when I have nothing invested in the characters and when you get to the end of a scene and there's no "there" there. Even in my sketch show, I tried to make every one, even the most absurd ones, about something important. Whether that's the amazing human capacity to delude oneself, or our fascination with violence or how different people deal with crisis.

Anyway, these plays are about need, usually in its destructive form, but sometimes the positive aspects of it -- whether it's the desperate need to hold onto one's world view or dependence on another person or the need to connect. I'm not pretending I've arrived at any earth-shaking conclusions about these issues, but I do think these are compelling stories with an interesting point of view.

It should also be noted that these plays would be nowhere as good as they are now without the feedback of the director, Rob. He's been really great. Early on and more recently, he's really dug into the scripts and given me detailed, constructive feedback that has greatly improved the drafts. I can't wait to see what the actors do with them.

I am NOT a blogger

I always made fun of bloggers because so many blogs are so ... useless and boring? Yeah, that's it.

But here I am blogging. Journaling. That sounds better. This will be a short-term thing focused on my experiences producing the show, The One-Eyed Cat & Other Tales of Need, which I also wrote and am performing in. I will not be discussing my grocery list or latest hangnail tragedy. Ideally, putting this stuff here will make it less likely I will bore the people around me with the stresses and strains of putting on this show. Maybe it will help generate interest in it and, who knows, sell a few tickets? And, if someone learns something in the process, that's just icing on the cake.

If you want to know more about me, you can go

Let's get on with it.