December 2009: Eric M. Falkenstein '87
Posted December 3, 2009
Eric M. Falkenstein ’87 may well have become a Broadway producer because of Hotchkiss. He played baseball in the spring and ran cross country in the fall, but one winter he helped stage Barefoot in the Park as a special project with the Hotchkiss Dramatic Association. A couple of decades later, Falkenstein can be found on the Great White Way as lead producer on hits like last season’s All My Sons, starring John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson, and Katie Holmes. The previous year he was a producer of Thurgood, starring Laurence Fishburne, and the year before that, The History Boys, for which he won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play. Among his 21 Broadway productions are Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Dennehy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robert Sean Leonard (2003 Tony Award), and The Norman Conquests (2008 Tony Award). Some of his other plays include The Seagull, The Seafarer, Coram Boy, Whoopi, Frankie & Johnny, and Bridge & Tunnel, which also won a Tony for its creator.
After Hotchkiss Falkenstein was graduated from Haverford College and Yale Law School. His college and law years were packed with community service work, and his work life began in environmental law and civil rights. When budget constraints forced his nonprofit employer to cut back, Falkenstein took a job at Debevoise & Plimpton for three years, followed by a four-year stint in entertainment law and film production. In 2001, he made the difficult leap to full-time producing and signed onto his first professional play, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.
In 2003 Falkenstein started his own company, Spark Productions. Since then he has staged a mix of classics and new works, becoming a leading presenter of award-winning Broadway theatre. With most productions, he and a handful of other producers form a company to share in decision-making, financing, casting, and other responsibilities. Falkenstein is currently a producer of Ragtime (which opened on Broadway November 15) and A Little Night Music (which opens December 13), starring the legendary Tony-winner Angela Lansbury and Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones. He is also preparing upcoming revivals of The Miracle Worker on Broadway and All My Sons in London. Focusing on some of Falkenstein’s other interests, Spark works on projects in film, the environment, and human and civil rights.
Sometimes Falkenstein presents a revival straight up or with a new angle. Sometimes he comes up with an original idea and develops it from kernel to full production. Even the very first day of a show’s rehearsal can be a reward in itself: “After months – sometimes years – of work,” he says, “you’re finally all standing there, producer, director, designers, cast. There are no sets or costumes or audiences yet, only a script. But there’s an indescribable electricity in the room, knowing that this group is weeks from Opening Night.”
While involved in HDA at Hotchkiss that winter, Falkenstein best remembers the gratifying feeling in helping build the set for Barefoot, then striking and remounting it at several nearby peer schools. Since then that source of gratification has blossomed: “What I’ve begun looking for over the last few years are shows that inspire, make us think, maybe even change us a little bit and move us to action. Honestly, it’s not the lights or the celebrities or even the art that primarily drives me. It’s the indescribable power of theatre when people come out feeling it has genuinely affected them.”
With his 25th Reunion looming in just a few years, Falkenstein reflects on his time in Lakeville and credits the School for something important: “Hotchkiss operates at such a high level -- the academics, faculty, students, facilities, everything really. It instilled a tremendous work ethic, but most important, I think, it also gave us the sense that we could go on to do anything. It’s definitely been a key ideal for working in a place like Broadway.”