The Money Song
It gets hard to make your money back.…Money is harder and harder to raise.
—Rocco Landesman, CEO, Jujamcyn Theatres
The obvious initial decisions that a producer faces are what to produce and where to produce it. Who generates the idea for a production, and where do producers discover material? As Helen Hayes Theatre owner and producer Martin Markinson noted, “I believe there are three ways to produce a show. One is to run around the country or to London when you hear about something that's really good, lift it, and decide to produce it and bring it in to New York. The second way to produce a show is to find a script and take it from the page onto the stage. Quite frankly, that's the most exciting way for me.…The third way is to dig deep into your past plays.…That's why you have so many revivals.” A producer may commission a work, choose one that has been submitted by writers or their agents, or transfer or develop a show from another venue. Producers attend theatre at every level, from fringe festivals to the cream of regional theatres and Off-Broadway, and reading new scripts is essential. According to Jane Harmon, “The main thing is coverage. We cover everything. We read, if we're not there in person. We're reading constantly.” Her colleague Nina Keneally added, “It's networking, too, because even things we may not necessarily read, with the other not-for-profits and producers we have contact with, we share information, if they are reading things.”
Producers try to work on pieces that excite them, to which they can commit over the long and arduous process, but commercial viability is a sizable determinant as well. As many producers have noted, they are sometimes attracted to plays that they would not attempt on Broadway. For years producers have tried to read the tea leaves to discern what material was likely to succeed. No one could have predicted that an evening based on Ovid's tales could make for attractive Broadway fare, but Metamorphoses did quite well; there was general consensus that Seussical would be a surefire hit, yet it failed to find a Broadway audience. As Edward