John Breglio, author of I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway…or Get Killed, spoke with Kathleen Hays and Pimm Fox hosts of Taking Stock on Bloomberg Radio. Listen to the podcast below as they talk about John Breglio’s life in theater and before, Patti LuPone, and opening nights!
What does a “producer” actually do? How does one travel from that great idea for a show to a smash hit opening night on Broadway? John Breglio cannot guarantee you a hit, but he does take the reader on a fascinating journey behind-the-scenes to where he himself once stood as a child, dreaming about the theatre.
Part memoir, part handbook, I Wanna Be a Producer is a road map to the hows and wherefores, the dos and don’ts of producing a Broadway play, written by a Broadway veteran with more than 40 years of experience. This comprehensive and highly informative book features practical analysis and concepts for the producer – and is filled with entertaining anecdotes from Breglio’s illustrious career as a leading theatrical lawyer and producer. Breglio recounts not only his first-hand knowledge of the crucial legal and business issues faced by a producer, but also his experiences behind the scenes with literally hundreds of producers, playwrights, composers, and directors, including such theatre luminaries as Michael Bennett, Joe Papp, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Patti Lupone, August Wilson, and Mel Brooks. Whether you are a working or aspiring producer, an investor, or are just curious about the backstage reality of the theater, Breglio shares his knowledge and experience of the industry, conveying practical information set against the real-life stories of those who have devoted their lives to the craft.
Joseph Polisi author of The Artist as Citizen and the sixth president of the Juilliard School has written about his updated book in the Juilliard Journal. He discusses why he decided to write The Artist as Citizen and also talks about the revisions that were made in the book. Read an excerpt below!
The first edition of my book The Artist as Citizen was published by Amadeus Press in 2005. I had decided to write it because Juilliard was celebrating its centennial, and the essays and speeches within reflected my thoughts about the school since I began my tenure in 1984.
In 2015, while my colleagues and I were deeply involved with the creation of The Tianjin Juilliard School, I learned that an edition in Chinese might be of interest to the many thousands of Chinese music students and professionals who were looking towards a new way of addressing the music profession in their vibrant country. With the assistance of Hong Mautz, our China advisor, who translated the book into Chinese, I proceeded to have a revised edition published by Beijing Normal University Press. For this edition, I decided to add several new essays and speeches and to completely update the edition to reflect my thoughts as of 2016. For clarity of translation purposes, the title was changed to The Artist as Leader. When Amadeus Press learned of this China venture, they asked if I would develop a revised edition in English, which was ultimately released in late April.
Aside from a considerable update in the book’s final chapter, Planning for the Twenty-First Century, which brings many aspects of the Juilliard experience to the present day, the two new elements that are addressed in the book’s revision are discussions of the aspirations of a global Juilliard and the importance of entrepreneurial elements in all areas of the school’s curriculum.
Read the article in its entirety HERE
Another contest courtesy of Erie Gay News and Applause Books has begun! You could be the lucky winner of Dale Sherman’s book, MASH FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Best Care Anywhere. The contest runs from April 26 through May 17 so be quick and enter before time runs out! Click on the link below to enter the contest and learn more about it.
Here’s the lowdown on the unforgettable show about the Forgotten War. M*A*S*H began as a novel written by a surgeon who had been in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. After being rejected multiple times, the novel would go on to become a bestseller, leading to 14 sequels, an Oscar-winning movie that propelled its director and actors to stardom, and a multiple-Emmy-winning television series that lasted nearly four times the length of the war.
MASH FAQ looks at how the novel came to be, its follow-ups in literary form, the creation of the popular movie, and – most importantly – the television series that transformed comedy and television in the 1970s. Included are chapters on the top-20 pranks of M*A*S*H, the cast members’ careers before and after the television show, famous guest appearances, and movies shown in the mess hall.
Beyond the fiction, MASH FAQ also features a brief chapter to put the war into perspective for easy referral – and looks at what led to the Korean War, how such medical units functioned, and how M*A*S*H shaped our perception of the era.
The newly released book, I Wanna Be a Producer, written by John Breglio has received a rave review from Center On The Aisle or COTA for short. COTA is all about providing current and future fans of the theater with accessible information about shows, be it on-Broadway, off-Broadway or out of town. Here is what COTA writer Adam Cohen had to say about the book.
