Writer-Star Jordan E. Cooper on Saving the Broadway Play – The Hollywood Reporter

Just a week after opening, the new Broadway play no mo’ It soon announced that it would end its run.

Jordan E. Cooper wrote and starred in — Youngest black American playwright in Broadway history — and produced by Lee Daniels, the play will close Dec. 18 if the production doesn’t raise enough ticket sales to rally audiences and reverse the decision. So far, the production has received support from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who bought the show this week, Cooper said. The Hollywood Reporter Still to come.

A provocative comedy that asks the questionWhat if the US government tried to solve racism by giving black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa? Featuring an all-black cast that showcases the characters’ reactions through a series of sketches. Cooper plays Peaches, a bossy flight attendant in drag trying to coordinate the boarding process.

On closer inspection, no mo’ It has struggled at the box office in the five or so weeks so far, highlighting the challenges of bringing new work to Broadway in the post-pandemic era. Especially for shows without famous stars attached and remaining work to welcome audiences of color to Broadway. It’s a challenging finish that comes on the heels KPOPThe original, about Korean pop artists, closed Sunday after a similarly short run.

“It’s too big No mo‘. We must change for the sake of the people who come after us. We can’t leave this to work like this,” Cooper said. “It deserves to be in the commercial space.”

Madikeri spoke The Hollywood Reporter About the challenges of bringing black audiences to the theater, how marketing and ticket prices are adapting to it, and the prospects for his show on Broadway and other original works.

In your beginning Instagram post Regarding the closure, you said it was an “eviction notice”. You say the theater owner is kicking you out?

That was more metaphorical. Originally the Shuberts “You’ve Got to Close on December 18th” Fortunately, they’re really good. They are not like some evil landlord. “Can you guys do it? Can you do it?” That’s why we’re really pushing right now. I always say, where I come from, “If somebody can’t rent, we’ll have a rental party.” We’ll have a rental party at this theater for the next eight shows to keep this kind of theater on Broadway. going to give

So is this the thing that will boost ticket sales this week?

It’s all about box office. Basically, are you meeting the operating costs of the program? Because they don’t have another show until April. So it’s a matter of showing the audience. Reviews are good. The audience loved it. The problem is we don’t have time to get it [to] The audience this show belongs to. We don’t have a celebrity on the show. It is not based on any identifiable IP. So when you’re a color show, and you don’t necessarily have those things, it takes a little longer to build your audience and build some buzz.

I think we saw that KPOP. KPOP That genre alone had millions of fans and people were seeing themselves on a Broadway stage that they had never seen before. Its closure is an irony because it’s a red alert that we need to change the way we do marketing when it comes to shows like this. We can’t do the same old Broadway traditional stuff. We have to try something new. That’s because many of the audiences who enjoy these works are outside the traditional Broadway audience. They’re not the same people who want to see Bette Midler Hello, Dolly!, unless you’re me, because I fit into both of those categories. But it’s a conversation that artists of color have been having for a long time, and I think we’re seeing the fruits of it now.

What other challenges does the show face?

What I see now, beyond people of color, is theater struggling on Broadway. After the pandemic, when people are paying premium prices for a show, they want to know they’re getting something they already know. They don’t care if it has Samuel L. Jackson or Denzel Washington or Jessica Chastain or Nathan Lane in it. Even if no celebrities are in it, they want a recognizable IP. They want to know Backstreet Boys music is in it. They hear a Katy Perry song or a Britney Spears song or they want to know what they want to see. M.J Or it’s based on a movie. These are the ones that warrant buying now. It’s an interesting time to really take a chance on art. And I think that’s a conversation that really needs to be had, on this idea that shows of color don’t get a chance to find their audience when they don’t have those things to lean on.

How do you think Broadway ticket prices work into this?

We want everyone to be involved. But we’d rather go to people who spend $400 on some Jordans than spend $150 on a Broadway show. We worked hard [on Ain’t No Mo’] To make sure the tickets are a certain price, so people can afford to see it. I believe the average ticket is $21. But we did that on purpose because we wanted to make sure that people who normally think they can’t afford Broadway are able to come. The problem is that we have reduced ticket prices for those people, but we are not marketing towards those people.

We did $20 tickets for the first preview, but we didn’t reach the people we needed to reach. You post those things playbill, You post those things TheatermaniaYou post those things no mo’ Broadway page, but the people we really need to reach aren’t following those pages. They don’t always go to the theater. They are not always welcome in the theater. And I made a show for it.

What type of marketing would you like to see?

(laughs) I want flights. I need buses. I’ve never seen a subway poster for it. I have not seen the billboard. And not just in Manhattan, but in Brooklyn, around the churches of Harlem. Just like the government knows where to put a liquor store, it should know where to put a black drama. (laughs) in such a way that they know where to put the prison. We need to know where to put the black drama. For these works to survive in this kind of environment, that is the power and it has to be intentional.

You announced Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith Bought the show of no mo’ This coming week. How did that happen?

He had heard about the show, that we were closing a week after we started, and how good it was. Luckily our co-producer Lena Wythe is friends with Jada and she got on the phone. Jada said “I want to help because we belong Fella! And we know how hard it is. That kind of activism is much appreciated. Then you put your money where your mouth is.

What is your goal for the rest of the week?

All I can do is keep fighting, so right now I’m encouraging people to come and support the show and get a ticket or sponsor a ticket. Fortunately, we have generous people like Will and Jada who are buying houses. Then we have some more generous people coming in and hosting talkbacks and hosting nights.

I think we really have a chance, and if there’s no chance, I’ll say so.

On social media, “We’re doing something new on Broadway, but is Broadway ready?” You wrote that. What is your response to that?

I think there is no choice. The world had no choice when we wanted change. America had no choice when the Civil Rights Act was enacted. The world is going on. What does it say in the Broadway Bible? Chapter one, verse one. “You can’t stop the beat.” That’s what it is Prophet Tracy Turnblad says

What are your expectations for your next plays?

I hope people come out and support and people see the merit in the work and really change what Broadway looks like. Like everything else in the world has shifted.

No moMy love and hate letter to America. I think it’s my love and hate letter to American theater because there’s something about it when you love something so much, even if it’s not made for you. You love something so much, even if you don’t need it. I believe you can love something so deeply that you have to make space for yourself. And I love Broadway so much, and I think it’s going to make room for me. If not for Jordan Cooper, otherwise no mo’, It makes room for someone else. And for that I am grateful.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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