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Marc Falato '87: Out of the bank and onto Broadway

Marc Falato '87, back row right, and his ZenDog Productions colleagues take the stage at this year's Tony Awards ceremony. Photo by Steve Shevett.

Like many Americans, Marc Falato '87 watched the Tony Awards on June 5. Unlike most viewers, however, Falato was not reclined in an easy chair with a bag of popcorn. Instead, he wore a tuxedo and sat in a less comfortable but more glamorous seat next to the stars of Broadway.

Falato, co-owner of ZenDog Productions, listened attentively as the winner of the Best Revival play was announced.

The competition was tight. Critics described it as a "horse race that anyone's bet could win." Among those nominated was Glengarry Glen Ross, a smart-talking play by David Mamet describing the dark side of the real-estate business, which was produced in part by ZenDog Productions.

After announcing the nominees, the speaker paused. Then came that well-known phrase, "And the winner is ... " The room waited in eager silence before the announcer continued, Glengarry Glen Ross!

Falato sat in awe. "Everything seemed really silent," he remembers, "and then it registered." His play, his first major production, had won a Tony, beating the favorite nominee, 12 Angry Men. Falato jumped out of his seat, yelling and celebrating with the cast and crew.

"If someone had told us that our first major production would be on Broadway, win a Tony, and be critically well-acclaimed," Falato says, "we would have laughed our heads off."

Part of Falato's surprise was due to the goals of his production company. In April 2004 Falato and his partner, Pun Bandhu, created ZenDog to produce plays and independent films. Unlike commercial production agencies, ZenDog would develop the playwright as well as the play.

Most of ZenDog's productions were to be off-Broadway, where the audience tends to welcome more progressive and risk-taking plays. When Falato considers what play to produce, he seeks one that will be "mature, thought-provoking, challenging to the audience, and challenging to ourselves as producers."

"I know it when I see it," Falato says of a promising play.

The cast of the David Mamet play. Photo by Scott Landis.

Falato saw "it" when Jeffrey Richards, the lead producer, suggested that ZenDog join his production team on the revival of the 1984 play Glengarry Glen Ross.

The play, written by David Mamet, who Falato describes as "one of America's greatest under-recognized playwrights," explores the darker side of a real-estate agency as younger salesmen challenge the older, more experienced ones.

The play prides itself on providing real, if detestable, characters with realistic dialogue. In fact, the characters frequently remind viewers of people they have worked with, Falato says.

"The dialogue is fantastic," Falato says, "and it tells the story without being preachy."

The highly recognizable cast includes Alan Alda, best-known for his television role in M*A*S*H and Liev Schreiber, who won the play's second Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor.

Falato left his former career in banking in 2003 for a more creative pursuit. He considered writing a book or a screenplay but found his niche as a producer. "I knew that if I didn't take the opportunity to do something new and different, I would regret it," he says.

Before producing, Falato's experience with the theater was limited to technical work in high school. While at Lehigh, Falato studied foreign careers (now called international relations). Although his major had nothing to do with producing, Falato left Lehigh with the ability to evaluate opportunities.

"The overall learning experience I gained at Lehigh helps me make business decisions," Falato says. He made a great one with ZenDog.

--Becky Straw

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Fall 2005

Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2005

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