Filmed Live Musicals

Prima Theatre with Mitch Nugent

August 17, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Filmed Live Musicals
Prima Theatre with Mitch Nugent
Chapters
Filmed Live Musicals
Prima Theatre with Mitch Nugent
Aug 17, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3

Host Luisa Lyons chats with Mitch Nugent, founder and artistic director of Prima Theatre. Based in Lancaster, PA, Prima is a non-profit organization focused on invigorating lives through fresh theatrical experiences.

An experienced director, actor, and producer Mitch Nugent has led Prima, from its start in 2010 as a nomadic organization, to its own home in 2018. On the west side of Lancaster City, Prima’s new venue offers an exciting location for boutique musicals, concerts and special events. At the helm of raising over 1.3 million dollars for renovating the facility, Nugent has transformed Lancaster’s cultural landscape with a venue that offers an immersive and flexible space, free parking within the city limits, and state of the art technology.

Visit Filmed Live Musicals at www.filmedlivemusicals.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support the site at Patreon.  

Host Luisa Lyons is an Australian actor, writer, and musician. She holds a Masters in Music Theatre from London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and now lives, works, and plays in New York. Learn more at www.luisalyons.com or follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Show Notes Transcript

Host Luisa Lyons chats with Mitch Nugent, founder and artistic director of Prima Theatre. Based in Lancaster, PA, Prima is a non-profit organization focused on invigorating lives through fresh theatrical experiences.

An experienced director, actor, and producer Mitch Nugent has led Prima, from its start in 2010 as a nomadic organization, to its own home in 2018. On the west side of Lancaster City, Prima’s new venue offers an exciting location for boutique musicals, concerts and special events. At the helm of raising over 1.3 million dollars for renovating the facility, Nugent has transformed Lancaster’s cultural landscape with a venue that offers an immersive and flexible space, free parking within the city limits, and state of the art technology.

Visit Filmed Live Musicals at www.filmedlivemusicals.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support the site at Patreon.  

Host Luisa Lyons is an Australian actor, writer, and musician. She holds a Masters in Music Theatre from London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and now lives, works, and plays in New York. Learn more at www.luisalyons.com or follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Filmed Live Musicals  
Welcome to the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, a podcast about stage musicals that have been legally and publicly distributed. The Filmed Live Musicals website contains information on nearly 200 musicals that have been captured live. Check it out at filmedlivemusicals.com, and now on with the show. 

Luisa Lyons  
Hello, and welcome to the Filmed Live Musicals podcast. I'm your host Luisa Lyons. And joining me today is Mitch Nugent, director, actor and producer and the executive artistic producer of Prima Theatre, founded in 2010. Prima Theatre is situated in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is home to boutique musicals, theatrical concerts and special events. Guest performers have included Stephen Schwartz, Billy Porter, Alice Ripley, Jason Robert Brown, and Shoshana Bean to name just a few. Prima were in the midst of their 10th season when the shutdown happened but it has not stopped the company from innovating and creating theatrical experiences for its audiences. Welcome, Mitch.

Mitch Nugent  
Well, hello, I'm pumped to be with you.

Luisa Lyons  
We're very excited to find out what you've been up to these past few months.

Mitch Nugent  
It's been a journey.

Luisa Lyons  
I can't wait to hear about it. So before we get into that, can you tell us about the world of Prima theater before the shut down?

Mitch Nugent  
For about eight years we've been a roving nomadic organization specifically focused on invigorating people's lives with fresh theatrical experiences. We were at a number venues, about 15 of them, over that first eight years. We started in the Great Recession, which set us up well to be resourceful going into the current circumstances. After eight seasons, we had a great opportunity to get into our own venue, thanks to a number of folks in the community really believing in power of fresh theatrical experiences. And so we've had our first year, last year, and then life changed. So we got a full season in. 

Luisa Lyons  
One whole season! 

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, within our own space. So, you know, be careful when you think you've arrived (laughs)! Things can shift. We really felt like there was a flavor of the arts that our community and our artists in the area were interested in experiencing. And so we're kind of that that off-Broadway house, basically for Central Pennsylvania.

Luisa Lyons  
That's amazing. And I'm so sorry that the pandemic got in the way of your second season.

Mitch Nugent  
Well, you know, it certainly creates more sleepless nights and yet in some ways, refines our organization to be focused on the core values that define what our purpose is and how we engage the community in this art form. And so, to some degree, I am grateful for it. And yet, like any challenging circumstance, you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. And yet for arts and culture, this is such an opportunity.

Luisa Lyons  
What would you define as Prima's purpose?

