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SUMMIT 2021: TEN TAKEAWAYS!

Written By Melvin Tunstall III

When I was assigned the task of sharing my Ten Takeaways, I thought “this will be easy!”

Whoa, was I wrong!

As I looked through all the notes, highlights, texts, and chats from the two days of Summit 2021, it became increasingly clear- settling on my top ten was going to be a challenge. This year’s summit was filled with theatermakers who have not only inspired us during the pandemic months, but are leading the way during theater’s great return and towards a brighter, more equitable future for all of us.

So, without future ado, here are my TEN TAKEAWAYS from SUMMIT 2021!

 

1. BUILD BETTER

“There is no going back to before. It’s about building better”  – Andrea Ambam

I promise I’m not starting here just because Marin Mazzie (RIP) singing “Back to Before” lives rent free in my head. I wanted to share this quote from our Beyond Inclusion Training: Reimagining Equitable Productions panel because I am a huge believer in “Building better.” I truly feel this weekend’s Summit was the perfect foundation to build upon.

 

2. PUT IT ON THE PAGE

“If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”  – Patrick Brady

I love this quote from our Untapped Potential of Universities panel from Patrick Brady! There is always a conversation around the use of “stage directions” and if writers should resist the urge to use too many in our scripts. I am inspired by Brady’s quote to make sure that the things that I definitely want to see onstage are included in my script, while still leaving room for the director’s and designers’ vision to come through!

 

3. MIND YOUR MOTIVATION

The minute you start creating for anything other than the creation- You’ve lost the art!You need to figure out your motivation- do you want to create or do you just want to be famous?” -Anna-Lee Wright

This tip from our Musical Theater TikTok panel goes right up there on my list of favorites with my favorite Gregory Hines quote “I never wanted fame. I just wanted to work.” I find myself in the battle of “fame vs. create” all the time. The desire for fame is natural in this business so don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. Just redirect your motivation back to the work and don’t waste time feeling guilty for wanting a little fame.

 

4. QUESTION YOUR COLLABORATORS

Consider the collaboration of the team- between the artist, playwright, director etc. Work with your team and continue to ask questions. Why do they want to do certain things this way and why? Get insight as to why they want to do certain things in certain spaces. ‘Does it enhance the story? Does it help? Why are we doing this?’” -David Korins

I wrote a line in one of my shows in which the lead character (a wise 8 year old) says “I just ask a lot of questions!” in response to another kid telling her she is smart. Questions are the key to wisdom and most importantly, collaboration. Our Designing Your Story panelists agree!

 

5. PREP BEFORE PRODUCE

Before you go before seasoned producers, know what the producer’s background and experience is. Make sure you know what they have experience in and how you can adapt to that. -Daryl Roth

Wanted to know How to Get Me to Produce Your Show? Well, you heard it directly from the producer’s mouth: Do your research! I promise no one is going to be offended that you know their resume and have done the work before sitting down for a meeting. Knowing your new work is the right fit for their office is paramount!

 

6. CALL WITH CONFIDENCE

“If there’s anyone you want to work with at any size in the industry, reach out to them.” – JJ Maley

Full disclosure: even I am intimidated by this advice. I have my sights set on a pretty major Tony winning star for my new musical. However, what I have learned over the course of working with a major casting office is “anything and anyone is possible.” Luckily, with producers like JJ Maley from our Next Generation of Broadway Producers panel, gaining the confidence to make that dream call just got easier. 

 

7. INVEST INITIALLY

“You should be an investor before you become a producer so you understand investors.” -E. Clayton Cornelious

For those of you out there with producing dreams, E. Clayton Cornelious couldn’t have said it any better. Just like the old saying “performers should work on the crew so they know what goes into running a show,” Cornelious sees value in investing before taking the reins as Producer. From someone who has watched E. Clayton’s journey from performer to investor to above-the-title producer, I say HEED HIS ADVICE from our Why Broadway Investor Invest panel!

 

8. DON’T FEAR THE FART!

“Don’t be afraid- if it ends up being a fart or pancake- you’re the only one who has to smell it. There is no guilt in trying- Just start”  – Douglas Lyons

I am still giggling over this quote from Douglas Lyons from our “How I Got Discovered” panel because it is the perfect example of the unique outlook on life that has made Lyons a voice to be reckoned with in this renaissance. There is so much value in trying. Now START!

 

9. THE NEED FOR NEW IS NOW

“Create something that is unique and new for a community who has never seen it before.” -Jacob Stuckelman

At our Out Of the (Black) Box panel, it was all about the endless possibilities Immersive theater and theater in non-traditional spaces can bring. I couldn’t help but sing the final line of “Move On” from Sunday In the Park With George when I heard Stuckleman’s advice: Give us more to see.

 

10. BE BRAVE

“You have to be brave to put yourself out there.” – Georgia Stitt

This quote comes from our “The Future is Female” panel, but the message is definitely for all of us. Fear is creativity’s mortal enemy, so the time for bravery is now. What’s important is to realize you are not alone. We all must face our fears when it comes to putting ourselves and our work into the world. Find strength in knowing we are with you all the way, theatermaker!

 

As I said, there are too many more incredible insights from the weekend to put in one post, so you already know we will have more incredible takeaways in the coming weeks! 

 

And look out for Ken Davenport’s takeaways on his blog tomorrow.

 

If you are already experiencing FOMO on Summit 2022, don’t worry, EARLY REGISTRATION has already begun!! CLICK HERE to secure your seat for next year’s Summit now! Use code ‘ATTENDEE21’ to register for just $197 through November 30th!  


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