Podcast Episode 75 – André Bishop
Ken: Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Producer’s Perspective Podcast. Today I’ve traveled uptown – I’m all the way at 65th Street – to talk to one of the most important artistic directors of one of the most important non-profit theatres in the whole wide world. I’m pleased to welcome to the podcast the artistic director of Lincoln Center Theatre, Mr. Andre Bishop. Welcome, Andre!
Andre: Thank you.
Ken: So Andre has been the artistic director of Lincoln Center for over two decades now. Prior to that, he was the AD at one of the other most prestigious non-profits in the land, Playwrights Horizon. Under his direction he has overseen the development and production of three Pulitzer Price winners – Driving Miss Daisy, Sunday in the Park, Heidi Chronicles – as well as some incredibly important theatre pieces like The Coast of Utopia, the Nick Hytner Carousel, which was one of my favorites, Twelfth Night, Light in the Piazza, and of course the revivals of South Pacific and The King and I. So, Andre, let’s start with this – where are you from originally?
Andre: I’m from New York City.
Ken: You are born and raised here?
Andre: Born and raised here.
Ken: So when you were a wee lad here in the city, did you think “Someday I want to grow up and I want to lead some of the most important non-profit theatrical institutions in the world”?
Andre: I didn’t think that, because I didn’t really know what a non-profit was. Well, there were no non-profit institutions, theatrically, when I was a kid growing up in New York, but the only thing I ever wanted to be was in the theatre. It was the only thing that ever interested me and I wanted to be somehow connected to the theatre since I was about three or four years old. I was lucky because my parents took me to the theatre a lot, and of course in those days the theatre, the only theatre, was really the Broadway theatre, so I grew up seeing plays and, like everyone who is in the theatre, you know, everyone wanted to be an actor, that’s what you wanted to be when you were young so that’s what I thought I would be, but I had no idea that I would become an artistic director, a producer, whatever the word is. It never would have occurred to me.
Ken: And you started to pursue a career as an actor?
Andre: I did. I acted a lot at school and at college. I did a lot of Summerstock. I did a few plays here in New York as well as a number of voiceovers. I studied with two incredible teachers, disciples of Sanford Meisner, at the Neighborhood Playhouse, the great Wynn Handman and Freddy Kareman, and I pretty much thought that I would be an actor, and I wanted to be, and I’m not going to say “Oh, I had no talent, I had no talent,” because I actually did have some, albeit peculiar and quirky talent, I was a pretty good actor, what I didn’t have was confidence in myself as an actor. I found it impossible to present myself in auditions or interviews or anything like that, I just didn’t have that.
Ken: And when did you know you didn’t have that and what made that realization start to veer you towards the other side of the table, so to speak?
Andre: It wasn’t clear cut. I think most of us who have worked in the theatre fall into it in different ways and some of those ways are pure luck and some of those ways are just coincidental. What happened was I was living in New York, I was in my mid-late 20s, I was working as an actor – I did act in off-Broadway shows, I did do a little bit of work, I had an agent and all of that stuff, but I didn’t feel connected to something and I think that what I didn’t realize then that I do now is that, for someone like me, it’s very, very important to be connected to something other than myself and actors have to be connected to themselves because, at the end of the day, all they have is themselves and their talent, and of course the play, the role they’re playing. I had a friend who was a really great director and he was directing a lot at a tiny little hole in the wall theatre – this would have been in the early 1970s – called Playwrights Horizons and he said “You seem lost,” which I was, and he said “Why don’t you go there and see if there is something you might want to do,” so I did. I had been working other jobs – like everyone I was a waiter, I worked for the Book of the Month Club, I gave French lessons to people, that kind of thing, but I met this incredible man, Bob Moss, Robert Moss, the founder of Playwrights Horizons who, to me and to many others, said “Come on in. What do you want to do?” and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had had some taste of working in the theatre, in a non-profit theatre, because I had worked at the Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte for one summer, so I went and sort of volunteered at Playwrights Horizons, all the while pursuing an acting career. I was very taken with the mission of Playwrights Horizons, which is unchanged today as it was then, which is the support and development and production of new American playwrights