In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most interesting and influential people in the theatre industry. And today we’re doing a special feature on Ken Davenport – a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer!
Ken Davenport is known as one of Broadway’s most influential entrepreneurs, and his productions have been produced internationally in over 25 countries. In addition to that, he is one of the co-founders of TEDxBroadway, he’s North America’s Executive Producer for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, and he was named one of Crain’s “Forty Under 40″. He is also the creator of the best-selling board game Be A Broadway Star. In other words, Ken Davenport is a freakin’ superstar!
What initially inspired you to step into the theatre world?
“Like most people who get involved with the arts, I was dragged into it by my parents. And I’m so thankful. I started as an actor when I was five, and despite a few tries to get out, the theater always pulled me back in.”
Do you believe that it’s important to have a mentor or coach when in this industry? Do you (or did you ever) have one yourself?
“Yes. Without a doubt. I have had several, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m also a big fan of Napoleon Hill’s Mastermind Concept. I’ve been a part of several masterminds for years. And now, I believe in them so strongly, especially for the arts, that I organize them specifically for artists.”
“Start creating things and getting them out into the world. Keep doing that long enough, and good things will happen.”
You have founded so many wonderful programs and groups for people who are looking to get ahead. If you could give one piece of advice to a theatre maker who is financially and emotionally struggling with their career, what would it be?
“Do something. Anything. Write a play that you can perform on the sidewalk. Or in an office building. Do a one-woman show. Try stand-up comedy. Collaborate. Start creating things and getting them out into the world. Keep doing that long enough, and good things will happen. But you have to start.”
Would you say that formal education is necessary for becoming a successful producer?
“The only thing that you need to be a producer is the desire to make something and put it into the world. It’s the same as being an entrepreneur. Yes, education can help, and I do believe in it. But nothing beats finding something you’re passionate about and not stopping until it’s a success. That’s why Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college. :-)”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career so far?
“This is a business where you hear the word “no” a lot (I mentioned this in my acceptance speech for the Tony for “Best Revival of a Musical”). Facing that kind of rejection, whether it’s when raising money, asking for a Broadway theatre, or when trying to get someone on the TKTS line to buy tickets to your show that you know they’ll love, it’s hard. But you just keep asking, and eventually somebody says yes.”
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur in the theatre industry?
“No two days are ever the same. Every day is an exciting new adventure. My phone rings and I think, “Oooh, what can this be???””
Do you have a morning routine? And if so, can we hear about it?
“Yes. I wake up at 5:00AM. Have a protein shake and head to my gym. I hit golf balls for 45 minutes to an hour, work out for 15, and am at my office by 7:30. I journal, meditate, and then plan my day. At 9:00, I write for an hour. At 10:00 I’m ready for the rest of my staff to come in, and we get crackin’.”
“Producers produce for the same reason that actors act, writers write, and directors direct. We love it.”
The number of exciting (and successful) projects you have completed is inspiring! Do you have any tips for staying motivated and getting things done?
“You’re going to take a step forward and then several back. It’s the way it goes. So I make sure I’m passionate about every project that I do, so that even on the tough days, I just get more energized to get it out in the world. I also have lists and systems and goal-setting practices that help me stay on track.”
Is there a particular book that you think all aspiring producers or entrepreneurs should read?
“How to Be a No-Limit Person, by Wayne Dyer.”
Are there any common myths about being a producer that you’d like to debunk?
“That we’re only out to make a buck. Believe me, if I was out to make a buck, I’d be in another business. Producers produce for the same reason that actors act, writers write, and directors direct. We love it.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m developing several new musicals including Joy, Broadway Vacation, My Life in Pink, and a couple that I can’t talk about (but are very exciting). Stay tuned!”
What did you think of this interview with Ken Davenport?
Are any of you working as or aspiring to be a producer? We would love to hear all about it in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can check out even more of our interviews with inspiring people in the industry!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.