Our first mention in the press.
Backstage, January 13, 1998

Practicality and Passion:
Successful Producers Speak Out

Producers are not generally thought of as the "passionate" ones among the team involved in a theatrical endeavor. But on a recent panel conducted by Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) and Performing Arts Resources (PAR), several successful Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatre producers pointed out very - well - passionately, that a deep feeling of involvement in a project is essential for them. Without that, the massive uphill battle of putting a production together is not likely to be won.

Four leading producers discussed "Producing With a Passion: When More than Money Matters." They were: Bruce Lazarus, coproducer of "R & J" at John Houseman Studio Theatre; Claudia Catanin, executive producer of The New Group, whose production of "Goose-Pimples" is at the Judith Anderson Theatre; Casey Childs, artistic director of Primary Stages, now presenting "Scotland Road"; and Carl White, producer of "The Last Session," at the 47th Street Theatre.

"Producing is as creative a part of theatre as writing, directing, and acting," noted panel moderator Robert Ost. Ost is a playwright, lyricist, and composer who founded TRU for those working in the production side of theatre; the organization provides a meeting ground to network, compare experiences, and to break down the isolation many feel, PAR, headed by Donna Brady, has similar goals and joined with TRU in co-sponsoring this season’s panels at the Applause Theatre Book Store.

"We’ve had several panels on very practical matters," says Ost, "but the producers’ emotional commitment to the shows emerged every time, so we decided to schedule an evening dedicated to that."

Bringing in an Audience

Bruce Lazarus left his job in Los Angeles as director of business and legal affairs for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions to return to New York with the goal of dedicating himself to independent projects of his choice. At Disney, he was intensely involved with the production of "The Lion King" and the international tour of "Beauty and the Beast." Now, in addition to producing "R & J," he has initiated - at - an online theatre education project.

There can be no doubt of his dedication to theatre as an art form. Yet he, and all of the panelists, focused a great deal on marketing and other practical aspects of producing a play. And the audience - comprised of other producers, actors hoping to mount one-person shows, playwrights hoping to see their work produced - asked similarly practical questions about marketing, about "selling" the show to investors, and about costs. Clearly the two aspects of theatre production - practicality and passion - cannot be separated.

Lazarus believes a producer must feel two kinds of passion, for the artistic material, "which speaks for itself," and for creating a work that an audience will actually turn out and buy tickets for. This was a point that all four panelists and Ost made at various times during the discussion - that without an audience to communicate to, the artistic work remains in a vacuum.

Cultivating that audience is what "marketing" is all about. To bring the artistic material to the stage, one must get investors excited about the show. And that means convincing them that there is, indeed, an audience for it - that it is possible to build a production that will fill the house.

So the practical and the "passionate" are intertwined.

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