and composers and lyricists, and what happened over the course of a number of months is I started seeing all of these piles of plays that no one was reading and I went to Bob Moss and I said “I hate to ask you this favor but do you suppose I could read a play and would you mind if I wrote you a play report?” and Bob, because he’s the most generous of people, said “Sure”, so I started reading plays and evaluating them and meeting writers more or less my age and my generation, talking to them, doing readings of plays, and what happened, by default, because I had never gone to graduate school, is I become one of the first literary managers in this country. It was just coincidence but the big day came for me when I had been at Playwrights Horizons for about perhaps a year and had met all of these people and was very interested in the mission of that theatre and I had been cast in the national tour of a play by Alan Bennett called Habeas Corpus and it was a good role – I was always playing neurotic, sensitive young men and this was the ultimate neurotic, sensitive young man part, and the tour was about nine months, the kind of tour they used to do in the late 1970s, and I didn’t know what to do because I thought “If I leave Playwrights Horizons and go on this tour I will have given up everything that I’ve bene doing for the past year – you can’t go back in quite the same way, the tour is fairly long”, and I thought “What do I do?” and I decided to turn down the offer of the tour and stay at Playwrights Horizons and that was a turning point in my life because I never thought about acting again – I became so involved, as I said earlier, in the mission of Playwrights Horizons, in what I thought was a noble and beautiful cause and a theatre I felt provided a need in those days – it’s quite different now, in 2016 – there were very few theatres in this country exclusively doing new American plays – now theatres all over the country are doing new American plays. I felt like what Playwrights Horizons was doing was important and I stayed there and, well, I guess that’s kind of the end of that very long winded story.
Ken: So you ended up, obviously, being the artistic director there and then you end up going from there to here. Tell me, what’s a day in the life of the artistic director of a large theatrical institution like Lincoln Center or Playwrights Horizons? What did you do before I walked in today and what will you do after I leave?
Andre: What did I do? I think that it’s impossible to summarize. I don’t really remember what I did – I had about three meetings, one about who was going to take over the running of LCT3, this new theatre we have on the roof; I had a meeting about a group of people who want to distribute free tickets to writers on nights that we have tickets available; I had a discussion with a managing director about various people’s salaries; I had a discussion about the rehearsal and put in of the two new leads of The King and I; I read some reviews of a play that I’m kind of interested in that I had forgotten that I had read these reviews; and I answered about 9,255 e-mails, and it’s only one o’clock. But it really varies – there are days where I have very little to do and days where I have no time to think straight. A lot of my time is obviously taken up with rehearsal, with discussions with writers and directors, with casting sessions, obviously there’s a great deal of fundraising in my job, with the fundraising staff, I have a great deal to do with certain members of the board, I of course go out and see everything I can see, on Broadway, off-Broadway and around the country, because I’m at the point in my life where people think I’m 150 years old, I have become a kind of source for young people to come and listen to whatever wisdom I have, which is limited. So I find a lot of my time now – and it’s a good thing, it’s a fun thing – is taken up by giving younger people advice, for lack of a better word, about the theatre, and I guess at this point, after working in the New York theatre for 40 years, I do have something to tell them.
Ken: You mentioned in your description of what you do earlier “an artistic director or a producer or whatever the right word is”.
Ken: Do you consider yourself a producer?
Andre: Yes, I do. Actually my title is producing artistic director. I would rather I had no title but in these non-profit institutions everyone has a title. Yeah, I don’t think the word is a producer is a term that is meant exclusively for the commercial theatre. We are a producing organization, even though I am the artistic director it’s not a job where I sit around eating bon-bons and discussing Sartre and John Bernard Shaw, I mean it’s hands-on, nitty gritty work – advertising, money – although of course my best thing is working with the artist, and since my interest has always been new American plays and musicals that, as long as I’m here at Lincoln Center, is the main activity that we do, although of course we’ve done a lot of, I think, pretty good revivals of plays and musicals.
