I’m learning to code. Here's why:
One of the biggest challenges in producing theater on any scale is to fill a house with people paying the "right" price. Producers want to maximize revenue. Audiences want to be entertained for a price that keeps the entertainment enjoyable.
Over the summer, I aim on developing the skillset to determine the perfect price point for shows so that houses are at 100% capacity with audiences that are paying prices they are most comfortable with. Revenue is maximized, producers can make more shows, actors + creative team have more jobs, and the industry grows!
Financial services already use these technologies. So do airlines, hotels, Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Let's use data science in Broadway!
After researching the tools that currently exist, I've decided to use LYNDA.com and DataScienceAcademy.com to learn SQL, R,and PYTHON. I am most enthused by Kevin R. Williams's study from Yale: "Dynamic Airline Pricing and Seat Availability." Similarly Ian Boneysteele, Konstantine Buhler, James Kernochan, Mike Mester, and Soren Sudhof study at Stanford: "Forecasting Broadway Show Gross Revenue."
Wish me luck as I begin this next stage of my journey!
Boneysteele I., Buhler K., Kernochan, J., Mester M., Sudhof S. (2016). Forecasting Broadway Show Gross Revenue. [online] Stanford School of Business. Available at http://zoo.cs.yale.edu/classes/cs458/lectures/old/Broadway/Final%20report%20vF.pdf [Accessed 18 Jun. 2018].
Steinmetz, J. (2016). Exploring Broadway Data in Tableau | InterWorks. [online] InterWorks. Available at: https://interworks.com/blog/jsteinmetz/2016/08/03/exploring-broadway-data-tableau/ [Accessed 18 Jun. 2018].
Williams, K. R. (2017). Dynamic airline pricing and seat availability. Yale School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation
Sorry for the late update! With the Jewish holidays, things have been particularly busy at this moment. I'm therefore "checking in" for this month instead of my usual longer update.
My play MAGIC is coming along smoothly, SOCIOPATH ROOMMATE is too, internship at National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene is great, I started a producer class at TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited) where I'll be learning a lot for the next 11 months, and I hosted a cold reading series at The Artist Co-Op.
Media: I was quoted in an article about faith in modern orthodoxy: Faith and Doubt Among Young Modern Orthodox.
You'll have a warmer update from me next month. Chag Sameach! (Happy holidays!)
This past August got off to a fast start and continued at an even faster pace.
The first Sunday of the month was the sold out gala for MAGIC? The event included a brilliant music performance (Kelly, Marcel and David), delicious snacks including cupcakes by Chloe’s, a superb bar (by Chelsea Davis), our actors, and a dazzling view. Amazing photographers Emily Chan and Amy Marin captured it all. View Emily’s here. View Amy’s here.
The success you see in the photos is owed to the supportive and generous attendees who came to the gala – thank you to all those who took the time to show support for my, Kelly and Christopher’s work. Also, thank you to the cast, musicians, volunteers, and hosts who formed the large yet seamless staff.
August’s gala gave us more than great photos: it raised the funds to make a deposit for a theater! That’s right, MAGIC? will be happening mid-February in midtown Manhattan (more details to follow at a later time).
Along with the financial progress of the show, Christopher and I have begun revising the script, which needs a rewrite. Kelly has begun composing the music as well. This revision will be an enormous effort: about 75 pages, which, given the complexity of writing rhymed, metered drama, will take our team about two hours per page – an estimated 150 hours for this revision, alone. Nonetheless, Christopher and I will persist and complete the next draft of MAGIC? before long!
I’ve also developed a new play, SOCIOPATH ROOMMATE, which I started writing last month. I had a table read mid-August and got some great feedback, which I’ve included in a revision. For the meantime, I’m going to let this draft “marinate” while I focus on revising MAGIC? It feels good to have completed something (complete at least for now – scripts are rarely “finished”).
In other news, I’ve begun interning at National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene – the major Off-Broadway production company behind AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND. Their calendar is packed with high quality events and shows, so there’s always something happening. Working with their production team is an incredibly meaningful experience – and highly educational, as well.
Speaking of educational experiences, I’ve reviewed A KREUTZER SONATA; check it out here: LINK.
Almost lastly, I’m taking a breather from Write the Night. While the project was incredibly fulfilling, it had begun to demand a larger commitment from me – preventing me from focusing as much as I’d like on production. Other opportunities, better aligned with my goals, have presented themselves. The trick with working on several projects at once, is to monitor which are succeeding, which need work, and which to put on hold. Write the Night falls into the last category.
