Thoughts from a Los Angeles Theater Producer

My first post!

Posted in Welcome and About Me! by Rick Culbertson on September 1, 2009

Hello!  Welcome to my Blog.  I am a theater producer in Los Angeles.  I have decided to write this blog because I have had many private discussions with people throughout the LA theater community and it seems that a lot of people agree with a majority of what I believe.  So, I have decided to take the next step to just put it out there.  But first, a little about me!

Who am I?

 My theater background dates back roughly 20 years when I first started taking theater classes in high school.  After high school I attended AMDA in New York City and graduated the Musical Theater Training Program in February of 1997.  I spent a year on the road travelling the country with three different children’s theater tours before returning to NYC.  I then worked for a year as a Broadway usher for the musical Ragtime where I was integral in unionizing my fellow ushers, merchandise salespeople, and bar staff.  Just as we signed on with IATSE Local B-183, I left to become the manager of the box office at Merkin Concert Hall.  After two years in the box office, I left the performing arts altogether and became a consultant with a small software company where I have continued to work to this day (Almost 10 years!)  Since moving to California in 2001 I have become involved in theater again, first as an actor, but most recently, making the transition to producing.

Why do I want to write this blog?

 Two and a half years ago, I started to work on developing a musical “Till Death Do Us Part” (formally known as “Divorce! The Musical;” more on that in a future post).  After two years in development we finally got the show up in Los Angeles where it ran for 5 months (84 performances) and received 14 rave reviews, including critic’s picks from the LA Times, LA Weekly, and Backstage.  Throughout the long process of producing this show I met with many people to ask for advice.  There was a lot of advice that started with, “In a perfect world… but in LA you have to do it this way.”  

Why?  Why is producing in LA different from producing in Chicago, or NY?  Our talent is just as good,  we are a huge city filled with tourists, and we certainly have better weather!  So, I soldiered on trying to force my show into a “NY” model of producing as taught to me at the Commercial Theater Institute’s annual producers conference, and by many of the people I hired to help me, all of whom are from the NY school of producing.  The reality, however, is that forces in LA exist that don’t allow for the NY producing model, and I constantly had to scramble to hold things together.  So over the next few months I am going to write about a wide range of topics form the producer’s perspective as I see it.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I don’t claim to be the most experienced person, but after being in the trenches producing a brand new work with no support other than the private money that I raised with my associate producer, I know what it will take to keep me producing here and not running away to NY.  And at the very least, maybe I will stoke a conversation that appears to be smoldering in private talks all over town. 

Enough about me! What will I write about?

I already have a list of 25 topics I want to cover.  Plus I will add posts that chronicle my efforts to take my show to other markets including Chicago and New York.  But first, here are a few issues about LA that I will be writing about in the beginning…

  • The need for a true producer’s organization that will fight solely for the interests of producers.
  • What can we do about ½ price tickets? And why they are killing theater.
  • Why don’t we have open ended runs?  And how can we make better rental agreements to make them happen?
  • How do you raise money, and is theater a good investment?
  • The realities of commercial producers in LA and how much money we don’t make.
  • Are unions helping create more theatrical jobs or fewer?
  • Front of house and box office set the mood for the professionalism of your production.
  • How to create and read ticket sales reports.

 Thanks for reading and sign up for my twitter page for an update every time I post!


One Response

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  1. erinkamler said, on September 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I look forward to seeing your brilliant thoughts unfold!

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