Pat Addiss: Producing Broadway Plays and Musicals
August 26, 2010
In this segment, Distinguished Lecturer of Journalism, Communications and Theatre Marilyn Sokol talks with Broadway producer Pat Addiss. For thirty years, Addiss ran her own premium promotion company before switching careers to produce on- and off-Broadway plays and musicals.
8 Minutes 3 Seconds
"On Stage" is your backstage pass to the world of theater. Hear from professionals and aspiring professionals as they talk about their dreams, what motivates them, and making it in show business.
This is Vince Bracy, a student at Lehman College. In this segment, Distinguished Lecturer of Journalism, Communications and Theatre Marilyn Sokol talks with Broadway producer Pat Addiss.
For thirty years, Addiss ran her own premium promotion company before switching careers to produce on- and off-Broadway plays and musicals. Her productions include Little Women, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, 39 Steps and the new revival of Promises Promises.
Everybody, this is Pat Addiss, extraordinaire producer, Broadway producer. She's a native New Yorker. For 30 years she ran her own promotion company. She's produced Little Women, which was fabulous. Chita Rivera: the Dancer's Life. Let's talk about speech, okay, how important that is.
Oh, that's very important because if people can't understand what you're saying, what use is it? So you really have to work. And we all have different accents. We all have a distinct voice. But your speech patterns must be able to be understood by everybody.
And lots of times besides speech patterns, people often read beautifully, like Shakespeare, they'll read it beautifully, but they have no idea what they're talking about. And that, also, is another thing. You have to understand your character. And it just doesn't happen. You've got to study. And being in the theater is not an easy job.
I just want to make one small addendum to the speech and the movement. You don't wait till your cast to work on everything. Part of the preparation for your entire life as a performer is going to classes, practicing your speech daily, singing daily. That's why it's hard. The wussies fall by the wayside. It takes courage to continue because you don't always get cast. So in the face of disappointment, dust yourself, you know, off. Start all over again. That's all I have to say. Okay, I have nothing more to say.
I don't believe that. But that's okay. [LAUGH] I think that even if you don't make it to Broadway, Broadway isn't the only answer. There's lots of theater all over. And if you move to Oshkosh, or in the middle of nowhere, you can start a theater company. You can be part of a theater company.
There's lots you can do. And there are always children who need to be taught. And you get lots of rewards even if you don't get paid and you're doing a job that, maybe you don't even like your job, but it's paying your bills. But you can always do something with your skills. And it's rewarding. Also, there are lots of jobs in the theater.
I took a course called CTI, Commercial Theater Institute. And this gives you an overview of everything in the theater, all the different segments and the jobs and everything, and the different levels. And it's a three-day course that's coming up quite soon.
It used to be run by a man named Fred Vogel who has passed away. And it's now run by the Broadway League. And then after that course, I took the 14-week course, which is the intense course. And unfortunately, I did not make good use of it because I didn't go into producing until quite a few years later.
But after taking the course, the 14 week course, I realized that I couldn't run a small 24/7 company and then also produce. Because when you're not doing a show, it's not so time consuming. But when you are doing a show or you're preparing to do a show, I mean, one of the things you have to do when you're a producer is raise money. And that is the hardest part of anything.
But you also have to hire a general manager. He's very, very important. And he oversees everything. You've gotta get a budget. You've got to get a director. You have to get a choreographer. You have to see who's gonna do your orchestrations if it's a musical. Who's gonna be your musical conductor? Who's gonna be your sound designer?
There are just all these little components that you have to put together. And then, of course, you have to hire actors and a stage manager. And usually for actors, most companies now all have a casting director. And they take care of it. Now I can suggest who I want. But it all goes through the casting director.
How important is it to get stars, like, either movie stars or people who are television stars?
It's the most important thing, unfortunately, because the shows that do not have a star, people don't go to. The theater today, it's really sad. It's star driven. I mean, Little Night Music, people are coming because they wanna see Catherine Zeta Jones. There's a wonderful show out now called Next Fall that's about two gay lovers. And it's a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful show. It's not doing very well because it doesn't have any stars in it.
Is that in part what happened to Spring Awakening?
Oh, no, no, no, not at all.
The fact that there were no stars.
No, no, because they became stars. Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele and John Gallagher became stars. No, no, no, we did very, very well. It was very, very successful.
People love it.
Yeah, well, not that our country is so bad. But people think we're in such a bad country. People don't know what it's like in the rest of the world to think it's so bad.
People think we are going through-- we are going through tough times. But this might be the norm. It might always be this way. And so people don't wanna have to think about serious thoughts. They wanna be entertained and have fun.
There's always things you can do in the theater. This is not wasted time. Plus, the fact that any theater background that you have, you have an edge in business because you're able to talk. You're able to communicate. It gives you communication skills.
And communication skills are something that will live with you for the rest of your life. So it's a life skill. So even if you don't go into this endeavor that you think you're going to go into. It's not wasted time. You have given yourself a background. It's like an insurance policy. You may never have to use it. But it's there for you. And you can always go back to the theater. So if you don't make it on Broadway or off Broadway, it's not, as I say, wasted time. You've done a favor to yourself.
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