Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Too Many Hats...

So many of us in this industry wear a lot of hats. Most of us have multiple descriptors after our names in our email signatures, social media bios, and website home page descriptions. “Steven Sabel, producer, director, designer, actor, writer, podcaster, and publicist.” Sheesh! Pick one already!

The truth is, many of us wear many hats in order to keep our options open and appear more desirable to potential employers. We say, “I can do that too!” with each of our descriptors. We are all trying to make it in the industry, and many of us do not really care which of our many talents gets us in the door: actor, singer, dancer, writer, director, stage manager, whatever it takes. The other side of that is we have to make a living. Many of us wear multiple hats because that is the only way we can pay the bills – picking up whatever gigs we can to add to the proverbial piggy bank however we are able.

There is also a risk to this. If your focus is spread too thin, you cannot apply yourself and talents fully to succeeding at any one thing. You’re an actor. You want to make big block buster movies someday. But you’re also a comedian. You love improv, you take your improv classes, you work on your stand-up routine, because you want to be on a popular sitcom someday. You’re also a writer. You love sketch comedy, and you write your own comic material because you want to be on “Saturday Night Live” someday. You’re also a burlesque dancer. You take your pole dancing classes, perfect your music choices, rehearse your routines, and spend your late nights titillating people into humorous desire. You’re busy! You’re doing all you can to make it. You’re wearing every hat you can think of – including that restaurant server hat you have to wear 20 hours a week to add to that piggy bank.

Here are the hats you are not wearing: business manager, publicist, webmaster, social media marketer, and overall executive director of your potential career. If you aren’t spending that 20 hours per week on these facets of your success, the only thing you will succeed at is being a good hat rack for your many choices of head wear.

As a producing artistic director, I know this far too well. My fellow producers, producing artistic directors, executive directors, managing artistic directors, artistic managing producer directors, and the like, will raise their voices in a silent cheer here as I write this self-aggrandizing truth: Nobody wears more hats than we do. While you are studying your lines, we are studying the bottom line, serving as accountants to our respective theatre organizations. While you are at improv class, we are improvising with available materials to design a set that will work for the show. While you are writing your sketch comedy, we are writing press releases to send to media outlets. While you are rehearsing your next dance routine, we are dancing around questions of financial viability, potential liability, and actors’ reliability.

Man of Many Hats

In addition to being an artistic leader, the producer/director must also often times just be a boss. On our minds at any given time are not just the artistic aspects of the project we are working on, but the business semantics of every decision involved. Our brains are constantly crowded with issues of finances, venue constraints, insurance policies, website updates, social media content, publicity, ticket sales, missing props, washing costumes, developing patrons, juggling schedules, coordinating designers, and a plethora of other responsibilities, including selecting the next project to do it all, all over again.

The producer/director/actor is an absolute crazy person. If you still have your wits about you, adding the actor hat to the mix will definitely drive you over the edge of sanity. It is also a risk that wearing the actor hat on top of the multitudinous head wear of the producer/director will foster a deep seeded resentment toward those who only have to learn their lines, show up to rehearsal, and “play” their parts. Producer/director/actor types would welcome the luxury of delving into their creative process as only an actor, without the weighty heaviness of their positions of leadership. Most of us can’t even remember what it is like to be at a rehearsal with only one task ahead of us – act your part.

Producing/directing isn’t for everyone. I have tremendous respect for those who have tried it and walked away (in some cases run away…screaming), and never looked back at the prospect of ever doing it again. I secretly chuckle at those who say they want to try it – many of them with what business leaders call the “field of dreams” model in their minds, or what marketers refer to (ironically) as the “black box” of their consumerism – but I always encourage them to go forward with their plans. One more producer/director, no matter how short-lived, is one more person who understands how difficult it is to do the job, let alone to do it successfully.

Nonetheless, each and every artist must learn to wear some of these hats concurrently for the advancement of their own careers. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: You have to do the work to get the work! If you find that you just cannot juggle your actor/comedian/writer/burlesque interests while also fulfilling the aspects of business manager and promoter for all four pursuits, then you have to pick and choose which hats you can successfully wear.

tam o'shanter

The truth of the matter is that most people just don’t have heads large enough to wear that many hats. A recent stint on stage in a production of “Henry IV,” served as a great reminder to me that even my head is a poor hat rack for too many chapeaus, and I suffered to find the level of concentration I needed to focus on the hat (crown) worn by my character. It was profoundly frustrating. Thankfully I had a director for the project who understood my plight, and did his best to take some of my hats off of my head so I could play my part.

Even still, you learn you can put the hats on. It is difficult to take them off when you want to. You can’t help but worry about how actors are handling their props, keeping actors from eating in costume, making sure ticket sales are up to par, facilitating house management, negotiating details with the venue, promoting the show, and a myriad of other producer duties that just don’t go away because you got the itch to get back on stage and want to be just an actor for a while. It’s tough.

So to all of those out there who are juggling their millinery, especially my fellow producer/director/actor friends: My hat’s off to you! To the rest: time to choose the correct tam o'shanter for your noggin…


PRODUCERS PANEL "SHOW ME THE MONEY" - SATURDAY, JULY 13TH

On Saturday, July 13, from 10 am until 12 noon, Better Lemons and Theatre West will be hosting “Show Me the Money!” with some of LA’s premiere theatrical producers sharing their fundraising success stories and secrets.

This is a great opportunity for LA’s vast theatrical community to grapple with the full spectrum of strategies for funding a production, from sponsors, advertisers, and membership campaigns to grants, solicitations, and gala events.

“Whose job is it to raise the money?"

“What are some long-term strategies for establishing funding for an entire season?”

“Are there individuals or organizations that are motivated to support local theatre and how do we find them?”

