Monday, April 18, 2011

Today we had two meetings in Stamford. One with an asian art dealer who lives in Greenwich.  She and her husband used to be bankers in NYC and now they are pursuing their passion in art.  The second was with a man from a very well-know family in Stamford. His father was a football hall of famer and they know everyone in that city.  He rattled off many names that might be interested in becoming a part of our tribe. He certainly is.

Thursday I meet with another big banker guy.  The interesting part of all this is hearing from these business people about their side passions. Which usually happen to be artistic.  WE are coming from the other direction as artists who have a passion for marketing and business.  During this time of economic upheaval, it's interesting to note that real business folks truly value out-of-the-box ideas that come with an artistic flavor.

The part of our marketing plan that seems to really appeal to them (other than having a chance to meet the Broadway stars in our shows) is usually how we have woven in the ideas that help their businesses or non profits through this new marketing and social media.

It truly is so much more than "a theatre". We are creating an incubator or caldron to stir in all the other business/nonprofit/schools/arts groups in a way that empowers everyone. 

Now how to explain that to the other arts groups who want to think of us as competition?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Multitasking Agenda

I guess I should just link to him all the time but this hit me today from Seth.

The agenda

The job of the CEO isn't to check things off the agenda. Her job is to set the agenda, to figure out what's next.
Now that more and more of us are supposed to be CEO of our own lives and careers, it might be time to rethink who's setting your agenda.

Educational piece of this blog: done!   Apply this to your life.

My agenda today is to rehearse the beautiful and talented Broadway Babes for their upcoming concerts.  Two different charity gigs. One for FSW, a family service.  And also for The Women's Center of Southeastern CT. 

Great Broadway Babes for this gig include Randye Kaye (radio and off bway superstar), Sarah Pfisterer (Broadway: Phantom, Showboat, many more) and new upcoming babes, Becca Zaretzky and Jill Soares. Also special guests from the two colleges I teach for as singing waiters. And of course the gorgeous and talented Reed Prescott singing in a dress at the end. None of you are going so I didn't blow the surprise ending   

When one of the few arts people I spoke with in Stamford asked me how I was going to "clone" myself to do all that was on my marketing plan (which includes producing cabaret concerts called ...Broadway Babes for the highest donor of our season's favorite charity...get it? it's a win-win.  They give to us, we sing for their favorite charity)  I told her 1. I have a huge team that is already on board and that has been doing these events and ideas with me for about five years already and 2. What artist doesn't multi task? Aggregating all that my colleagues and I already do in one spot named "A Theatre" is actually a relief.

So back to the agenda: Broadway Babes rehearsing this morning and three big meetings coming up in Stamford and Greenwich this week.  Deb is also working on finding the best architect to give us a quote on a space we have in mind.  OH and I am seeing my students at the Hartt School (Univ of Hartford) in a production of Company tonight.

I was able to talk the editor of The Sondheim Review (national magazine that I write for occasionally) into letting me cover the production as a "What college kids learn from working on a Sondheim piece).  I will be featuring my students in quotes and pix of course! 

Tell ya about all that later.....rehearsal time now...

Monday, April 11, 2011


Is everyone valuable to you? Who is more valuable in terms of time spent? As we leverage our time building this theatre to ultimately create new possibilities for theatre production, how do we decide with whom to spend our time?

The potential big donor seems an obvious choice to anyone. But I think equally valuable are the “sneezers”(in viral terms) the ones who help you spread the word to more donors, audience members and important people in your area. 

Is everyone valuable to you? Of course mass marketers would say that is kind of a trick question.  Everyone is valuable. Not necessarily.  I can’t tell you what all the secrets to success are, but I can tell you how to fail: Try to please everyone. 

New marketing says that you stop the mass appeal and only concentrate on your tribe. Your like-minded tribe.  If you can only spend 10 hours a week courting new customers, new audience members or new donors, it makes sense to spend your valuable time on people who consider what you are offering….valuable! 

Then why do so many theatres spend time and money courting everyone? 

Learning from those who came before me is something I have done for 20 years in the theatre business.  I have been paying attention at all those regional houses and on Broadway.  I have had an insiders view of not only performing but also on marketing the shows.

Our approach is to nicely ignore those who are not on board with our mission until they see the light. They might never do that by the way.  But the ones who “get” it are going to more than make up for the ones who don’t.  Spending our time on those folks that are raring to go, those folks encouraging us to do our best and try new things, those are the folks we are spending our precious money and time on.

As we make trips down to Stamford to speak with important people, I am very aware of whom I want to continue talking to and on whom I need to push pause.  I think it’s the part of leadership that knows the difference between enrolling or engaging…and wasting time. 

When I get frantic about meeting up with everyone and converting them into a "tribe" members, I think back on lessons I have learned from Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott about using my time wisely and investing it in something that really matters.

Lesson 1: In fact, you can make a difference, you can start something from scratch, you can build something without authority or permission. Passionate people on a mission can make change happen.
Lesson 2: In fact, philanthropy works. Building systems and enhancing entrepreneurial outcomes generates results far bigger than the resources invested.
Lesson 3: You better be prepared to stick it out, to exert yourself, to last longer than you ever expected and to care so much it hurts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I like the idea of being interesting.  But it got me thinking about Big vs Little too. Or Old vs New.  In terms of theatre and nonprofits of course.

I attended a very early awards breakfast for a huge well-known nonprofit this week.  They do great work for girls and encourage leadership and service.  They also honored some remarkable women. Some of whom I spoke to and will set up meetings with to pick their brains.  The worst they could have said was “no” and none of them said that to my request to brainstorm about my new professional nonprofit theatre.

