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Behind the Scenes with Broadway Producer Christopher Ketner

We can all sing “I want to be a producer” but what does it mean to be a producer? What does a producer do during a theatre shut down? Luckily in this Behind the Scenes interview, Tony Award and Olivier Award-winning producer Christopher Ketner is more than happy to help! He will fill us in on what he was working on when everything went sideways, and what he looks forward to when theatres finally open back up again.

Producer Christopher Ketner at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards

Christopher Ketner‘s Broadway productions include THE FERRYMAN (Tony & Drama Desk Award), THE PROM (Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award), and most recently the 2020 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim‘s COMPANY directed by Marianne Elliott and starring Patti LuPone. His productions across the pond include the London productions COMPANY(Olivier Award), HEISENBERG  at Wyndham’s Theatre, the European Premiere of Stephen Schwartz and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s WORKING: A MUSICAL (WhatsOnStage Award Nomination), and most recently the World Premiere of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT THE MUSICAL at London’s Dominion Theatre.

With a bio that includes names like Patti LuPone and Lin Manuel Miranda, Ketner can definitely educate us on the producer role in a show.

Being a producer on a show can have many different duties or expectations. Primarily for a Broadway production, the co-producers are a group of people who help raise the initial capital required to mount a show. Once a show is in production, there are regular meetings where the producing team gets to discuss and weigh in on decisions. Marketing strategy, financial strategy, casting, future of a show with additional opportunities (tours, London, etc).

A Lead Producer does the day to day heavy lifting of all decisions made on behalf of the production.

COMPANY at the Gielgud Theatre, London

Before everything closed Ketner found himself working on both sides of the pond on shows for both Broadway and the West end.

A few weeks before the major shut down, I was in London to attend the opening night of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT the Musical for which I partnered as an Associate with one of the major producers.

Also, I am a co-producer on the Broadway Revival of COMPANY, which I have been attached to for almost 4 years. COMPANY was in previews on Broadway.

I was also in pre-production as sole producer of the USA comedy tour for Heather McMahan, which was set to launch April 8th. And finally, I was in the very early stages of a TV project.

Broadway was the first to shut down, which came as quite a shock. This shut down happened before COMPANY had opening night.

Christopher Ketner with the cast of COMPANY on first day of rehearsal

Even with everything shut down, a producer’s work is never done!

Well for the comedy tour, we had to reschedule 2 months’ worth of performance dates, so that has occupied a lot of time. We were 2 weeks away from opening, and now the first 2 months of the tour have been completely rescheduled. That involves so many people and so many moving parts that it occupied a lot of time. I have been self-quarantined in my apartment since March 13, only leaving to take a daily walk and periodic trips to the grocery store. Lots of Netflix!

It’s the collaborative nature of theatre that Ketner loves the most and is excited to experience again.

Theatre truly does bring people together in so many different ways. I don’t know of a more collaborative medium on this planet. When I’m a part of a show, I like to sit or stand on the far, far side of a theatre and look back at the audience’s reaction. There is no greater feeling then being able to see how an audience is responding to what is happening on stage. Truly nothing better than witnessing that. WOW, I have goosebumps thinking about it.

When theatres are finally able to open again, it’s bringing everyone back together that he most looks forward to experiencing.

Bringing people together to enjoy a shared experience. This crisis has sought to divide us and separate us and forced us to be solitary. I can’t wait for that moment when we can all gather again in a theatre to laugh, cry, applaud, stand on our feet and cheer. To be with a group of strangers who for this moment are all together to experience a unique performance that only those people we have.

Every performance is different and for that fact, we are bonded for life to the people we sit in the theatre with. Only a handful of people can say…” I was at the theatre the night Patti LuPone stopped the show and yelled at that man on his cell phone.”

Or…I was there on a random Wednesday matinee when and understudy went onstage for the first time. Only a select group of people has that unique experience together. This is what we need, to be in the theatre together, sharing a unique moment in time.

Opera House, Santiago, Chile

Ketner knows he’ll be right back in a theatre once the all-clear is given and recommends some organization to help theatres in the meantime.

The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids, these 2 organizations are truly noble and help way beyond the theatre community.

The most important thing I think is to be courageous and buy tickets to a show the minute we know that theatres are opening their doors again. The second I know that I can be back in a Broadway theatre, I will be. We cannot be afraid or timid to be in the audience, for this art form to survive, we need everyone to jump back in without hesitation.

Links to both of those organizations below or donate to your local regional theatre as well!

Actor’s Fund donations click here

Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids click here

To follow Christopher Ketner, the theatre projects he is a part of, and his travel adventures you can find him on Instagram

Looking for ideas of what to do during this time of quarantine? Click here for more suggestions

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