Editor’s Note: David J. Lynch (Spring `15) recently sent Noah Bopp (SEGL Head of School) and Mairéad O’Grady (David’s SEGL advisor) this life update. We asked him if we could share it with our community, and he agreed.
I’ve been working on a new Broadway play entitled POTUS: Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive.
About the show: POTUS is a political farce about the women of the West Wing. What I love most about it is that it is inherently apolitical—the President-in-question (whom we never see in the show) isn’t modeled after a specific President, nor ever called a Democratic or a Republican. The show’s themes are less about partisanship and more about how society often views women in places of leadership. More important, it delivers its thesis through my favorite lens: comedy. The show is hilarious, timely, and all-around just fun. It is a protest piece that doesn’t hammer at heavy themes over and over again (like I find a lot of modern art—specifically theater—does), but rather makes you consider those ideas through satire and humor.
On top of that, we’ve got an all-star cast. Vanessa Williams, Rachel Dratch, Julianne Hough, and others, led by five-time Tony-winning director Susan Stroman (who directed the original production of the hit musical The Producers).
I am a producer, which means I am one of about eight people who raised the capital that brought the show to Broadway. (I was looped into the process in a way that has almost never been done before, especially on Broadway. I’m also the youngest producer by about 18 years.) Broadway shows are expensive, and I was given a big “chunk” of money to raise. I also am in charge of monitoring the show’s strategy for bringing in younger audiences (head of a social media team, advertising group, and marketing group). And I help to craft artistic elements of the show; for example, I get to say “That’s not funny,” or “I think this character could use an XYZ moment.” It’s amazing to be one of the voices “in the room where it happens!”
One of the biggest skills that I’ve utilized in this endeavor has been “convincing.” Essentially, my job is to convince people that this show is worthwhile—why an investor should invest in it, why an audience member should come and see it, etc. The first place I learned how to do this was SEGL.
Until SEGL, I was in a world where I never needed to “convince” anyone of anything—in other words, I wasn’t ever challenged. I distinctly remember the first lecture Noah gave our semester about the different philosophers. I raised my hand to answer a question, and he immediately pushed back. I was flabbergasted and humiliated, not because I disagreed with his response, but because I had never been in a position where someone had disagreed with me. I pinpoint this, in all honesty, as one of the first moments I not just had to state my opinion, but justify it.
That “thinking on your feet” mindset has been key in this process. Of course, 4 months in D.C. did not make me an expert at it, and I’m still not an expert, but it was that moment—and that semester—that made me realize that the value of myself as an individual (a student, a business-person, and now a producer) is not in the ideas I have, but in how I can convince others that those ideas are worthwhile.
I ultimately raised my part of the production’s cost in around a month. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do—utilizing every possible connection I had in my network to ask if they’d be willing to invest and, if not, if they knew of anyone who would. In fact, I reached out to a few SEGL friends to get in touch with their parents, and several kindly helped me out with finding some investors. I would have never guessed that the people sitting next to me each morning for a semester debating whether or not capitalism was dependent on one’s luck, or, in the same vein, whether or not “food Instagrams” deserved a place on social media, would be the same people who ultimately played a role in achieving my biggest dream: to become a Broadway producer.
Most of the work for this show was done virtually (due to COVID), sitting at my desk in my cozy 1-bedroom apartment in New York City. Behind me at this desk is a bookshelf with various books I’ve read over the years. Between college, COVID, and moving to and within NYC, many of my books have found their way to various libraries, attics back in South Carolina, and so forth. Yet, since my junior spring of high school, two books that might look familiar to you have always been with me.
First, Getting To Yes. That book been a staple in shaping my business mindset, and I re-read it about once a year. And second, of course, my English journal. Sure, I was ranting about the college process, how it was “so unfair” I got a B in French, how I knew I didn’t want to go back to South Carolina after the semester ended, etc., etc., etc., but having it with me has consistently served as a reminder of SEGL, the community there, and the person it helped shaped me to be.
This is all to say: SEGL takes up just 4 of the 150 characters in my first Broadway Playbill bio, but the impact it had on me is far beyond anything any amount of words could describe.
As I said over text, if you—or any faculty member—find yourself in NYC this summer, do let me know; I would love to take you to the show. At the least, I look forward to catching-up when I’m in DC next.
Thanks as always. Never cease from exploring! :)
David Lynch (Spring `2015)
P.S. I’ve included a photo from my SEGL days that Mairéad might remember. At the beginning of the semester, during the first exercise block, I almost died of exhaustion running to the Washington Monument and back. I told Mairéad, “I’ll never be able to do this,” and she challenged me to do it by the end of the semester. After a semester of work, during our final exercise block, I ran to the Monument, took this photo, and sent it over to her.