Podcast Episode 43 Transcript – John Caird
Ken: Hello, worldwide web, it’s Ken Davenport here. Welcome back to The Producer’s Perspective Podcast. I’m super excited to have today’s guest on the podcast, not just because he has a great accent but also because he is a great guy and, most importantly, he’s one of the smartest dramaturgical directors I’ve ever met and worked with, and he’s here to give us his other-side-of-the-pond perspective. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show director and writer Mr. John Caird! Welcome, John.
John: Hello. Thank you very much. It’s nice to be here.
Ken: I’ll tell you all a little secret. Before I have a guest on the podcast I always do some research on them, even when I know them very, very well, and of course one my first stops is their Wikipedia page. And John Caird’s Wikipedia page is so epic and chock full of these incredible credits. I swear they could break it up into chapters and sell it as a memoir. This thing is long and unbelievably awesome. He’s been directing plays and musicals and operas all over the world, including a long stint at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Dramatic Theatre . . . so many “royals,” John.
John: I get on very well with the royals. I keep them in plays and musicals.
Ken: Of course, here State-side you produced the epic and historic production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Eyre, Stanley and is currently represented Off-Broadway with the brand new production of Daddy Long Legs, of which he is also the book writer, and of course I am the producer. Am I leaving anything out?
John: Les Mis is running on Broadway.
Ken: Right, right, there’s that little credit, that show that no one’s ever heard of. John co-directed the semi-successful show that was the original company of Les Misérables. So, John.
Ken: How did this all begin for you?
John: I don’t know, I suppose it depends where you want to start.
Ken: I heard a rumor that you were an actor.
John: I was an actor. I trained as an actor at the Old Vic School in Bristol. One of my classmates was Jeremy Irons . . . the same year as me, so that dates me. He’s wearing well. I trained as an actor. I worked as an actor for a couple of years and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like acting, really. I didn’t like pretending to be other people for money. I knew almost as soon as I got to drama school that I wanted to be a director so it was just a matter of going through the motions of being an actor. I hated acting so much that I just stopped doing it, and instead I went into the technical side of theater, just to learn the trade. I was a flyman in the West End. I was a crewman in the West End. I did two years in stage management at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, a little rep theater in England, which was being run by a wonderful woman director, Jane Howell, one of the first successful female directors in the UK. And I really learned my trade there, just watching her directing. It’s a fantastic training for a director to be on the book in rehearsal, because you have to give all of the cues, you get the rhythm of the show, you learn the play, you learn what the actors are like, you just observe everything and soak everything up like a piece of blotting paper. I did that for two years and then I started directing.
Ken: What is it about directing that attracted you to it?
John: I think there was a sort of me-shaped hole in all the theater companies I went into. I was brought up in university towns. My father was a professor at Oxford, a professor of theology, and my mother was a teacher of English, so I came from a highly intellectual background. So by the time I was about 14 or 15 I understood all of the texts that I was expected to act or work on. And the theater isn’t a particularly intellectual place. It’s full of highly talented, gifted, clever people but literacy isn’t necessarily their top skill. So I just found myself constantly being appealed to. “Please explain this.” “What does this line mean?” “What’s Shakespeare talking about here?” “What’s Johnson on about in this scene?” And I think it’s one of those things . . . partly one’s ego is pleased. One’s ego is stroked by that. But in any job I think the feeling of being necessary is a very important part of your success in the job, feeling needed, feeling that what you’re doing is useful to the people around you, and I think my directing skill largely grew from that and I think I’m still doing exactly the same thing now. I direct plays for companies when it would be useful for me to do so.
Ken: So you’re stage managing and you decide, “I want to be a director.” How do you work yourself up from that? How do you climb through the ranks?
