Jed Bernstein Continues NYC's Commercial Theater Institute's 30-Year History of Training Producers
By Michael Gioia
The Commercial Theater Institute, a New York City-based program committed to the development and training of emerging producers that is under the leadership of The Broadway League and Theatre Development Fund, was founded in 1982 by theatre business administrator and respected Broadway producer Frederic B. Vogel. Since then, the company has produced commercial producers from all walks of life.
"Originally the [intensive] program [at CTI] was very much targeted to professionals from other industries — doctors, lawyers, accountants — who might be inclined to invest in theatre if they knew a little more about how it worked," explained former Broadway League president Jed Bernstein, who took over as CTI's executive director in 2006. (Vogel administered CTI from its inception until his death in 2005.)
"The next group to join in were theatre professionals for whom there was no continuing theatre education," continued Bernstein. "Then came people from the non-profit world who started to embrace the idea that the skill sets [acquired at CTI] are very much transferrable… Finally — in the latest phase — we've seen a lot of directors, writers and actors who are motivated by the notion that knowledge is power, and the more they know about the industry in which they work, the better they can manage their own careers… They want to take matters into their own hands."
For those who are looking to get their feet wet in the production end, Bernstein suggests the annual three-day weekend intensive program — "a terrific overview" of producing, he said — which will be held next spring from April 19-21, 2013.
For someone more experienced with producing, CTI offers a 16-week intensive program — which has been expanded from its former 14-week schedule — that is limited to 25 participants who must be nominated by a working management member of the professional theatre community.
The sessions, which begin Jan. 7, 2013, are held on consecutive Monday nights and focus on topics such as budgeting, creative development, script analysis, marketing and publicity, among many others. Speakers include independent producers, various creatives and professional theatre administrators. Applications for the program are due by Dec. 3.
"There are a couple areas that people are most interested in," said Bernstein about the programs at CTI. "One of them is investors and money raising. That's the [topic] that has a great cloak of mystery around it for people who haven't [produced] before and where people are particularly hungry for information and advice. The other useful [topic] is understanding the financial and capital structure of the industry — what are the deals, how are shows capitalized and organized… So I would say those are two key areas. And, the whole area of marketing and promotion…because the rest of it isn't worth anything if people don't show up to see your show!"
Although CTI has mainly focused on Broadway and the New York theatre community in its 31 years, the company has recently expanded to offer seminars in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles as well as online. The CTI webinars allow prospective producers from all over the country to plug into the wealth of knowledge being shared in and around New York City.
The 2012-13 curriculum includes sessions such as "Investor Relations & Here's the Pitch," "Theatre History 101," "Commercial Producing Off-Broadway," "Advanced Topics in Budgeting Analysis," "Marketing: Measurement, Analysis & Tactics," "Producing Workshops, Readings & Showcases: A Practical Approach," "Advanced Topics in Producing: CTI-Chicago One-Day Program," "Exploiting Your License," "Investor Relations & Here's the Pitch," "Who Gets What? A Half-Day Intensive Seminar" and the "6th Annual CTI-O'Neill Summer Workshop: A Producing Practicum."
"He did two very important things," said Bernstein about late CTI founder Vogel. "One was that he proved that you could teach [producing] in a much more sophisticated way [as opposed to the apprentice system]. And, the other was that he provided a peer group for early-stage producers. Producing, like a lot of parts of our business, is a very lonely, individual task — particularly when you're first getting started… I'm always the first one to say that the best part of CTI, above and beyond what knowledge is transferred, is the fact that it's a networking, career-building opportunity for everybody."
For more information on CTI and a complete list of 2012-13 classes, visit CommercialTheaterInstitute.org.
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