Tag Archives: Inbrook

Memories of producer Calvin Wynter

Calvin Wynter

Calvin – as remembered by Fringe-goers

Fringe producer Calvin Wynter’s funeral was in New York at the weekend.

Below is a piece written by a performer who was there. 

But, before that, here is what Julian Caddy, who co-founded the Sweet venues at the Edinburgh Fringe, posted on his Facebook page on 4th November:

I am shocked to hear of the sudden death of Calvin Wynter, Director of Inbrook, creator of the Brooklyn Fringe. He was a regular in my and many other people’s Edinburgh life for over a decade. I always enjoyed our chats and we programmed several of his shows at Sweet over the years, most memorable being that extraordinary Jacques Brel show (you’ll remember it well if you were there).

Calvin when he was younger

Calvin when he was younger and a bit hairier

I will always remember his ability to seemingly have no sleep whatsoever. He had local Skype phone numbers all across the world before anyone else did and you could call him at any time, day or night, and he would always pick up, or he would be calling you, any time you like – or not like!

At Edinburgh Fringe he was a fixture at every promoter’s event and VIP bar, always there with the height of professionalism and politeness. We used to joke about him being like a mafia boss with his sharp suits, softly spoken New York accent and entourage. He was a man who made sure that he knew everyone and that everyone knew him.

Calvin with his 2nd wife Joelle

Calvin seen relaxing with his second wife Joelle

But I think we never really knew him closely. Then again I get the impression that here was a man who lived for his work and for whom not giving 100% would always be regarded as being inadequate: work-life balance was an anathema. So I guess that means he was definitely one of us. The Fringe crowd, who with a look, a nod, just know what it’s like.

Rest in peace buddy.

Now the piece by someone who attended his funeral:

The funeral was small, but nice. Hard to believe such a large man could fit in that urn. Still don’t know the cause of death. I imagine something was written on the death certificate, but his cousin said they don’t really know what befell him. I didn’t go to the interment. Didn’t know how to get to Flushing Cemetery, which is, apparently, a very attractive place. Louis Armstrong and other luminaries are buried there, as are Calvin’s parents. I may make my way out there sometime this week to pay my respects directly.

Calvin Wynter (second from right)

Young Calvin at college in 1977 (second from right) aged 18

An older cousin said he was The Last of the Wynters. She named all the Wynters of their time, the final generation or two. Hearing of his childhood breadth and derring do was instructive.

Sounded both more believable and more impressive than when he told of it.

Childhood and beyond – world traveler, some kind of target shooter, skeet shooter or something I believe, science buff, went to Bronx Science high school, later on a skydiver. Some of his Wall Street colleagues were there. He was a large figure to them. They all talked about how shocking it was when they first saw “theater Cal.”

I met his first wife, the one who, he said, expected to be a politician’s wife and was perfect for it. She did, indeed, look the part. I liked his ex-wife very much. She was surprised he spoke of her, which he did fairly frequently, when it was relevant, and always positively.

Truth is, however, I had forgotten she existed until she turned up at the funeral because it was such a different life she represented than the one I knew.

Calvin Wynter and Jay Amato

Calvin Wynter playing around with his friend Jay Amato

He referred to his friend Jay Amato as his brother. I assumed it was his biological brother he was talking about so, when I met Jay and he was this white guy, I was very surprised.

A delegation of Freemasons was there to acknowledge the loss of someone from their ranks.

The photos on this page were supplied by Jay Amato, who knew Calvin for the last 44 years. He tells me:

“There are many different looks, but they are all Calvin.”

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A Broadway success story for anyone staging a show at the Edinburgh Fringe

There are two things which will make people queue round the block to see a stage production.

Great reviews.

Or widespread press coverage saying it is a catastrophe.

I am allegedly a creative consultant to US theater promoter Calvin Wynter’s company Inbrook based in New York.

He phoned me last night. One of the most interesting things he told me were the Broadway box office figures for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

Inbrook handled PR and general management services for Spider-man producer David Garfinkle at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and, after that, I had followed the increasingly OTT production stories of Spider-man in the US trade magazines.

You know a show is going to be interesting when the opening line of the New York Post’s review is:

Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark pulled off a miracle this week: it opened…”

Spider-man took eight years of pre-production, its premiere was postponed five times and, at a reported $65 million (or possibly $75 million), it is the most expensive production in Broadway history. The previous most-expensive-production Shrek only cost half that to stage on Broadway.

Spider-man has 41 cast-members, an 18-strong orchestra, complicated mechanical sets and 27 aerial stunts including a battle over the audience between two characters.

It has music by Bono and the Edge of U2 and it has been described – and indeed promoted – as one of the most technically elaborate Broadway musicals of all time. Which was what caused a lot of the problems in pre-production. That and the soaring budget, cash flow, cast problems and the fact it managed to knock up four accidents in one month.

It reportedly has a weekly running bill of $1 million.

