4 Reasons Why The Reading Of Your New Play or Musical Should Be 45 Minutes (Or Less)

On their way to becoming Broadway shows, most new plays or musicals will go through a series of readings, workshops or labs.

Most of the time these readings are meant to create buzz, secure investments or book a theater.

If that’s the goal for your next reading, here’s the best way to get there: keep it short.

Show Off Your Best Stuff

A new play or musical takes time to develop. Even if 80% of your script seems ready for prime time, there’s a good chance you’re going to make some changes along the way

So, for now, stick to the songs or the scenes that showcase your best material.

Get to Yes

People in the industry get invited to a lot of readings. Your job is to get them to agree to come to yours.

The simplest way to do that is to convince them that your reading won’t take up too much of their day. A 45 minute presentation is a pretty easy yes, even for the busiest of people.

Reduce Costs

A longer reading means more rehearsal time, which usually means increased room rental costs and higher fees for actors, stage managers and directors.

If you can trim the script for the reading, you can probably reduce your budget as well.

Star Power

One of the best ways to create buzz and attract an audience to your reading is to cast actors who have name recognition within the industry. But the more name recognition an actor has, the busier their schedule is likelier to be.

There is an easy fix. If you shorten the script and the rehearsal time, you will increase your chances of getting an A-lister to perform at your reading.


So if you really want to put your best foot forward and make it easier for people to come to your reading, consider showcasing a streamlined version of your script.

Presenting 45 minutes of your prime material may just be the smartest and easiest way to accomplish your goal of securing investments, booking a theater and generating buzz.

How to Start Your Broadway Producing Career

You want to be a Broadway producer but you don’t know where to start.

I’m going to share with you a secret that will help you jumpstart your Broadway producing career, legitimize your name within the industry and open the door for you to scripts and investors.

And I’m going to tell you how to avoid making the single biggest mistake aspiring producers often make.

Here’s the secret: all you need to do to start your Broadway producing is to go out and produce something.

Simple!

You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. Remember, this is how to start your career.

The single biggest mistake aspiring producers make is waiting for that perfect script to magically show up in their inboxes, or waiting until they have a huge list of potential investors ready to give them money.

The truth is, to get started, you don’t need tons of money. You don’t even need the perfect project.

Very few producers get their start by producing a multi-million dollar Broadway hit.

Building a producing career involves proving to the industry that you can make shows happen. They don’t have to be big shows. Really, any size show will do. But, when you make a show happen, you will be a producer.

So, how do you start?

Easy. Start with a reading. Find a friend who wrote a script. If you’re thinking about a career as a Broadway producer you almost certainly have a friend who has written something.

It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, or something that seems totally commercial. But it should be something you’re willing to put your name on.

Then, book a rehearsal studio (there are plenty in New York) for a few days, and get some actor friends to agree to participate.

Finally, send out an announcement about the reading, include the names of the cast and make sure it says that you are producing the reading.

There, you just produced something. You may not get a ton of people to come, but again, we are talking about how to start.

By doing this you have accomplished two huge things. One, you have put together a presentation of a script - otherwise known as producing. And, two, you have something out there in the world that has your name on it and the words “produced by.”

Allison Bressi is an early career producer who is building a name for herself producing staged readings.

I asked Allison what it was like for her to get started and she told me, “I just sort of jumped in blindly. I got very nervous on the “day-of” when the audience started arriving and it became real. But when it was done I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Once you’ve done one small reading at this level, start to produce more readings and slowly grow them in scale.

The goal isn’t necessarily to get people to hand over money to you, at least not yet.

Allison added, “For me, it took several readings for people to start putting together who I was and what I was doing, but I think that means I just have to keep moving projects forward. It's exciting to have people in the industry associate my name with the projects I’m working on. And I'm really proud to be working with such exciting and wonderful artists.”

Next time you do this, hire a general manager to lend your reading some credibility and to help you implement the correct Actors’ Equity agreement (there are quite a few, and an experienced general manager will make sure you’re using the right one).

Now call some agents and see if you can get some actors involved who have some name recognition within the industry. Not necessarily big movie stars, but actors who have one or two Broadway credits to their name. These names will stand out to investors and producers who get invited to dozens of readings each week, and they will be more likely to want to come to your reading.

A casting director can also be a good hire if your readings are starting to grow in scale.

Then repeat the other steps from above. Send out an announcement and you’re in business. If the announcement comes from a respected general management office, that will increase the legitimacy of the project in the eyes of the industry.

As you do this, you’ll start to get a reputation in the industry as someone who produces stuff. Why? Because you are now a producer. And new scripts may start to come to you in unexpected ways.

The dots will start to connect themselves. You’ll meet other people beginning their own producing careers. Some of these people will become your producing partners.

