Stewart F. Lane: Let's Put on a Show!
Stewart F. Lane is the producer of Broadway's Legally Blonde and a 4-time Tony award winner for Jay Johnson: The Two and Only, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Will Rogers Follies and La Cage aux Folles. His latest project has been authoring Let's Put on a Show!, a reader-friendly guide of the process of producing a play or musical from concept to standing ovations.
Lane, co-owner of The Palace Theatre, has also produced 1776, Gypsy, All Shook Up, Fiddler on the Roof and the movie ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway. Lane took a moment out of his New York summer Sunday to talk to BroadwayWorld.com's own Eugene Lovendusky, based in San Francisco, to discuss the over-20 years of experience he has put behind his new book...Eugene Lovendusky: Good afternoon and thanks for taking a moment to talk about your new book!
Stewart F. Lane: Oh it's my pleasure!
Eugene: What can people hope to discover when they read Let's Put on a Show!?
Stewart: Well I originally wrote the book to give people sort of a blueprint of how to put together a production. Everyone I've known from either the theatre school I graduated from (I was a BU acting major, class of, let's just say early-seventies) and even as an actor, there was never any guidelines of what to do once you get out. How do you find work? Where do you find work? And the same with producing. How do you get a project together? How do you get the play? Where do you get the money? And so I decided after 30 years of producing, plus acting, writing, directing as well… a book would be a nice primer for people who want to start a theatre company or do community or regional theatre. So I explain how you pick a play, how to get the community involved. One of the first plays I ever did, I wrote it, it was called In the Rink; it had a living-room set. So I went to a furniture store and I asked if they could donate any furniture for the living-room set. They donated patio furniture, so I had to put blankets over it. [laughs] But that's what the book is for… to tell people how to put on a production.
Eugene: Awesome! [laughs] So you do have a bunch of Broadway experience behind you, but you focus many parts of your book toward the novice theatre producers. What are some of the similarities you feel are in producing a small-scale versus large-scale production?
Stewart: I think picking the material is very important. You wanna be able to pick a play that will challenge your audience. You don't want to pander to them, you don't want to offend them. The idea of theatre would be to generate excitement, to talk, to challenge them whether it's a big production of a small theatre.
Eugene: Many theatre people (and I'm one of them) simply know the producer as that guywho raises money and accepts the Tony Award when their show wins! [laughs] Can you help paint a better picture of what a producer actually does?
Stewart: I'll start with the reason I went into producing from acting, for instance. With producing I have the illusion of some control over my life. Instead of going with my hat in my hand for each audition as an actor, I could actually be the one responsible for myself as well as for others. That's what producing is. You're the person responsible for making sure that paycheck clears at the end of every week. You're the one that finds the project, puts the team together; the composer, the lyricist, the book writer. You're the one who hires the advertising agency, the marketing agency. You're the one who picks the theatre, the out-of-town theatre. You're the one who picks the director! You're the one that they're gonna come to if there are any problems. And that's what the producer is… he's the chief executive officer. And at the same time – and this is one thing I can bring to the table that a lot of producers can't – I know the artistic sense.