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End Of Scene Blog Entries
SATURDAY, DEC 7, 2013
Ken makes a scene about why he wrote LIFE ON PAPER
FRIDAY, JUN 7, 2013
[EXCERPTED REVIEW] Broadway World makes a scene about Warrior Class at the Alley Theatre.
FRIDAY, JUN 7, 2013
[REVIEW] The Houston Press makes a scene about Warrior Class at the Alley Theatre.
SUNDAY, FEB 3, 2013
Ken makes a scene about an upcoming reading at Ensemble Studio Theatre
FRIDAY, FEB 1, 2013
Ken makes a scene about joining Season Two of House Of Cards
SATURDAY, DEC 8, 2012
Ken makes a scene about a letter from Liz Engelman
THURSDAY, DEC 6, 2012
Ken makes a scene about "Red State Blue State" on This American Life
MONDAY, NOV 5, 2012
Ken makes a scene about a stage adaptation of Warrior Class for the BBC.
TUESDAY, OCT 16, 2012
Ken makes a scene about participating in Baltimore Center Stage's MY AMERICA PROJECT, directed by Hal Hartley
SUNDAY, JUL 29, 2012
Errol Louis makes a scene about Warrior Class on NY1's INSIDE CITY HALL
WEDNESDAY, JUL 25, 2012
Head critic for NYTimes makes a scene about Warrior Class on WQXR's Around Broadway.
TUESDAY, JUL 24, 2012
REVIEW: The New York Times makes a scene about Warrior Class.
TUESDAY, JUL 24, 2012
REVIEW: The Daily News makes a scene about Warrior Class
TUESDAY, JUL 24, 2012
REVIEW: Variety makes a scene about Warrior Class.
TUESDAY, JAN 24, 2012
Ken makes a scene about The Montgomery New's Review of FALLOW at People's Light and Theatre Company.
THURSDAY, JAN 19, 2012
Ken makes a scene about STAGE Magazine's review of FALLOW at People's Light and Theatre Company.
THURSDAY, DEC 1, 2011
Ken makes a scene about a remarkable piece of writing about the American theatre
TUESDAY, NOV 22, 2011
Ken makes a scene about a character's stage transformation
MONDAY, NOV 21, 2011
Ken makes a scene about WARRIOR CLASS online
TUESDAY, SEP 27, 2011
Ken makes a scene about the Asian American Performers Action Committee
MONDAY, SEP 26, 2011
Ken makes a scene about the fast work of SCR's casting department
FRIDAY, SEP 16, 2011
Ken makes a scene about Anne Garcia-Romero's post about LoNyLa
WEDNESDAY, JUL 6, 2011
Ken makes a scene about the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage's $150,000 grant to FALLOW
SUNDAY, JUN 19, 2011
A letter from Kaitlin Hopkins - Head of the Musical Theatre Program at Texas State
TUESDAY, FEB 15, 2011
Ken makes a scene about science plays.
WEDNESDAY, DEC 22, 2010
Ken makes a scene about Intelligence-Slave making the Houston Chronicles Top Theater Shows of 2010 list
TUESDAY, OCT 19, 2010
Ken makes a scene about intra out-group persecution.
WEDNESDAY, OCT 13, 2010
Ken makes a scene about why theater is not a humanity.
WEDNESDAY, OCT 6, 2010
Ken makes a scene about Athol Fugard's criticism about the failure of modern dramatists
MONDAY, JUL 26, 2010
Ken makes a scene about the diverse audience of Queens Theater in the Park
SUNDAY, JUN 6, 2010
Ken makes a scene about the Jewish Herald-Voice's profile of INTELLIGENCE-SLAVE
WEDNESDAY, JUN 2, 2010
Ken makes a scene about Lee Williams's review of Intelligence-Slave in the Houston Press
TUESDAY, JUN 1, 2010
Ken makes a scene about his Intelligence-Slave interview with culturemap.com
SATURDAY, MAY 29, 2010
Ken makes a scene about Everett Evans's review in the Houston Chronicle
TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2010
Ken makes a scene about sharing a collective spirituality in the theater
SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2010
Ken makes a scene about seeing the bird through the feathers
FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2010
Ken makes a scene about tech, letting go of the play and making discoveries in production
MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010
Ken makes a scene about INTELLIGENCE-SLAVE in the Houston Press
SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2010
Ken makes a scene about INTELLIGENCE-SLAVE in the Houston Chronicle
THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2010
Ken makes a scene for the Alley Theatre's Mark Bly
WEDNESDAY, APR 21, 2010
Ken makes a scene about being playwright 151 in Adam Szymkowicz's blog.
THURSDAY, APR 8, 2010
Ken makes a scene about changing the name of his play.
THURSDAY, MAR 18, 2010
Ken makes a scene about pundits and why Tom Hanks is "injecting" racism into World War II.
TUESDAY, MAR 16, 2010
Ken makes a scene about writing "winning" dialogue.
MONDAY, MAR 15, 2010
Ken makes a scene about agents and the ecology of show business.
SATURDAY, MAR 13, 2010
Ken makes a scene about the beauty of the theater actor
THURSDAY, DEC 17, 2009
Ken makes a scene about non-English language productions
TUESDAY, NOV 17, 2009
Ken makes a scene about reviewing business books for theater artists
WEDNESDAY, NOV 4, 2009
Ken makes a scene about THE BIG REWRITE!
TUESDAY, OCT 27, 2009
Ken makes a scene about the discovery of an algorithm for happiness (7ZJJBYD9U6PX)
THURSDAY, OCT 22, 2009
Ken makes a scene about Holocaust fiction as a literary genre
TUESDAY, OCT 13, 2009
Ken makes a scene about Asians who don't go to the theater.
MONDAY, OCT 5, 2009
Ken makes a scene about the challenge of bravery in the theater.
MONDAY, SEP 28, 2009
Ken makes a scene about the death of Tragedy and Comedy.
TUESDAY, SEP 22, 2009
Ken makes a scene about Dave Matthews's statement that racism is "everywhere" in America.
WEDNESDAY, SEP 16, 2009
Ken makes a scene about why playwrights need websites.
End of Scene Blog

