May 12

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Bringing Broadway Abroad with Industry Veteran Valentina Berger

By Mimi MacLean

May 12, 2022


industry veteran Valentina Berger

Valentina Berger, Founder of GO Broadway

Valentina Berger is a Broadway industry vet with experience in press work for shows like Spiderman Turn Off The Dark. She founded and ran GO Broadway, an accredited theater program that focuses on bringing shows and lessons to clients worldwide. Over the past decade, she's produced hundreds of theater workshops in-person and online for over 15,000 students connecting Broadway's best teachers and theater-makers to students worldwide. Her recent production of Rent in Argentina was the first Broadway show licensed internationally by MTI for live streaming.

To Find Valentina and GO! Broadway:

Valentina’s Career on Broadway and Starting Her Production Company

industry veteran Valentina Berger

Mimi MacLean:
Hi, welcome back to The Badass CEO. This is your host, Mimi MacLean, and today we have on Valentina Berger, and she has worked in the Broadway industry for over a decade in various capacities after receiving a BFA from the New School. Valentina is the founder and CEO of Go Broadway, a theater program now accredited through Manhattan College. Leveraging her extensive industry experience in relationships on Broadway, Valentina opened Go Broadway Productions to bring Broadway titles abroad and to the big screen. Her recent production of Rent on Argentina was the first Broadway show licensed internationally by MTI for live streaming. Over the past decade, she's produced hundreds of theater workshops in person and online for over 15,000 students connecting Broadway's best teacher and theater makers to students around the world. To get your top 10 tips, every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. Valentina, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I'm excited to hear about your career path on Broadway and also how you started Go Broadway, your production company. So can you just talk a little bit about your career path and what led you to start Go Broadway?

Valentina:
So I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a producer. But when I arrived to New York, I realized that producing in New York meant mostly raising money and I didn't feel comfortable raising money if I didn't know what I was going to do with it, or I just wanted to learn more about the business before I started raising money responsibly. So while I was in school for arts management, I interned at a press office then at a general manager office running the day to day operation of Broadway shows, then a marketing office. And I think this gave me a good sense of the business and the players and how putting a show from the page to the stage works. So after I had my kids, I decided to yeah, embark this journey on my own and starting producing shows of my own.

Mimi MacLean:
So tell us exactly what Go Broadway is.

Valentina:
Yeah. Aside from producing, I also have a big passion for education. So I run musical theater programs for international students, where they come to New York for two weeks, they take lessons with a Broadway artist and really talented teachers. And then they get go back stage to shows, see rehearsals and perform at on and off Broadway stage. So I've been running these workshops for the past 12 years and combining my two passions of producing and education.

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. And so, was there anyone doing that at the time when you embarked on doing Go Broadway?

Valentina:
There wasn't. I actually, as an international student, I realized that you could only come to New York for the summer, which did not work for me because I was in school during the summer, or you could come for a two year program or a four year program and some artists just don't have either the means or the time to do that. So I think I found a space in the market. No one was doing that at the moment. And then of course a lot of people followed that, but it's good to know that we were the first ones.

Bringing Shows Abroad and Working In A Male-Dominated Industry as an Industry Veteran

Photographer: nina avroneva

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. And so I also see that a lot of the plays that you're bringing on, for example, Rent, you brought to Argentina.

Valentina:
Yes. So I do it both ways. So I produce shows on Broadway and then do the pandemic when Broadway was closed for over 18 months. What I did is I licensed titles and brought them to Argentina, that's where I'm from, and then to Mexico and then to Spain. So it's been nice to see shows like Kinky Boots where I worked on that on the Broadway show back in 2011, 2012. See that show then close on Broadway, go on tour and then open in Argentina and then open in Spain. So it's nice to see things go full circle.

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. I saw Rent originally when it first launched. Why do you say launched or do you say-

Valentina:
Opened? Yeah.

Mimi MacLean:
… Opened? How long was that? 20 years ago? I think when it was on-

Valentina:
The original one, well that's 1996. It opened. Yeah.

Mimi MacLean:
Yeah. And I think I even saw it when it was on off Broadway and then the creator just passed suddenly and that's when I think I had seen it, but I love Rent. So I'm happy to hear that it's back. So tell me about, is Broadway tend to be, especially as a producer, more male dominated or is it tend to be more female?

Valentina:
It's more male dominated? Definitely.

Mimi MacLean:
Has that been a struggle for you being a female? Or has it been… Can you talk about that experience?

Valentina:
Not really, maybe a little bit. When I was a mom at 25 and I was the only mother and working in my Broadway office. So I think the industry was just not ready for young moms. I think with my salary, I could barely cover my babysitter and it just like numbers [inaudible 00:06:21] add up. I was working crazy hours and so on, but I think the industry has come a long way. I think now we know that people can work from home and do it efficiently, or work hybrid half and half. And then over the pandemic, I think a lot of women were out of jobs. So a group of women got together and created the Broadway Women's Alliance, which was really, really good. And it's a program that gets women to work in Broadway offices, and we get trainings and it's just nice to walk into meetings and know that there's other women there that have your back and are part of the women's Alliance.