So, it’s the mid-1980s and you’re in the balcony of the Shubert Theatre taking in A Chorus Line with your mother, after waiting on the TKTS line in Duffy Square, wondering “how did they do that?” The lights, costumes, and performers in perfect synchronicity entertaining over a thousand people per performance eight times a week. Then the thought strikes, how do you become a producer and make tons of money (a rarity, sadly in theater), go to fabulous parties, and have opening night seats? John Breglio answers much of this in his new book, I Wanna Be A Producer – How to Make a Killing On Broadway… Or Get Killed.
The book is a quasi-memoir of his years serving as an entertainment lawyer with clients like Michael Bennett (director, A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls) and Allan Carr (La Cage Aux Folles). Breglio sprinkles in real-life anecdotes, which detail the creation of these seminal Broadway productions, along with some not so distinctive ones, while also covering the details of how to become a producer. It is literally the book to get if you want to invest or create a first class production. Having served several decades as the lead partner at Paul | Weiss, Breglio clearly knows his stuff. He details every aspect of creating a theatrical production from securing rights, royalties, agreements, sourcing investments, production staff, and even the opening night party.
This is a detailed, specific book that should be the handbook for anyone considering a production career in the theater. He nicely and satisfyingly opens the book with his own experience as a boy seeing Damn Yankees and transitions to the creation of La Cage Aux Folles. The balance between anecdotes serves as a means of providing real practical history to emphasize the importance of each step in becoming a producer.
It leavens the hard truths and multitude of steps necessary to protect each party involved in the creative process – especially the one funding it.
Read the full review HERE.
Author of the book Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, Shelly Peiken, spoke with Argonaut Online about her book, the changes that the writing process seems to have taken, and more! Read an excerpt of the interview below and let us know your thoughts on the interview in the comments section below.
“Hit songwriter” sounds oxymoronic, considering the process by which commercial pop songs are frequently constructed. But Shelly Peiken belongs to that echelon of “career songwriters” who’ve made a living crafting songs for other artists.
“I was actively getting up every day and writing and pitching to artists,” she recalls, estimating that she would write or co-write 30 songs a year. The sassy writer’s best-known cuts are “Bitch” (Meredith Brooks), “Who You Are” (Jessie J), “Almost Doesn’t Count” (Brandy), “What a Girl Wants” and “Come on Over” (Christina Aguilera).
A short list of other artists for whom she’s composed includes Aaliyah, Natasha Bedingfield, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Gladys Knight, Lisa Loeb, Reba McEntire, the Pretenders, Britney Spears, Keith Urban, and the cast of “Glee.”
Now, 25 years into her career, Peiken has become choosier in her projects. As she spells out in her witty, compulsively readable book “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter,” she still joyfully sings along at the top of her lungs to songs she hears on her car radio.
But something fundamental has shifted in the way mainstream pop music is created, largely as a consequence of technological changes that continue to rewire the industry.
The thrill of connecting with a song that perfectly encapsulates the listener’s own circumstances — that three-minute rush that addicted Peiken to songs and songwriting in the first place — is rooted in very human experience.
She writes poignantly about how the Beatles and singer-songwriters such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon “were all able to reach a place inside of me with their self-examination, honesty, incongruities, longings and whimsical pleasures.”
But when songs are treated as templates with interchangeable parts, rather than as vehicles for meaningful personal expression, their capacity to connect deeply with listeners is undercut, which in turn shortens their shelf life.
That lack of relationship between co-writers — the trust-building collaboration Peiken dubs “SongSex” — affects the quality of music and disenfranchises songwriters from the process of song creation, she argues.
To read the full interview click HERE.
Next Tuesday, John Breglio shares the dos and don’ts and the hows and wherefores of being a Broadway producer in his news release from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, I Wanna Be a Producer. Breglio’s production credits include the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line and the 2008 prodcution of Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater and in this interview with Backstage magazine, he shares some of his lessons learned.
John Breglio went from entertainment lawyer to successful Broadway producer. Now he’s sharing advice gleaned from a decades-long career in theater in his new book, “I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway… or Get Killed.”
Why did you want to write this book?
I decided it might be helpful to put instructions on how to produce a play from the idea to opening night in one place. I also give real, live stories of what I went through with my clients, everything from getting the rights to marketing and advertising to getting the show up and running.
Why make the switch to producer from entertainment lawyer?
I was a shadow producer. I woke up one day and thought, I could do this myself. I’m closely associated with “A Chorus Line.” Michael Bennett was a very good friend of mine. When I was producing the revival, I noticed there was a line where Cassie says, “I’m tired of teaching others what I should be doing myself.” I heard that line and said, “You know what? That’s how I feel.”
