Making a Magical Contract in 2018

My traditional hand-poked Yak Sant, applied by a student of Teven Say.

My traditional hand-poked Yak Sant, applied by a student of Teven Say.

In the fall of last year, I entered into a magical contract. With myself.

Put another way, I received four Yak Sant tattoos.  You can read more about the practice here. While in Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity I visited Master Seven Say (the actual yantra I received from one of his students) in Siem Reap and Master Chan Tra  in Phnom Penh.

Yak Sant tattoos require the wearer to do good works, and to abide by certain principles, or their magical properties can "backfire" and bring bad luck.  I am far from sainthood, but I do my best.  I had been fascinated by the practice of Yak Sant for years— I discovered it when I first lived in Asia in 2007.  But at the time my personal life was too unstable— I was too unstable— to have been able to live up to my end of the contract.

In 2016 when fate took me back to SE Asia, I finally felt ready. The Yantra tattoos I received in Cambodia are charms for protection, success, wisdom, and peace / balance. The promise I made was to uphold these values as a leader, a producer, and as an ethical businesswoman.  

Master Chan Tra puts the final touches on one of my Yantra.

Master Chan Tra puts the final touches on one of my Yantra.

All of my tattoos are a promises have made to my body.  On my side I have a huge heart with the words “MY BODY / MY HEART” (my yoga intention), on my ankles I have the Chinese immortal bird Feng Huang in its male / female aspect intertwined with a Triforce from The Legend of Zelda (for power, wisdom, and courage!), on my left arm I have a crown from Where the Wild Things Are and the words “BE STILL”, and on my right arm I have an orobourus and the words “RISE UP” (it’s not necessarily a #Hamiltat, but it’s not NOT a #Hamiltat), as well as the NC or “noncompliance” signal form the comic Bitch Planet.

 I knew that 2017 was going to be a time of great transition and rapid professional expansion.

He's cool as shit.

He's cool as shit.

  • I committed to earn income solely through POE Global, my production company. I achieved this goal. My dream job is (for now) also my survival job.

  • I received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical (as part of the producing team of NATASHA, PIERRE, AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812).

  • I hung out with Josh Groban!

  • I attended the Sundance Film Festival for the first time, and it was Fancy as Fuck.

  • I held a backers reading for a new musical in development with Preston M. Allen, and am working towards further development.

  • POE Global took on two additional properties (including a television show!), and I have identified the next Broadway musical I want to co-produce.

  • I landed my first major client as an Executive Producer, and am currently working towards an off-Broadway production with some really exciting partners.

  • I mentored multiple #ladyproducers, and worked with multiple clients to develop their work towards production.

  • I have been interviewed by several major companies for fancy positions with fancy salaries and while each time I opted to continue working as a free agent, it’s definitely nice to be validated as an Exciting Professional That People Want to Work With.

  • I more than doubled the amount of investment dollars I have raised for theatrical projects than in 2015 and 2016.

  • I was interviewed by the New York Times and the Guardian, and was a speaker at multiple public and private events.

  • I secured an A-list creative team for a new musical I am developing with a fellow #Ladyproducer who makes my life wonderful in a million different ways. Together we have raised the full amount we set out to in front money, and this was no small task. This project can be announced soon, I promise.

This was meeeeeeeee!!

This was meeeeeeeee!!

This is all, objectively, Pretty Fucking Cool. I’m absurdly grateful.

But this was a hard year too. As a first-time self-employed CEO, there were times when I didn’t know how or when I would be able to pay rent.  I went through a (very loving and compassionate, but) painful breakup at the beginning of the year. Prince died. David Bowie died. A number of relatives died in quick succession.  A show I care about deeply closed under a whirlwind of  controversy. 

Privately, I struggled inside one of the hardest and long-lasting stretches of depression I have been through in decades. Even with therapeutic and medical support, there were days and weeks where I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t work, couldn’t find the energy to call friends for support.

No, it's really not.

No, it's really not.

And, of course, the world has been on fire.

Going through periods of professional accomplishment under a cloud of depression and alongside political upheaval can be confusing and disorienting.  Most people assume that because you’re “doing great” you must be feeling great.

However, having gotten to work more closely with a number of creative powerhouses this year— I also discovered that I’m not alone.

My colleagues and my heroes are those who fail big, fail again, and fail better.  They are willing to be creatively courageous, and creatively messy.  They work to make changes to create a more just and inclusive creative industry, and in doing some are sometimes ungraceful.  But they try again. They fail big, fail again, and fail better.

In 2018 I hope to continue living up to the magical contract I made in Cambodia. I will work to take the creative projects I have been developing towards production.  I will work to make POE Global bigger, bolder, and brilliant.

I hope to have wisdom.
I hope for the strength to earn my success.
I hope that my heart, and the hearts and bodies of my artistic family, will be protected.
I hope for a world that may one day live in peace and balance.

What will you put into YOUR magical contract this year?

Getting Back in the Ring

Recently, a budding #ladyproducer took me out for coffee to pick my brain. The most common issue that new producers face (and heck, everyone faces) is fear of the unknown. 