Eventually, you’ll want to graduate from readings to Off-Broadway or being a Co-Producer on a Broadway show. But, don’t overthink things at the start. Just go out there and do it.

Daniel Kuney is the Co-Founder of Jumpstart Entertainment, a Broadway and Theatrical General Management firm in New York City.

Allison Bressi is a producer in New York City. She is currently working as a line producer on Lynn Nottage’s and Tony Gerber's This Is Reading, producing Betty Shamieh's The Strangest and shepherding the new Michael Kimmel play, Stand. Up.

Jumpstart Interview with Broadway Bullet

Roy and I were grateful to appear on Michael Gilboe's fantastic theater podcast, Broadway Bullet. Topics covered include:

  • the difference between a general manager and executive producer
  • when to hire a general manager (we previously wrote about this)
  • common mistakes producers can avoid
  • the impact, and future, of crowdfunding Broadway & Off-Broadway Shows

We're a little biased, but this is well worth a listen.

John Breglio's I Wanna Be A Producer

As I’ve written about before, producing a new Broadway or Off-Broadway show involves making a lot of deals. Your lawyer and general manager will guide you through this process, but there’s nothing like having a first-hand understanding of what agreements you need to make and the mechanics involved in each of them, as you contemplate a theatrical production.

Thankfully, John Breglio, who spent three decades as one of the industry’s most sought after lawyers before turning to a producing career himself, will walk you through all of these contracts in his new book, I Wanna Be a Producer.

This is as close as one can get to a definitive manual on how to produce a Broadway show. Even as someone who has worked in the business for over fifteen years, I found countless pearls of wisdom and anecdotes in Breglio’s book that help contextualize the origin of contractual elements, like royalty pools, that are commonplace today.

Below are some of my favorite passages and pieces of advice from Breglio:

Hiring a General Manager

Equally important to retaining a lawyer from the beginning is hiring a seasoned general manager (known as a GM). I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good GM. By and large, GMs in New York are all competent. You should interview as many as you can and go with the one with whom you feel most comfortable and who has the time to devote to your project. There is no substitute for having an independent GM at your side who can be clearheaded and vigilant.

I’m a little biased on this one, but I agree with Breglio on both accounts. The earlier a GM is brought on to a project, the more they can help you craft a careful and deliberate plan for bringing your show to life.

And most of the GMs in New York are talented and capable leaders. Many of my closest friends in the business are other GMs, and we regularly consult one another, have drinks together and strategize about how we can best help our clients produce successful shows.

The key, as Breglio suggests, is to select a GM who has the time to fully devote to your project and whose company you enjoy. At Jumpstart, we carefully curate what projects we take on to make sure that we can provide producers with intensely personal, hands-on attention.

Hiring a Seasoned Director

Broadway isn’t a testing ground. Putting a $15 million venture into the hands of a director who has never before been through the steamroller of creating a Broadway musical is reckless and foolhardy.

As Breglio recounts, the former president of the Shubert Organization, Bernie Jacobs would rely on the “reputation and track record of the director as far as betting on the success of a show. If you didn’t have [a director] Bernie admired, the meeting would be quickly over.” I couldn’t agree more. While there will be a lot of essential hiring decisions a producer must make, selecting a director with a proven track record becomes exponentially more important as the budget for a production grows.

The Music of Broadway

Some American writers attempted to mimic what seemed to be the British formula for mega-success, but, by and large, they were unsuccessful. What did evolve were musicals that became more attuned to music of broad-based popular appeal. Popular music written with the AM/FM radio in mind began to complement and eventually supplant altogether the traditional music of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe.

While HAMILTON is the latest musical to forever change the sound of Broadway, the truth is that the Broadway musical has always evolved to reflect the popular music of the day so long as there have Broadway musicals, from HAIR to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to RENT.

The Transition to Digital Advertising

With the decline in print readership, and the prohibitive cost and questionable effectiveness of TV ads, producers have turned to online advertising and marketing to help fill the gap and tap into new and younger audiences. Online initiatives [now account] for as much as 25 percent of a producer’s weekly ad budget.

This percentage is only going to get bigger. In fact, it may be appropriate on some shows to devote 100 percent of the advertising budget to online initiatives.

Putting Your Own Money on the Line

It’s not enough just to emote to your future investors about the artistic merits of [your] show. If you’re presenting yourself as a commercial producer, you need not only to present cogent and responsible financial projections, but also to back them up with your own personal financial commitment. If you are not in the position of putting up a cent, then you probably shouldn’t be producing in the first place.

This should be rule #1 of producing. I wrote about this here.

The Magic of Working in Theater

Those of us who are fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be besotted by the theater can’t leave it alone. As producers, we need to hope that the artists will always be there, not by some miracle, but by encouraging and supporting them to examine the human condition so they can create good work, whether that be in a reading, a workshop, or a not-for-profit theater.