John: I started doing little lunch time shows with the actors I was working with, especially the junior actors who weren’t doing much in the plays, who had only a few small lines. So we would get together and do readings or little productions that we did in lunch times or late nights and I just got noticed, I supposed, by one or two of my older directorial colleagues. They thought I was showing some talent . . . I can’t imagine why . . . and I landed a job as an associate director in a fledgling theater company in Manchester in northern England and from there I just grew. Directing is one of those jobs that you can’t learn to do in college. You have to do it, because it’s basically an artisan job. It’s like cabinet making or stone masonry. You’re building things out of actors and scenery and sound and light. It’s something where you’re really using your mind and your hands, your building skills, all at the time same. You can’t do that in theory. You have to do it in practice in order to understand how to get better at it. It’s the most important thing. The book I wrote, called Theatre Craft . . . that’s one of the reasons that that book has that title, Theatre Craft. It’s the craft of making plays, and it’s just the same as making a beautiful piece of furniture.
Ken: You were an associate for a few years before you started working on your own professionally?
John: Oh no, I started directing my own productions right away. At the age of 23 or 24 I was doing my own shows.
Ken: Do you think it’s important that people are associates for a little while or do you think they should jump out on their own?
John: I think it’s great to be an assistant director if you’re assisting somebody good. There are lots of ways into being directors. A lot of actors become good directors, and it’s the same thing. They sit in rehearsal, they work with a lot of different directors, they learn the good things and the bad things about directors. Some of the best directors in the world were actors for a long time, for 10 or 15 years, learning their trade in the rehearsal room. There isn’t a single route to being a director. I think young directors can get side tracked by assisting too much. If you assist for years and years and years, if you sort of become a career assistant or a career associate. You have to take the jump and direct something of your own.
Ken: What was that first big show for you where you were like, “I’ve hit it now?”
John: I was so full of hubris as a young director. I arrived at this little theater company in Manchester and my artistic director, my boss, who’s still a very close friend, Paul Clemens, said, “What do you want to direct?” I said, “I want to direct Shakespeare. I want to direct Twelfth Night.” And he said, “Oh God, how are we going to get all of the actors?” I said, “Well we’ll find them. We’ll do it somehow.” I did the most awful production of Twelfth Night you could possibly imagine. I was so full of myself. But I did lots of small plays by Osborne, Beckett, Chris Bond. I did Chris Bond’s wonderful play Sweeney Todd before it ever became a musical. I wrote the music for Chris Bond’s Sweeney Todd three years before Stephen Sondheim even read it.
Ken: That’s missing from the Wikipedia page, that credit right there. We’re going to add that in! What’s the big difference between directing a play versus directing a musical, speaking of Sweeney? You did Song and Dance.
John: I did Song and Dance, yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s strange double bill. Cameron Mackintosh produced that for Andrew Lloyd Webber and working for those two amazing egos was a remarkable experience. I love them both, I’m very fond of them both, but both of them in the same room at the same time was always a bit of a task. It was a show called Song and Dance. It had a single woman singing the first half and then a dance troupe dancing in the second half, and on the final preview before we opened Andrew and Cameron came to me and said, “It should be called Dance and Song. The dance should be first, because people are just going to leave in the intermission.” I said, “You can’t call it Dance and Song. That’s not a thing. Can we please just leave it as it is? It would be devastating to change it.” It was just sort of last minute jitters by producers.
Ken: That’s what they were worried about?
John: They were just worried that people were going to leave the theater and that it was going to be boring and that we should do the exciting half first. I said that’s not the right way to think about it, and you really can’t call it Dance and Song. It just shows that even the top people can get extremely nervous at the last minute.
Ken: What I find very interesting about your career is that you’ve co-directed a number of times, of course with Trevor Nunn, with Scott Schwartz on Jane Eyre. And a lot of people might say, “Co-direct? Forget it! This is like having co-CEOs or co-captains of a ship.” Why have you done it so many times and what appeals to you about it?