Mitch Nugent  
It's to invigorate people's lives with fresh theatrical experiences. One big one that a lot of folks have a variety of feelings about, Chick-fil-a, its mission is to "bring chicken to the people", which is an interesting thing, because most of us, including myself, would think, well it's to get people to their buildings to buy chicken. But when they say it's to bring chicken to the people, in reality, when I heard that during the pandemic, that invigorating people's lives with fresh theatre doesn't necessarily have to happen in the confines of a traditional space. As you know, the art form has existed in a variety of manners and over thousands of years. So our understanding of what that has to look like, in contemporary culture, perhaps is at the corner of a significant shift.

Luisa Lyons  
It's very exciting, and the changes, the potential for theater and what we can see online and in the world of theater in general. It's very exciting.

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, well, what are your big insights? I mean, what have you felt like that you've seen that has been potentially transformative.

Luisa Lyons  
The belief that filmed theater is a thing is a massive shift, particularly in the United States. There was a huge resistance to filming theater and making it available to people. There's fear that it will affect ticket sales. There's the belief that it's not theater at all once you film it, that it has to be live, it has to be in the room. And that belief has shifted. And I think we can thank "Hamilton" a lot for that, the huge response to it. And just the huge response to theater online in general. I don't think people, certainly the Broadway community, were expecting an audience for this kind of stuff. So that leads me to ask about, was "Calling all Kates" your current production when the pandemic hit?

Mitch Nugent  
Yes.

Luisa Lyons  
Can you talk about what happened?

Mitch Nugent  
We were starting to get the rumblings in the closing week. And so we were able to finish out the run of this tremendous new musical that felt like "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" met the "Gilmore Girls". Just a joyful piece, the sort of end of one era of life in America. And within a matter of just a few days, we're starting to make phone calls to find out does insurance cover pandemics? So within less than two weeks, we were pivoting towards how can we fulfill our mission within new confines. By doing a bunch of fresh work, it has allowed us to do some things that other organizations just don't have the legal capacity to do. Also the relationships to some of the Broadway guest artists that we had in the past, allowed for certain people to be in my cell phone Rolodex more quickly. And we just had some resources at hand of some of the writers to say, "hey, this is such an opportunity to get your work seen by a broader audience." We're working with, at that point, a lot of non-union performers. So the archival work we had, we had filmed almost all of our productions for the last 10 years. So working with a load of non-union performers who are pros in their own right or have gone on to be equity or what have you. We just had a great load of HD footage that we had been getting multi camera shot for years. And the realities were the rights companies had no interest in that kind thing. We could shoot those kind of things for marketing purposes. And so we had some of this footage that we would never release publicly based on legal confines and then the rights companies are going, "Well. Now maybe things change." The necessity to go through all the proper channels for some of the work which was owned by the grand rights companies, those, we have archival footage legally that we weren't allowed to release. But some of those new musicals or the theatrical concerts, we were able to basically put within a month, an entire Netflix library out. 

Luisa Lyons  
That has certainly been a big change that the licensing companies have said, "Oh, yes, streaming, is it okay now!" 

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, the rules have been really so restricted for years. And the reality is that they're trying to protect the artists, they're trying to protect the bottom line, I completely understand that. And yet, we were already talking about the industry being something that some folks were declaring as a dying art form. Perhaps because we're not providing access to this. Like movie trailers give away the entire movie. And still people go and see movies, right? Or did. And will. So finally we can we can in some ways give people a taste of the work if we film it well, if we don't do it halfway. Clearly there's an audience for it, like you mentioned from a Hamilton standpoint, if you do it well you can get the essence of the experience and when it comes back live, there's an audience for it. But what we do now, matters. How well we do that.

Luisa Lyons  
So you said you had footage from 10 years ago? You said archival recordings, but why were you recording even then?

Mitch Nugent  
So we had footage from 10 years of shows, mostly for marketing purposes. We would want to have that moment of a song that we could put out with our ASCAP, BMI and SESAC rights, which are the music rights to specific songs that are outside of a musical. And then when our brand rights through an organization like Samuel French or MTI or Broadway licensing, when those contracts would allow, we would film the show in its entirety. And so we were always interested in getting the rights for that because we were so proud of the work we were doing, we wanted artists to be able to access that. Most of the time, they would have to come into the Prima office to even watch it. And that game has changed. I went knocking on rights companies doors, calling in. Amazingly, some of those brand rights companies were opening up their their vice president of legal affairs in conversation because they're trying to figure it out at the same time the theatres are trying to figure it out. And so there were some great conversations. Some folks and some artists didn't feel comfortable releasing their goods, or their managers are frightened about opening up every opportunity, that perhaps their work won't be honored. Or you know, will people want to buy the rights down the line? But it seems like the gates have generally been opened and who knows what the future looks like, as we all are watching and seeing what's happening around the world. What does the future of the arts look like?

