Ken Davenport is a Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer who has produced over a dozen Broadway shows. His recent production of Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening received 3 Tony Nominations and won a Broadway.com Audience Choice Award for Favorite Musical Revival. He has also produced six Off-Broadway Shows, including Altar Boyz and Daddy Long Legs which recently made history by being the first-ever Off-Broadway performance to be live streamed for free. It was seen in 135 countries worldwide, by over 150,000 people.
Ken was kind enough to answer our questions, and he also is sponsoring our upcoming anniversary giveaway, so stay tuned for that!
What has been your favorite show to produce or work on?
Picking a favorite show is like picking your favorite child. Parents will tell you they don’t have a favorite. Although I bet if gave a parent truth serum they’d say they had a special place in their heart for their first show . . . and probably the one they just gave birth to. Those shows for me are The Awesome 80s Prom . . . and Spring Awakening.
How do producers decide which show or project is one that is worth pursuing?
Choosing to produce a show is like picking a piece of art to hang in your living room. You choose it because you love it . . . you want to see it every day . . . and you love it so much you want other people to see it too . . . so they can love it as much as you do.
What was your motivation for switching from law school to acting school?
I quit the basketball team in high school in a scene right out of High School Musical to audition for the spring show. I got the lead and played Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. After that, the law just seemed boring.
What led you to become a Broadway Producer?
I’ve always had a business side. I started a candy shop in my father’s cardiologist office when I was 8! It was called “Kenneth’s Kandy Shop.” Producing combines my artistic and my business side.
Did you have any influences growing up?
Hal Prince was a big mentor of mine. He gave me great advice on getting started that I still think about to this day.
What impact do you think theatre websites (or blogs) have on theatre-goers today?
When I was in college, I used to get on the e-bulletin board rec.arts.theater . . . or something like that. You had to be a real computer nerd to know how to access it (this was in 1991). The internet wasn’t really a thing yet. Now, fans can connect with other fans so much easier. And when people can connect with more people, the the thing they are connecting about, in this case the theater, benefits.
Has there been anyone you looked up to in the Broadway community?
Way too many to name. Broadway folks are some of the hardest working people around . . . and they all do it because they love the theater, not because they’re trying to make millions.
What are some of your responsibilities as a producer?
I say that the job of a producer is to make an idea happen. But more specifically, after a show gets up, the producer’s job is to get the show to run as long as possible. Because they longer it runs, the more people that will see/hear the author’s message, and the better the chance that the investors will get their money back. Art AND commerce!
What about Spring Awakening made you want to bring it to Broadway?
I was so moved in the first 15 seconds of seeing it, in a way that I had never been moved before. I wanted other people to feel that way. And I wanted them to meet this amazing company.
When you were a company manager and general manager, what were some of your responsibilities?
Company Managers and General Managers make sure the shows happen on a day to day basis from the administrative side. Payroll, box office, contracts, etc. Lots of spreadsheets and paperwork.
How did it feel to win your first Tony?
So good, it made me want to win another one. 🙂
What advice would you give to someone who is headed into a career for theater today?
If you love the theater, there is nothing better than getting up every day and working in a business that is your hobby. I say that the theater is my profession and my obsession, and I’m so blessed I get to do it for a living!
What is your vision for keeping Broadway relevant in the future?
We need more and more people writing for the theater, as opposed to writing for Hollywood. We lose too many writers to the West Coast every year. We need to inspire more writers, of all different colors, genders, sexualities, etc. to write THEIR stories.
Describe your best moments in the theater world so far.
My mom says I first kicked when she was watching a production of Godspell when she was pregnant with me. Something amazing must have been going on. 🙂
With whom do you wish to work with next, and why?
I’ll work with anyone who is passionate about the theater. Anyone who wants to do it because they love doing it. If they’re doing it because it’s a job, forget it. They can find someone else to produce their show.
Describe what you think the modern audience wants to see in theater today, as well as in the future.
They want to be moved. Doesn’t matter how big the scenery is, or if there is a star or not. They just want to be moved.
What show has given you the greatest challenges, and why?
Spring Awakening. Working with a cast of deaf and hard of hearing actors alongside hearing actors was challenging, but so rewarding. But hey – it’s not rocket science. And hopefully we proved that, so others won’t be afraid to give that kind of casting a try.
What type of marketing do you think is the most successful in the theatre industry?
The best marketing you can do is having a terrific show. Look at Hamilton . . . how much advertising do you see them doing?
You seem to have accomplished so much already at a young age; What are some of your future goals in the next ten years?
I want my Wicked, Hamilton, Rent, Les Miz, etc. A musical that people love all over the world, and challenges and changes the theater for the better. I’m confident that I’ll find one someday . . . I just don’t know when.
What is your favorite cast album?
Les Miz Complete Symphonic Recording.
What is the best Day Off Activity?
Favorite Guilty Pleasure Food.
Hidden Quirky Talent.
I was a breakdancer as a kid and can still do the worm.
Ok, ok, I get all my news from Playbill.com.
The Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
Favorite thing about NYC.
I once saw three shows in one night . . . a big Broadway show, a dance piece and a new off-off Broadway play. There’s so much theater here of all different shapes and sizes . . . at all times.
Thanks again to Ken for answering our questions! Remember to check back on July 26th for our exciting anniversary giveaways!