Tuesday, January 11, 2011


 “Let’s put on a show!” is not far from how I got the idea to start a professional nonprofit theatre in early December.  I was in a commercial for a bank in Springfield MA, and the actress next to me said “There should be a professional theatre in Greenwich, CT” to which I agreed so much that I set out to make it happen.  As many of you know, I have always had producer blood in me and have been producing shows for nonprofits and special events for about 20 years.  There is an adrenaline rush in putting people together to help other people and then seeing that effort inspire and excite all of the people involved.  I love being a ring leader. 

Someone smart suggested that I blog about it from day one, and as you can see, I am already behind.  But I will catch you up and then continue to keep you posted on the successes and challenges of this endeavor. Perhaps it will give you ideas, or make you laugh, or you might be moved to pass it on to others who will follow and eventually become our audience, donors, or ‘tribe’ as the author Seth Godin suggests. 

You will hear me mention this best selling author and his ideas and books a lot. Much of the marketing that I have come up with is based on the idea of getting “permission” from your “tribe” and to interact with them instead of just shouting at them as per old marketing.   You can even subscribe to his free blog at sethgodin.com and get daily marketing ideas like I do. 

Just to catch you up. While most of the blog entries will be short, this one may take a bit more time just to catch you up on a month’s worth of work and meetings.

Katie Hughes is my executive-director-to-be, and our mission statement is in good shape, but could be a bit shorter. If you want to see it, email me. Mostly it states that producing theatre has to be about involving the people “formerly known as the audience” in all aspects of production.  From marketing to performing to production as well as in donating money to the cause.  Although it is my belief that the later will happen naturally when a group is so attached to the cause that they feel they have helped to create it.

The marketing and fund raising for our project is very unique and when we finally have the NPO papers filed and the space found I will share some of that with you.  Suffice it to say that when I met with Ryan Odinak, lovely woman, the executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County (http://www.culturalalliancefc.org/)  she blew me away by calling it “brilliant”.   Words like that from someone I am not related to inspired me to work even harder.  The meeting with her was Weds, Jan 5th, and from it I took away some great advice about boards and also pro bono lawyers.  She also referred me to Paul , the Executive director of the Greewich Arts Council, whom I met yesterday.

When he told me about the ‘space’ issue in Greenwich, I was expecting it. I had done research on that attempt as well as research on all the business networking groups (chamber, women’s groups etc) and I knew that there was an attempt some years ago to fund a Performing arts center by taking over a building in Greenwich.   From Paul I learned the name of the man who was at the helm of that project that, after five years and 30 million dollars raised, fell through.  He is my next call.  As an actor I am pretty good at reading body language and I could tell Paul wasn't too sure about me at the beginning...understandable...but by the end of my ‘spiel’ and marketing/fund raising concepts, he gave me all the reasons that Greenwich would be a great choice for this concept.  Still citing space issues, he told me that there are four groups in Greenwich that are dying for exposure and who would fit in nicely with my concepts.  1.  High-end retailers  2. High-end restaurants and famous chefs, 3. Finance dudes and dudettes 4. Realtors.  Someone else also suggested that there are many doctors in this area.  I hit Wickapedia and printed out all the businesses, arts groups, famous people etc connected to this town too. How do I get a meeting with Ron Howard or Kathie Lee Gifford?

I actually think that if the economy was better my ideas might not fly as well, but since everyone is looking for people and ideas that think “outside the box” I am anticipating the same excited responses from the business crowd as I am from the arts crowd. In fact, one of my long time supporters, Steve Skilken, a hugely successful businessman, has been encouraging of my ideas ever since I told him I wanted to produce a Broadway show.  We both decided that it might be hard to “move” that machine in the direction we want it to go right now, so why not morph over the ideas I had to something I can manage myself?  Steve threw in some great additions to the advertising/marketing strategy.  Wanted to shout out to him because I trust his opinions and when I get ready to hit a few businesses I will use him as my ‘mock’ audition.  Thanks Steve.  

Back to Greenwich.  Stuart, Exec Director of the United Way in Greenwich is the man who “knows Greenwich inside and out” and who was the head of that first fund raising effort.  In a funny twist of fate, the United Way here in Milford just asked me to be on their marketing committee.  I am hoping that Gary Johnson, ED of that one will also help me with a good referral before I sit down with Stuart.  I want the atmosphere to be as positive as possible from the get go. 

If any of you have suggestions for me as I forge into this exciting project, feel free to email me.  I have my Board planned out in my head. Mostly made up of my business partners who are progressively minded and also extremely forward thinking. 

Also feel free to send this to anyone you know who might want to follow the progress.

OH and the name of the project is :   Breaking the Fifth Wall.   (so named by my dad)
The name of the theatre…so far, is: The New Paradigm Theatre (get rid of “new”?)

Breaking the Fifth Wall 
An Innovative Theatre Company

Actors are familiar with the idea of breaking through the fourth wall, the invisible barrier between stage and audience. The New Paradigm Theatre Company seeks to take “audience participation” to a new level by a commitment to dramatic excellence while empowering the supporting community in each project. Often the close of a play or musical is the end, something to critique or remember. The New Paradigm Theatre Company’s mission is to explore ways of engaging the community, (formerly known as the audience) in all facets of a drama so that they live inside the story, not just as viewers or listeners. Breaking down this fifth wall is an unusual attempt to let performance art become participatory in a deeply collaborative partnership with the local community.

(thanks dad J )

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