MN: Talk about your audience?
AJH: Our research has shown that 40% of people that come to a Broadway production are tourists to the New York area. They are theater lovers. Then 60% of the people come from the New York tri-state area. The first week of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was 80% African American, then as the run went on, there was 60% diversity to the audience. Across the board, we brought thousands of new theatergoers to Broadway.
MN: Why follow up with A Streetcar Named Desire?
AJH: It was Stephen’s original concept to produce this play. We immediately optioned the rights from Williams’ estate and thought that the audience would again be excited about the work.
MN: What was your personal path to Broadway?
AJH: Educated with a dual major degree from Spelman and Georgia Tech, I always was an analytical thinker. Because I was also focused on entrepreneurship, going to business school was an easy transition. I did marketing for a hedge fund and developed reports for investors; taking concepts to completion through efficient execution. I never thought that I could actually use my business skills to create Broadway plays. Growing up, I always thought that producers were very wealthy people who decided to produce plays on Broadway.
MN: Where did you grow up?
AJH: I was born and raised in the DC/Maryland area. My parents are both retired and supportive and excited. Growing up, I was exposed to the arts, taking dance and piano lessons. My parents brought me to plays and musicals. I even remember a middle school teacher that took our class on regular field trips to Broadway plays in New York. I understood the grandeur of theater productions and appreciated it. I was always drawn to the arts.
MN: How do you sustain during rough economies?
AJH: I lean on my mentors. Even a few of our investors are mentors to me.
MN: What’s the Broadway environment like?
AJH: There are only two African American lead producers on Broadway right now. We have to aggressively go after our audience. We even get students excited about seeing great shows on Broadway. Most revivals of classic of Tennessee Williams occur every seven to ten years. Seeing titles like this with all black cast create balance on Broadway.
MN: Is there a tour planned after the 16-week Broadway run for A Streetcar Named Desire?
AJH: We took Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to London’s West End and had a wonderful response to the material. A larger percentage of audience members were first timers to West End. They viewed it as a must see event. The cast was excited and the story was familiar so we are pursuing opportunities to bring A Streetcar Named Desire back to London’s West End.
MN: What will audience members expect from the production of A Streetcar Named Desire?
AJH: Unlike the original play or even the 1951 movie with Marlon Brando as the stand out character (screaming “Hey Stella!” to his wife is his most memorable line); this ensemble cast will give great complexities to each character. Nicole Ari Parker has cultivated her own audience of people that admire her from Soul Food and her film parts. Blair Underwood has icon status in the African American community with over 20 years of theater and film. And Wood Harris from HBO’s The Wire’s cult following with Broadway vet Daphne Ruben Vega are all stand out characters. I have to sometime pinch myself because I’m still in awe of the people that I get to work with everyday; professionals that have such a respect for their craft.