Read the rest of the interview at backstage.com!
Tom DeMichael’s book, Baseball FAQ All That’s Left to Know About America’s Pastime, is a lot more than just a lot of stats and records. It’s about baseball in every way imaginable — on TV, the Movies, its history, and more! Tom De Michael talks about Baseball’s integration with Hollywood in a chapter he titled, “Baseball at the Movies.” Read an excerpt of the chapter below, and get your copy today!
The love affair between Hollywood and the game of baseball has been long, torrid, and very public. Even pioneer inventor Thomas Edison made the game a subject of his early filming efforts, shooting less than a minute of a Newark team playing an unidentified opponent in 1896.
Called The Ball Game, it was the precursor to Edison’s silent version of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” poem filmed in 1899. Titled Casey at the Bat or the Fate of a “Rotten” Umpire, it was a dramatization of the verse, shot on the inventor’s New Jersey lawn. It would be the first of at least seven versions of the story, including two feature-length films in 1916 and 1927, and five short films.
The growing popularity of cinema ran parallel to the growth of baseball in the early 1900s. Shorts like 1909’s His Last Game and 1912’s The Ball Player and the Bandit—both just twelve minutes each—combined baseball with the Wild West. Before long, it wasn’t unusual to see many baseball stars appearing on the big screen, acting as . . . well, acting as ballplayers.
Pitchers Chief Bender and Jack Coombs showed up in a 1911 comedy short, The Baseball
Bug, while Frank “Home Run” Baker starred in a 1914 short, curiously titled Home Run Baker’s Double. Pitching great Christy Mathewson appeared in Love and Baseball and Matty’s Decision, in 1914 and 1915, respectively.
Ty Cobb got in the act, starring in Somewhere in Georgia in 1916. Based on a not-so-original story by sportswriter Grantland Rice, the film features Cobb as a ball-playing bank clerk (years later he probably owned the bank). Discovered by a scout for the Detroit Tigers, the bank clerk leaves his sweetheart—the banker’s daughter—behind to play ball and steal bases, while a sneaky coworker tries to steal his girl. When Cobb is kidnapped
by thugs hired by the competing cashier, the Georgia Peach beats the bejesus out of
them, then arrives at the big game in time to win it, and his girl. Cobb made a cozy $25,000 for the two-week project.
It wouldn’t be long before the Bambino himself—Babe Ruth—brought his broad face
and big personality to the screen. With only one season under his (then-slim) belt with
the Yankees, Ruth starred in a seventy-one-minute 1920 feature called Headin’ Home. Once more, the story was not complex. A simple country boy named Babe (what a stretch . . .) doesn’t play baseball very well, until he blasts a long homer one day against the local team. Branded as a traitor to his town, he moves to New York and becomes a Yankee. With a return to his hometown, Babe is now a hero.
Ruth’s cinematic career continued as his success with the real Yankees grew. He starred in two comedy features in 1927 and 1928, Babe Comes Home and Speedy. The Babe also showed up in half a dozen shorts in the 1930s, making his final film appearance as himself in 1942’s Pride of the Yankees.
Early feature films focusing on the game included The Pinch Hitter in 1917, The Busher in 1919, and Slide, Kelly, Slide in 1927. The Great Stoneface, Buster Keaton, went out for baseball in 1927’s College and performed a masterful baseball pantomime in 1928’s The Cameraman. A real fan of the game, he was known to assemble pickup ball games with the film crew whenever there was a break in the shooting.
In the early 1930s, comic Joe E. Brown—he with the loving-cup ears and saucer-sized mouth—a former semipro ballplayer who passed on an offer to play with the Yankees, made three baseball films: Fireman, Save My Child in 1932, Elmer the Great in 1933, and Alibi Ike in 1935. In all three films, Brown was a simple man with a passion for baseball. As an interesting afterfact, Brown’s son eventually became the general manager with the
Ever since then, dozens and dozens of films with a baseball theme have captured the attention (and, more often than not, the admission price) of millions of moviegoers.
Some of the cinema stands out more than others, just like the ballplayers portrayed on the screen.
For many fans of the game, certain scenes and certain quotes remain, long after the projector has been shut down and the stale popcorn is tossed in the bin. For me, two particular moments stand out, both from films to be addressed in just a few paragraphs.
