As I prep for the fall semester graduate course I teach at City College, I've been thinking about how I started my own crash course this year--a course in Producing 101.
My course began in January, when I got the rights to Helen. I'd never done that before, and it took lots of research and guts to force myself to make that happen. (It was my New Year's resolution.)
Next up was getting writers on board. Fortunately, that was pretty easy since one of them was a long time collaborator, and the other was, well, me.
Then came the first readings and music workshops. Making all my friends read my script at my birthday reading and recruiting my Brooklyn Children's Theatre kids to do music workshops for us was a cheap and easy alternative to funding a fully produced reading/workshop.
Oh, and we can't forget this website and blog. Thank god for modern technology and website "templates." What could have cost me a fortune and taken forever, took me less than a week to put together. (Thank you, Squarespace.com.)
Then came the casting; the coordinating with agents to get great kids in to read/sing for the show, the networking necessary to find the right adults, the audition prep (creating sides takes longer than you think), the scheduling, the photocopying, etc.
Next it was getting some of our "cast" in to rehearse with us and make recordings of the music. And most important, getting our cast and our recordings up on the website so that the rest of the Helen community could be a part of this Helen "milestone." It's pretty exciting to hear exquisite voices singing your music...and we wanted to share that with our followers.
Now, in less than two weeks, the Helen family moves into rehearsals for our first public performance. That has required booking rehearsal and performance spaces, creating a cut version of the full-length play, creating invites, sending out invites, making practice mp3s for the cast, coordinating with a cast of 18 people and their parents, and searching for the best baklava in New York City. (Plus, every grant for musical theatre writers seems to be due in the next month or two.)
While challenging, all of this has been absolutely manageable given my skills and knowledge. Now, the tricky stuff comes in. Things like Regulation D and Rule 506, finding investors, getting a theatrical attorney, becoming an LLC, putting together a real workshop with lights, sound and costumes, raising money, etc. All the stuff I have absolutely no experience with.
Lucky for me, I happen to love a challenge. Just like my eager and enthusiastic graduate students this fall, I am ready to jump in head first and learn as much as I can. I started the next phase of my education yesterday at the Off-Broadway Alliance's "How to Raise Monday and Where to Raise Money" panel. While it was daunting, and my head is still spinning from all the information I took in yesterday, I looked around and thought, "Well, if all of these people can do it, why can't I?"
I took a little time this weekend to try and catch up on one of my Martha Stewart magazines (I'm actually baking blueberry muffins at 7am in the morning as I write this blog). I'm not a fan of Martha, per se, but I do love her magazines. And reading about de-stressing, how to make the perfect stir-fry, and how to make wreathes out of pine cones, tends to ground me and get me back to the simple things in life, even if its only for a fleeting moment. After the panel yesterday, as I was riding along on the subway reading my magazine to stop my head from spinning, I came across this little piece of advice:
Transform anxiety into excitement; focus not on the fear of what lies ahead but the possibilities you might create.
I'm going to take that advice to heart and let it guide me along the rest of my course. And hopefully, next thing I know I will be moving on to a 200-level course in Producing.