Luisa Lyons  
Yup, when do we get that magical vaccine?

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah! Always looking for, like, the iPhone is the mix between a computer and a phone. This hybrid model, it didn't exist before. I have conversations quite a bit and those sort of those sleepless nights of going, where is that next major innovation? Where's the light bulb moment between what we are seeing from a digital standpoint? And in some ways, there's gonna be some melding. And in trying to figure out what that looks like. There's a lot of ideas, there's people doing online theater that is live, or is the streamed content or what have you. There's a myriad of ways in which people are trying to take the theater forward in this new era. And I'm not sure I have seen the answer, where you go, "Oh, that's it. That's the future." But at this point, it feels like folks in positions like mine are throwing a lot of things at the wall, purposely curating and crafting things and shipping them out to the community and going "Does this have an audience?"

Luisa Lyons  
Does this stick? 

Mitch Nugent  
Yes! We as an organization, to fulfill that mission of invigorating people's lives through these theatrical experiences, we've thrown out a few different ideas, and some of them have worked great. And some of them, nobody seems to care. And we went, "okay." There's risk involved. And at this point, we need to try a few things as well as we can and see what sticks.

Luisa Lyons  
Something I'm very passionate about is that filmed life theatre is an alternative to live theater. Its never going to replace it because people always want that live person experience. But having said that, what do you think when when you film say, "Calling All Kates," you film that show, and now it's available online through Prima, what is the object that is now that film? Is it theater or is it film? Is it something else?

Mitch Nugent  
There's been a quite a load of discussion about that. I've heard a lot of artistic leaders say, "Well, that's not theatre." And that makes, just sharing my personal opinion, that makes me feel uncomfortable. No, you're not in the room. And yet, when I watch a documentary on arena concerts, there is an essence of feeling that you're connected to that experience. And so it may not be the totality of it, but your heart rises up, you get some of those same emotional, some of the same things are happening within your body, not to the hundred percent, or perhaps being in the room. I have a hard time with that concept of saying, well, that's not theater. I mean it depends on how religious you want to be about it. How dogmatic you want to be about it. And to be honest, I don't think those of us that are producing it, to some degree, holding on to what was is not helpful at this point. I don't think we have time to be stuck in that. But rather perhaps instead of looking back and going, well, what are the things that we're mourning the loss of? Could we be just looking forward to say, "well, what's  next?" And that doesn't mean that live is going anywehre, it's crucial, and certainly the ultimate experience, but I think you have a great point in saying, "Hey, this has a place." 

Luisa Lyons  
Absolutely. We've been filming theater since we invented cameras and we've been performing since we became humans, and maybe even before that. And so it is exciting to think about what is the next step in that iteration?

Mitch Nugent  
There's been a number of ideas. There's one, a New York composer did a bunch of New York Theater Festival work back in the day. And he had an idea about there needing to be a label for albums of musicals that don't happen in New York, but that people should hear. They should experience. And in his mind, he obviously wasn't thinking about film and in some ways that is an off-limits category right outside of bootlegs. So to think that there's been these inkling concepts of what would it look like? Imagine the artists that their work, may never make it into an app. But some of the best work isn't necessarily happening in the confines of have specific locations or cities. And some of the best theater I've seen has been in the midwest, or on the west coast. And it never goes to New York or it's so far off Broadway that it never gets noticed, and yet can be the best art. If it's filmed, and the world can see it, it almost seems like access changes the game.

Luisa Lyons  
And it changes the power dynamic because it's this old idea that Broadway is the best. And there is so much wonderful theater happening outside of New York that New Yorkers don't get to see and the people outside of those towns don't get to see. So that's why film theater allows us access to those things. And hopefully, the positive that will come out of the pandemic is that people will see these great works that, like you said, don't get a bigger stage time. So that brings me back to "Calling All Kates." I'm very curious, do you have an in house team that film your shows? Or do you bring in a team for each production?

Mitch Nugent  
We have the immense gift that is a volunteer that comes in with multi cameras to multiple theaters because he cares about arts. And he does it out of love for it. So for years, that's what it has been. Previous to that, there's a number of film companies in the area - because Lancaster PA is kind of in between Philly and DC and Baltimore and Pittsburgh. We're a three hour drive from a lot of big cities. So, this area has a lot of film. Previous to that we had partnerships with a variety of film companies. But as a small, scrappy, nonprofit, that wasn't sustainable. Specifically that there wasn't a means in which to offer a ticketed experience that you could stream something for a price point. And so at some point, we had to go, "Oh, we might have to make this a volunteer experience." So, for years now, a gentlemen has been doing that. And realistically, there are videos that we have shot with the 4k setting on an iPhone that have been immensely successful for marketing campaigns. Nobody knows what, I mean it's better than our SLR camera that we bought six years ago. There's so much that one can do if you have in some ways the right team behind it, and a few pieces of technology. So often what we find is that it's mostly about the people that are passionate about what you do. If you have anybody in your network that can manage this and I see companies that are coming up out of the woodwork to be able to offer this. But I look at small nonprofit organizations, and this is a great way to spend a lot of money that we don't all have. And it's not really necessary. Quality matters, the multi camera shots, I think that matters for experiencing it in this kind of platform. But, but I do question who has got the equipment that just care about the art enough to participate?

