He’s not eating lunch at Sardi’s every day (yet), but David Treatman has already attained a producer credit at 19 years old.
The Philly native is co-producing Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic with business partner Alan Koolik, 20, possibly the youngest pair to do so in Broadway’s history.
Living in New York City, working in theater and attending Columbia University, they’re defying the odds (nay, gravity) of most college kids their age.
Koolik, who is interning at two theater companies this summer, approached Treatman about the opportunity.
After hearing through the grapevine that Puffs had to switch theaters, he wondered how the production would raise money to fund the change. It turned out the production was bringing in new producers to move the show.
The Harry Potter-inspired show (written by Matt Cox) was already a hit, chronicling the lives of Hogwarts students who happened to also be students while Harry’s well-known story was going on.
“It’s got a beautiful message of when you feel like a secondary character in someone else’s story, you just change your perspective: You’re the lead of another one,” Treatman added.
As co-producers, they were responsible for raising money for the show from investors.
They each invested personal savings — Treatman acquired a lot from working during the summers over the years, and Koolik won $54,200 in 2014 on a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament.
They’ll make it all back, and then some: For potentially the next 18 years, they’ll receive royalties for this specific production.
Treatman grew up with a background in the understanding of finances, as his father works in real estate. Growing up with those principles, he realized it could be applied in the theater industry.
“Our partnership is very interesting because Alan every week sees about four shows,” thanks to his internships, Treatman noted. “So he comes to things knowing what kinds of shows make money and what kinds don’t. … I kind of bring in the average viewer perspective of, ‘Ooh, that was a fun show,’ and Alan brings in the know-how.”
But a surprising amount of know-how carried over from Treatman’s high school days at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, where he spent his time performing in musicals like Legally Blonde, Shrek and Rent.
“But if you had asked David in fourth grade what he wanted to do, he probably would have said ‘rocket scientist,’” he admitted. “I used to not like theater.”
When he entered sixth grade at Barrack, he needed an outlet for his free time, so he managed the sound for school shows.
But in eighth grade, not enough boys tried out for Annie JR. Even though he didn’t think he could sing, dance or act, the head of the drama department convinced him to audition.
“I was Daddy Warbucks,” he recalled, “and that totally unlocked this whole future with performing.”
But it wasn’t until his senior year, when he directed The 39 Steps, that he realized what it takes to produce and direct.
Initially, Barrack didn’t receive the rights to recreate it, but the then-high schooler emailed the producer, who said to email the West End producers, who said to check with their lawyers, plus the sound designer. In the end, he got the rights — plus some useful connections in the biz.
“They were really open to answering questions about things. That show opened a lot of doorways for me,” he said.
He and Koolik met during The Varsity Show rehearsal — Columbia’s oldest performing arts tradition — and clicked from there. By working on an off-Broadway production, they’ve found a niche of smaller investors who can give in the ballpark of $10,000, as opposed to larger big-name shows with investors writing $100,000 checks with ease.
They were intimidated at first, and no one took them seriously. But they realized there are smaller shows happening, and they could make a big difference.
Koolik, a Boca Raton, Fla., native, said Puffs is a great place to get their foot in the door, considering their ages make them an outlier in this industry.
“I’ve always been very interested in the theater but also the managerial aspect of it, and producing is a good way to balance the business aspect with the creative,” said Koolik, who intends to pursue entertainment law.
Although he loves the theater, Treatman admitted that he doesn’t have the stamina to be a full-time Broadway actor.
Early on, he questioned what to do with this passion: “I do all these business things on the side. I work at a real estate [investment] firm. I know how to do business deals and I want to go to business school. Where can I do that in theater?”
Puffs opened July 17 at the New World Stages. Now, the successful pair are looking for their next project.
“This doesn’t happen to young people, that they’re producing a show in New York,” Treatman said. “Theater is an investment of passion.”
Puffs will be playing through Jan. 14, 2018. For tickets, visit puffstheplay.com.
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