The Innovator's Dilemma Part I
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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Recently, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates gave a talk to the MBA students at Columbia University. During a Q and A session, one of the students directed her question to Gates, arguably the greatest industrialist and philanthropist in the history of the world. “What is the most important thing that you do every day?” she asked. Gates thought for a long beat and said, “Reading.” He noted the importance of engaging in the process of continual learning. For me, this answer struck a chord, as I too have found that the joy of being a writer is often most resonantly felt when doing research.

As our world becomes ever-more distracting and different outlets clamor for our attention, there is the danger of the emergence of a non-literary theater. By this, I mean a theater where the artists are not reading and creating work that is in relation to the great ideas that mankind has struggled with for centuries. Rather, we are struggling to keep pace with non-literary media and the challenge of making a sound, full in amplitude, that cuts through the petty noise of modern life. But, when our voices are finally heard, what will we have to say? The answer lies in what we're reading. In light of this, I've decided to try to devote a number of these blog posts to share what I'm reading and I thought it might be particularly interesting to share some of the business-related literature that I read. I gave up a career as a corporate consultant to be a playwright, but I'm still fascinated with what MBA students and budding tycoons are reading. I'll try to synthesize these books and articles for you in an on-going series of blog entries entitled "Business Books for Theater Artists."

Many theater artists I've crossed paths with have a deep-seated allergy to all things "business" and I appreciate that many of them are fighting the good fight in a society that, all too frequently, loses its bearings and its humanity in the turbid seas of commerce. But, it must not be denied that the arts are a business because artists provide a crucial service that is essential for the mental and spiritual well-being of every member of society. If the path from purveyor to consumer is compromised, the entire endeavor is compromised. Thoughts of separating one from the other is folly. In failing to acknowledge the macro and micro economic value of their endeavors, artists cede their rightful place at the center of American society and retire to the fringes. So, to provide another channel of discourse to examine how art meets commerce, and to give the folks in the theater a bit of insight into what their financiers might be reading, I am pleased to present: The Innovator's Dilemma for Theater Artists.