“How do we get support from the local community, from the city, from the county, from the state?”

The “Show Me the Money!” workshop will be a panel discussion and a conversation with the audience to address specific situations and opportunities.

All of the panelists are producers with a diverse background of fundraising experience, from attracting wealthy benefactors to leveraging public funds.

Confirmed Producers on the Panel:

ANDREW CARLBERG - Named by Variety as one of “Hollywoodʼs New Leaders,” Carlberg is an Academy Award-winning film, television, new media, Broadway and Los Angeles stage producer. Andrew’s extensive credits include, but aren’t limited to, ABC’s Castle, DirecTV’s Full Circle, Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet and Side Show, the Neil LaBute penned feature films Some Girl(s) and Dirty Weekend, actress Jennifer Morrison’s feature directorial debut Sun Dogs (Netflix 2018), the 2018 Official Sundance Selection The Blazing World, Celebration Theatre’s Ovation Award-winning productions of The Color Purple: The MusicalThe Boy From Oz, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the cult hit improv-based show The Blind Date Project, and the critically-acclaimed and award-winning LA premiere of Rotterdam at the Skylight Theatre (which was subsequently remounted at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre).

This past fall Andrew completed production on the feature film The Pleasure of Your Presence (starring Alicia Silverstone, Mathilde Ollivier and Tom Everett Scott), and produced the Los Angeles return production of Tony winner Sarah Jones's smash hit Sell/Buy/Date (The Renberg Theatre at the LA LGBT Center).

Carlberg also produced Skin, which won the 2019 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film.

Andrew is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an alum of Film Independent’s Fast Track Producing Fellowship and New York’s Independent Filmmaker Project, and an event producer for the I Have a Dream Foundation - Los Angeles and the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

FRIER McCOLLISTER is an independent theatrical producer and general manager based in Los Angeles. Most recently, he served as producer on Sandra Tsing Loh’s holiday hit Sugar Plum Fairy at The Skylight Theatre in December. He will co-produce the show with East West Players in December of this year.

He served as Associate Producer for the South Coast Repertory production of the show in 2017 as well as for SCR’s production of Ms. Loh’s The Madwoman in the Volvo and its subsequent productions at Pasadena Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

He has produced the west coast premieres of all Ms. Loh’s solo performance pieces beginning with Aliens in America and Bad Sex with Bud Kemp at the Tiffany Theatre and more recently The Bitch is Back (Broad Stage/ Eyde).

With Joel Viertel, he is the original producer of the hip hop dance hit GROOVALOO. He has served as general manager on a wide range of commercial productions in Los Angeles, notably The Vagina Monologues (Canon Theatre); Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (Ahmanson Theatre); Eric Idle’s Rutlemania! (Montalban; Blender NYC); and Pee Wee’s Playhouse (Club Nokia). As general manager, he operated the Coronet Theatre (now Largo at The Coronet) and The Falcon Theatre (now The Garry Marshall Theatre) and served as Managing Director of the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles in 1994, he served as company manager on a variety of Broadway and off Broadway productions and toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

He is currently the Los Angeles steward for the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (A.T.P.A.M.).

SPIKE DOLOMITE is the executive director of Theatre West. She has a 20 year background in arts nonprofit management. She started her own nonprofit, Arts in Education Aid Council, which got the arts back into San Fernando Valley public schools.

Her producer credits include producing the Valley Wide Student Art Show and Family Arts Festival for 10 years in a row (the audience doubled every year until it hit 5,000), the Valley Artists Studio Tour, the Reseda Open Studio Tour, Reseda Rocks Again for the Reseda Neighborhood Council, and Ian Ruskin in To Begin the World Again – the Life of Thomas Paine, and From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks, at both Emerson UUC and Theatre West, The Vagina Monologues directed Emmalinda MacLean at Emerson UUC, Tom Dugan’s Wiesenthal at Theatre West, and coming up in July a reading of Twelve Angry July by twelve Los Angeles attorneys.

Spike has received personal recognition from the City of Los Angeles on several occasions for her advocacy in supporting the arts in the San Fernando Valley and was one of the very first Community Champions for the Annenberg Foundation’s Alchemy program, mentoring nonprofit leaders on how to build stronger boards.

Spike also has a long background in grassroots community organizing and is using those skills to bring people together in the LA theatre community to brainstorm, share best practices and pass on fundraising tips!

STEFANIE LAU is is an arts administrator specializing in marketing, fundraising, and audience development with almost 20 years of experience in Los Angeles theatre. She is a co-founder and Producing Artistic Leader of Artists at Play, a theatre company dedicated to telling the stories of underrepresented communities, with a focus on the Asian American experience. Her work with Artists at Play includes mainstage productions, new play development, fundraisers and other special events. Stefanie previously worked at Center Theatre Group, East West Players and the Ford Amphitheater, among others. She has been part of Cold Tofu Improv since 2003 in numerous capacities: student, producer, managing director, board member and current marketing manager. A graduate of UCLA, Stefanie sits on the national board of the Consortium of Asian American Theatres and Artists. Twitter @MsStefanieL

MONIKA RAMNATH is the Development Manager at Ford Theatres, formerly at East West Players.

Previous panels include Meet the Critics, Meet the Critics II, and Meet the Publicists. Listen to them at SoundCloud.com/betterlemons/meet-the-critics-panel-june-2018 and SoundCloud.com/betterlemons/meet-the-critics-ii-panel-october-2018.

As for “Show Me the Money!” bring your questions and your coffee mug for some fresh brew from Theatre West!

WHEN:
Saturday, July 13th, 2019
10am – 12 noon

WHERE:
Theatre West
3333 Cahuenga Blvd West
Hollywood, CA 90068

Parking is in lot across the street for $5 cash.

RSVP to office@theatrewest.org or via the form below: