I recently sat down with Tim Livingston, an LA native who just produced his first theater production in New York City’s Off-Broadway Kraine Theater. The 100 seat theater enjoyed a successful sold out three night run that grabbed the attention of industry personalities from talent agencies, to casting companies. “The Protaganist” follows the life of two brothers who seek to understand one another and follow their dreams. The play is a comedy that addresses dialogue through spoken word and improvisational comedy. We discussed the process of writing, how Tim was able to gain support for his show, and he shared advice for young people starting out.
What led you to a career in writing?
I love writing. It is something I’ve always had a strong passion for ever since I can remember, but I never imagined I would have a career in pursuing it creatively. My uncle Barry Gurstein used to write for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Three’s Company” among other things, so writing has been in my family for quite some time. It wasn’t until I took my first Screenwriting class at Washington and Lee University that I knew this is the field I wanted to be in. So I asked myself, what can make me stand out? Well I should self-produce my own show and get as many people as I can through Social Media to come see it, which is what I did with “The Protagonist”. What better city to do that than New York City? After casting the show, which was relatively easy because there are only four parts, one was my younger brother Joey who trained at ADA, I had everything ready to move forward with the project. Now the only problem was getting people to fill that theater.
How were you able to promote the show to a sophisticated New York audience who would probably prefer to see a big show rather than one they’ve never heard of before?
A lot of people are using social media and Youtube to promote themselves artistically, which is great and works well. But it is different with theater. My brother Joey lives in New York and he’s an actor. I figured what a great way to showcase his talents along with my own. Successful promotion with any career relies on having something good to show. You’re not going to sell something that mildly attracts an audience, you want to create a product that is strong, reliable, and that will make people talk about it. In this case, “The Protagonist”. Competing in New York City, the biggest city in the world for both Mainstream theater and Independent theatre, you need to create a project that won’t make audience members leave the theater at intermission. So you need good acting, a good script, and good comedy that will engage a crowd and not have them saying bad things on twitter about your show. No artist wants that.
So I reached out to people I knew in the industry every single day after rehearsal, before I went to bed, and when I woke up in the morning. I would writepersonal emails to individuals involved in the casting scene in NYC, often not hearing anything back. When show time came I was nervous that I didn’t have enough promotion. I was strongly mistaken. We filled up that theater for three nights, a completely sold out performance. Now we are in the works with the Kraine Theater to Co-produce a three week run sometime in the near future with the potential of bringing it back to my hometown of Los Angeles. So that felt pretty good.
What are some words of advice you can give to people who want to make a career out of writing and production?
As a creative you still need to regard yourself as a business. That is first and foremost. You need to be focused on your brand and your product. Is it engaging? Is it different? If you don’t have a good product then no one will want anything to do with it. When you promote a self-produced theater production most audience members are really in for a surprise because they don’t know what to expect. You can’t force an audience to stay and “give you a chance.” If they don’t like it they are going to leave and then text their friends and tell them not to go. So take your work seriously, cast actors who you trust and who are as passionate about promoting good work as you are. Plain and simple. If the people want to see your product, they will let you know. People wanted to see this, which is why we are going to provide that opportunity with a longer run.
Tim is represented by Tyler Allen @Equitable Stewardship for Artists Agency