Why The Flick winning The Pulitzer is an example of artistic producing at its best.

Pulitzer Prize on DramaI would never have produced The Flick.

I will never produce The Flick.

I can’t.

You see, I’m a Broadway producer.  Not a theater producer.  I produce for a 10 block radius in the middle of New York City with a very specific audience.

And I don’t believe for a second that the Broadway Audience would support something like The Flick enough for me to be able to repay my investors.

So I can’t produce The Flick.

But Playwrights Horizons can.

And they did.

And yesterday, when The Flick won The Pulitzer, Playwrights showed us what non-profit producing and leadership is all about.

Last year at this time, people were walking out of The Flick.  According to this NY Times article, which described the controversy, Artistic Director Tim Sanford confirmed that 10% of the audience left at intermission of the first performance.  And word of mouth from those that stayed was something else entirely.  It was three and half hours long, “nothing happened,” and those were just a few of the complaints.  People were canceling subscriptions.  And in an unprecedented move, Mr. Sanford emailed 3,000 of the theater’s subscribers to explain why he chose to produce it.  Not to apologize.  But to bring his patrons into the process.

To many, choosing that play for its season looked to be a monumental mistake that was going to have an immediate effect on the theater’s bottom line.

And now . . . bam . . . choosing that play looks to be one of the smartest choices Mr. Sanford and his team could have made.

What I love about this story is that they produced a play that so many wouldn’t, and they produced a play that they knew many wouldn’t even enjoy.  But they felt it was important.  And they knew that it was the responsibility of their institution to produce plays exactly like The Flick.  Because if they didn’t, who would?  Certainly not me.

And now, get this, another gutsy guy around town, Scott Rudin, just announced he’s going to put the show back up at the Barrow Street this fall!

The team at Playwrights did something that all great producers do.  They stuck to their artistic guns.  They didn’t run for cover when the criticism came.  They stood up for what they believed in:  new, challenging, boundary bustin’ plays.  And boy did it pay off.  (Do you know how many more productions The Flick will get now?  And how much in additional royalties Playwrights Horizons will get as a result?)

Risks like this don’t always work out this way.  But when they do, it’s important that we stand up and say congrats.

So congrats to Annie Baker, Sam Gold, Tim Sanford and everyone at Playwrights for a producing job awesomely done.

[Want to read The Flick?  Click here.]


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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.