Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere:
How to Produce Plays and Musical Theatre in New York
By M. Stefan Strozier
World Audience, Inc.
ISBN 978-1542926874, 2017, Paperback: 284 pages
Have you ever wondered how to go about producing a play or musical theatre? In New York? Though I’m sure it’s difficult, Strozier makes the process of producing plays and musical theatre in the Big Apple seem relatively easy – breaking it down into its key components and providing a very clear and quite thorough set of instructions for each component.
The book is targeted to those who would break into regional theatre and covers such things as the role of the producer, the importance of schedules (including templates), how to manage a script as a producer, creating musicals and scores, hiring talent (on the cheap), procuring a theatre, entering the small festival scene, obtaining mentorship, delegation, leadership, finding and managing actors, working with unions, dealing with performance issues, selling tickets/filling the house, creating reports, preparing a budget, stage management, lighting, costumes, finding and dealing with a director, working with choreographers, a 17 step blow-by-blow set of instructions on how to manage casting calls, how to run a rehearsal, (guerrilla) marketing, using SEO and Google Adwords, obtaining grants and sponsorship, and even how to obtain tax-free status with the IRS.
As the list above shows, Strozier goes into quite a lot of detail in this book, bringing in many practical examples from his own extensive experience of writing and producing more than twenty five shows with his theatre company La Muse Venale. The book is enriched with photos, example discussion scripts, a variety of sample reports, reporting templates, example budgets, sample contracts, a sample actor’s resume, and sample press releases. There is also an extensive appendix that includes a full list of New York Theatres and Producers, Each section provides step-by-step instructions and lots of examples on how best to tackle each key aspect of theatrical production.
Even if you’re not looking to produce a play or musical, If I Can Make it There is an interesting read. Finding out how the theatre works behind the scenes, including the poor way actors are treated, and the critical role that the producer plays, adds depth to the theatrical experience. Though I’ve been going to theatre all my life, and even fancied a career as an actress in my teens to the extent of auditioning for the lead role in a film (which I thankfully lost to the great Trini Alvarado), I had no idea what went on behind the scenes, or how poorly actors were treated, though the tiny taste I had of it at seventeen was sufficient to put me off wanting to be a player. The book is also relevant for actors and actresses who want to create their own work, and, in effect, free themselves from over-reliance on someone else’s agenda. Though Strozier’s line is often a tough one, involving intimidating and hard-lined military style leadership, he makes the very valid point that closing a show before its time hurts everyone. Keeping theatre alive is a key part of Strozier’s overall theme for the book. If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere is a book with very broad appeal, created out of a deep and enduring love for the theatre, it’s value to society as a whole, and the desire to encourage others to become involved in spreading theatre:
A vibrant theater scene brings a sense of gravitas to a community and wealthy backers are more than willing to support it because theater gives “provincial” locales outside of New York a sense of importance. I recently lived for some time in Canada. I found a robust theater scene in every single small town, as well as the big cities. If every cab driver and office worker in New York goes to the theater, in Canada the lumberjacks and beaver-hunters are proud theatergoers too. A Regional Theater producer can be an important and groundbreaking person to his community and be a driving force that brings in a new and vital art scene. (11)