My First TeleCourse
by Dana Singer

On February 3rd, I was a guinea pig - and it was wonderful. I participated in a one-hour TeleCourse discussion on "Negotiating Author Agreements," the first class of its kind, sponsored by Broadway University. For those of us not on the cutting edge of technology, a TeleCourse allows up to thirty people to talk from their home or office phone by calling a telephone conference bridge at a specific time. This enabled Bruce Lazarus, in New York, and me, in Montana, to talk with a group of experienced and emerging producers from as far as Los Angeles, Vancouver and Maryland.

We discussed a wide range of important issues: copyright in the theater, how to obtain the rights to produce new plays, producers’ needs (both financial and artistic), the relationship between producers and investors. We also discussed generally what to keep in mind when negotiating contracts between the playwright and producer, including royalties, subsidiary rights participation, billing credit, additional producing rights, and the usual artistic protections necessary for both the producer and the writer. A vibrant question-and-answer period followed, and all the participants were enthusiastic about joining future TeleCourses. Broadway University will hold these classes every Tuesday evening from 8:00-9:00 P.M. EST. An impressive list of speakers is scheduled for the future, including agent Patrick Herold and producers James Freydberg, and Rodger Hess. Remarkably, these classes are free to the participants, outside of long distance phone charges that may apply.

Bruce Lazarus is a well-known entertainment attorney, formerly the Director of Legal and Business Affairs at Walt Disney Theatrical Productions Ltd. (responsible for the Broadway production of The Lion King and the international productions of Beauty and the Beast), and a producer of the current off-Broadway hit Shakespeare’s R&J. He recently founded Broadway University, a virtual university established to use cutting edge technology to teach people in New York and around the world about the craft of producing theater. The Tuesday night TeleCourses are only one of the many offerings from Broadway University. The University also distributes a free weekly E-mail and fax report, "Broadway University News," and regularly conducts many other TeleCourses to allow both experienced as novice producers to learn from each other by sharing information.

Broadway University is innovative and exciting, an idea whose time has come. Every group of artists needs education and mentors, and producers are no exception. Kudos to Bruce Lazarus for creating such an easily accessible avenue to today’s and tomorrow’s producers.

(DANA SINGER is the former Executive Director of the Dramatist Guild and the author of "Stage Writer’s Handbook: A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Librettists," published by Theatre Communications Group, which is available in association with Amazon books. For more information, click here.)

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