When Things Don’t Move As Fast As You Want and The Difficulties with Raising Capital for Broadway

Mimi MacLean:
What do you think has been the hardest part with either producing on Broadway or with Go Broadway? What have you found the biggest challenge for you?

Valentina:
For me, that things sometimes don't move at the speed that I move. I think my brain just really fast and I wish some things could just happen quicker, so I just have to be patient. And then I did learn that sometimes I get the word, no, but I try to turn those nos into yeses. So maybe at the time,I think looking backwards, some doors have closed for me, but then because of that, better things came my way. So recognizing that and accepting the word, no, I think it's yeah.

Mimi MacLean:
And what lessons have you learned as far as raising capital now that you went back to really kind of learn the business. So that way, when you could produce you back to raising capital, I assume any lessons you've learned about that?

Valentina:
So with Broadway, it's interesting because you get operating papers for the show. I'm also investing, so I wouldn't raise capital unless I'm investing on the show. So usually that's my first, not even a selling point, but I'm very passionate about the things I do. And I only get involved in projects where I'm going to learn something. I'm working with people that no one have done this a million times. And I have a checklist of things when I decide to invest in a Broadway show versus another one, there's a checklist what theater is going to, if it did okay in London or it didn't, if it has reviews, if it has a star, if it's based in a movie, what track record the other producers have? I think there's a lot of things that I take into consideration before just joining a show as a producer. My investors the best just have come to me, which is really nice. I think I talk so passionately about the business that people just want to be a part of it. So my experience has been really good so far.

How Valentina Dealt With the Pandemic and Business Halting

GO Broadway banner
Photographer: nina avroneva

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. So you touched on it a little bit before, but I would love to just kind of dive deeper during the pandemic. It really kind of decimated Broadway because you had to be shut for 18 months or whatever it was. Was it 12, 18 months? I'm not even sure.

Valentina:
18. Yeah.

Mimi MacLean:
How did that work financially? Were the Broadway shows still responsible for the rent and paying the actors?How had that whole… I was thinking during the pandemic, what happens? These people are at home, are they still getting paid? Are they not? The producers, who's responsible? How did that work?

Valentina:
So we got very, very lucky because of the insurance kicked in. So when we reopened on Broadway, we had the same amount of money that we had before the pandemic. So insurance definitely helped, what was harder was just for actors and then not just actors, everyone that works backstage, because people went on unemployment for a certain amount of months. But then when that ended, that's when things got a little harder and I think it was easier for actors because a lot of them wanted to teaching and voiceover and just breaking into other fields. Even I've seen actors like this, so real estate and they just reinvented themselves. But a lot of people that technicians and people that work back stage and do something very, very specific jobs that are maybe harder to translate to other industries. I think those are the ones that had a harder time.

Mimi MacLean:
Now do you do acting as well? what got you into wanting to produce Broadway?

Valentina:
I don't. No, not at all. I just enjoy theater. I think I've been a producer since an early stage and one of six kids and I used to stage shows in my living room with all my siblings. So I'm definitely not. I belong off stage.

Mimi MacLean:
Oh and that's so funny because I'm one of six too. And my memory when I was little was the same thing. My brothers and sisters dressed up and we would have the stage and we sell tickets and I look back on that when I was little and I was like, "Oh, I never thought to go to the production route." I always thought, "Okay, well I'm not good enough to be an actor, and so I guess I'll just find a different career path."

Valentina:
Yeah. You, already are a producer and this is a fun fact about Broadway. A lot of Broadway investors are not Broadway people. Don't come from acting. They come either from real estate or they have business and lawyers. It's a nice combination. [inaudible 00:10:59] everyone has that thing in common that they did love the arts when they were younger. And then maybe they just never fully did it.

One in Every Five Shows Is Able to Give Back to Their Investors

Photographer: Nicolas Manassi | Copyright: NManassi

Mimi MacLean:
Yeah. Tell me, because I've never invested. I'm an angel investor, but I've never invested in plays or Broadway. I've invested in movies. And typically when you invested in movie, the chance of you seeing your money back is you're doing it for the love of the movie, not for the financial part of it. Is that how Broadway is or do you tend to be able to give investors the money back?

Valentina:
I would say 50/50 in the show invested last season and starting to get checks soon. So that's exciting I think. And then there's this golden shows like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen or Haiti, Downer just shows that they're really good, and do have a chance of doing very well, but because of how the industry is, they say one over five shows makes its investment back.

Mimi MacLean:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). But is it hard to get the shows that have recognition like Hamilton to bring overseas?

Valentina:
No, no depends on the title. I think that's one of my items in my checklist. So you do make royalties once the show closes on Broadway and gets licensed. So I'm like, "Oh, this is a title that will work outside of the U.S. This is a title that will work in the long term. This that have, [inaudible 00:12:12] take cast that you're not going to be able to take anywhere or is it a smaller cast?" So I'll share the checklist with you one day. It's super interesting. And there's a gambling factor too. You have to because sometimes you just love the star or love the show, but then the show's not good or there's just so many things that can happen to be honest with, you get a bad review and you can't really control that when the time you make the investment you're raising money, how the reviewer is going to and the New York times review could actually kill your shows.

Mentorship and Finding Balance with Her Job and Family

industry veteran Valentina Berger quote

Mimi MacLean:
So you were the first Argentinian woman to co-produce on Broadway, congratulations to that. And then you were also selected as one of the 2021 Broadway women to watch by the Broadway women's fund. So you obviously been featured in Forbes, in Mary Claire, and CNN and Playbill and other prestigious publications. So congratulations to you for that. And I would just love for you to just touch on why you think you've done so well. What characteristics do you think you have that maybe others don't have? Or what do your success… Was it a mentor? What could you attribute to your success?

Valentina:
I think I'm brave and I'm not scared of people saying no. So I ask what I want. I know what I know and I know what I don't know. So I try to surround really stuff with people that know more than me or that are smarter than me. I listen, I read, I try to think outside the box. And I think I am myself. It's funny that you didn't bring up that I'm Spanish speaking or Latina. Because I get that question a lot and I think I wear that to my advantage, the same as being a woman I'm so proud of being a woman and an Argentinian woman. So everyone that works with me, drinks Mate and eats alpha horizon and I probably hang out with me on Argentina restaurant. So I don't see as a limitation, but I think just being brave and being passionate and then I do have a vision and I work very, very, very hard, which is a good thing and a bad thing but…

Mimi MacLean:
Right. So because you also said you're a mom, so it sounds you're workaholic, like I am. And so I how do you manage or how do you balance your work and personal life and family life?

Valentina:
I don't. I do try to be… Quality time or be focused when I'm with my kids and I'm working. But most of the time I find myself doing both things and now they're a little older. So I bring to the theater with me and when the kids from Go Broadway here, I bring them to class. So I make them a part of my world and I explain to them what I'm doing. So my son asked me the other day, if I was the bus up Broadway and I was like, "Oh, not really, but I'm the boss of Go Broadway," But…

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. How old is he?

Valentina:
He's six. So they're starting to understand my world a little bit. And then I run my house is like a little business too. I just super organized with it, with everything else and then I have help. So it's good.

Mimi MacLean:
That's good. No, but it's true. I think sometimes women tend to try to take their personal life and completely separated from their kids and their work and sometimes it's better for your kids to see that you are working and bring them a part of it, or have them help you even if it's sending out a package or stuffing labels or stuffing letters and just making them feel like they're actually helping you and a part of it. I think I've done that with my kids and they want to be productive and helpful.

Valentina:
Totally. Yeah.

Asking for Help and Keeping a Calendar Is Her Essential Organizational Tool

Mimi MacLean:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then you said you're super organized at home. Is there any kind of tips or hacks that you could share that you either use personally or professionally? Is it an app? Are you a paper person? Is there anything that you're like, "Okay, this has saved me." For example, I'll give you one, if my sitter is away and I found an app for everything. So I found an app when I lived in L.A. That someone came and picked up my laundry, I hate doing laundry. And I find that five kids, it takes hours. So I was like they came, they picked it up at night and they delivered the next morning. And I was like, "Okay, for 25 bucks or whatever it was." It was so earth having them picked up every day. So I seem to try to find apps for everything to outsource the things I don't like, or I'm not good at. Is there anything that you would say any hacks that you've used?

valentina:
I love that. No, I don't use a lot of apps actually, but there's that precinct moms, a Facebook group in my neighborhood. So whenever you need something it just pop post there and things just magically appeared. And I do realize that people always want to help. I do ask for help. I have a lot of neighbors, my husband's great too. And I keep my on, guess my calendar, whatever's not on my calendar just doesn't exist or doesn't get done. So I put time in my calendar for the littlest things all the time.

You’re Never Going To Be Ready So Just Do It

industry veteran Valentina Berger quote

Mimi MacLean:
That's great. So is there any words of advice for other women who either want to enter into your industry or who are entrepreneurs starting their own company that you would recommend to them? Any last minute, last words of advice,

Valentina:
Just do it. You're never going to be ready, so you just have to do it and trust what you're doing and just don't let anyone tell you can't do it. So there's never a right moment. I think you build a plane on the… As you go, come up with a good idea, of course, and run the numbers and do the homework, but then just do it. And sometimes things will end up working out maybe then not the way you planned them, but in their own way.

Mimi MacLean:
Great. Well, thank you so much. This has been amazing Valentina and I wish you the best of luck. What do you have out right now that people could support you at? Is there any active plays that you have?

Valentina:
Of course. Yeah. So we can follow us on at Go Broadway. That's where we post all of our shows nationally and internationally. And you can go see company on Broadway. It's great.

Mimi MacLean:
Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Valentina:
Thank you.

Mimi MacLean:
Thank you for joining us on The Badass CEO to get your copy of the top 10 tips. Every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. Also please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. So email me @mimithebadassceo.com. See you next week and thank you for listening.

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