Broadway University Enters Teleclass Stage

by Byron Laursen

NEW YORK - February 4, 1998 Broadway University, probably the newest "campus" in New York, launched the first in its upcoming series of classes here last night, as several theatrical producers, and would-be theatrical producers, called in from varous locales in the U.S. and Canada to take learn about "Negotiating Author Agreements" in a one-hour symposium led by two experts in the field.

The course, like many upcoming ones offered by Broadway University, was accessed by telephone. As many as 150 students can join in a single teleclass, according to founder Bruce J. Lazarus, an entertainment attorney who served as director of business and legal affairs for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions while that company assembled its productions of THE LION KING and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Mr. Lazarus is also a producer in his own right. His credits include ZEN BOOGIE, TANZI AT THE ROXY, ONLY KIDDING, and "R & J." Broadway University is intended to help both established professionals and newcomers gain in-depth understanding of specific aspects of theatrical production work. To present "Negotiating Author Agreements," Mr. Lazarus brought in Dana Singer, a former Director of The Dramatist's Guild and author of the recently-published THE STAGE WRITER'S HANDBOOK: A COMPLETE BUSINESS GUIDE FOR PLAYWRIGHTS, COMPOSERS, LYRICISTS AND LIBRETTISTS (Theater Communications Group).

"Bruce and I share a philosophy," Ms. Singer began, "that there is a way to negotiate these contracts that helps both sides come away feeling good."

An intent discussion ensued, focused on how writers and producers must contractually balance their respective roles and demands, with producers gaining sufficient time to do all the many behind-the-scenes tasks required to bring a play to the public, while writers extract fair payment and secured promises that they can immediately re-license their play if a producer fails to reach certain milestones by agreed-upon dates.

From the questions asked, it was obvious that the participants represented as wide cross-section of experience as they did of regions. But whatever their backgrounds, they all seemed to "come away feeling good." Etiquette in the world of instruction-by-telephone permits satisfied students to "applaud" at the end of the session by rapidly punching random buttons on their telephones. Recognition for the instructors on this night sounded very much like a large flock of sparrows flying past a roomful of sensitive microphones.

Then everyone hung up their phones, effectively stepping off campus, and Broadway University folded into the New York night. However, Mr. Lazarus will soon teach a 12-week class on producing commercial theater via the time-tested method of bringing class and faculty into the same room at the same time. But there will also be many more classes by telephone.

The web-savvy can access <> for a current list of future classes and instructors.

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