Luisa Lyons  
Okay, so you have your team of volunteers, you hear rumblings that a shutdown might be happening. Was "Calling all Kates" filmed before the shutdown was announced or was it going to be filmed anyway>

Mitch Nugent  
That's a good question where the timing happened. I think we schedule it to be filmed if we have the right to. So for that show, specifically, I believe we had it filmed in the first or second night of the run. So it was already in process. I vaguely recall, texting the gentlemen about it. And usually it's like, well, we don't need this footage for a couple months. It's gonna sit in a Dropbox account, and maybe used for a montage of our past history, a year from now. Until we said, "Hey, any chance you could finish that one in the next 48 hours?!" I think it wasn't foreign to him to understand why we were looking at that. The writers, the book writer and the music writer, were seeing the art potentially go into such a rough period of time. They said, "Yep, do what you need to do get the work out there and fine if it's going to support." We utilize online content to support out of work theater artists, as well as just keep this company thriving and, and so that that mission helped a lot of folks say, "Yep, I don't mind my content going towards supporting those kinds of causes."

Luisa Lyons  
So the shut down happens. You have this content sitting in your Dropbox and it gets edited. You get permission from Emily Goodson and Jeremy Schoenfeld. 

Mitch Nugent  
Yes. 

Luisa Lyons  
And the actors in the show. And then what was the process to launching Prima Now, your online platform?

Mitch Nugent  
Trying to see what was what was happening in the industry. There was a number of folks looking at a variety of ways of doing it. We questioned it. I saw folks that were putting out content for free with a donate button, and instinct and some data told me that that wasn't really going to be the most effective route. And we were trying to figure out how do we package things? One of my passions is marketing. It's about influence. As sale-sy as that is, as "marketing" can sound, that dirty word, it's about helping move people in a direction and if it can be used for good. And so the question was, how could we package this content in a way that could support the causes that these people care about? And when it's a side thing to push a donate button, I'm thinking, I don't know if I would do that. But if I knew I'm doing something good, I'm making an impact, and I'm going to get this library of content. So we just threw out as a team, we're a staff of three people. There was a lot of churning and ruminating on how do we package this thing which became Prima Now. At first we knew we had about four or five shows or concerts that made sure we were covering all the bases in terms of rights, and permissions and blessings from the artists and all that jazz. And then it turned into dozens of productions and content. Some of them went out for a period of time -  Jekyll and Hyde, Frank Wildhorn kindly gave us a few weeks of putting up that production. We were trying to figure out how do we package this thing. One smart man said, "this is the time for it to be about others. This is the time to be generous." I guess it's that concept of when you're drowning, the natural thing to do is kind of hold tight, grasp onto things and bring others things underwater with you, versus to calm down and float. Think. Process. So we took the time. We weren't the first people to come out with streaming content. But what we did do is think about it. Look at what was going on in the world. What did we think was going to be the most effective route. And we were able to raise thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for out of work for artists. And to help them. It's the time where we were going to see $100,000 gap. At that point, we only thought we were gonna close for what 30 days. So we saw a huge, what seemed like an insurmountable financial gap that was coming, and the community and the world at large, and as you mentioned, people seeing things in other countries and we were hearing from folks in Europe, specifically that were so excited about seeing fresh work that they wouldn't otherwise experience. So we were able to raise the money for those out of work theater artists, as well as to keep the lights on at the theater so that those out of work theater artists would actually have work when things return. So it's the natural thing to go "well, the theaters are going to be okay." Well, we're thinking about the artists, we need to make sure that there's a place for them to get work when things return. So keeping the lights on is fairly crucial.

Luisa Lyons  
And has the Prima Now program has that allowed you essentially to stay open? 

