Thoughts from a Los Angeles Theater Producer

What could a Producer’s Organization look like?

Posted in Producer's League by Rick Culbertson on October 12, 2009

I have been asked how, given all the different types of theater companies that exist in Los Angeles, a producer’s organization could work.  I have taken this question to mean that a lot of people feel that we are too diverse of a theater community to allow for a cohesive, agreed-upon structure, and that our missions and goals don’t align.  I disagree. While there are certainly some differences among us, we have many more things in common than we think.

We are all producers.  Every one of us.  Whether your company is small and actor-based, whether you work independently in the 99-seat world, whether you are a mid-sized non-profit with 100-499 seats or a big regional theater, your mission is to produce theater.  This means that you must deal with unions, hire (even on a volunteer basis) artists and staff, sell tickets, and market shows.  We all interface daily with theater venues, actors, directors, designers, writers, and material. We all vie for the same limited number of reviewers and patrons. We all have to work within budgets, and we all have something to say.  

If we created a producer’s organization, it could help all of us accomplish the tasks we have in common.  We could organize committees that break down these tasks according to our various specific types of theater.  We could implement one committee for each of the following: the large budget 99-seat non profits, the low budget 99-seat non-profits, the actor based 99-seat houses, the independent producers, the midsize theaters, the large theaters… etc.  Each committee would work on the behalf of the group of theaters within their category.  The committees would then meet with the producer’s organization to make sure it is adhering to the needs of all producers and theater companies. 

Imagine being able to negotiate with equity– all with one voice.  We could begin a dialogue with other unions so that they finally get on board with the 99-seat contract.  Each of these negotiations could receive input from the smaller committees, creating a situation in which each theater company has the weight of the entire community behind it. 

Additionally, all members of the producer’s organization, no matter what their size, would benefit from the marketing efforts of a producers league.  (READ THIS  POST!)

A producer’s league, working as a trade organization, could work with the city to address our needs as producers.  This league could seek partnerships with corporate entities (the Broadway Producer’s League in New York has a partnership with Visa. Why can’t we?)  As individuals, we are hard-pressed to make these visions a reality, but as an entire community? We could create a partnership with the Los Angeles Restaurant Association to bring our two industries together to promote “dinner and a show” ideas, and many more partnerships such as these to intelligently grow the visibility of our business. There is no reason why each of us, as individuals, should continue to labor on trying to accomplish these tasks, over and over, again and again– achieving only moderate success at best.

Last, but certainly not least, we could work together to develop better rental agreements with all our local rental theaters.  Better contracts that will promote long running shows instead of forcing you to close. (READ THIS POST!)

There are so many benefits in coming together. Put simply, a group is always greater than the sum of its parts.


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