Ken: And you don’t direct?
Andre: I don’t direct.
Ken: Have you ever wanted to?
Andre: No. I’m too neurotic and anxious a person. I couldn’t deal with it. These directors, they just hear it from everybody, everybody has an opinion and feels obliged to express that opinion. I couldn’t handle it, temperamentally, and I don’t think I have the talent either, but oddly I think whatever little skill I have I’m probably more helpful to directors that I am to writers. Somehow it’s very easy for me – I’ve always been good at being the third pair of eyes and I’ve always been very good at reacting to things that I see and not imposing my own vision of what it is but trying to figure out the director’s vision of what it is, i.e. what the production is. I think it’s really hard now, in the theatre of today, for directors to also be artistic directors. There are some around the country and there are companies – fewer today than 25 or 30 years ago – but there are companies that are built around a director – in Europe that exists much more than over here – and that’s great, but there are companies whose vision in their work is the vision of the artistic director who is also the principle director, so that still does exist and then of course there are companies that are run by artistic directors who direct who, in my opinion, are really not so talented. I think it’s really hard to be an artistic director/producer and be able to find the time and the peace of mind to go into a rehearsal room in a preview period for two and a half or three months, when everything else in the institution demands your attention as well. I greatly admire those who do it but, boy, is it hard, I think.
Ken: You obviously have a great set of eyes – from the days of you being the first ever literary manager, reading those packets of scripts, all the way to now and discovering and helping give birth to so many incredible shows, from Heidi Chronicles which I mentioned, or Falsettos which is about to experience a revival which you’re going to be involved in.
Ken: What do you look for? When you’re reading a script, what makes you go “Oh, this is something that I think audiences will enjoy, learn from”? What are the ingredients of a successful script?
Andre: I’ve always had trouble with that question and also, I think, over the course of my years at Playwrights Horizons and here at Lincoln Center Theatre, my taste, if you can use that word, has changed, hopefully broadened and deepened and expanded. Obviously at Lincoln Center, because we have these two thrust stages – this is going to sound kind of weird but it’s true – some of my, I guess, judgements, to use that word, are inspired by the architecture of the building. Quite frankly, there are very few thrust stages in this country and not every play is seen at its best on a thrust stage. So I do have to think about that, especially with the Beaumont which is an enormous theatre. The audience part of it isn’t that enormous – it’s a very intimate theatre – but the stage space, what we call acreage up here, the Beaumont is the third biggest stage in New York – before us is Radio City and the Metropolitan Opera. I obviously, all my life, I have looked for what I call distinctive idiosyncratic voices – playwrights who have a very distinctive style and method. I, obviously, like everyone who likes a good play, am interested in plays that have something to say about the world, plays that say whatever they have to say about the world in a slightly different way than other plays. In terms of the audience, I think – and I think I’m being real and not deluding myself – I never think about the audience. My mantra – and I’ve been lucky enough over all these years and two theatres – I’ve been lucky enough to follow my own instincts all the time and my hope is what I see in a play, if we do it well, will be clear and others will see what I see in the play as well, so I’ve never, ever thought about “Will the audience like this play or not?” Maybe it’s arrogance on my part, although I’m not an arrogant guy so I don’t think it’s that, maybe it’s just delusion, but I’ve always felt that if I like something – and I’m not Mr. Refined, I’m pretty broad in my tastes – if I like something and we do a good production of it, others will like it too. I think when you start trying to out-guess things you can run into trouble. I’ve been involved in plays over the years and there have occasionally been plays that I’ve read that I knew would be appealing to an audience. I remember years ago when I was at Playwrights Horizons and I got Driving Miss Daisy’ from a writer who had written his first play – he had been a lyricist and a book writer, Alfred Uhry, and his agent, this great agent named Flora Roberts, who’s long gone, of the old school of agenting, I remember calling her up and saying “Flora, this play is too commercial, even for me,” and that was a play that I knew, just sitting on my sofa reading it, would appeal to an audience. But you never know what an audience is going to like. I’ve done plays here that I was afraid would be very controversial for people and I’ve often been proved wrong.