John: I didn’t start doing it until Trevor and I decided to do it on a Shakespeare play and then on Nicholas Nickleby. The reason for doing it is when you have a piece that is so massive, so difficult, so full of dramaturgical problems, like when you’re doing a big adaptation of a novel or whatever, that one person is just going to get horribly swamped by the responsibility and the size of the cast. When you’re adapting something from the raw, like we did with Les Misérables . . . our credit on Les Misérables, Trevor and me, is “adapted and directed by.” Well, “adapted and directed by” basically meant that we rewrote Alain Boublil’s original book in rehearsal, mostly, so it was a huge task. It couldn’t have been done by one person and that’s because the dramaturgical skills that you bring to that are very different, mentally, from the directorial skills so it’s great to have somebody spelling you off day by day, week by week, so if one person gets exhausted working on a particular scene or working on the dramaturgy of a whole act, the other person can take over.
Ken: So it’s not that one person does all the dramaturgy and one does the staging.
John: No, not at all. It’s a partnership. With the big musicals . . . you asked just now what’s the difference between doing a musical and doing a play . . . it’s all about collaboration. Most plays, even today, are written by dead authors. That doesn’t sound right . . . how can somebody write a play if they’re dead? The author is deceased when you do a play and therefore there’s no collaboration about it. The text is the text. You also have great freedom. You can do what you want with it, more or less, but there’s nobody to discuss with. You have a designer, a lighting designer, you have a leading actor, but you’re the person who’s making all of the decisions when you’re directing a play. With a musical, there’s a composer, a lyricist, a book writer, a musical director, lighting designer, sound designer, choreographer. It’s an extraordinary hodgepodge of artistic influence going on all around you so you’re collaborating anyway, in a very vivacious way, with all the people around you. Having a co-director actually makes that easier because the two of you can handle it. As long as you’re getting on well together the two of you can handle anything. It has to be done with a lot of humor. Trevor and I used to say to our cast, “If we say anything to contradict one another then we’re both right.”
Ken: Did that happen often?
John: It happened occasionally, but we said, “Look, don’t even try to drive a wedge between us. If Trevor says something that contradicts what John said the day before, tell us that’s what happened. Just say, ‘That’s not what Trevor said,’ and we’ll talk about it. We’ll work it out.” It actually helps to create a lot of lively debate in rehearsal because you have all of your arguments out in the open. You can’t have a lot of ego involved in it. You’ve got to be the sort of director who doesn’t get damaged by people disagreeing with them. Of course some directors are very paranoid about getting ideas from other people in the rehearsal room. It’s quite a problem, actually, I think, especially in musical theater, which is such a highly pressurized job. I wish directors weren’t like that. You hear horror stories about directors that just can’t take contradiction from anybody. It physically hurts them, and it’s just going into rehearsal with the wrong mental attitude. If they’re strong, if their ideas are good, they’ll survive the debate of the rehearsal room, and if an idea is bad it ought to be kicked out. It doesn’t matter who kicks it out. If it’s good it will survive. You’ll cut it one day and you’ll put it back two days later because it was too good an idea not to put it in the show.
Ken: How much of a director’s job do you think is dramaturgy? Do you think it’s the majority of what a director should do? Should up and coming directors be studying that part?
John: They certainly should. They should study the history of drama, they should study the great plays. Of course, one’s dramaturgical skills are much more acquired in new work than old work. There’s no point in having dramaturgical skill on Oklahoma! because the estate of Rodgers and Hammerstein won’t let you change a word so there’s no point you going to them and saying, “Wouldn’t it be a better idea if the final song was different?” They’re not going to let you do it. You can dream on . . . even though it ought to be different but there you go!
Ken: I’m going to get Ted Chapin on the podcast. We’ll ask him that question!