Actually lastly, thank you to the 44 people who donated to MAGIC?
Until next month… Cheers!
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Most of what I did this past month could fall into the category of preparation. My biggest aim as of lately is getting my show MAGIC to an Off-Broadway stage. To accomplish this, my collaborators Christopher Erlendson, Kelly Catlin, and I are producing a showcase production for industry professionals. To accomplish this, we are fundraising – a vital step in preparing for our venture.
For those that received a phone call or text message with an exuberant request for a donation, you’ve already heard why fundraising is vital for a project like MAGIC?. Because our goal for the show to garner investors and create a commercially viable product, raising pre-investment capital allows for a higher value product and can potentially bring in more investments later. Alexander Graham Bells’ quote above, regarding preparation, has significance in this respect – that a successful production requires much preparation, the first being an extra push at its beginning.
I must thank those who recognized the importance of this moment and donated in our first month of efforts. A special thank you to our “Magician level” donors: Christine Catlin, Cindy Vail, Dasi Gobioff, Emma Lieberman, Izzy Gilden, Jons Besch, Justin Niederman, Larry Rinkel, Liam Unger, Mordy Siegel, Soloman Rosenzweig, Zoe Laidlaw. A special thank you to our general donors: Adam Orlow, Baila Kornbluth, Ben Grodensky, Chaim Gluck, Chavie Fleisher, Ethan Scheinberg, Jacqueline Legazcu, Jake Cohen, Kara Cutruzzula, Marc Gerstein, Michael Guggenheim, Michael Halpern, Michael Wilhelm, Michael Ziegler, Moshe & Ilona Bressler, Nosson Warman, Rache Shadruz, Sam Weinberger, Samuel Boland, Stefanie Amanda Lai, Yisroel Pupko, Yonah Danzig, Yoni Akerman.
Thanks to the gallant people above, our project has been able to raise almost $3,000! This is enough money for us to put down a deposit on a theater space and begin planning our November production. You can still donate and add your name to this list of brilliant supporters. Funds would go towards marketing costs, specifically high quality graphic design and online distribution. Consider contributing here.
To supplement and celebrate our fundraiser, Christopher, Kelly, and I are hosting a fundraiser gala to raise money and awareness for the project. The event will take place on a rooftop in the West Village with a 360° view of the Manhattan skyline and will feature live music from the show composed by Kelly, an open bar with the talented mixologist Chelsea Davis, delicious vegan cupcakes from Sweets by Chloe, a diverse vegetable spread, professional photographers Emily Chan and Amy Marin, and more! It’s not surprising our gala quickly sold out. Stay tuned on social media for a livestream and photos of the event!
In other less exciting news, I’ve begun writing a new play – for the fun of it. It’s titled SOCIOPATH ROOMMATE where living with a sociopath is a dark comedy. The story centers around three adults with different mild (or so they appear) mental illness living together in NYC. Friction ensues when their internal struggles boil over onto each other forcing these roommates to confront both their own and each other’s mental illnesses or terminate their lease and find new places to live. The theme I attempt to address is the positive aspect of being communicative and transparent about one’s struggles. Also, that some people are dangerous to live with.
I’ve also started writing reviews (I call them analysis) for some shows I’ve seen and had strong reactions to. This past month I’ve reviewed 1984 on Broadway and AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND Off-Broadway. You can read my reviews here LINK.
Write the Night is continuing well. With help from Dana Espinosa, WTN has expanded to include an advanced writers workshop. Our feedback, via questionnaires, proves this workshop to be highly popular, so we will be including more of these in the future. Attend one, bring material from a project you’re working on, get feedback from other writers, and grow! Next workshop is August 22nd, click here to register.
Until next month… Cheers!
This month showed me that one flourishes when their personal and financial affairs are in order. The month prior, I had taken a hiatus from my creative projects to work out some personal and financial situations. This turned out to be a sound investment, resulting in an incredibly productive June.
My month began with production meetings with my collaborators Chris Erlendson and Kelly Catlin for our all-rhyming scored play, MAGIC?. These meetings were intense organizing and planning sessions.