Ken: Any play of yours that you remember that you were like “Oh, this is going to hit it out of the park, they’re going to get this,” and then hasn’t?
Andre: No, I’m too neurotic to think that way. No. I have developed, over the years, this theory, which I don’t like to admit a whole lot but I think it’s true, that I used to think when I was younger that you could take something of promise and make it really good over the course of rehearsal and previews and I think that is probably still pretty true of musicals, to some degree, as everyone knows they’re put together on their feet because there’s no other way to do it – workshops, whatever, that’s all just a little bit of the work that needs to be done – but I’ve now come to think that, with certain kinds of shows, even if they need work and polish and cutting and fixing during the course of a preview period, I’ve come to think that I can tell at the first preview whether the show is going to work well or not. Years and years of my life in the theatre I’ve spent denying that fact by now, at this point in my life, I think that’s true. It doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make whatever the show is better, but when the lights go down and the curtain call starts, there’s this thing, you know whether the basic event you have presented to the audience is appealing to them and accepted by them or not.
Ken: So note to self, I’m going to invite you to all of my first previews from now on. Maybe you’ll tell me when to close shows earlier.
Andre: No, God!
Ken: Whether to save money or invest more. Broadway is booming right now – we’re all talking about how the Broadway grosses are up year over year, attendance up a little bit – is that trickling down to the non-profits as well? Are subscription rates up here? Do you find more single ticket sales for your stuff, both on Broadway and off?
Andre: I think it holds pretty steady in a theatre like this. We have a membership base which has remained pretty constant over the years. It’s not a subscription – you become a member and you get notified when we do a play and you pay a very small amount of money to get a very, very good seat but you don’t have to pay in advance so if you really do not want to see another production of The King and I you don’t have to pay money and see it. I’m slightly less bullish about everything is booming than you are, but of course I don’t work in your world. I think that, from my somewhat distant observations, and a little bit of doing big shows, that certain shows are booming, but I dare say if you look at the grosses, this past winter and even now in the spring, on Broadway, there are a lot of shows that, in the old days, whatever those old days were, should be doing a whole lot better than they are. They’re hanging in there, either just making their weekly costs or the producers are willing to lose money or whatever – I don’t know the economics at all, you would know that better than me – but there is so much to see on Broadway and off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway that I think the level of activity – and, in my opinion, the level of artistry – is as high as it has ever been and, as we all talk about, beginning to be as varied and diverse as it’s ever been, particularly on Broadway. But I’m not convinced that there’s this fantastic ticket sale boom going on. I think a lot of tickets are sold, many, many of them are discounted, obviously, and I think it’s fabulous, I think the more there is the better it is for the theatre, but I don’t know whether, despite the numbers that are presented at the end of every year – more millions sold on Broadway shows than ever before, or whatever – I believe the truth of those figures, I just don’t believe that they necessarily mean what people think they mean. That’s probably a wacko answer.
Ken: No, I actually think it’s a very right-on answer. Here at Lincoln Center you’ve had some terrific relationships with directors over the years – Nick Hytner, several productions with him, Bart of course, several productions with Bart Sher – how important is the director in the creation of something new or in the production itself?
Andre: The importance of the director, in my opinion, especially as we talked about earlier I am not a director myself, I am totally reliant on first rate directors, and especially – to go back to something I also said – directors who know how to deal with thrust stages, and because this is a theatre that has three theatres – this tiny one for only young writers and young directors and young designers and new audiences – and then the Mitzi, which is 300 seats, which is mostly the new play theatre, and then the Beaumont, which is the more the director’s space, classics and big musicals – I am completely reliant on directors who are mature, who know, dramaturgically, how to work on new work, who have a breadth of vision and knowledge of the past – 300 years of plays and musicals – who have a sense of tradition, who know about the classics and who are unafraid, especially of a big space like the Beaumont, and I’ve been lucky. Nick Hytner, as you said, was one. Bart Sher is certainly one – he is a guy who’s at home with new plays, at home with operas, at home with revivals of musicals, at home with new musicals, at home with classic American plays like Clifford Odets. Bart has been key. Jerry Zaks, in the very early days of Lincoln Center Theatre, he and John Guare basically were responsible for relighting this place artistically. The late Gerry Gutierrez, who died much too young, was of enormous impact to us here at Lincoln Center Theatre. Susan Stroman. I’m obsessed with finding the right directors for us and for the project.
