Aussie expats from Leo Burnett New York's Off-Broadway show '8 Million Protagonists' donates $20k in proceeds to NY hurricane victims

Benjamin, Canning and Antill.jpgʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ, the Off-Broadway show created and executive produced by Jay Benjamin (left), Leo Burnett New York chief creative officer and Aussie expats Michael Canning (middle), and Kieran Antill (right), executive creative directors at Leo Burnett New York, in collaboration with The Village Voice, was a smash hit in New York City. As a celebration of NY and its amazing characters, the show lifted the spirits of many locals post Hurricane Sandy, as a reminder of how much they love their city and donated $20k to Save the Children.
HouseCamera_Sequence 3 6.jpgʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ launched what has been described as a new genre of crowdsourced theatre, striking a chord with New Yorkers because it not only entertained, but was a re-creation of real stories written by New Yorkers about their everyday experiences and the characters they Nathan_Hoang_2012-11 week 2 export-137.jpgmeet.

Says Victoria Teague from New York Theatre Review: "While youʼre laughing at the crazy exploits onstage you never for a moment think that the people are made up, and you realize the beautiful truth about the city...abnormal is normal in New York City."

Because the show was inspired by New Nathan_Hoang_2012-11 week 2 export-147.jpgYorkers, Leo Burnett New York decided to give all proceeds from the show to the ʻSave the Childrenʼsʼ fund to help NY hurricane victims - a $20K donation.

While traditional theatre is written and then performed, ʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ reinvented the way theatre can be created. It began with a website called Nathan_Hoang_2012-11 week 2 created by Leo Burnett New York in 2011. The site is designed with the simple purpose of inviting New Yorkers to write down their everyday stories and experiences from life in New York - the funny, bizarre, romantic or just plain crazy.

As New Yorkers got involved, the stories grew as a living collection of everyday life in the city. Seeing the genuine character and entertainment in the stories being written by Benjamin, Bill Thomas_Sequence 7 11.jpgCanning and Antill, decided that theatre would be the perfect platform to re-create the stories so they could be shared and enjoyed. The best entries were cherry picked to form the basis of the Off-Broadway theatre script.

Says Canning and Antill: "Thereʼs no greater theatre than Simon_Harsent_AP2P6705.jpgthe streets of New York. We decided that theatre was the perfect way to re-create these great stories from New Yorkers, because the streets of New York are a theatre all of their own. Because New York has over 8 million people all starring in their own reality of the city, the idea of ʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ was born."

Simon_Harsent_AP2P7756.jpgLeo Burnett New York then hired a young writer, Caitlin Gallo, to help weave the stories together in a script. But a week before opening night, mother nature served the show its own dose of reality. ʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ was one week from opening night when Hurricane Sandy hit. The theatre space for the show, Performance Space 122 (PS122), is in Manhattanʼs East Village neighborhood and lost all power along with everything below 39th St. The crew pulled together to make opening night just one week after the initial opening date, and at a time when spirits were down after the hurricane, a show that celebrated New York and New Yorkers became an uplifting experience for many who attended.

Says Benjamin: "This was a great moment for NY and one that makes me proud to live in this city. We're beyond excited about the potential this idea has to continue connecting NYers to the city they love."

Despite the last minute change in schedule the attendance was exceptional, with sold out shows across almost all 9 performances - an unprecedented level of attendance for an Off-Broadway show in NY.

Says Canning and Antill: "8 Million Protagonists reminded New Yorkers why they love their city, after a week of no power, property damage, and fighting over public power outlets."

The performance itself brought together an energetic ensemble cast of 20 young performers that included choreographer Jimmy Burgio, director Stephen Bishop Seely, and a collection of musicians who scored original music including Sofie Zamchick and her much celebrated ʻ4 Thousand Birdsʼ music track. This track was created for a scene called ʻThe Median Conductorʼ performed by amazing young performer Marcy-Sully Saint Fleur. The scene was so well received that Leo Burnett New York are now producing it as a music video for Zamchickʼs song.

After receiving such a popular response from New Yorkers, Leo Burnett New York has plans for a continued run of ʻ8 Million Protagonistsʼ in 2013, which will be based on the ever growing stories and experiences written by New Yorkers at


Old Burnetter said:

Good on you Burnetts. Nice to see it coming from a Chicago - based company.

Will said:

Legendary stuff lads!

Flatiron Building, NYC said:


Jono A said:

Work like this does the industry proud. Beautiful job.

Hmmm said:

So it's basically like Post Secret then.

len said:

Are they doing so much pr because they want to come back?

Oh said:

Have they made any ads yet?

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