At one point in the breakfast the MC said that in the center of our tables were pledge cards. To sponsor a girl for a year was $250 and then he waited an excruciating two minutes or so for us to reach in and get a card to make a pledge.  I saw a few folks feebly reach in for a card.  Next to me was my good friend who also was a leader for this nonprofit some years ago. I said “What if this service organization had said, ‘Listen, for every $250 pledge you will get three girls to come to your house and clean it, do some gardening, whatever you need because this represents what we teach. They will get a badge for that and you will get a clean house and the chance to sponsor one girl a year’”

I know you could pay less for a maid or gardener, but you got something back for donating. An incentive. Make up something else cute.  Get the singing girls in the group to do singing valentines for the donor’s 10 favorite friends. Or let them teach you how to get on Facebook. 

My friend sighed and said, “No that will never happen”.  You know why? Cause they have never done it that way. They are a huge organization. Long time organization.  A big beast.  Hard to move those.

Another investor friend on Wall Street asked me if I had heard about Pepsi and their move to only advertise with social media.  He said they took a 4% hit this quarter.  I guess telling me that was to prove that social media doesn’t work.  ?   What they may not have thought about is:  Did a new power drink come on the market that quarter that was way cool? Or a healthy one? Did they actually have good social media ads or did they force it trying to be viral? Did they make it interactive or just treat it like they do in a newspaper?

 It’s very hard to actually measure your Internet efforts like you would traditional advertising. And why did a big beast like Pepsi totally abandon traditional advertising anyway? There are still old codgers out there who like the ads.  J  It’s a big beast. Hard to move that all at once.

Now a new theatre or business or school teacher or nonprofit, just starting up, has all sorts of interesting options don't we?  We don’t have to be perfect or big.  We can try stuff the big beasts like Broadway can’t even think of.  We are like that little fullback who can surprise the big tackles by squeezing through with spunkiness and speed.  And if we fail, we have learned something that can add to the greater good for that industry.

I wish I could fill you in on all our little moves, but suffice it to know….we are going to be very interesting and maybe even inspire some of the big beasts to adjust their bulk a bit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Actors know it as their rite of passage into professional acting gigs. “Pounding the Pavement”.  I remember doing four auditions in a day once. The first required me to wait in line outside from 5:00am until the doors opened at this NY audition venue at 9:00 am.  After making it inside to sign up for a 2pm audition slot I hoofed it over to another studio 7 blocks away to sign up for another audition. While I was there I squeezed into yet another audition and then ran back to the first spot to sing.  Still having more time until the next audition I took the subway to yet another spot and sang, danced and subwayed it back to the final audition.  This wasn’t an unusual day.  Hence, “Pounding the Pavement”. 

After yesterday this phrase has a new and better feel to it.  I was in Stamford “Pounding the Pavement” with four meetings to promote the theatre and garner us more “tribe” members. At noon I met with two of the movers and shakers from the Reinventing Stamford group. These women were very involved in the educational elements and had some good suggestions about how to continue developing my education/outreach program. I think that is going to be a key in getting some major funding. They also suggested I figure out how to engage the various ethnic groups in the city.

At 2pm Andy, Deb and I met with the Stamford Center for the Arts folks.  They work at the Palace Theatre in Stamford presenting great stuff like David Sedaris, Diana Ross, Miss India (Connecticut) various concerts as well as other arts groups and events.  They also showed us the space below the Palace that needs to be renovated but has potential.  199 seats.

My chiropractor referred me to a man who works for Merrill Lynch in Greenwich who was really helpful last week at our meeting and he referred me to Kay, who runs a big non profit in Stamford for our 4pm meeting.  She was lovely and gave us a few more folks to contact.  She lives in Greenwich so part of our mission is to find a way to make our theatre exclusive enough for them and inclusive enough for Stamford.   

By 6pm I was pumped by all the good feedback. Our final meeting was with Gene D’Agastino, a truly great businessman, and one of the many contacts Gene has been sending my way. Tom, a senior advisor with a corporate finance boutique company, and Gene really know Stamford and both of them love Broadway.  It seems to be a theme with the business people I am meeting. Most of them have children who are in the arts as well. His wife also works with kids with special needs, and since that is another element of our education outreach, we are setting up another meeting. I loved the energy of this last meeting.

All of these meetings have helped me narrow down my “elevator speech”, that two- minute commercial for a proposal.  Think, movie pitch, but I try to tailor it for the person’s main interest.  Whether it is pure art, education, nonprofit or business to business.  

Pounding the pavement.  My feet really did hurt.  But the amount of time these folks spent with me (in comparison to the 2 minutes I get in auditions) was at least an hour.  The amount of respect they offered my ideas and the advice and contacts they all offered really blew my mind.  At auditions, due to time constraints, you usually get a “thank you” and not much in the way of feedback.  With 300 people to hear in a day you understand.  I wasn’t competing with that many people yesterday.  In fact, I laugh inside when people tell me “you know this will be hard work right?” They have obviously never pursued a theatre career.

Deb, the amazing commercial real estate agent, tells me that helping me and attending these meetings is her way to relax!  Gene loves theatre and is actually quite a talent.  The others I met all have various performing tendencies. I think that introducing them to the Broadway folks I bring out to Stamford will be a nice start at rewarding them for their time.

The key to meeting these people and adding them to the tribe of supporters is to accept their advice about various things I can add to my marketing or business plan. To remain coachable and not get egotistical about my ideas so that I miss their nuggets of wisdom.  It’s tempting to tell them what I know. But I realized that the more they help me create this theatre, the more they’ll take ownership. 

But just to prove that you can’t take the theatre pounding out of the girl I must admit to doing a photo shoot for an ad agency courting Home Town Buffet at 9:45am yesterday before my new pavement pounding adventures began.