Ken: Here comes one of my James Lipton questions now – I want you to imagine that your phone rings and it’s the Smithsonian calling and they say “Of the 40 years that you’ve been doing shows here, we have room for one of them in the institute. One show that you’ve worked on that you would like to be preserved forever”. In other words, what’s your favorite, of all the shows?
Andre: That’s… I couldn’t answer that. I’m not being coy; I’m not trying to say “Well I don’t want to single one out”. I’ve been so lucky in my life because I’ve done so many new plays, American plays of all sorts of types, I’ve done a lot of revivals of classic musicals, I’ve done so many new musicals and done so many revivals of American plays and a few really great English plays – notably the works of David Hare and Tom Stoppard. I could maybe give you three or four, I couldn’t give you one.
Ken: Give us three.
Andre: Well if the Smithsonian were willing to take in all three parts of “The Coast of Utopia”…
Ken: That would count as one!
Andre: Okay, that would be one, because it was so impossible to do and so terrifying to do and it turned out so beautifully and it turned out, also, to be so popular and it turned out to have what I always wanted to do here and I don’t know if it’s ever going to be possible – it was like a little mini repertory company – and this is what the Lincoln Center used to be called, the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center. It was supposed to be that; it never really became that. That would be one. I think probably South Pacific, which is my favorite musical ever in the entire world, would be one. I suppose in terms of new musicals The Light in the Piazza would be one. Certainly when I was at Playwrights Horizons Falsettos, both parts, would be one. Certainly one of Wendy Wasserstein’s plays, one of Jon Robin Baitz’s plays. It’s a tough question.
Ken: You’re probably the only guest I would ever allow to select more than one because of the breadth of yours, so don’t tell any other guests, just so you know.
Andre: I won’t, thank you. Sunday in the Park with George, I have to say.
Ken: James Lapine was on earlier, he talked about that at length.
Andre: Well it was an amazing time for him and for Steve Sondheim and for Playwrights Horizons. It was a sort of seminal time, 1984.
Ken: I want you to reverse the roles for a second – imagine that you are one of those new American playwrights that you’ve cultured over the years and I want you to imagine that you’re that playwright and Cameron Mackintosh approaches you and says “Hey, I want to option your play and put it on Broadway”, and at the same time Lincoln Center Theatre says ‘Hey, we want to option your play and we want to put it on Broadway at the Beaumont.’ Which do you think is the best choice for you, the new American playwright?
Andre: Well I think neither choice is completely plausible in life. I would say, for a new playwright, if that’s what you’re saying, that the better route – and it has nothing to do with wanting good plays on Broadway or commercial producers – I think for a young writer, the better route is in a non-profit institution initially. It’s a little more protected in these kinds of theatres, there is a base audience that will come, meeting weekly expenses is not an issue because we factor in the low cost of tickets, it’s all part of the production budget in theatres like Lincoln Center or Playwrights Horizons or the Public Theatre or whatever. I think a young writer is a little bit more protected in an institution than in the very public, very hard world of the Broadway theatre because I think also if you do a play and it’s successful in the institutional theatre, it can always then go to Broadway with Cameron Mackintosh, its life is not necessarily over at an institution, so I think a young writer can eat his or her cake and have it too, in a way.
Ken: You obviously have the Beaumont here and from time to time you’ve produced in Broadway houses in mid-town.
Ken: The Belasco seems to be a favorite.
Andre: And the Lyceum, yes.
Ken: What do you think about some of the other non-profits in town that have snatched up their own Broadway houses in midtown? It seems to be they all have them now.