Mitch Nugent  
It helped the first couple months for us to get a sense that things were going to be okay for the short term. We thought okay, well then we'll get back to our main programming and the fundraiser that's going to be in the spring, our summer plans are going to get up and then you start to do cash flow planning and go "Okay, well, looks like it might be just June, July, August." Okay, we'll plan through August. And so it helped us through that first early phase when who knew what the government was gonna do right?! And reality is none of those programs which are out there are saving graces for a small nonprofit theaters. So it's also right now a platform in which we're asking questions about what is the future of that look like? So did it fill all of our gaps? No. But what it is also offering is an opportunity for us to engage patrons and folks who may never otherwise experience our work. We're looking at what does it look like in this next upcoming season for us to package streaming shows, whether it's individual tickets or its subscriptions. It helps engage donors. It helps subscribers. What if we are providing just like you would you watch it if you were watching some sort of sporting event? And there's an after game, you know, analysis or what have you. What if some of this online content would allow us to offer folks who did see a show in person: up in the dressing room, here's the lead actor giving his play by play. And so it becomes more of an overall experience than it is. Now, just something that's more boxed in 

Luisa Lyons  
Oh, that's exciting. I love as an audience member the idea of having backstage access. It is very cool.

Mitch Nugent  
You know, there's one night during a show run that might have a talkback with guest. Well, if you can't attend that night, you're out of luck to get the insights. We're gonna make that kind of content available. So these kind of streaming platforms to Filmed Live Musicals are obviously the meat, but then we asked what's the rest of the meal around that. And I think there's going to be a full pallet ahead. And we do need our broader community, our nation, to support the organizations as we reframe the very essence of what we do. Because as so many companies are having to think about, like I was an architect firm for schools, but you know, now that looks a lot different. We have to rethink. It'll be really interesting to see your podcasts a year from now. And what what kind of tales you'll be telling,

Luisa Lyons  
Yeah, you got me really excited with the idea of the palette. It makes me think of DVD sets, and how in DVDs we used to get all these extras and there was commentary and backstage access and all kinds of fun stuff on a DVD package, which streaming content doesn't have a lot of? It's usually just the show. And so I love the idea that streaming could come with all those extras.

Mitch Nugent  
It's interesting because I did hear someone mentioned that statistics with Disney+ right now, listeners, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I am hearing is that the documentaries on the behind the scenes of the Disney world are getting more viewership than was ever expected and sometimes bigger than the main meat content. So folks are interested in getting that exclusive look at things. And so we're looking at how do we make some of that content that is only available to folks who are investing in the cause, and some of it available to the broader public, for folks to learn about art form and to be engaged. I was that kid who would never have been able to afford to go to Broadway constantly. Perhaps things like Calling All Kates, a new musical, that they feel like, okay, I can wrap my head around. That's music that I would like to listen to. You know that this may be the way that a 12-year-old decides that they're going to invest their life in a creative way.

Luisa Lyons  
So many times I hear industry people talking about bootlegs being their in to theater, especially people that grew up outside of the major cities. Bootlegs were how they saw theatre for the first time for many people. And whether we agree with bootlegs or not, they exist and they provide access to people. And what's so exciting about the pandemic is that with all this theater being made available online, it's providing access in a way that we never have had. The fact that we can watch Hamilton for $6.99 when you know the average ticket was like 300 bucks. And now everyone can see it in a way that they couldn't before.

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah and that's scary for the folks who are involved in the making of things in terms of the boundaries, the systems in place, in some ways all the walls come crashing down and it can be fear inducing. And it also can be so exciting to think of what that's gonna mean for access but also, in some ways you get to build something new that may not have been working very well in the first place.

Luisa Lyons  
Well, we so often talk about theater as this egalitarian, all are welcome, we are equal in the theater. But not everyone, whether for money or physical distance or physicality - people with disabilities often can't get into an actual theater. And so for location and money and physical bodies, screening theater changes all of that.

Mitch Nugent  
That's awesome. You're certainly bringing some things to light that, you know, I haven't put enough time thinking through in terms of that access. When Spotify came and all the streaming content, you could listen to music that otherwise may not play on the radio. And you're in a Kansas town let's say... Like, perhaps our worlds can become a little bit smaller and more loving if we were able to connect a little bit further.

Luisa Lyons  
That's a beautiful and perfect transition into your next project to bring theater to people, "Brave and Beautiful". Can you talk a little bit about that?