A key exchange in A League of Their Own, between manager Jimmy Dugan and star player Dottie Hinson, reaches far beyond the game of baseball. The catcher has decided to quit because, as she puts it, “It just got too hard.” Jimmy replies with a corny but still very true observation: “It’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard . . . is what makes it great.” Trite? Yes. Sappy? Yes. But a challenge to always reach higher? Yes.
In The Natural, slugger Roy Hobbs—confined to a hospital bed with his childhood sweetheart Iris Gaines at his side—reminisces about his life. Very simply, he pauses and quietly says, “God, I love baseball.” Truer words were never spoken, even if they’re just on film.
James Levine, who debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971 and became its musical director in 1976, will step down from his post at the end of the current season, the company announced yesterday. In 2011, Amadeus Press published James Levine: 40 Years at The Metropolitan Opera, a collection of the maestro’s reminiscences from his remarkable tenure, as well as the personal stories and recollections of some of opera’s biggest stars and the journalists who covered his career. In this excerpt, Richard Dyer, for 33 years a music and arts writer at The Boston Globe, describes Levine in an essay called “His Own Best Pupil.”
Two little stories tell you a lot about the kind of conductor James Levine is because they tell you the kind of musician he is, and the kind of man.
The first dates back to the mid-1960s, when he was the assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. One of Levine’s first assignments was to rehearse Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, and he vividly remembers a little oboe solo near the beginning: “The oboist played it more beautifully than I could ever have imagined on my own. There was nothing I could have done that would have made it any more beautiful. I realized immediately that it was not my job to control every element of the performance, but to allow the musicians to bring the best of themselves to an overall conception of the piece.”
The second revealing incident took place 40 years later at Tanglewood, when Levine was supervising reading rehearsals of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with fellows of the Music Center—singers, conductors, and orchestra. No performance was scheduled; this was a learning experience. The conducting fellow was propelling an ensemble at an exciting tempo that
was flustering the Donna Elvira. Levine stopped him. “What are you doing that for?” he asked. “Can’t you imagine how well she could sing it at a slightly slower tempo? What do you have to gain by making her uncomfortable? What does Mozart have to gain?” Once again, Levine was talking about enabling performers to give their best, about how a conductor’s job is not just to lead but also to listen. (“Jimmy hears everything,”
a player once said to me, with mingled admiration and panic.)
The statistics of Levine’s tenure at the Metropolitan Opera are staggering: 40 years, nearly 2,500 performances of 85 different operas, and counting. But the significance of his service lies behind and beyond the statistical record. Statistics define quantity, not quality, and they don’t tell anything about the process through which quality is achieved.
Everyone comments on how the orchestra, under his direction, has become one of the great ensembles of the world. One of his strategies has been to encourage the members to
play chamber music, and to turn them loose on the symphonic repertory—just as in posts he has held with symphonic ensembles, Levine has programmed operas. He doesn’t believe in specialization, for himself or for the institutions he works with; all music unfolds on a continuum, and different parts of the continuum inform and instruct one another. An orchestra must emulate the phrasing, breathing, colorations, vibrancy, and emotional impact of a great singer in full flight; a singer should emulate the precision, ensemble skills, and coloristic range of an instrumentalist.
Another great legacy is Levine’s widening and freshening of the Met repertory, from less-performed works by established composers to 20th-century masterworks to brand-new compositions. And he adds to his own repertory all the time—in the last few years he led his first Madama Butterfly and first Don Pasquale. There are works one wishes he would conduct—Der Freischütz, Boris Godunov, Capriccio, La Gioconda,or La Fanciulla del West, for example—but their absence is as much a question of timing or availability of suitable singers as it is of personal taste. One of his strengths is utilizing the changing interests and abilities of each generation of singers as it comes along. Of course, he also knows better than to conduct works for which he feels no real affinity, or that he feels others can do better.
Like a clerk in a Dickens novel, Levine maintains elaborate ledgers of his performances; the ledgers reinforce his instincts about when to return to central works for his own artistic development, when they have grown in his subconscious and it is time for new insights to assert themselves. And he strategizes repertory for the orchestra the way he strategizes for himself—how often it needs to ground itself in Mozart, for example. He didn’t program Berg’s Lulu before he brought back Wozzeck, and he didn’t attempt Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron before the orchestra had played both Wozzeck and Lulu.
Levine’s formal musical education was as comprehensive as he could make it—general studies under Walter Levin of the LaSalle String Quartet, famous for its mastery of the
Second Viennese School and contemporary music; solo piano instruction with Rosina Lhevinne; chamber music with Rudolf Serkin and others; French repertory with Jean Morel
at Juilliard; German repertory with Szell. At the Aspen Music Festival and School he sought out composers like Darius Milhaud and established singers like Jennie Tourel and Phyllis Curtin. One of his early idols was Toscanini, and he made it a project to work with as many singers as possible who had performed under Toscanini. Levine has coached countless singers, but it is equally important to point out how many singers he has made it a point to learn from. He is his own best pupil.
From the beginning Levine knew what his core repertory would be. Back in Ohio, he created an orchestra at the Cleveland Institute of Music and gave concert performances of Don Giovanni, Don Carlo, and Simon Boccanegra. Mozart and Verdi—Wagner came later, first at the Met, and then at the Bayreuth Festival. To these composers one should add Berlioz and Berg, as well as The Bartered Bride, Pelleas et Melisande, and Strauss’s Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, and Ariadne auf Naxos. Anyone who has heard Levine conduct these works must have indelible memories of his way with them.
Of course, Levine wants each performance to be as good as it can be, but he is at least as interested in process, in the whole movement from developing a conception prior to rehearsal, building on what happens in rehearsal, and watching interpretation develop through a series of performances—even foreseeing what might happen in future seasons that will build upon the present. He is not afraid to say “Sorry, my mistake” in rehearsal, and he knows when he has not operated on his own best level. I once heard him muse ruefully about a Sirius re-broadcast of a Mozart opera, “What a great cast, and I let them down.’’
Singers love Levine. “It is never easy to sing,” the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson told me, “but James Levine makes you believe you can do things you never thought you could.”
There are very few singers of the front rank over the last 40 years who have not worked with him, and his collaborations continue today with a younger generation.
For all of Levine’s presence in a starry firmament, he lives in the real world and works within the complex conditions of a major modern opera house. The curtain does not invariably rise on an ideal cast in an ideal production, and vocal cords are subject to the various physical and emotional ills the flesh is heir to. But he has the imagination, ability and true grit to make the best of every situation so no one goes home after a Levine performance with an empty heart.
Often as conductors grow older, their tempos become slower, as if they are reluctant to let go of the music, or accelerate, as if they are trying to outpace time itself. Levine is a collector and student of time-pieces, and he has avoided both extremes, just as he charts a course that avoids complacency and routine at one extreme, and egocentric eccentricity for its own sake at the other. The public has learned to depend on a high level of quality when he is on the podium. But even after 40 years, the public also knows to expect surprise.
Shelly Peiken, author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, was on the Standing “O” Project! She spoke with Viv Nesbitt about her book, creative process, the current situation with streaming services and more! The podcast is available below, click play to hear what they had to say!
Shelly Peiken, well known for writing culturally resonant, female-empowerment anthems such as Christina Aguilera’s No. 1 hit “What a Girl Wants” and Meredith Brooks’s smash hit, “Bitch,” looks back on her career and inside the business of songwriting in her memoir, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter (March 2016, Backbeat Books, $19.99).
A humorous and poignant pop culture memoir about Peiken’s journey, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter takes readers into the rarefied world of the music business. From a young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to a working professional writing hits of her own, Peiken describes how she built a career, from fledgling songwriter, pounding the streets of New York City to Grammy nominations, international hits, and the first Number One song of the millennium.
David Wild, contributing editor for Rolling Stone, calls Confessions of a Serial Songwriter “a great book [that offers] an insightful, honest, often funny, emotional look inside the good, the bad, the ugly, and ultimately the transcendent aspects of trying to lead a creative life inside a competitive career.”
In addition to the fascinating biographical trajectory, Peiken presents invaluable information for the aspiring songwriter, including tips about the creative process and how to adapt to the constantly changing currents. “Now more than ever, people who want to enter this topsy-turvy world of professional songwriting need to know how to handle the inevitable ups and downs that accompany what, for me, has a been an incredibly gratifying journey,” said Peiken.
In Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, Peiken writes about personal growth, how to recognize your muse and navigate the creative process as well as the struggles that arise between motherhood and career success. While she’s not afraid to delve into the divas, celebrity egos and schemers, it is the talented and remarkable people she’s found along the way that predominate the text. And, finally, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter raises the obvious though universal challenge of getting older and staying relevant in a rapidly changing and youth-driven world.