Do You Have Musical Theater Trust Issues?

I was coming up out of the Subway into Times Square the other day and, not surprisingly, was thinking about new musicals. Just then, I witnessed the perfect metaphor for the writer – producer relationship in musical theater.

You’ve probably seen this very thing before if you’ve ever taken the subway… The elevator was broken and a woman with a baby in a stroller needed to get up the stairs. A kind stranger offered to help the woman carry the stroller up the steep steps.

I saw the woman size up this innocent looking do-gooder and determine that he seemed trustworthy. Together they carried the baby in the stroller up to the street and went their separate ways.

The similarities between this exchange and the producer/writer relationship screamed out at me! You writers reading this will attest to the fact that your show is like your baby. You’ll also acknowledge that to get your “baby” from point A to point B (e.g. from the page to the stage) you’ll need to entrust your show to a producer.  And often when producers present themselves, you have to size them up quickly, usually in a matter of days or weeks, before entrusting them with “the other end of your stroller.”

I mentioned the baby carriage incident to a friend of mine who has a young child in Manhattan. She said she avoids the subway these days because she isn’t willing to risk encountering a broken elevator and having to trust someone to safely help her with her child.

This, too, resonated with me from a musical theater perspective. If you’re creating a new musical, it’s vital that you look inside yourself and carefully evaluate your capacity for trust. Would you allow someone to help you get your stroller up the stairs? If not, you and any future collaborators are in for an uphill climb.

At a recent NAMT conference, when producers and writers were asked what leads to a successful collaboration, TRUST was always number one.

If you can’t imagine trusting someone with your “baby’s” safety, than you may be doomed to many unsuccessful collaborations. However, if you’re willing to trust the collaborators you’ve carefully selected, you may just get to the top.

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