"I don't have a network of investors / I don't want my friends to feel bad if I ask them for money / What if I don't know what to say / What happens if I fail?"

Believe me, I went through all of these fears in my first few years of starting out.  I still do! 

Photo by allanswart/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by allanswart/iStock / Getty Images

While talking to this young woman, I was reminded of a time I bopped off to Phuket for a few weeks to study Muay Thai on a whim.  At the time I was dismally out of shape, I smoked, and I had never done any kind of contact sport before.  Most of the other "beginners" in my class were highly experienced Western boxers who had come to Thailand to study at this particular gym. I was monumentally out of my depth, but figured I had to stick around since I had taken the trouble to get there. 

Every morning,  I ran drills against a 16 year-old boy named Song who worked at the camp. He had been studying Muay Thai since he could walk and his body was made of steel wires.  Our first time sparring--  I froze. I covered my head with my arms, tried to protect myself from getting hit, and left the ring crying. Ajarn Daang, the instructor, barked at me to jump right back into the ring, sniffeling and scared, so I continued sparring against Song. I took a jab to the head within seconds.

And you know what-- it wasn't so bad.  What I was really scared of wasn't the pain, but the anticipation of pain.  Once I had gotten my butt whupped in the ring a few times, I was able to get back in.  And I got my butt whupped every time, because I was a beginner.  Once I was over the pain and shock of being a beginner, I started to learn. By the end of two weeks, I was able to land a single punch on Song. 

I left Thailand with my body stronger and my mind much lighter. 

Producing will knock the wind out of you, and there's no way around it. There will be times when no one understands why you believe in the shows you do.  There will be times when people question your taste, your business sense, and your sanity.  There will be times when the people you counted on will pull their investments, when your shows flop, when you fall on your face and everyone will see. 

But if you're willing to get back in the ring, be a beginner, and learn from the best, you will grow.  And you will grow quickly. 

So get back in the ring! 


Ladyproducer Life: A Memorium

Or How Finding an Obituary Through Google Search Actually Got Me to Start Blogging

This post began as a simple introduction to my blog.  As my work in entertainment and beyond expands (especially since garnering a Tony Nomination), I'm asked out a lot by young hopefuls who want to "pick my brain".  And while I'm not able to take in every meeting in which someone wants to "pick my brain", I could at least put my brain on the internet. 

As with all journeys, mine is comprised of a million tiny steps.  The ones that took me the furthest were the steps I took with guidance.  In preparing to tell my own story, I looked back on some of those guides.  

While in the throes of a personal, professional, and creative rut, I hired an executive coach named Debbie Robins.  She had an impressive history both as a film producer and as a coach to the top executives at movie studios.  So I gave her a call.  I googled her name while starting to write this article, and found that she had passed away.  

Learning of the death of a loved one via Google search is a muted, numbing experience.  I had stopped hearing from her a few months before her death, though I chalked it up to a move I knew she was preparing for.  Drinking in her absence all day compelled me to continue writing this post.  She would have smiled and said something absurdly positive in response. 

She was warm, she was daffy, and she was ballsy-- all qualities I wanted more of.  She helped me put together a plan so baldly ambitious I burst out laughing repeatedly during out sessions together.  And she gave me more simple steps to take that would put me on the road towards those paths-- the most important step being to find my support system. 

"Find your tribe," she urged me repeatedly.  "They are out there, waiting for you. They don't know that they are missing you."  

This brings me back to what was supposed to be the original point of this article-- my tribe.  Today I am surrounded by a rock solid circle of badass women: my fellow #ladyproducers. 

These are the women who take on those absurdly ambitious projects and bring them into creation.  The women who keep communities bonded, growing, creating, and evolving.  Who know how to manage a budget, raise capital, spot a good idea and move on from a bad one.   There are not a ton of us in the Broadway community, and very few of us who are up and comers like myself. 

Many column inches are given towards pointing out the appalling gender inequality of creative positions on Broadway (I don't even need to include a link here, just Google "Gender inequality on Broadway" and weep), but less time is dedicated towards evaluating who is doing the hiring. Part of the reason for this is that no one hires producers-- we are a self-selecting group. Another reason is that to get into the Broadway producing game you need have a few bucks to throw around or learn how to raise money, and a lot of it, whether your goal is as a co-producer or as lead.  And currently women are investing 45% less than men, and generally in properties less risky than Broadway. 

We are a rare breed, and I would be utterly lost without mine. 

So here, in this blog, I wanted to focus on not just about forging a life in entertainment producing, and how to perhaps not lose your mind and your bank account while you do it, but also what issues face women specifically in this industry.  And how sometimes engaging a daffy, ballsy broad who encourages you to laugh out loud at your own ambition can transform your life in ways you never expected. 

I've worked with coaches a few times since then (many of you may have seen me promoting the work I did with Ken Davenport), but Debbie's words come back to me over and over again.  

Find your tribe.  Thank you for that Debbie.  Thank you for everything.