"There is no mitigated risk on Broadway. It's all risk. So you have to be willing to take that leap of faith."
~James Stern, Theatrical Attorney for The Frankel Group
"A leap of faith, in its most commonly used meaning, is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, or without empirical evidence."
I was at the printer yesterday at work waiting for a document when my eye caught one of the many Hollywood Reporter magazines piled up on the next desk. The headline that got my attention read, "To Broadway, the long, hard way." It was as if that Hollywood Reporter had read my mind.
You see, what I happened to be printing up at that moment were the pages and pages of Equity guidelines for showcases and staged readings, since we are on the brink of having to be "officially" registered with the union. More on that in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say that between booking classes, teaching classes, and prepping classes for my Paley job, I have been deep in the throes of Producing 101 again.
But, back to the article. I recommend that those of you interested in play development (especially the development of musicals) read the full article. To summarize, it briefly charts husband and wife team of Jannie Cercone (Screenwriter) and Michael Manheim's (Producer) quest to take their 1992 film, "Leap of Faith" (which flopped, by the way) and adapt it into a musical bound for Broadway. It opens at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA in a few days with Brooke Shields and Raul Esparza.
It's taken them ten years to get there...and they've got multiple Oscar-winning composer Alan Menkin writing their music.
The fourteen tweens in my Helen cast will be in their twenties in ten years.
Now, some people could let this article depress them, and maybe even justify giving up. It's only made me more determined. The reality is, it might take a very long time to get Helen where she belongs--and it might not. But, as the late Jonathan Larson wrote so presciently in his musical, Rent, there's "No day but today." And Robby and I have such a special cast right now, that we want to give them the opportunity to bring these characters they have already developed so beautifully to life-- before they grow out of them..or before they just grow, period. So, we've got plans to make that happen. More on that later, too.
Reading this article also made me realize something else. Helen's journey from my laptop to a commercial run will likely be unconventional. As unconventional as, well, a musical with fourteen tweens and four adults that seriously, humorously and musically deals with timeless questions and epic themes. As unconventional as, well...me...and this journey we've been on thus far. In case you haven't noticed, Helen's development process hasn't been particularly conventional. In fact, I'd venture to say that so far, we've taken the tradition Producer-driven method for new play development and turned it on it's head.
Maybe it's just something in the Worcester County water. My compatriot, Ken Davenport, is making waves of his own with his attempt to "democratize Broadway" by creating the first ever "Community Produced Broadway Musical," with his upcoming revival of Godspell. This will be the first time that the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) is allowing regular people, theatre-lovers just like you and me, people who are invested in theatre--to invest in theatre.
And you know what? That's the way it should be. I've got a brigade of ethusiastic Helen parents and supporters who just keep asking, "What can I do?"
And thanks to Ken, we will all be able to take this leap of faith together.