Last week, of the 24 shows on Broadway, only seven grossed over $1 million at the box office. They were:

Wicked – $1,882,731

The Lion King – $1,854,764

Spider-man – $1,811,432

The Book of Mormon – $1,256,830

How to Succeed in Showbusiness – $1,223,226

Mary Poppins – $1,111,911

The Phantom of the Opera – $1,026,795

The previous week, Spider-man also stood in the No 3 position.

Why are people going to see it in droves? Because of the overwhelming publicity.

It’s spectacular, it got varied reviews, but – hey! – it might be a car crash or – literally – someone might fall on top of your head. The one thing it is unlikely to be is dull.

In the UK, I remember stories of the legendarily catastrophic 1980 Old Vic and touring production of Macbeth with Peter O’Toole – tales of rickety sets sometimes falling down, totally OTT blood and Peter O’Toole virtually eating the scenery with his over-acting – It was a show which got worse reviews than the Third Reich… and yet you couldn’t get tickets for it anywhere – I tried to buy tickets to see it in London and Manchester myself – No chance. It was a sell-out.

Stephen Pile wrote: “Eradicating the unnecessarily tragic aspects that have always weighed the play down, the cast sent the first-night audience home rocking with happy laughter.”

The Daily Mail wrote: “It was, of course, the rottenest luck for him (Peter O’Toole) to run smack into a wall on his third bravura exit (so much of the play takes place in the dark).”

The Independent reckoned: “the sheer quantities of stage blood reduced audiences to hysterical giggling”.

The London Evening News claimed Lady Macbeth “greeted her husband by leaping at him and achieving a leg-encircling embrace of the kind which illustrates helpful sex manuals” and that her antics “would have woken the whole castle”.

In an admirably odd interview several years later, Peter O’Toole said: “My nose bleeds as I think of it”.

So, if you are staging a play and want to get lots of bums on seats, either get great reviews, horrendous pre-publicity or truly awful reviews.

All publicity is good publicity.

If you can kill a member of the cast or audience, you will sell out at the box office.

I am still looking for worthy nominees for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

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August is a wicked month: the misery and joy of the Edinburgh Fringe

Last year, there were 2,453 different shows in the three-and-a-half weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe. Just getting any show noticed is a marketing nightmare.

A couple of months ago, I blogged answers to nine common questions asked by innocent first-time performers at the Fringe and yesterday I went to a Fringe event in London giving advice on how first-timers (or indeed anyone) can market their show in Edinburgh. Part of it will appear on the Edinburgh Fringe website as a podcast.

On the panel of experts was suave British man-about-the-Fringe Stuart Martin, director of operations for New York based entertainment company Inbrook, who imparted words of genuine wisdom but, to get the full wisdom of handling over 120 shows at the Fringe over ten years or so, you’d have to employ the fine services of Inbrook. I should obviously mention at this point that I am allegedly a UK talent consultant for Inbrook. No bias there, then.

At the event yesterday, one very sensible piece of advice was that, if you get a reviewer coming to see your show (a mountain to climb to begin with) you should arrange that, when he/she picks up the ticket from the venue’s box office, the staff also hands him/her a press release or press pack. This assumes, of course, that the venue’s box office staff can be relied on which, at the Fringe, can be an assumption too far.

But the most interesting insight into the Fringe yesterday was a comment I heard in the bar before the event started. It typifies the Fringe. Two people were talking behind me. One said to the other:

“We’ve always made financially suicidal but artistically fun decisions.”

Now THAT exemplifies the misery and the joy of the Edinburgh Fringe.

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The C word on BBC Radio 4

On Monday, BBC Radio 4 managed to amuse some and horrify others when highly-respected and experienced Today programme presenter James Naughtie managed to Spoonerise the live on-air trail for an upcoming interview with government minister Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary, by announcing “We’re going to be talking to Jeremy Cunt, the…” and then attempting to stop himself from laughing.

…and then – blow me – just another hour later, equally highly-respected and experienced political commentator Andrew Marr repeated the blunder live on air. It might have been less unwise if Jeremy Hunt were not the government minister in charge of setting the BBC’s Licence Fee.

News of this double gaffe (now on YouTube etc) has now reached uber-promoter Calvin Wynter over in New York and he tells me much the same thing happened in the refined streets of Edinburgh back in August.

I wish he’d told me at the time and I might have got some extra publicity out of it!

I sponsor the annual Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe, one of which – the one for best publicity stunt – is called the Cunning Stunt Award. Oh yes it is. This year, one of the nominees was Manos The Greek whose shows were very successfully promoted by Calvin’s then-outfit The Green Room Presents (since then, he has gone on to bigger and better things with his new production and promotion company Inbrook).

Calvin tells me:

“One member of our flyering team shouted in the street for 30 minutes: Manos the Greek!… Stunning Cunt Award Nominee… and wondered why she was gathering such a big crowd.  People were taking lots of flyers from her. She thought she must be doing her promotion work really well. Finally, four guys pointed out to her exactly what she was saying… In fact, I now wonder if maybe it was no accident, because they took her out for drinks after she finished her shift… It might have been her own unique way of attracting young men…”

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