The fifth annual From Page To Stage festival of new musicals, founded by Aria Entertainment’sprolific producer Katy Lipson, opens at its new home of The Other Palace next Monday 14 August 2017 (with Mates co-founder Terri Paddock will chair a post-showcase debate with Katy and other guests). In between her touring shows, Edinburgh Fringe and overseeing the new three-week season, I caught up with Katy. I wanted to ask her what she looks for in a production and what motivates her.
I’m curious, what’s the longest run-in time for one of your shows to be produced?
The Addams Family we got the rights for it in September/October 2014 and we launched the tour in January 2017. So yes that would be the longest run-in. I knew then that big things were going to happen for Aria but couldn’t say. I had to keep programming things in so that the name was out there, and people would think ‘she’s ambitious’ and know my name. Also, I had a mammoth amount of money to raise, but it never really fazed me, I just knew I had to do it. I had to keep putting out great work so people kept talking about Aria. So when I did go to raise the money, I could show why I was investable.
What makes a good production to produce in your eyes? What do you look for?
A great story that people want hear, and see, great protagonists. And great music that people want to hear. Why is the show a musical, what is the musical language? As a growing producer, you choose shows for many different reasons. You choose shows because you want to work with that actor, or you think a show will work in a particular theatre. You choose shows because you think this show is commercial and could make me some money, that I can then use elsewhere.
Since forming Aria in 2012, I’ve always produced shows I love. Each show I’ve produced, I’ve grown and it has taught me more. I’ve learnt what audiences respond to and what the industry responds to.
Every show you’ve seen me do I’ve loved and I would see it every night if I could. From Jerry’s Girls to Tommy to The Return Of The Soldier to The Addams Family to Toxic Avenger, I’ve loved them all. I produce shows which connect with me because I have to go with my gut. And in the past, I’ve not always thought enough about the audience. That’s not to say the audiences didn’t love my shows, but it was hard to make money. Shows don’t always make money and that’s hard, it’s very hard but you learn.
Over the years, the more I’ve learnt, and now I want to say to you: the next five years every musical I produce will be a new musical which I’ve shepherded from the start. TKaty – that’s the dream, to be like the American producers.
So that’s the dream, Katy. Tell me what gets you up in the morning? What’s your motivation?
I always say that I’m an artist and Aria is run more like I’m an Artistic Director. I want to be able to say: I’ve found the next Jonathan Larson. I’m inspired by being the first, by recognising and discovering. That is rewarding, that is fulfilling. So what gets me up in the morning is being the artist.
As a producer, I champion producers. People don’t generally know about them, they’ll know the show or the star but they won’t know who the producer is? But a production is a team effort.
It’s been two years since you’ve been Aria full-time – Has there ever been a time in those two years that you’ve thought to yourself I’ve made the wrong decision?
Well, yes maybe twice but that feeling never lasted long. 2015 was hard and of course as a producer you don’t make any money at the start. If you ethically produce and pay everyone what they should be or can be paid there’s not enough money for you to take money to, so it’s hard.
Moving on to From Page To Stage It’s exciting that it’s moved into The Other Palace – how did that happen?
I had a meeting with the president of RUG (Really Useful Group) and she really loved what I was doing. And she said basically, you must meet Andrew, which I did and he said this must come to The Other Palace would you like to? I said I’d love to, for me it’s another step up. It’s a wonderful theatre with a great artistic policy and fundamentally it’s gives more brand awareness to what I am doing.
I’ve done a lot of fundraising this year and have got some great support and sponsorship for this Not for Profit Festival in this very expensive performance space. Caroline I’ve noticed that the ticket prices have been kept affordable which is great for people to take a chance to see something different – that’s wonderful. Katy – yes and it’s because of the fundraising and support that I’m able do that with 20 new shows in a three-week Festival.
It’s a chance for people to see something new, and to feel that they are in at the start of something. To be inspired and feel that they have discovered something.
Tell me about your mindset for From Page To Stage – What do you look for in the submissions?
It has to be a great story, a topical issue, that I think people may want to connect with or listen to? This festival has some funny stories well not funny different. There’s a story about a one-way ticket to Mars. One about doomsday and the last day on earth. There’s an amazing transgender story. And then there’s the Burt Bacharach with its iconic score and style but it’s a chamber story, a four-hander. All of these shows have been chosen because they’ve meant something to me I’ve connected with them.
I also have to look a thing the overall picture and think about how they all work together in the programme. Luckily we had 302 submissions, they were shortlisted to 75 and then I got the last 35 to work from. And they just fell into place luckily, they just worked.
What one piece of advice would you give a budding producer?
To have vision, have ideas, you can’t be a producer without ideas. What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to be a commercial producer? Independently produce off West End or do you want to work for a bigger producer and learn that way? Be ambitious, don’t ever be afraid to knock on any door. Don’t ever think you can’t do something. Believe in yourself, what’s the worst that can happen you don’t get something. Never think you aren’t big enough to ask.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a writer?
Know your business, know your craft. Ask yourself does anyone want to read this piece. Know who is producing new musicals. Put the time in, research all the theatre’s, the commercial producers, don’t just think it will happen. Look at the Arts Council how do you get a grant? Do your groundwork, do your research.
Three quirky questions
If you could go back in time to any era when would you go back to?
The golden era of Broadway musicals.
What Super hero/Super power?
I’d love to be able to fly, so I’d be a super hero who could fly.
Special dinner with three special guests who would you invite?
The composer Bach
And I’d always have my grandpa
I’m sure you’ll agree what an insightful and inspirational interview this is.
Thank you so much for your time Katy.
Please support From Page To Stage you can find out the whole season HERE!
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