Renowned Broadway producer Ken Davenport talks Tony Awards, Hollywood, and ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’

Ambitious Tony award-winning Broadway and off-Broadway theatre producer and writer Ken Davenport has had a passion for theatre his entire life.  He has produced renowned musicals from Godspell to Kinky Boots to this year’s Tony-nominated Once on This Island and helms the North American activity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group.  Dedicated to bridge the gap between the stage and its audience, he is also behind an interactive theatre app, Didhelikeit as well as the hit board game, Be a Broadway Star.

Ken-new-1-web

Ken Davenport Photo courtesy of Ken Davenport

Ken talked to Sleepless Critic about when he first discovered the theatre, Hollywood and the Tony Awards, and his upcoming musical comedy, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Click here for more on Ken Davenport and see who the the big winners are on the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards hosts

Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles Photo credit: Cliff_Lipson-CBS

Sleepless Critic:  What awakened your interest in theatre and how did the opportunity to become a Broadway producer come about?

Ken Davenport:  My mom told me I first kicked when she was watching a production of Godspell, so I think I’ve always wanted to be part of the theatre.  I produced the first revival of Godspell on Broadway in 2011.

Being a producer is like starting your own business.  Opportunities don’t come about.  You have to make them happen.

SC:  What do you like most about producing and what production did you find to be the most challenging?

KD:  I love watching the audience’s expressions on their faces at the end of the show whether they are laughing, crying, or cheering.  We’ve affected them and that’s a joy to watch.

The most challenging part of producing is getting everyone on the same page.  It’s like getting ten people to paint the Mona Lisa.

SC:  Is there a show you turned down that you ended up wishing you were a part of?

KD:  Nah, I have no regrets.  I’ve passed on shows that have gone on to be hits, but they weren’t me.  They still wouldn’t be me, even if I had a few more bucks in my pocket.  I’d much rather stay true to what I want to do.

SC:  The musical, Mean Girls is one of the big Tony nominees this year and it is one of many Hollywood to Broadway musical crossovers.  From Pretty Woman to Heathers, do you think that this method has been an effective way to draw a wider audience to Broadway?  From what I’ve seen of Mean Girls and having recently seen Waitress, it seems to be working well.

KD:  Movies have become a common source for adaptations in the last ten years, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  I think the adaptations that work best are the ones that don’t have super popular source material.  It’s like when a movie is made from a book.  Most people think the book is better.  That happens a lot when popular movies are made into musicals.  It’s a very high hurdle to jump over.

SC:  What has been your favorite Hollywood to Broadway crossover musical so far?

KD:  Kinky Boots because I am one of the producers.

SC:  From classic musicals like Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel to Spongebob Squarepants, what nominations most surprised you and which did you think should have been nominated?

KD:  I think my choreographer from Once on this Island, Camille A. Brown should have been nominated as well as Alex Newell.

SC:  Which do you predict will be the standout production to win?  I’m sure you were thrilled when Once on This Island was nominated, a show you have produced.

KD:  I think the awards this year will be spread out amongst several shows rather than one big winner taking home multiple awards.

SC:  You work to make Broadway a more interactive experience.  Please tell me about the apps you promote.

KD:  We have an app for our website, Didhelikeit.com that gives you a snapshot of show reviews and focuses on the New York Times.

Gettin the Band Back Together

‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ premieres on July 19.

SC:  Just a few of the productions you have worked on is Groundhog DaySpring Awakening, and The Play That Goes Wrong.  The musical comedy, Getting the Band Back Together is coming up.

KD:  I’m super excited about Gettin’ the Band Back Together, which starts performances on July 19.  It’s such a fun show to be a part of and totally original.  It has an original story, music, etc.  It’s going to be a blast so come see it!

1820x1210_TuneinBanners_2018

Click here for more information on Ken Davenport and here for more on Ken’s current project, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, find out who wins on CBS for the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10 at 8 p.m.  Follow The Tony Awards on Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

NYC actress, writer, and filmmaker Stephanie Iscovitz talks finding home, making it big, and her latest projects, including ‘Bruce Loves You’

From a southern city to the Big Apple, actress, writer, filmmaker, producer, casting assistant, and T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz learned it takes a quick study to make it in the big city.  Working on a variety of diverse projects, Stephanie continues to inspire and entertain through her unique storytelling.  She will run the New York New Works Theatre Festival this October.  Click here for more information on entering the festival and further details.  Submit for free by August 15.

New York New Works Theatre Festival

Film submissions are free through August 15. Festival with Broadway panel takes place in October. Photo courtesy of New York New Works Theatre Festival

Stephanie talks about finding home, her current project, her most challenging and rewarding experiences as a woman in film, and who she would love to work with in the future.

Sleepless Critic:  You are from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but you decided to pursue your career in NYC.  What do you love most about the city and what ultimately inspired you to stay?

Stephanie Iscovitz:  I knew I wanted to move to New York when I was 12. Oprah calls them ‘Ah-ha!’ moments. I visited the city with my family and it wasn’t the bright lights or tall buildings that enticed me, but truly the first time I felt home. I felt connected to the city unlike anything else.  Nine years after moving here, I still love the energy, the urgency, the constant inspiration, and creativity.

T. Shreiber Studio

T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz with class of 2011 Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre

 SC:  You have delved into a wealth of projects as an actress working in New York City, always with enthusiasm for the next project.  Please tell me what it was like when you first arrived.

SI:  I really had to get it together when I first arrived because the competition is too fierce. I awakened to the reality of what it actually takes to be an actor and to stay afloat in the industry. Coming from Florida, I thought I would audition, book this role, and be rich and famous before I’m 30.  It’s so hard.  So many steps on the ladder and hoops you have to jump through to succeed and as a woman, a glass ceiling.  You have to be somewhat naive to get into the business and then an ultimate bad-ass to stay in it.  The first time I felt like I got it right was an audition for a role portraying a very complex, troubled stand-up comedian. I never felt more alive and was still reeling from the audition when the producer followed me out of the room and thanked me for my work, which never happens. I didn’t book it, which is a lesson that talent sometimes has nothing to do with who gets the job.

SC:  You have delved into a variety of female driven projects. What has most surprised you working on these productions?

SI:  What surprised me most was the real, systemic issues preventing women from rising through the ranks. Women graduate from film school at 50 percent, the same rate that men do, so there are no lack of trained, qualified, and willing female directors. Women are held to a much higher standard than men before they are considered qualified. There are countless examples of male directors who were snatched up by the studio after having only directed a very small micro-budget film and literally handed the opportunity of taking on a multi-million dollar studio movie. That kind of risk has almost never been taken on by a female director. I was never aware of these greater challenges until I got into the business which is why it’s imperative to have these conversations about the revolution of women in film.

SC:  Of the various jobs you do, what has been most challenging and rewarding for you?

SI:  Though every role has its own set of challenges and triumphs, the most rewarding is being able to collaborate with other independent female filmmakers to create something that grows organically.  I’ve learned that the film you shoot will be different than the film you write and the film you edit will be different than the film you shot.  It’s movie magic to nurture this idea with a team you respect, admire, and have a final product you never could have created on your own. Each learning experience gives me the confidence to guide me through to the next project.

Big Apple Film Festival with Jerry Stiller

2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which was screened alongside Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz

SC:  You have taken on thrillers, dramas, comedy, and other genres in your work.  Just a couple of the comedies you are a part of is OK, Cupid and the web series, Third Wheel.  I understand Third Wheel is doing well and was nominated for an award.

SI:  I enjoy all genres and hope to continue to create a diverse body of work. As an actor, I tend to play darker, troubled characters but also have extensive improv experience having completed The People’s Improv training program. I was on two indie improv teams performing in comedy clubs throughout the city for a few years and loved it.  Improv is a reminder to stay in the moment and inspires a ‘yes, and’ attitude for life. It’s where I met my close friends Sarah and Darin who are part of the Third Wheel team.  On Third Wheel, Sarah plays the lead character, ‘Lu’ and Darin directed, shot, edited and scored the entire project.  We were nominated for Best Ensemble at the NYC WebFest. Third Wheel got distribution through SeekaTV, a streaming platform for the independent filmmaker. See the complete first season here.

Scene from 'Bruce Loves You'

Stephanie Iscovitz in her latest film, ‘Bruce Loves You’ Photo Credit: Darin Quan

SC:  Tell me about your latest film, Bruce Loves You.

SI:  I reconnected with Sarah and Darin after Third Wheel to film Bruce Loves You. Chris Roberti of HBO’s High Maintenance and Comedy Central’s Broad City is Bruce, a charismatic and handsome ghost in a complicated relationship with a young woman who happens to be alive. When he begins to compliment her roommate’s speaking voice, it becomes clear he is not a one-woman ghost.  I portray the roommate.  The inspiration behind Bruce focuses on improbable or ridiculous stories and how they can help alleviate the inevitable problems of time and money in film production.  A blender was also always breaking down, so this story was a natural expression of all those elements in a true ‘indie’ spirit.  See the trailer here.

'Bruce Loves You' cast at Lighthouse International film fest

‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan

SC:  You also work for the Donna Grossman Casting Agency.  How did you get involved in that line of work?

SI:  I am so grateful I got the job through my best friend.  Every actor should have an opportunity to work in a casting office.  You learn nothing is personal and the best person for the job doesn’t always get it for reasons beyond anyone’s control.  Once we were casting for a luxury eye-wear company and the model they wanted to book had a small cut on her finger and lost the job even though it would have been healed and completely unnoticeable by the shoot date.  Another time we were casting a commercial and booked an actress in her mid-40s.  The client changed their mind and wanted the role to be for an 80 year-old actress. So even after booking it, that actress didn’t get it. You’re not in it ‘til you’re in it.

SC:  Please tell me about projects you are currently working on and who you would like to work with in the future.

SI:  I’ve been working on a virtual reality (VR) project in narrative form for the past year. VR experiences have an unprecedented potential to elicit empathy, which makes it perfect for a story I’m exploring about unconventional love and “otherness.”  It’s the first time I’m focusing more on myself and creating a role that showcases my acting range instead of a more ensemble piece where all my friends have equal screen time.

Right now I’m dying to work with Ana Lily Amirpour. Her debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is a huge inspiration for my VR project. She also spoke at the Nevada Women’s Film Festival in March where my film, The Man with the Western Hat, was accepted. I admire her work and she offered some real insight into navigating this industry. Her sophomore feature, The Bad Batch was just released June 23rd. I hope our paths cross one day.