Andre: Well I think it’s an inevitable growth. I can’t really speak for these other theatres because I don’t really know what goes on but when I left Playwrights Horizons it was the last thing I had on my mind I got offered the job, Gregory Mosher, my very distinguished predecessor, had left and they needed someone and I, at that point, was kind of the golden boy of the New York theatre and they came to me and it was the last thing I thought – I never wanted to leave Playwrights Horizons, it was everything I loved, and to some degree it still is, although of course I haven’t worked there in 25 years but I am on the board and I care about it deeply, but I knew that if I didn’t take the job because I was scared or unprepared – both of which I was – I might never get this opportunity again, and there was something that was saying to me “I want to do more with my theatre life than just do new American plays. I want to do Shakespeare, I want to do old musicals, I want to do big productions”, and there are very few places for me to do that so I made the leap into a bigger arena because there was something in me, it had nothing to do with ambition or anything, it had everything to do with growing as a person, as a man of the theatre. So when you talk about these other theatres expanding into the Broadway arena or getting bigger stages or whatever, I believe, I truly believe, that the raison d’être of that expansion is their need to grow artistically. I think there are people, especially in the commercial theatre, who are kind of wary of this, non-profit taking over our turf, competing for Tony awards – I’m not as aware of it up here because the Beaumont was always a Broadway theatre so we had nothing to do with pushing it that way, although we do rent Broadway houses when we have a long running show in the Beaumont and it’s a blessed relief because it allows me to do a play in a proscenium theatre. I could never have done those Odets plays, Golden Boys or Awake and Sing, in the Beaumont. But I think it’s stretching artistic muscles more than it is trying to take over someone else’s turf.
Ken: What do you think about those of my peers who whisper, saying “Of course, The King and I, they can do that up there because they don’t have to worry about balancing their books up there. They can do South Pacific with all of those musicians”. Do you think there is truth to that whispered about talk that you have an advantage over a commercial producer?
Andre: No, I don’t. I have many, many, many – many – close friends in the commercial theatre and I grew up in the commercial theatre when I was a kid in New York so you’re not going to get any guff from me because I don’t have it in me but I think if people who worked in the commercial theatre, who have their own issues to deal with, financially – raising money, making money, presumably turning a profit – but I want to say, to go back to something you asked me at the beginning of this interview, just come up here for a week and try to raise the kind of money we have to raise. Try to constantly, constantly, constantly talk to people, write to people, thank people, grovel, to keep these institutions going – and these institutions are more than just putting on plays – we have a large educator program, we have a huge director’s lab, we have a magazine, we are trying to fit in within an arts complex up here and make our place here. I think the fact that we did The King and I and South Pacific with all of those people is not the fact that we can afford it – we can’t afford it – we, more often than not, have deficits at the end of the year, it has to do with my philosophy of, if a non-profit institution such as this one, is doing The King and I or South Pacific, then we have to do them as well as they can possibly be done. Our choice of doing these two shows – these are two examples but there are others – makes no economic sense at all. No commercial producer in their right mind would do it. I’m sure they would want to do it but they can’t. We can, but I would hate people to think that “Oh, it’s just so easy, they have so much money.” We don’t and I don’t lose sleep over the quality of our work – which is up and down, like everybody else – I mostly lose sleep over how are we going to achieve what we want to do within our ability to earn and raise money? And we’re talking about eight plays a year and many, many subsidiary activities that have nothing to do with, are only tangential to the putting on of plays – workshops, readings, all that stuff – so I wish you to go back into the world and tell those producers that it aint no bed of roses in these non-profit theatres either and I believe that the more comradery and collegial relations you, the commercial theatre, and we, the non-profit, have in this city – we’re the only city in America that has Broadway, commercial theatre and non-profit side by side – we have to work together and not kind of snipe, it’s just boring and it’s unnecessary. We all want the same thing – we want to do good shows.
Ken: Yeah, as you said it, and I don’t think I’ll have to go tell anybody because you just did, a lot more eloquently than I could ever, but you said “I just want to do great work within our ability to earn and raise money”. That’s the said mission that a Broadway producer has.
