You guys want to hear the full story of how I met Community’s Danny Pudi (aka Abed) last night?!
GREAT! First you have to learn something about how theatre works. But I promise I’ll give the full story at the end.
So “Liberal Arts: The Musical!” opens previews today! We’ve all been running around like crazy little worker bees to get it ready for general consumption, and I’m very very proud of the result. Now come the congratulations, the criticisms, and above all, the polite queries of “So what exactly did YOU do for this show?”
Here’s the thing: the title “producer” covers all manner of sins. Most people think of “The Producers” and assume that what I did for this production is seduce a long line of old ladies. Well, unfortunately, folks, I was banned from the Viagra Triangle (an actual neighborhood…kind of) and so my producer role is no doubt less familiar to you than any written by Mel Brooks. But I’ve worked hard on this show, aside from being one of the writers and musicians and a part of the first three workshop productions. And I’d like you all to know a little of what goes on behind the scenes of a theatre company, and what goes into making a show happen that you don’t necessarily see reflected on the stage.
“Producer” is one of those jobs that people only really notice when you screw up. If a show goes well, the accolades go to the actors, the designers, and overall the director. Maybe the writers. People don’t think to say, Hey, you produced the HECK out of that great show! But if something goes wrong, the buck passes to the top. Sure, actors and designers and directors and writers get flack, but you’re the schmuck who took responsibility and pulled strings for this train wreck to happen.
So here’s a list of some things I’ve done for this show as a producer (and because I also took on marketing responsibilities):
-Set up auditions
-Communicate with hundreds of auditioners
-Set an audition schedule and figure out how to maneuver when people are inevitably late or absent or just show up
-Cast the show
-Post ads for stage manager and designers
-Interview candidates for stage manager and designers
-Hire stage managers and designers
-Write checks. Lots of checks. Checks for the venue rental, checks for costumes, checks for lights, checks to purchase equipment…it will all be paid back from the company at some point, but while we wait for those ticket sales to come in, it’s the producer’s job to sweat it out. (Note: the other staff members have also purchased things to be reimbursed)
-Draft a press release
-Send a press release to the press
-Work with other staff members to plan reaching out to local businesses and colleges for print and press sponsorship and ad space
-Attend designer’s meetings and staff meetings and take care of the things other people don’t have time to do
-Create Twitter account. Create Facebook event. Manage both (with help creating Twitter content)
-Postering: Pick strategic areas to put up posters. Take a stack of posters. Go into every business that seems potentially to be willing to put up a poster. Ask if you can. Rinse, repeat, walk around for two hours a pop. Don’t forget to put down postcards in coffee shops, etc. for people to take with them. This will take several days if you’re hitting, say, DePaul, Diversey, Wrigley, Ravenswood, and downtown
-Negotiate with HotTix to have your posters put up downtown for a fee
-Rent a UHaul and go pick up bunk beds from Craigslist
-Rent a UHaul and move all set, props, and musical equipment from rehearsal studio to the theatre
-Find a place to park the UHaul overnight
-Call and demand compensation from UHaul for the fact that they confirmed a reservation on Easter Sunday for a location that was closed and thus you had to go an hour further out of your way to get the truck
-Take time off work to return a UHaul to a location so far away that you have to take two buses to get back
-Submit your event to everything you can think of: EveryBlock, Chicago Pride, Metromix, the Reader, TimeOut Chicago, the RedEye, the Improv network
-Send a press invitation
-Keep track of the press planning to come and on what nights
-Set up special nights for groups to attend, promising negotiated discounts and perks
-Set up discount codes on the ticket website for applicable people
-Communicate, communicate, communicate. Tell the director when you hear mumblings from the cast or designers. Tell the SM when you hear mumblings from the cast and designers. Make sure no one shoots anyone
-Help out with CD recording by giving an extra ear and calling people when recording takes too long or you’re getting through it more quickly than expected
-Did I mention write checks?
-Get the keys from the venue owner and go over the limits of the space
-Do whatever you can during tech. Bring toilet paper. Paint flats. Buy screws. Hammer in staples on the floor
-Pick up the lights from the rental agency. Pick up flats from the place that’s donating them to you
-Attend whatever rehearsals you can. Give feedback discreetly and encouragement publically
-Run to Kinko’s to print a banner for the show
-Make note of and print warning signs for strobe lights and/or smoking
-And eventually, get ready to deal with patrons and run the house. Get a credit card acceptor for your smartphone. Print programs. Print ticket lists. Get change. Look pretty. Smile big. Sing a song to start the show.
Maybe it’s not what every producer does, but that’s essentially what I do.
YOU DID IT! HERE’S MY STORY ABOUT DANNY PUDI!
So yesterday, as I was walking home from rehearsal and trying to stifle my old-Russian-man cough and hiding in my coat and hoodie, I noticed three guys walking in front of me. They sounded like your typical Wrigley bros, talking about how one guy made out with some girl, swearing up a storm, stopping each other to say, “Dude! We should totally do that before the bachelor party!”
I was walking a little bit faster than them, and as I got closer, I thought to myself, “huh, that guy (also in a hoodie) looks a lot like Danny Pudi, or Abed from ‘Community.’ Am I just–no, he really does, that’s so funny.”
I start to pass them, and I hear him say something with a couple f-bombs in it. “Huh, he even SOUNDS like Danny Pudi. That’s awesome. I wish Harrison were here.” (Note: Harrison and I watch Community together and take joy in how much we are like Troy and Abed.)
Then I hear one of the guys behind me go, “Pudi! He was so f’ing excited to have you, he was like, PUDI should come to the bachelor party!”
And my brain went OH.
I whipped out my phone and texted Harrison in all-caps. I slowed down my walk just to listen in. I basically became the ultimate creeper.
They talked about turning on School, but then decided to go into Sedgwick’s, a bar right on the corner. As they stopped to get out their IDs and talk to the bouncer, I said to myself, “Laura, you will regret it if you don’t do this.” So I turned around, walked up, and said, “Excuse me, are you Danny Pudi?”
He said yes. I said, “I was so excited when ‘Community’ came back, I just wanted to say congratulations, I’m a big fan.”
He said, “Awww! That gives me warm fuzzies!” And then held out his arms and gave me a hug. He asked about what I was up to, and I said I had a show in the area that was actually going up tomorrow, “Liberal Arts: The Musical!” just down the street, and that my friend in the cast and I love watching “Community” together. He asked my name, we did a formal introduction with handshake, the bouncer went “OH YEAH HE’S THAT GUY!” and Danny said, “Good luck with your show!” I said, “Good luck with YOUR show!” and walked off into the night.
To begin freaking out on social media.
I do kind of regret not getting a picture, but at the same time he was just a guy, once a Chicago improviser, now back home with his buddies, looking for a night out. I didn’t want to impose too much. I did, however, tweet him an offer for a comp to the show. So we’ll see. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my brush with NBC fame and fortune, and what I’d consider a pretty darn good omen on the eve of my baby’s birth into the world of Chicago entertainment.
Cool? Cool cool cool.