The Innovator's Dilemma was written by Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School who performed the equal parts tedious and fascinating task of cataloging the rise and fall of various computer data storage manufacturers. Why did he do this? According to the book, Christensen studied these companies the same way geneticists study fruit flies. Because a fruit fly has such a short and eventful life-span (one day) information about generations of fruit flies can be gathered in a few weeks. Likewise, because the life of a manufacturer in the data storage industry is eventful and short-lived, (due to lightning fast changes in technology and consumer demand) you can follow generations of cycles in just a few decades. He concluded that good businesses with good management fail, paradoxically, because of the very practices that made them so successful.

So what was happening to all these companies (the ones not named IBM, Hitachi or NEC) that were rising, knocking off the companies that preceded them and then flaming out? Well, it turns out that once they succeeded and won sizable market share and became beholden to their customers and the process of systematically improving their product line (all good things if you are a customer or a share-holder), they started to become really bad at cultivating emerging markets and foreseeing how upstarts would challenge their supremacy. Why?

To begin, Christensen makes a distinction between two different forms of technology -- sustaining technology and disruptive technology. Sustaining technologies are developments that add value to an extant product for extant customers. Good managers are constantly investing in sustaining technologies and for good reasons -- they lead to growth, profits and customer satisfaction. (Think of an artistic director who uses refined skill and taste to program a season with a slot every year for A Christmas Carol or a great Shakespeare production or a Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright he or she truly believes in.) However, along the way comes a disruptive technology, and it changes the game completely by uncovering new uses for existing technology and creating new, previously untapped markets. (Think Twitter and how Next to Normal created an appetite for a new, unknown, play and reached new audiences by tweeting out the play to cyber-space line by line.) Ultimately, according to Christensen, disruptive technology runs away with the market leaving all those "good managers," who created a successful company (but only invested in sustaining technology) in the dust.

The problem for managers is that at first blush, pursuing disruptive technologies is bad business. Disruptive technologies are cheaper and yield low profit margins; in the short-run, they perform more poorly in comparison to extant technology and a manager that invests in them risks the disenchantment of current customers; finally, disruptive technology attracts fringe users which results in growth rates that are not big enough to suit the needs of large, successful organizations. However, in general, disruptive technologies are smaller, cheaper and more convenient to use. Add the innovative uses that early adopters will devise for them and we come to see that disruptive technologies are the harbingers for things to come.

What is the disruptive technology that is going to affect the theater in the future? I would argue that it's plays that are written and performed in a language other than English. In 2003, 1 in 5 Americans spoke a language other than English at home. That number is steadily on the rise. This translates to 47 million people that are not attending theater regularly, because I can assure you that if they aren't speaking English at home, they are not seeking out the English-dominated theater for enjoyment and discourse.

But, what artistic director in his or her right mind would change his/her programming to suit a non-English-speaking audience? Loyal English-speaking subscriber bases take years, nay decades to cultivate. Are they to be rewarded with a theater that alienates them? Acumen in marketing to non-English speaking audiences takes years to cultivate and budgets are tight. Moreover, the audience is splintered. You can't just hire a non-English marketer. You need a Spanish marketer for a Spanish play, a Persian marketer for an Iranian play, etc. Would a good English-centric theater manager outsource his/her marketing efforts to try to reach an endlessly diverse audiences whose attendance is dubious? Skill in theatrical artistry takes years to cultivate. If you think it's easy to pluck serviceable talent out of the multi-lingual masses whose members have not spent a lifetime training to work in the theater, I dare you to give it a try. Finally, non-English-speaking audiences tend to be poorer than English-speaking audiences. Who's going to buy tickets? The success of disruptive technology requires a critical mass of early adopters that are willing to pay a premium for (in its early stages) inferior technology. Who are these early adopters for the American theater?

These are precisely the dilemmas that faces the innovative theater artist/manager. But, there is an untapped market out there that is 50 million people strong. Moreover, it's market that is going to play an ever-increasing role in shaping American life. Who's willing to leave all that on the table? We need to invest in a disruptive technology to reach this huge market. Check in next week and I'll tell you how.

end of scene
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