Andre: But that’s my point – we’re no different than you are. You, meaning commercial; us, meaning non-profit. It’s the same. The trappings are a little different but I’m very aware of how difficult it is putting commercial plays on Broadway and sending them out on the road, believe me, but we have difficulties too in these theatres. People think “Oh, you’re so subsidized, the government,” well what dream are they dreaming? How much subsidy do you think, from government, Lincoln Center Theatre gets? What percentage of our yearly budget would you guess we get from the tax payer?
Ken: I couldn’t begin but I would guess double digits, certainly a higher double digit figure.
Andre: If I said to you one half of one percent of our yearly budget comes from the government?
Ken: That would be a surprise to me.
Andre: Well I’m sorry but that’s the truth. So this myth that there’s just all this government subsidy, tax payers’ dollars, it’s just not true. There used to be more but the NEA was cut down, the state council was cut down, and of course everything has gone up – expenses have gone up. The Beaumont is practically like Broadway – we just finished a Local One negotiation, we have negotiations with unions, we have every union that you on Broadway have in the Beaumont theatre.
Ken: Advice to young playwrights out there?
Andre: My advice is that you young playwrights are entering into a golden age of American playwriting. There are more gifted writers than I have ever seen in my quite long career – and my long career has a lot been involved with new American writing. The reason we’re in a golden age is because there are theatres in New York and theatres all over the country, hundreds of them, that are now interested in focusing a lot on new plays. That means there are opportunities for writers in a way that there never have been before. Opportunities create artists and I think we’re all so screwed up in the theatre we can’t even sit back and congratulate ourselves on anything – we don’t have the time to sit around thinking “Oh, we’re in a golden age, we’re in a golden age!” but we are. The quality of work I see in New York, the diversity of work, the plays that I just can’t get to compared to twenty years ago, is overwhelming to me – and then there’s the rest of this enormous country. So to a young playwright I would say you’re coming in at a great, great time. Is it ever easy? No, but there is a need and an interest in your work more than there ever has been before.
Ken: Okay, my last question, which is my Genie Question – I want you to imagine that the genie from Aladdin treks up here to Lincoln Center and says “Andre, I have to thank you for the incredible amount of work you’ve done to usher in American playwrights into our world for the past 40 years and I want to thank you by giving you one wish.” What’s the one thing that drives you so crazy about Broadway, the thing that makes you angry, the thing that keeps you up at night?
Andre: About the Broadway theatre?
Ken: Broadway theatre, Lincoln Center, producing first class theatre in New York. What’s the one thing that drives you so crazy you’d have him wish away?
Andre: You know, it’s one of those questions of yours again that I could think of two answers. I don’t think I could think of one. One minor, stupid answer, and it’s only about Broadway, is the traffic and congestion I find abhorrent. As a kid who grew up going to what we used to call the theatre district, I find it just abhorrent to go there, to the favorite place I have ever been in my life, the Broadway theatre. That’s minor. The major thing that I would wish away if the genie were to come is that I wish we both, in the commercial theatre and the non-profit but maybe a little more in the non-profit because our salaries are lower, we had access to the absolute best actors. There’s so much going on in movies and even more in TV now – and many of these TV shows, and some of them are incredibly good, are being shot in New York – I wish that either we in the theatre could pay comparable salaries or simply that we in the theatre had greater access to the absolute A+ actor list, which we occasionally do and there are so many fine actors, I’m not complaining, but I think all of us in the theatre, our turn downs are higher than our acceptances and I wish, like in England, actors were able to do TV and movies and act on the stage with greater frequency than they are over here.
Ken: I want to thank you for that answer, I want to thank you for spending time with us and, as I’m listening to you in all of this stuff, I do think you are probably the producer who has produced the most diverse group of material of any one of us, so I want to thank you for that – and thanks to all of you for listening, we will see you next time!
See the entire list below, including the shows currently running,…
There are seven shows beginning performances on Broadway this month!…
See the entire list below, including the shows currently running,…
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.