Or perhaps in an all-night session of dancers, downtown, talking about their lives over pizza and cheap wine.

I’ll drink to that.

Actors' Equity Developmental Workshops, Labs & Readings

A Broadway or Off-Broadway bound show will often go through a series of developmental readings or workshops before it is ready for a commercial production. 

These developmental rehearsals can be a cost-effective way to hear the material out loud and solicit feedback from an invited audience. Many shows, especially large musicals, will have multiple developmental workshops over the course of a few years until the authors and producers feel that the show is ready.

The presentations at the end of these workshops can also be a useful opportunity to invite potential backers and investors so that they can hear the script and songs brought to life by professional actors. 

Actors' Equity has four different developmental rehearsal agreements that producers can use depending on the needs of the show. Our handy infographic below breaks down some of the key components of each developmental contract.

The above infographic covers the basic terms of each agreement, but producers should consult with a theatrical general manager to help select the most suitable one and to review the pros and cons of each in greater detail. 

Tony Time!

Tony Time!

Tony Award fever has arrived in New York City and the Broadway world is buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Theatre lovers from across the country are counting down the hours to see live performances of record breaking shows such as Hamilton (the most Tony nominations, ever!) and Waitress (the first all-female creative team, #GirlPower!). Meanwhile, Broadway fans are attempting to get last minute tickets to catch this season’s shows before a Tony Award makes them even harder to see.

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How to Raise Money and Find Investors for Your Broadway Show

How to Raise Money and Find Investors for Your Broadway Show

If you’re thinking about producing a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, or if you’re an author who wants to get your show produced, you’re probably wondering: how do I raise money for my project?

Producing a show is a lot like creating an app or any other startup. There’s no “snap your fingers and it will appear approach” to raising funds. Finding investors takes a lot of pounding the pavement, and there’s no one who will do it for you, and believe in your project, as much as you do.

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What does an Office Manager do at a Broadway General Management company?

What does an Office Manager do at a Broadway General Management company?

The following is a guest post by Office Manager, Chloé Malaisé.

In previous Jumpstart blog posts, you learned about the main tasks of a Broadway General Manager, including budgeting & negotiating contracts, as well as the everyday tasks of being a Company Manager; however, in a general management office, one more crucial position exists that helps keep the boat afloat: the Office Manager.

While being an office manager at a Broadway General Management office carries similar administrative responsibilities as any other office manager position, there are a few aspects of the theater industry that make this position slightly more demanding — and fun.

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The Tools We Use - General Management Edition

The Tools We Use - General Management Edition

Recently, some of the exceptionally bright people who work at Jumpstart started referring to our office as a general management office of the future or, more fittingly, #GMoftheFuture. Our staff takes pride in the innovations and tools we have put in place to share information, collaborate and work as a team.

Here at Jumpstart, we don’t embrace new tools simply because they are shiny and new, but rather because they help us help our clients put on the most exceptional theatrical productions. Below is a sampling of some of the tools we are currently using.

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What does a company manager do?

What does a company manager do?

The following is a guest post by Company Manager, Jeff Feola.

Now that you’ve hired ­a General Manager to “jumpstart” your production, it’s time to start thinking about the additional staff who will work tirelessly to bring your production to life.  The General Manager will be your guide to hiring the press agent, the designers, an advertising firm, and, finally, the person who will administer the day to day operations on your production: The Company Manager. 

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Hamilton: The Creative Process Observed

Hamilton: The Creative Process Observed

As General Managers, we are most closely associated with the business side of a Broadway or Off-Broadway production. We create budgets, negotiate contracts and try to create a sustainable business for what is, in practice, a start-up venture.

But we are also very closely involved in helping producers assemble a creative team. Many producers look to us to recommend directors, choreographers, designers and arrangers. And it is the job of the creative team to transform words on a page into a fully realized artistic vision. 

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What Does a Broadway General Manager Do?

Unless you are a theater insider you may not know that all commercially produced theatrical productions, much like major league sports franchises, have a general manager. You also may not have noticed that a general manager typically is listed directly above the director and choreographer in every Playbill, signifying the importance of this position to a production.

But if a general manager is so vital, what exactly does he or she do?

The short answer is that the general manager is responsible for overseeing and coordinating virtually every aspect of a show. But, for now, let’s focus on the three major duties of the general manager.

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When should you hire a theatrical general manager?

At what point in the process should a producer engage a general manager? This is among the first questions a prospective client will often ask. Simply put, the answer is “now.” In fact, producers with whom we work routinely tell us that they wished they had brought us on sooner.

A producer recently came to us with a project for which she was having difficulty finding financing.

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