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Episode 22

BUDGETING THE REHEARSAL

Drema! Over here.

"Darling, you found us a nice clean bench. I brought the coffee. Did you bring the muffins?"

Still hot from the oven. I wasn't sure exactly where you wanted to meet. I took a chance that you meant to say between the Delacorte and Turtle Pond.

"That's right. What did it sound like I said?"

The heliport and two ill dawns.

"Sorry, dear. I keep forgetting to put my teeth in before I start calling in the morning. Isn't it glorious weather? I couldn't face working inside on a day like this."

Did you have time to take a look at the preliminary budget?

"Of course. I've already made a couple of cuts. It's still too big. Somehow you wouldn't think that a simple two character play with no special set or costume or technical requirements would be this expensive."

Actually it's pretty much in line with what most off Broadway productions cost these days. We're going to spend a lot up front, but the weekly running costs should be low. With any luck we should recoup in about four months, maybe sooner.

"I'm planning to play it for a year, if we can keep it running that long. You take cream in your coffee, right?"

Yes, thank you. Let's take a look at the budget and see if we can shrink it a bit more.

THE REHEARSAL
ESTIMATED PRE-OPENING EXPENSES
3 WEEK REHEARSAL
2 WEEK PREVIEWS

PHYSICAL PRODUCTION

$36,000 Scenery (Build, Paint, Flameproof)
 10,500 Furniture, Props, Set Dressing
   6,000 Drapes, Curtains, Masking
  24,000 Costumes & Accessories

$24,000 for costumes still seems a bit much. Could we do with only one set for each of you?

"Dear, I sweat like a pig on stage. And most men do, too. I'm not going to put on the same damp dress I wore for the matinee in the evening."

Does Coward have to wear a suit? We could save a couple of thousand if we put him in slacks and a jacket.

"It simply wasn't done. Rehearsals were very formal at the time. No man - especially Noel Coward - would have shown up in anything but a nicely tailored suit. He did wear jersey turtlenecks rather than starched shirts. We can save a couple of dollars there. And I'm sure I've got a couple of period mens silk dressing gowns in storage somewhere that we can use. That ought to save us a couple of thousand too."

The script calls for Sulka.

"They are. Don't ask me where I got them."

Shall we say $20,000 for costumes then?

"Sounds about right."

  12,000 Electric - Rental
   4,500 Electric Supplies
   1,500 Sound Equipment - Rental

We're drastically underestimating light and sound rentals.

"No. I've got all the equipment we need from my tour stock. We're leasing everything from me and I'm giving us a really good price."

Still, only $1,500 for sound equipment?

"All we need is a board for the effects and a couple of microphones to feed into the headsets. Your theatre has excellent acoustics. I want to do this production unamplified."

You're sure?

"Hell, I can do it. We'll have to be careful that whoever we cast as Coward can too. Besides, it's a great hook for a little free publicity, seeing as how it not done much anymore."

  12,000 Put-In Crew
   4,500 Shop Prep & Work Calls
   1,500 Stage Preparation & Rigging
   1,500 Carting & Trucking

SUB TOTAL $114,000

"We've already cut to the bone on all the rest of this. So the new sub total is $110,000."

Every penny counts.

REHEARSAL AND PREVIEW SALARIES

 36,750 Cast
   1,500 Run-of-Play Payments
  13,230 Understudies
  10,620 Stage Manager

"A bit much for the stage manager?"

I want to pick him up a couple of days early. It will pay for itself in the long run.

   8,100 Asst. S.M. / Understudy
   2,805 AEA Vacation Pay Accrual
   1,920 Props / Carpenter (Rehearsals)
   2,160 Electrician (Rehearsals)
   2,400 Wardrobe - Supervisor
   4,320 Crew Overtime (Reh. $ Prev.)
  17,850 General Manager
  12,420 Company Manager

"You know Lilly, my tour manager, don't you?"

I've met her, yes.

"What if we hired her to double as both general and company managers? She would do it for me and we could probably save about ten grand on the combined salary."

Could she handle both jobs?

"With one arm tied behind her back. She's the only woman I know who's cheaper than I am."

Do it.

  12,420 Press Agent
   5,250 Production Assistant
   1,200 Attorney (Previews)
   2,100 Accountant (Previews)
   4,800 Box Office - Preliminary
   4,500 House Staff - Preliminary
   3,000 Ushers (Previews)

SUB TOTAL $147,345

"Okay, this sub total drops to $137,345."

FEES

  15,375 Director
   9,000 Set Designer
   9,000 Costume Designer
   6,000 Lighting Designer
   6,000 Production Manager
  16,500 General Manager
  22,500 Attorney
  10,500 Accountant
   4,500 Casting Director
   9,660 Asst's to Designers (S-1/C-1/L -2)

"Why in heaven's name do we need a bloody casting director?"

Do you want to sit through all the open calls?

"No, but I'll do it if I have to. Equity may say I have to be there, but nothing says I have to stay awake."

The director may have somebody he want's to use.

"Darling, this is me our director has to deal with. No casting director in the budget, period."

SUB TOTAL $109,035

"That drops this sub total to $$104,535."

PROMOTION, PUBLICITY AND ADVERTISING

  90,000 Newspaper Advertising
  40,000 Radio Advertising
  40,000 TV Advertising
  10,000 Mechanicals & Prep
  10,000 Window Cards
   3,000 Flyers & Distribution
  12,000 Marquees, Signs, Boards, Lobby, Etc.
   3,000 Photographs
   6,000 Press Agent Expenses
   5,000 Group Sales

SUB TOTAL $219,000

"I don't see where we can cut one penny here."