Such planning was informed by similar content of industry events hosted by the Commercial Theater Institute (CTI) and Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU), two exceptional organizations that offer resources to theater creators and producers. We attended two such events. A 1-day course on “Small Productions,” which focused both on how to successfully produce small scale productions as well as how to use such productions to scale up a show. And, “Writer Producer Speed Date” where writers make elevator pitches to big time producers, speed dating style, in response to which producers provide improvement feedback. Such resources are vital in our development of MAGIC?
Using these insights, Chris, Kelly and I revisited our MAGIC? concept and target audience. We’re now more confident that our show has potential to be successful in an Off-Broadway venue. We plan to accomplish this by producing a small production of MAGIC? around November. This production would be used as a showcase for the Off-Broadway industry, giving us material to pitch to producers and investors.
This steep goal of an Off-Broadway debut is based partly on our estimation that MAGIC? is a work of high quality, with a clear message for a reachable target audience. Another factor for this goal is the intelligence and motivation of my collaborators Christopher and Kelly. They are among the most intelligent and determined people I know. That, along with their strong work ethic and artistic abilities, make them ideal partners for this collaboration.
Our next step of a small production, however, cannot take place without help. We need family and friends to help us with this developmental production in November. We’ve therefore launched a fundraiser campaign on Indiegogo, where contributions go directly to the funding of our November production. We’re also hosting a gala for those who donate $50 (tickets need to be purchased separately). I ask you to kindly consider donating to this cause – an investment both in a playwright and his themes.
Also, here is the latest description of MAGIC?:
Politics and magic collide in an all rhyming underscored play about magic. In a world where people rely on potions and flying brooms, chaos ensues when magicians begin losing their powers. Unable to uncover the true cause of this phenomenon, the government resorts to saving its own image with a plot to scapegoat two traveling street performers. Facing arrest, the street performers must decide whether to flee as fugitives or expose the government’s amorality.
MAGIC? explores how a thirst for power leads to a lack of transparency and accountability in government. This show deals with some of the darkest problems we face today as a wholesome, family-friendly style.
MAGIC?’s live music conveys magic beyond the ability of words. Originally written for classical flute, the score is being revised for strings.
So there’s my June. I’m amazed at how productive and focused this past month has been. I owe it to the motivated people in my life and their inspiration, the guidance of those more experienced, and my friends. I’m also grateful for the step back I took last month to focus on personal and financial situations.
May was a time of personal and financial growth for me. It’s difficult to be creative, let alone be anything, without financial and personal well-being. My experience tells me that when going through trying circumstances to focus on resolving them and to focus on creativity and productivity after.
As mentioned in last month’s update, I had been going through a personal situation which grew difficult in April, peaking as an anticipated crisis in May and is now entirely resolved. Allowing myself to focus on resolving and troubleshooting that difficulty without pressuring myself to create has allowed me to tackle this personal issue head-on and emerge emotionally intact.
As for finances, last summer I headed a project that experienced significant financial losses. New to the field, I had invested money into the project and when it went red, so did my finances. This loss turned to be an incredible learning experience and I emerged more knowledgeable on business of entertainment. Nonetheless, my bank account suffered and without funds an artist cannot create. So after reorganizing my finances, I began a second job to earn back the money I had lost. Proudly, as of June 1st I am out of debt.
With my personal and financial well-being secured, I can focus my next month on pushing my projects forward. This coming month, Christopher Erlendson and I will be revising MAGIC? along with building it a business plan so that by October we have a developmental production with hopes of progressing to an Off-Broadway performance sometime after.
Further resulting from my financial well-being, I was able to purchase membership to two incredible organizations that will help me progress as a writer and producer:
I’ve become a member at The Artist Co-Op – a coworking space for performing artists, uniting New York City’s actors directors, dancers, playwrights, and more, with programs and services to support the performing arts community. Membership will enhance my tools and network for creating work. It also gives me a great environment to work.
I’ve also become a member at Theater Resources Unlimited – a nonprofit organization created to help producers produce, emerging theater companies to emerge healthily and all theater professionals to understand and best navigate the business of theater. Membership will further enhance my tools and network for producing work, as well as further orient me with the business of entertainment.
With these items lined up and high quality tools in my repertoire, I feel ready to tackle my projects with full vigor. The lesson this past May teaches me is that it’s sometimes necessary to refocus one’s energy to secure well-being to attain creativity and productivity. Stay tuned, June is looking to be amazing!
April is gone as quickly as the rain it brings. Sometimes life overwhelms you but as April teaches, it passes and brings on sunny days – sometimes which arrive later than expected, but they will arrive!
Most of my April was spent preparing for the debut of MAGIC? at Dixon Place. The second half of my April was consumed by a personal issue which has stifled my creativity, productive energy, and emotional wellbeing. Overall, things are looking positive as I pass through the transitory month of April but to refuse to acknowledge the difficulty I’ve been experiencing would be being dishonest with myself.
The work required for production of MAGIC? was gargantuan. Firstmost, the script needed completion, a revision, and then some tidying up – all of which took place at an alarmingly fast pace. Christopher Erlendson and I spent many late evenings in downtown Manhattan sometimes working as late as 1AM. Our brilliant collaborator Kelly Catlin composed some amazing music for the piece from an outline of a draft we provided to her ahead of time. Once the script was complete, she fine-tuned her music to match our words. At last, the script came together and then the real work began for our cast and creative crew to begin building the show from words to a performance.
Honestly, much after finalizing the script was a dizzying whirl for me. I like to say that I’m a writer and that my role (aside from Producer roles) ends there. Christopher really took the reins thereafter as the Director and led the production into rehearsals, working with our talented Stage Mangers Jane Silverstein and Devorah Merkin, Costume Designer Elizabeth Seaver, and highly talented cast: Amanda Boekelheide, Victoria Giambalvo, Yasmine Schancer, Emma Lieberman, Sarah Teed, Hannah Yi, Matthew Axel.
The approach of our production process was different than the past in that Christopher and I decided to utilize this production as a developmental instrument in which we would try new approaches, designs, and outreach. This included rehearsing in sections: an overall familiarization of the script, rehearsing with a partially completed script, and with a complete manuscript. This method proved effective given the final period had more than 10 days of work – which it did. As for design, our approach was to choose major points of investment and cover the other areas with short term solutions – this took form as a simple set with extravagant costumes – most of which had a high level of design and low level costs. This method proved effective in generating medium quality costumes and set with minimal funds – our focus on the orchestration of available materials rather than the choosing and purchasing of them. In a project with little funding, human hours and available material are in abundance – of which we used abundantly (touché). Lastly, our approach with outreach was one of media, industry professionals, and consumers. This is a complicated process which, I’ve learned through the help of Mike Griffith and David DeAlmo, requires planning, structure, and methodology.
Enough about technicalities, what about the show? It was a smashing success. From the strong acting, to beautifully designed lights, eloquent music, and graceful hand of directorship MAGIC? turned out to be a beautiful and fun piece of entertaining theater. Briefly, MAGIC? is dramatic comedy where a magical world faces a threat of magical powers being lost. When two tricksters arrive with their fake magic show, the government believes they have found the root of the problem. The feedback received from our audience at Dixon Place was positive and voiced scene-specific criticism, suggesting the overall story of the play is in good form. Christopher and I expect to begin revising this in early June.
Our single night performance was a ton of fun and a ton of work – requiring completion, revision, and then more revisions of a 70 minute all-rhyming play in under 6 weeks. After the show, I simply collapsed and hit reset on my creative monitor. I spent time meeting with friends, watching plays (Bamboo Bushwick, Last Bite, Oslo), watching movies (Pirates of the Caribbean I, II, and III), and reading books.
Another reason for my collapse after MAGIC? is a personal difficulty regarding my living situation. Simply, my living space in Harlem is going through a transition which will be complete by the end of May – until, has been causing me significant amount of anguish. This situation is resolved but as most complicated things, it is in a timely process playing itself out to resolution. The result is a continuous presence of negativity in my living space – a significant factor in the well-being of any person, including (perhaps especially) an artist’s. Frankly, I have been feeling devoid of productivity, emotional availability, and creativity from this situation. May 31st is when this will be over – a short month away. In the meantime, I will focus on positive energy from friends, mentors, family, and art.
On a completely different note, I have been studying war, peace, and strategy on an academic level (for no reason other than interest). I started reading a book a while ago on military maneuvers and have been hungry for knowledge on the matter since. I hope to incorporate this knowledge into my purview of artistic expression soon but in the meanwhile, I will pursue my interests without investigating them too scrutinously.
On a final note, my talented friend Emily Chan helped me with a new headshot! She also helped design my new business card. Isn’t she amazing?
Thank you for following and being part of this journey with me!