Mitch Nugent  
We had a concert that was on the schedule and it hit us over the head with all that was happening in our world, specifically from Black Lives Matters and from COVID, that there's so much pain and distress and negativity that is in our world right now. And yet there's so much bravery and beauty that can get missed amidst the lens of some of those horror stories that that are happening in our world. And it's not to dishonor some of those struggles that are going on, those are real and important to embrace and to work through. And, and so when we talk about bravery and beauty, it's about working through that and to see the bravery amidst the muck. And so we're doing a drive-in storytelling concert experience that's on the back of a giant flatbed truck with trussing, and lighting and a baby grand piano. And because it's big, it can have a whole band on edge and we can still socially distance and with in-ear monitors and the full get out. And we're also going to be taking that act and parading it through town, like the Rolling Stones and U2 did in Manhattan back in the day. And so it's just a way that under what was in Pennsylvania the red phase, the most closed phase, we were trying to figure out, how do we take this to the people? And so we can put it on a truck and bring it to people's houses. One author said during all of this thing, really early on, was that "This is not the time to be efficient, efficient, will not be effective." And the thing was we've been in a world that's moving so fast that the most of efficient thing is to shoot out an email to thousands of people. that's not personalized at all.  That we all know is B.S. right? It's a sales pitch email versus the call to a single human. And so we figured out that what does it look like for theater to be that connected on an individual basis? And we're exploring what does that look like? So for "Brave and Beautiful," it's the music of Beyonce and Adele and Sarah Bareilles and Aretha Franklin with local and national stories from the last few months. So it's COVID and Black Lives Matters. These local and national stories that are embodying bravery and beauty that we're seeing in our world and then connecting some of the music that those great singer songwriters that fit the bill.

Luisa Lyons  
I love that it's very female driven too.

Mitch Nugent  
Yes. That was the original intent of the piece. It was going to be pretty gender focused and about female empowerment and that still is true of this work. And certainly, we have a number of causes and issues to work through society we're going to do them all at the same time! 

Luisa Lyons  
We're going to fix the world with this one show! 

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah. But you know, when we look back at what the New Deal did in the early 1900s, and the position and the power of the arts, specifically when you make it available to the masses in an accessible way, how it transformed pop culture, politics and prejudice. To imagine what your focus is, is on these Filmed Live Musicals, imagine what that could look like for our society. When we talk about what does pop culture look like? What does our politics look like? What does prejudice look like? Change can happen.

Luisa Lyons  
Absolutely. And it keeps bringing to mind, this idea I'm picturing of your cast on the back of the truck, it brings to mind the medieval troubadours traveling around on a wagon.

Mitch Nugent  
Yes! My wife said, realistically, there's that connection between theatre and organized religion. Like in terms of your're creating community, you're creating an experience, you're moving people emotionally and spiritually and what have you. And as uncomfortable perhaps as connecting those two thingssay, well, that may look different in different generations. And theater and capitalism may have had a relationship that needs to shift. And the scary thing is as a producer running an organization is the reality that I have a core value of smashing the box. Of seeing where the status quo is and breaking it down. And then realizing that sometimes when the status quo is benefiting you that you're going to have to go through your own pain in the process to make to do what is in the best interest of the group. You know, check back in a year to see how I'm feeling about that.

Luisa Lyons  
Let's keep that optimism! I love it. Let's keep keep celebrating that. Will Brave and Beautiful be filmed? 

Mitch Nugent  
Ah yes... I had to think about that! Because you still navigate by going through the checkmarks of all the rights boxes. Making sure that we are honoring the authors of the work. We have set the circumstances up for for that. So yeah, I think you will be seeing Brave and Beautiful ahead if I make that possible and I think a number of other works as we head into 2021. One of the questions that's now being asked in our rights agreements is we need to be able to stream this, how can we make that possible if people can't see this in the space? Or what if we need to give people the choice? So let's say something changes, and you know,  it's a week before the show, and you plan to see it in theater, and now you're not feeling so comfortable about that? What if we need to provide the flexibility for people to to be able to go from seeing it to streaming it and then if they want to rewatch it a year from now? To engage that creative concept that might inspire some other project that they're working on in their business world. So everything I had in 2021, has new filters at the front lines of even considering material. Is it safe? Is it streamable? And also, can we produce this with less than 50 people in the house if we had to? Yeah. It's a wild set of new filters to consider.

Luisa Lyons  
How are you rehearsing with your performers and keeping them socially distanced?

Mitch Nugent  
Sometimes that means doing things outdoors. Currently a lot of the work we've been doing is home concerts. So bringing that kind of experience into people's safe spaces. And so those are often being like out on people's patio and telling stories and providing music. We're obviously musically focused. So those main ingredients to the art form of storytelling and theater or storytelling and music for us are are taking new forms in these home concerts where people are gathering their closest friends into wide spaces and doing them that way. We have our own theater. We only have three or four performers, they can separated from the pianist and whatever. But primarily we are choosing material moving forward that has a minimal number of people involved. As far as what's on stage, or in the band, for proximities sake. So that doesn't necessarily mean that we say to musicians that would be in the pit orchestra that they're no longer needed. That's not the plan. But what if we have to record them so that we can engage these folks and provide a live orchestral experience with tracks that are well produced, where we still engage the artists. We provide a live singing experience or what have you. So everything has to get rethought.