I agree.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND GENERAL

    1,000 Scripts
    6,000 Casting & Auditions
    1,000 Association Fees
    9,000 Rehearsal Halls
  15,000 Theatre Rent (Set-Up & Rehearsals)
  36,000 Theatre Rent (Previews)
  18,500 Theatre Service Package
  10,350 Theatre Expenses Thru Previews
    9,450 Producers Office Expenses
    5,250 Gen. Mgr. Office Expenses
    5,000 Ticketing Services
    1,200 Program Expenses
  11,000 Union Pensions
  12,000 Union Health Insurance
  29,000 Payroll Taxes
   3,000 Business Taxes
    2,500 Payroll & Check Services
  18,000 Insurance - Production Pkg. Deposit
  15,000 Insurance - Errors & Omissions
    3,750 Insurance - P/C Liability (Previews)
    1,500 Legal Disbursements
  30,000 Developmental Expenses

"Darling, $30,000 developmental expenses?"

It doesn't look like we're going to need it. But, I want to keep something in there as a cushion.

"$15,000?"

That makes it tight, but go ahead.

  12,000 Opening Night Expenses
    3,000 Departmental Expenses
  14,000 Miscellaneous

SUB TOTAL $272,500

"New sub total $257,500."

TOTAL ESTIMATED DIRECT PRODUCTION COST $861,880

So that brings this down to $828,380.

"More coffee?"

Yes, thanks. Muffin?

"Let me have the blueberry."

ADVANCES (Non-Returnable)

    7,500 Author
    4,250 Director
  54,000 Theatre

SUB TOTAL $65,750

"Darling -"

Don't ask. $54,000 is rock bottom for the house. I can't go lower.

TOTAL ESTIMATED PRODUCTION COST WITH ADVANCES $927,630

"Okay, so that makes this $894,130."

BONDS AND DEPOSITS (Returnable)

  52,000 Bonds (Various)
  18,000 Theatre

SUB TOTAL $70,000

TOTAL ESTIMATED PRODUCTION DISBURSEMENTS $997,630

"And this becomes $964,130."

RESERVES (Not Including Preview Income)

  45,000 General Reserve
  54,000 Post Opening Advertising Support

"Do we risk cutting the reserves at all?"

I don't see how we could.

"Agree."

SUB TOTAL $99,000

TOTAL ESTIMATED PRODUCTION CAPITALIZATION $1,096,630

"So, after all is said and done, our capitalization is $1,063,130."

I would feel better if we could get it down to an even million.

"I'll talk to Lilly, put her on payroll and see what she can cut."

I've got office space for her. Have her get me a list of whatever equipment she will need.

"Does it have a window? Lilly is wonderful, but she smokes five packs of cigarettes a day."

One office with a window, coming up.

"Here, take the last of the coffee. So how's your Neverland project shaping up? I haven't seen your young protégé around lately."

He's having doubts about a career in the theatre.

"Who got to him, family or friends?"

Both, I think.

"He'll be back. No one could have written that libretto unless they were already hooked. Everybody goes through that period sooner or later. When was yours?"

Right after my play failed. I ended up working in a bank for three months. Then I came to my senses, quit the bank, and started producing.

"Mine was when I discovered my third husband in a row was gay. Back then they hid everything so well, you just didn't know until it was too late. I divorced him, quit the theatre, and married the first straight man I met. A year of that particular hell was all it took to get me back on the boards."

There's a muffin left. Want it?

"Feed it to the birds. So, how long do you think before he'll be back?"

I figure another couple of weeks. I sent him a copy of the new Secrest biography a couple of days ago. He'll read it and discover that other people have suffered a lot more than he has or ever will.

"The Sondheim? I just finished it. Poor Steve. I'd heard all the rumors and stories, of course, but I didn't want to believe any of them. It really shows you that there, but for the grace of God..."

In Stephen Sondheim: A Life, Meryle Secrest draws on her extended conversations with Stephen Sondheim as well as interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers to bring us not only the artist, but also the private man. Beginning with his early childhood on New York's prosperous Upper West Side, Secrest describes how Sondheim was taught to play the piano by his father, a successful dress manufacturer and amateur musician. She writes about Sondheim's early ambition to become a concert pianist, about the effect on him of his parents' divorce when he was ten, about his years in military and private schools. She writes about his feelings of loneliness and abandonment, about the refuge he found in the home of Oscar and Dorothy Hammerstein, and his determination to become just like Oscar. Secrest describes the years when Sondheim was struggling to gain a foothold in the theatre, his attempts at scriptwriting (in his early twenties in Rome on the set of Beat the Devil with Bogart and Huston, and later in Hollywood as a co-writer with George Oppenheimer for the TV series Topper), living the Hollywood life.

Here is Sondheim's ascent to the peaks of the Broadway musical, from his chance meeting with playwright Arthur Laurents, which led to his first success - as co-lyricist with Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story - to his collaboration with Laurents on Gypsy, to his first full Broadway score, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. And Secrest writes about his first big success as composer, lyricist, writer in the 1960s with Company, an innovative and sophisticated musical that examined marriage à la mode. It was the start of an almost-twenty-year collaboration with producer and director Hal Prince that resulted in such shows as Follies, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, and A Little Night Music.

We see Sondheim at work with composers, producers, directors, co-writers, actors, the greats of his time and ours, among them Leonard Bernstein, Ethel Merman, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Robbins, Zero Mostel, Bernadette Peters, and Lee Remick (with whom it was said he was in love, and she with him), as Secrest vividly re-creates the energy, the passion, the despair, the excitement, the genius, that went into the making of show after Sondheim show. Stephen Sondheim: A Life is sure to become a standard work on Sondheim's life and art.

Stephen Sondheim: A Life
by Meryle Secrest
List Price $30.00
ISBN 0679448179


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