The Producer’s Desk

COVID-19 was a life-altering event that took us all by surprise. Many people responded by adjusting financial plans, cutting down on everything, and making tough money decisions. Fear took hold for the vast majority, and the instinct to fight, or take flight, permeated all areas of our lives.

As a theater producer, presenter, executive director, entrepreneur, husband, and father, I had many decisions to make in 2020 that affected many people’s lives. As I look back on it now, in the Spring of 2021, I think I did the best I could. And I also surprised the hell out of myself.

Early on, like most people, I took a deep dive into the darkness. I was depressed, not eating, withdrew from most of my friends, and wondered why the hell this had happened. I even admit to shedding some tears on my early morning runs, wondering if the business I had devoted my entire 30-year career to would ever make a comeback.

We were killing it in February of 2020. The theater business had never been better. Everything we booked turned into winners. Shows were selling out left and right; new projects were exploding, marketing was on fire, staff was operating at peak performance. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

And then, in one weekend, it all caved in.

I’m sure my fellow producers across the country were in a similar boat. I remember early on, everyone emailing each other, extolling the “we’re all in this together” bullshit, and that went on for a few months. But then it stopped. Almost as if everyone had given up at the same time. Those were the dark days.

We may have all been in the same storm, but we weren’t all in the same boat. The level of pain was not the same for everyone in the theater food chain. Especially the actors, musicians, stagehands, theater employees, and others who help producers in good times create all that magic on stage.

The worst part of the past year has been the inability to plan, to try and give people hope, and to have something to look forward to. Everyone needs hope. Unfortunately there were no Winston Churchill-type leaders this past year. No one to rally around.

All you could do as a leader, was to be positive for the people around you, your staff, your family, and your friends, and save the dark thoughts for yourself, in private, when no one was around. Thank God for my beautiful dogs, Buddy and Holly; they were a constant source of joy and they got me through a lot of the worst moments.

(Left) Buddy, (Right) Holly

Dogs and nurses were the unsung heroes of the past year. Special shout out to my beautiful and brave wife Leanne, an E.R. nurse who suited up every day to fight the COVID-19 battle and never complained. Well, maybe she complained a little.

My beautiful wife Leanne and Buddy.

Somewhere around Christmas, the darkness left, and I finally snapped out of it. Watching It’s A Wonderful Life for the 40th time was probably the turning point. I think I realized I had touched a lot of people in my career, and a lot of them were depending on me to lead them out of this and provide work for them when it was all over. I couldn’t give up now.

So, I gave myself a good kick in the ass, stopped feeling sorry for myself, and I furiously went to work behind the scenes. Investing capital, creating content, hiring key people, plotting strategy, and developing key relationships. All significant steps that are hopefully going to pay dividends over the next few years.

South Florida Theater Magazine is just one of the great ideas my team has created in the darkness over the past 12 months. We hope you like it. There was a hole in the market for this, and we’re going to try and fill it. Our goal is to connect the South Florida theater community in this time of isolation and bring us all together with compelling content each month and daily interaction on our social media channels. We need this now more than ever.

Because with COVID-19 beginning to end and people trying to resume their everyday lives again, Producers need to step up, take the risk, and continue the vital work of creating great content, writing and producing, and presenting artists and shows. Being a Producer is still a fantastic way to make a living.

Entertainment is what got everyone through the pandemic. It’s what gets me out of bed every day. The thrill of the risk/reward model, the joy of creating something truly unique, and the marketing skill it takes to be successful in show business, are the motivation to keep going when all might seem lost. Nothing great happens without taking risks. This quote has never had more meaning than right now. Especially in show business.

Because at the end of all that has happened, when you take a hard look at history, the theatre has been around since 600 B.C. in some form or another. It’s not going down now. A big comeback is on its way. I can feel it in my bones.

Theater is a unique form of entertainment meant to be experienced live, and in person. There is no substitute. And over the next 24 months, we will turn the corner. Not everyone will make it in the business, though. That’s the sad part. Companies and theaters will fold. But out of the ashes, new companies will form, new partnerships and creativity will bloom, and we will survive.

Why am I so confident? Because that feeling you get in the seats, when the magic on stage makes you hold your breath, and your spine tingles, like when you hear “Bring Him Home” at Les Misérables, or watch the green witch ride her broom to the top of the proscenium at the end of the first act in Wicked, those are moments you remember forever. Whether you’re a wide-eyed teenager watching for the first time, or a 75-year old man shuffling out the door with his walker, that “magic” is why you will come back to the theater.

No 60” high-definition television can replace that feeling. Not even close.

As a producer, I’m banking a lot of money on it. Literally.

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