Luisa Lyons  
Welcome to 2020. 

Mitch Nugent  
I do believe, like you mentioned, about being optimistic that we are going to see more fresh work because of this. I see a number of theaters moving their season one year ahead. Perhaps it's just our core values as an organization. But I feel like when the world has changed, I can't justify within our organization just taking our stuff and move forward, too much as shifted. So, it is changing how we present what we do, and what we are going to say. I guess I just can't in my spirit justify pretending like nothing has happened. People are going to need joy. We're going to need escapes, but we are also going to need reflection going ahead. And so the kind of work that we're looking at, we had a plan and that got thrown out on multiple levels, and say what do our patrons, what does our world right now? 

Luisa Lyons  
And that's the best theater, that is alive and in the moment and speaking to us today.

Unknown Speaker  
So hopefully you'll see Filmed Live Musicals... We are likely not going to be live streaming our shows but we are going to film them. Multi camera, top audio, then we'll master them and then we're going to try to get them out a few weeks later. That's the plan, currently. Let's see where that is in a month from now. But the idea that just as if you could see it in the movies, you can see it in the theater, and then it's going to end up streaming at some point, right? Like it's going to be out on DVD at some point. We're going to try to get that out as fast as we can. While there's interest and material hot. 

Luisa Lyons  
It's so exciting. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Mitch Nugent  
Well, thanks for just focusing on you know a part of the art form that is starting to make some noise.

Luisa Lyons  
I really hope so. I have a few questions that I ask every guest. And they're quick questions. So whatever first comes to mind is good. So favorite musical?

Mitch Nugent  
Oh, I feel like the people around me could answer that better than I. What brought me to the arts was Jesus Christ Superstar. And I have a love/hate relationship with the material. So, gosh, that's such a hard question. You know how in some of those music platforms where it tells you what you've been listening to a lot? That's what you need, like an algorithm to answer this. I mean, yeah, I grew up on Jesus Christ Superstar and RENT and and all those rock musicals. Also Chess. That was the one that when I was feeling a little bit angry at the world I would just put on, Nobody's Side.

Luisa Lyons  
You like the glam rock musical. 

Mitch Nugent  
Yes! 

Luisa Lyons  
That explains your love affair with Jeremy Schoenfeld.

Mitch Nugent  
Yes, I saw him doing this in my early 20s and was like this rock star, manly man doing Broadway rock musicals Yes. That scared the life out of me when they first him. So hopefully, this line of film lived musicals will make work like his more readily available. 

Luisa Lyons  
Absolutely. So on that line, do you have a favorite filmed live musical? Something that you put on that gives you comfort. That brings you joy.

Mitch Nugent  
I have trouble rewatching things in general. I enjoyed when when the final Broadway cast of Rent - 

Luisa Lyons  
Radical Media.

Mitch Nugent  
Yes, that reminded me like Hamilton  - 

Luisa Lyons  
Same company. 

Mitch Nugent  
- that reminded me of the of the power of what we do. And in some ways, sometimes when you're creating it, you kind of get lost in it all. And to see great artists doing their work, aah, there it is! 

Luisa Lyons  
As a fellow RENThead I quite agree.

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, so that one. I really enjoyed the Chess concert production because it helped with Idina and Adam Pascal and Josh Groban. That was something I just happen to to run by on PBS one time and there's nothing like magical about how it's filmed or what have you, but it also brought to attention show that might otherwise never see the light of day.

Luisa Lyons  
That's great, I love that. You called them films and we touched on this earlier: is it theater? Is it film? What should we call it? What should we call this entity when we film theater?

Mitch Nugent  
Film?! 

Luisa Lyons  
But is it cinema? Is it is it the same as watching  Saving Private Ryan? Is watching RENT filmed live on Broadway, the same as watching RENT the movie?

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, I mean, there's a difference between when you're talking about filmed live musicals. That is, there is a difference between that and the RENT film that was produced with the original cast. Those are two different things. There's a cinematic experience, and I'm not enough of a cinema buff to be able to wrap my language around. What I would hesitate to do is to tell people that it's not theatre, I don't think that's helpful. So, when you say like "Filmed Live Musicals", it's interesting because from the title alone, we don't necessarily have the language for this yet. And let's be okay with that discomfort. In that this is what's accessible at the moment and to become comfortable with the discomfort of the moment.

Luisa Lyons  
That's very zen. 

Mitch Nugent  
Yeah, I would rather not. I'd rather not put a box around it, then to set up a structure which is potentially unhelpful.

Luisa Lyons  
Next question, where do you stand on bootlegs?

