Guest post by Becca
My favorite Broadway show is Pippin. I have a Pippin T-shirt(signed by Matthew James Thomas), I have a Pippin sweatshirt, and I have six playbills from the show. So when I had the opportunity to interview Hugh Hayes, the Producers of Pippin, about his company Play-By-Play, I was ecstatic and nervous, to say the least.
I was nervous because oftentimes people who are brilliant at their jobs are arrogant and intimidating. I’m from Los Angeles, land of Botox, and the stars and movie-makers you meet there have as much substance as the collagen they put in their lips and as much humility as Kanye West. Then there is Hugh Hayes. The producer from South Carolina was down to earth, friendly, and informative; you would never know you were talking to a Tony-winner. As a producer, he hated the idea of an empty theater, so he created the company Play-By-Play, a seat-filling service meant for lower-income individuals. He wanted fans to be able to see the shows for a low price without taking money from the show itself. Suffice to say, it was a pleasure and an honor to interview my favorite current Broadway producer for BroadwayWiz.com.
Becca: How and when did you get started in Broadway and live entertainment?
Hugh: Well, I’ll tell you, I really got started at twelve years old, growing up in the “Bible Belt” of the south. People like me, (laughs) twelve-year-old little sissies, were not popular in the Bible Belt. I basically never saw a movie all the way through the age of twelve to eighteen because the kids would actually spit on me at the movie theatre…I had to go the shopping mall between 5:30 and 7:00 while all the kids were having their dinner. It was rough. But I escaped into the world of the theater.
The only place I could live was the theater and I found Broadway at a very early age, went to a Broadway show and fell in love. And I just lived in my bedroom with the New York Times and I created a little theater district. Cutting out the ads and making the theaters around my bedroom, I had a little game that I played. I kept a chart, and flipped a coin into a circle. Heads was a good review; tales was a bad review. If it landed outside the circle, it was a mixed review. I also flipped a deck of cards to see how many seats were filled. So I’ve been obsessed with filling seats since the age of twelve years old. I just hated the idea of an empty seat.
I went to Boston University and New York in ‘88 and started working as a company manager and then really fell in love with press, the press agent committee. I worked on a lot of shows like Victor/Victoria and Damn Yankees. But my calling really was to produce. And my first show was Naked Boys Singing, which played for thirteen years off-Broadway. I really wanted to have some control and some voice in shaping the entire piece. And so I think producing was how I could do that. As the company manager and as a press agent, I needed to fill seats for shows. And I remember, I decided to take some time off, reshape everything and go into producing, I said, “You know what, let me create a service that is correct, that is right, that is what I needed when I was a company manager and a press agent.” I needed several things that were the absolute criteria. One of things was t