John: I was using that as a facetious example. So in a new work your dramaturgical skills are very important. It’s interesting. I look at my own career and I’m not the only director that this has happened to. When I work on a new musical, invariably in the process of working on the show I have become a co-author, and it’s not because I want to muscle in on other people’s territory in an arbitrary way. It’s because, rather like in film when a director takes on a screenplay, in film the director almost automatically becomes authorial because, in the end, the film story is being told in pictures and you can’t write that on a screenplay. In a musical there are so many other collaborations going on. There is so much to be managed in artistic terms, that part of one’s management of it is an intervention, becomes an artistic intervention, and after you’ve worked on a new musical for three or four months you start looking and you think, “Just a minute. This is my work now. I have more or less completely redefined this,” so it would be dishonest of everybody not to fess up to the fact that this now has a different authorial dimension. There comes a point in the development of anything, any new musical, when, as a director, you look at the piece in development and you say, “Okay, what would I feel if this piece now went on and was a huge success and got done in multiple productions all around the world exactly as it is with all my work still in it? Even if it’s directed in a completely different way, how would I feel if my name wasn’t on it?” It would be wrong. Credits in everything . . . by the very nature of the word credit, credits should tell the truth about who did what, and sometimes they don’t and it’s a shame when they don’t. Whenever a musical theater team starts assessing who has done what in the last few weeks before rehearsals start, they should take a deep breath sometimes and say, “Actually, you know what? These credits are not telling the truth. We need to include this man, this woman, in some way because it’s not fair that the extraordinary thing they have done for this show is invisible in perpetuity.” It’s not fair, it’s not right.
Ken: I want to talk about Nicholas Nickleby a bit. Tell us how long it is, for those of us that don’t know, the listeners out there.
John: The play was eight and a half hours long. The first half was four hours, the second half was four and a half hours. So when it ran at the Plymouth here it started at two, I think, and the first half ran from two until six. There was a meal break. The Shuberts sold lunch boxes in the intermission . . . and there were also intermissions in that time . . . and then the second half ran for four and a half, so it finished at 11:30, 11:40 at night.
Ken: This is in 1986, I believe.
Ken: So it was 1981. What kind of resistance did you get to that length? Did people say, “You’re absolutely crazy. This is impossible. There’s no way we can do this?”
John: Oh yeah. I’ll tell you a story. I was standing outside the stage door of the Plymouth Theatre and Bernie and Gerry, the Shubert producers, had put a big Perspex glass wall instead of the dock door so the people passing by could see the set being built. So it became a sort of window on the set being built, it was deemed to be very interesting. And I was standing there one day, two or three days after I had arrived from England, and there were two women looking through the glass window and they were just sort of staring at it. And a friend of theirs rolled up suddenly along the sidewalk and stopped and said, “What’s going on here? What’s going on?” And one of the women who had been there said, “I’ll tell you what’s going on. It’s apparently the Royal Shakespeare Association, and it’s a play called The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and apparently it’s eight and a half hours long. So you know what I think? I think these guys are going to be telling us a whole lot about Nicholas Nickleby we do not need to know.” And I thought, “Oh my God. This is all a huge mistake.”
Ken: Obviously it was not a huge mistake.
John: One of the amazing things was that it was $100 a ticket which, if you are buying theater by the pound, is a reasonable deal at eight and a half hours, but the Shuberts and the Nederlanders, who were co-producing it, got into terrible trouble for that. $100 a ticket was regarded as an insult, a terrible insult, but there you go.
Ken: Do you think it could work today?
John: If you did the show again?
Ken: Yeah, if you said, “We want to do this show. It’s called The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. It’s eight and a half hours long.” Do you think someone on Broadway could do it today?
John: I think it could be done, yes. Was it The Kentucky Cycle that was done that was very long? I think it could be if it was good enough. I think that, at the time that we did it, it was an extraordinary moment. It wasn’t successful immediately in England. It caught on because audiences adored it so much and it became a sort of national treasure. And I think in New York nobody had ever seen anything like it, so there was a terrific frisson about people going to see it. It was an amazing thing to invest a whole day in watching a theater piece, and of course it was because it was all English actors, it was the Royal Shakespeare Company, it was a type of acting that people hadn’t seen a lot of before. And it was an amazingly powerful story. At the beginning of the ’80s it was all about politics had gone very greedy. Everybody was completely taken with the new capitalism. You could make a fast buck anywhere and you could ride roughshod over anybody. But this was preaching a completely different ethic. It was really a socialist piece. It was Dickens, after all. The story he was selling us was to do with passion and love and fellow feeling, and that rang a lot of bells at that time, both in England and here. People really got it.
Ken: So speaking of England and here and those audiences, what do you think the major differences are between the British audience and the American audience?
John: I don’t think there’s a huge difference between Britain and America. I think there’s a big difference between London and New York. If you go to a little theater rep company in Chicago it’s very similar to going to one in Bristol or Manchester. Theater is the same everywhere, really. The industry that is the West End and the industry that is Broadway are quite different, I think . . . they have a different temperature, but those industries are not representative of the national theater, I don’t think, on either side of the pond. I suppose the great difference between London and New York is that London is still a town of plays and playwrights. People are hungry for the play with the new idea, the play with the new story, because our theatrical history is so based in great literary masterpieces, from Shakespeare onwards, and plays in England are sort of part of the national intellectual debate. If Tom Stoppard or David Hare write something, you go to hear what Tom Stoppard or David Hare are thinking these days. And musicals, on the other hand, are sort of the cherry on the trifle in England. Sometimes they’re brought in from America, sometimes they’re home grown, but they have quite a different audience, actually, musicals in England. There’s a sort of class system, if you like, between plays and musicals and between opera and musicals in England. New York, on the other hand, is the home of musicals. If you look at the variety of the roster of shows at any one time, three quarters of shows or more are musicals. Sometimes almost all of them, all but five or six shows, are musicals and it’s actually quite difficult to get a good new play on Broadway. You’re more likely to see a good new play in Chicago than you will in New York. And it’s what makes Broadway such a vibrant culture, because it knows what it wants to concentrate on. It is the world capital of musical theater. This is where you bring a musical to test it out and see whether it’s any good, whereas in the West End . . . the West End is where you put your play up to see whether the general public will approve of it or want to think about it.
Ken: Speaking of bringing a musical here to see if it will work, that’s of course what happened with Les Mis. Let’s talk a little bit about the origins of that. When did you first take a look at the material? Did you see the French production?
John: No, none of us saw the French production, except for the sound designer, Andrew Bruce, who actually designed the sound for it at the Palais des Sports in 1980. Claude-Michel and Alain were doing Les Mis in Paris at the same time we were doing Nicholas Nickleby in London in 1980. I first listened to the tapes while I was driving in my car all the way through England. I had just put on a play in Newcastle on Tyne and I was driving 250 miles to London and I listened to it four times in the car on the way down. By the time I had arrived in London I had completely fallen in love with the score. It was in French, and even my schoolboy French was enough to tell what a brilliant, brilliant theatrical score it was. And Trevor Nunn and I took it on. Cameron Mackintosh asked us to look at it and we took it on. It was very much on the heels of Nicholas Nickleby, because of our success in adapting a huge novel, and it was only three years later that we started to work on Les Mis.
Ken: Did you know from the get-go that it was something special when you got in the rehearsal room or was it difficult?
John: Oh yeah, we knew it was very, very special. Of course what we didn’t know was that it would be a success. One can never know that. Nobody could have known that it would still be running 30 years later. That was a ridiculous thought. But we certainly knew that we were working on something that we thought was extraordinarily special which was why, when it got such horrible reviews, we were quite bewildered and injured for a moment.
Ken: It’s unfathomable. I’m sure a lot of people just went, “What?! Les Mis got bad reviews? How shocking!”
John: Not just bad reviews, poisonously bad reviews. It was an interesting moment because we did it at the Royal Shakespeare Company. That was one of the stipulations that my colleague, Trevor Nunn, had with Cameron Mackintosh. When Cameron brought it to us, Trevor said, “I’ll do this if we can do it at the RSC because we need the safety of a not-for-profit company to develop something this mighty, to really work on the dramaturgy, to get it right.” But there was at that time, and there still is in England, a huge critical snobbery about musicals. Most English critics like musicals if they’re fluffy, comedic, silly, dancey . . . the period musical comedies, they pretend they love them. But anything that is written in a modern idiom with a rock score that tries to tell a serious story, they automatically sense is pretentious. You can’t be saying something politically serious from the stage if you’ve got a drum kit in the pit. It just doesn’t work for them. Of course it’s the old snobbery of opera versus musical theater, but what we fell foul of, more than anything else, was that we were the Royal Shakespeare Company. We were supposed to be doing Shakespeare! So the posh critics objected to the show on the basis that we were trivializing a great work of literature by turning it into a silly musical. And they all pretended that they read Les Misérables in the original French at least once a year and that it was their favorite bedside book. I’m sure none of them had ever read it. But the tabloid papers, the popular papers, objected to it for the opposite reason, that it was too serious and too dull and too gloomy and doomy. They made jokes about the title and how miserable the whole thing was. So we got hit from both sides. Nobody liked it, except the audience. Of course the audience completely adored it.
Ken: From day one?
John: From day one. The word of mouth was unbelievable. It sold out at the Barbican Theatre in a week so it was literally a popular success. Once it became a popular success, about a week after we opened, a great review came in, and then another, and then another. By the time we got to Broadway, of course, people had got it. A bad review wasn’t going to stop us so they might as well join the right.
Ken: “Do you hear the people sing?” for sure, so you might as well join that group. So you’ve worked with Cameron and a number of other great producers out there. What do you like your relationship to be with producers? What characteristics do you look for in a producer you want to work with?
John: It’s a very difficult relationship, or it can be a difficult relationship, the producer/director relationship, because, from the producer’s point of view, it’s impossible to raise millions of dollars or millions of pounds for something and not be allowed to have a view about what’s going on. It would be preposterous to lock the door on the producer and say, “You just have to give us the money and you’re not allowed to have an opinion about what we’re doing.” And in fact one welcomes the producer’s view because it’s wonderful to have an outside eye on things, and most good producers have got a good sense of popular taste. That’s what makes them good producers. So one likes to have those conversations. Where it can go wrong, I think, is if the producer has all of the authority and the director only a small amount of authority, so that if the producer comes in and demands changes I think that can be troublesome, especially if it’s with a young director who’s very grateful to be doing the job and so very anxious to please the producer. And I think what Cameron often says it . . . he’ll come and see a run and he’ll say, “I hate that. That seems wrong,” and he might make a suggestion about how it should be fixed. And often his comment about the fact that it’s wrong is absolutely bang on, it’s absolutely right, but his solution is not the right solution to the problem. And so he’ll end up by saying, “Look, all I know is it’s not working. I’ll let you decide how to fix it. I’m not going to tell you how to fix it but you have to fix it.” And I think that’s dead right. The feeling you need to get from your producer is when something is just not working, when it’s way too long, when it’s boring, when a particular performer is not scoring a bullseye. And it’s great to hear that because sometimes producerial help is not useful, but you talk about it, you have a conversation, you explain why opinions differ. If the relationship between director and producer is bad, then all sorts of things start to happen because, very often, they can’t actually act out that bad relationship against each other. The bad relationship gets deflected into other relationships and it’s sort of axiomatic that, when a show is in trouble, there are rows all over the place and always the wrong person is fired. If the costumes are horrible, the lighting designer gets fired. If the score is terrible, you hire a new lyricist. It’s axiomatic that when things break down at the highest level, bad decision making starts filtering down through everybody, so it’s very, very important that the producer and the director keep really tight together, that they show a united front. That’s really, really important. Even when there might be quite deep disagreements it’s important that the two captains of the ship, or the co-captains of the ship, are working in tandem.
Ken: So you’ve worked on some of the most massive productions on Broadway and the world . . . Nicholas Nickleby, Les Mis . . . and now you’re working Off-Broadway, in my theater, on a show that I’m producing that you co-wrote called Daddy Long Legs, which has two people and one little unit set and it’s the sweetest, most beautiful, intimate story that I’ve seen on a musical stage. What attracted you to this very small, tiny story? You do operas all over the world. Why this?
John: I love the small as well as the big. I’ve done shows in Las Vegas and huge operas with massive casts.
Ken: Right, you did Siegfried & Roy.
John: I did Siegfried & Roy. That only had two people in it as well, except they were surrounded by 400 other people and tigers! But it’s the smallness of it that’s attractive. In the end, you don’t need a lot of stuff to do good theater. One man in a room with a candle beside him, lighting the space, is enough for great storytelling to happen, as long as he’s a great storyteller. Sometimes small spaces, intimate relationships between performers, the feeling that you can reach out your hand and touch what’s happening on stage, can make for the most powerful feeling in the theater. When I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company I was there for 13 years and I would go from doing huge Shakespeare productions in the main house to doing tiny little new plays with only three or four people in the Other Place Theatre, which seated 120 people. And I loved both of them. Doing both feeds both. It stops you getting complacent about the work that you do. But I think, in the end, if I had to choose, I would choose small scale over big scale because in the end, with big scale, especially with opera, it’s what my friend Denni Sayers calls “human flower arranging.” People are moving around the stage for no very good motivational reason. They’re just moving around because it keeps it more interesting, whereas on a small scale absolutely everything that every character is doing . . . they’re moving for an important reason. They’re saying what they’re saying for an important reason, and what that does to the audience is it helps the audience conspire with the performers to help tell the story. You can really say to your actors, when you’re in a small space, “Listen to the audience. Trust who they are tonight. Change your performance a bit to accommodate what you’re getting back from them, because they’re a yard away from you. You can see the whites of their eyes,” and that’s very exciting. That’s what the origin of theater is all about.
Ken: My last question, John . . . my genie question we call it here . . . I want you to imagine the genie from Aladdin has come to visit you to thank you for your incredible gifts to the theater and says, “You know what, John? To thank you for your contributions we’re going to grant you one wish. Just one.” I want you to think about what is the one thing that drives you so crazy about Broadway, that makes you angry, keeps you up at night. “I wish they would change that!” And this genie will wish it away for you. What’s the one thing that you would want this genie to change?
John: I think the genie should build another 40 Broadway theaters because that’s always the problem here. There are wonderful shows waiting to happen. There’s millions of people wanting to see shows and there’s a tiny theater stock. We need more theaters. Go build them! And when you build them, Genie, please build theaters with three or four stories of rehearsal rooms on top of them so that people don’t have to scrabble around looking for rehearsal rooms. And when you build the rehearsal rooms, put windows in them, windows that open, so that the actors, in their little brief time in the rehearsal room when they’re not stuck in the dark, they can actually look out of the windows and see life going by and breathe real air. There are so many theaters, new theaters built all around the world, where the stupid architects have put the rehearsal rooms underground, thank you very much, or even over-ground with no windows. It’s bizarre. I want to go to these theater architects and say, “My theater colleagues and I have decided that you will spend the rest of your life designing your buildings in a room without windows or natural air. You’ll like that, won’t you?” Anyway . . . Genie, build more theaters. Go for it!
Ken: The ultimate payback . . . prison for the architect in a room with no windows. I love it. Big thanks to John Caird for sharing his wisdom and his accent with us today. Do go see Daddy Long Legs, it is beautiful. Look, anything that could get the director of Nicholas Nickleby and Les Mis and Siegfried & Roy to want to spend his time working on this show and writing this show, you know it’s a unique and beautiful experience so go and see it. Thanks again, John. Thanks again, all you of.
John: Thank you, Ken.
Ken: We’ll see you next time!
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.