Unknown Speaker  
(Much laughter). Oh, gosh, oh man, as someone who has a high value for smashing the box, which is my way of defining the status quo, is something that I'm always questioning. When there were so many confines to the experience of theater, that did bother me. And it continues to be like, why are we setting up all of these restriction to some degree, and there are good reasons for some of it. Some just happened to be that that people are protecting past systems that are unhelpful. So I think, has there been bootlegs that I have experienced that have been helpful to experiencing the arts as a kid, and what have you? Yep. And there's some of that excitement I remember as a teenager going, "Oh, we can see this show. Wow. How did they get access to that?" My hope is similar to medical marijuana. Let's go there!

Luisa Lyons  
Yes! This is an excellent analogy. (laughter). 

Mitch Nugent  
You start to see some progressive states start to question, or leaders start to say, "Well, how do we regulate this if this is something that... How much harm is this doing? Are we creating systems and rules that are doing more harm than good? Those kind of questions I don't think I necessarily have the answers to, but I do think that they're good questions to ask. And so I think some ways within the restrictions which have been placed around an industry that is that has had its struggles. I do think we have now been forced to ask some questions of what if we set some regulations around filmed musicals that help protect the artists, to honor them and to lift them up and the people surrounding it behind the scenes. Rather than put people doing things in the corners that are, you know, are less than beneficial for the greater good.

Luisa Lyons  
That is the best analogy I have ever heard. And I want to put it on my website. We're like medical marijuana. Get your card here. Okay, last two questions. What shows do you wish had been filmed?

Mitch Nugent  
Wow. There's some shows that you know, like are moving to film cinematically, like Dear Evan Hansen. That I think would be fun to see theatrically not in a bootleg, like done well. Some of the great work that you don't have to go to the New York library to actually see it. I remember seeing, obviously I'm into the rock musicals, I went a few times to see Tick, Tick... Boom! off Broadway by the Keen Company. And I heard that it was getting filmed and thinking I got to go to the library in a city in which I do not reside and sit there for a few hours but I can't and that's that. So works like that. You know, Keen Company was just the bare bones, focusing on the storytelling and the real grittiness that is behind some of the greatest stories. But economically doesn't make sense for somebody to release on some giant platform. That's a piece that I would love to see filmed. 

Luisa Lyons  
I imagine there's a huge market for Tick, Tick... Boom! Particularly all the RENT heads out there. People love anything Jonathan Larson. So I would hope that if there is something like that, that they would release it. And final question, what would you like to see filmed in the future?

Mitch Nugent  
Jeremy Schoenfeld concept about a platform in which non New York musicals could get heard, imagining that in a film sense, I think could be an amazing future asset. I think it's so the answer, I think is the work that may never make it to New York and could be the next greatest thing. The Six, it'd be interesting to see a show like Six, that'd be fun to watch.

Luisa Lyons  
Oh yeah, I've been keeping like toes fingers crossed that Six will get released online because they announced the drive in theater in the UK. And that got nixed. And I'm like, come on, at least release the film. But because it's probably going to open on Broadway when we're allowed to reopen, I don't think they will. But I want them to release it.

Mitch Nugent  
Yes, gosh. Yes, some of those works. I think there's more of them out there. The thing that I would love to see released in the future is the work in which we do not know, that the work is unseen, that is under the radar, that requires a platform to showcase it. I think it's Broadway Now is basically making an appeal out for such content, to broaden the platform. But just like the early days of the internet, AOL or Yahoo may have had the first idea, we'll see who really brings it to life.

Luisa Lyons  
Well, there's new platforms already popping up in the UK. There's Scenesaver, which is for off- West End and fringe theatre. And Broadway on Demand has started streaming smaller scale productions as well.

Unknown Speaker  
Well, it sounds like I need to make phone call! 

Luisa Lyons  
I'll send you links after! Thank you so much for joining me today, Mitch. This was so much fun and so wonderful to meet someone who's so passionate about theater and passionate about theater in a way that is uplifting to humanity. It's really beautiful to see.

Unknown Speaker  
Well, thanks for your time.

Luisa Lyons  
Of course, where can folks find Prima theater?

Unknown Speaker  
Primatheatre.org is the best way to engage what's going on in our world. 

Luisa Lyons  
And make sure to sign up. There are two access options. You can purchase a Superhero Pass, which is is that $100. So that will give a $100 grocery card to an out of work performer or theater artist, and will give you access to all the content streaming online. And then there's various price points for the No Show Show. And that will give you also give you access to all the theater content that is streaming, two musicals currently and a bunch of concerts as well. Thank you so much, Mitch, it was so great to talk with you today. And we'll catch you soon.

Filmed Live Musicals  
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai