Speak Easy: Kevin McCollum Brings Broadway to CCM

”People don’t know what it takes to produce a musical.”
Theater entrepreneur Kevin McCollum.
Theater entrepreneur Kevin McCollum.

Illustration by Pablo

Theater entrepreneur Kevin McCollum has helmed a major Midwest performing arts center, cofounded a top Broadway booking agency, and for the last 20 years, produced Broadway shows such as Rent, Avenue Q, and last season’s Tony nominees Something Rotten! and Hand to God. Now he’s bringing his wealth of experience to his alma mater—UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (Class of ’84)—as a distinguished visiting professor, teaching the next generation the finer points of creating musical theater.

What’s your vision for teaching and working with the program? Sharing what I’ve learned. At CCM, I learned that it’s about showing up, trying to make a difference. Also, telling a story, learning from the students what’s hot—I’m all about new work. You have to anticipate the next 20 years. I want to learn who [these students are] at CCM. Are there composers who want to write musicals? There might be an orchestrator out there.

It sounds like the plan is to involve several areas of study within UC. I want to have multiple colleges talking to each other. What is a publishing license? How does a show become monetized? People don’t know what it takes to produce a musical. That should be of interest to the business school and the law school as well as CCM. I see opportunities for broadcasting and e-media, too.

Are you expecting to create new work this year? Yes. Even in year one, we will create something. I can’t predict what. It will be in classes primarily—I want to educate by giving back real, practical information—but we’ll try to do work over weekends.

Will there be a public component to that? I don’t know. Sure. It might be in a rehearsal room or a reading open to supporters of the university and to faculty. But that’s public.

You’ve established yourself as a champion of business within the industry. Capitalism is collaboration. The country is operating on a binary sports model—keeping score, winning—but the country was founded on a collaborative arts model. We need to return to that. Success at collaboration is how you succeed. I carry a soapbox for arts education, too. You can teach everything else through storytelling. The arts change lives.

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