Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GRAB THE REIGNS…or the ring.

Leadership.  My dad sent me a story he wrote today about a famous religious leader.  Last night I watched Harry Potter again.  Lord of the Rings was on earlier.  Then The Matrix.

It got me thinking a lot about this “leadership” thing.  I like team sports.  In college I played on the volleyball team.  On stage I was in the most ensemble of ensemble casts on Broadway. I like being the funny side-kick on stage and I am comfortable being a strong member of a team. 

But I am finding that the whole thing about being a “leader” is that it’s something you have to actually grab hold of and declare.  To step out of the comfortable “strong member of the team” position and forge ahead as the leader of the tribe.

Most of the leaders in the shows I mentioned above were reluctant leaders.  Harry Potter, Frodo, Neo, Jesus, Moses.  At first.  They had to be told by some wise “Merlin” that they were leader material.  And while most of them fought it at first, they finally grabbed hold of the reigns...or the ring… and led. 

Please don’t think I am comparing myself to Moses or Jesus…or Frodo… but I realized that when you declare yourself to be a leader i.e. “theatre ringleader” and start doing things that a leader does, it is very empowering and. …scary.  I find myself wanting to sink back into the teammate mentality a lot and then I realize that something else is pushing me to take on the CEO position. I suppose that is the passion for this project pushing me ahead.  I really believe in what we are doing and I know I can teach this to others.  The teacher/leader thing I do understand.  But even my teaching has been on a small scale compared to this quest.

My senior business partner, my parents, my good friends seem to think I have it in me and it’s funny, when you position yourself as the “leader” and have a passion for what you are doing, people actually do what you say. You can create a “Story” or a script and the universe will follow along with it. If you have a cast in the story that is incorrect you just say “Next” and you write another scene with different characters but with the same passion. And you write it with you as the lead…er. 

I am not talking about a maniacal rule-the-world type of leadership, although I can see how people succumb to that.  Type A, Scorpio, First Child.  I get it.  But I think a leader’s job is to empower others around them to think of themselves as leaders and to enroll them in your quest. That is actually something I have to continually remind myself to do.  I see it in action though with those leaders that I respect.

If it’s all about you and your ideas, it doesn’t have the “buy-in” that is necessary to become lasting, and frankly, it’s too much work being responsible for coming up with every single idea and action.  That is control-freak leadership.  But to be positioned at the head of the quest, guiding and empowering, that seems to be quite effective.  Once I let go of the, “My precious” attitude about my ideas (Lord of the Rings reference) I find that my leadership skills move another step in the right direction.  
Stories sell.  The above-mentioned leaders all told stories.  They also share credit with their “followers” when something goes right.  They take the blame themselves when it doesn’t. Seth Godin says you need to “fail” all the time. There are hundreds of stories of leaders (Alexander Graham Bell, President Lincoln etc) who failed and failed and then REALLY succeeded because they learned what didn’t work and they just kept going! 

I aspire to be that kind of a leader with this new theatre project and to tell the story with my blog, to tell other stories as we produce actual shows and to tell the “story” of the community in which we chose to locate via our website. 

As a leader it is a challenge to do this but I am declaring that we will be making a huge dent in how theatre can be produced and can benefit an entire community in more than just “artsy” ways.

This week:  Looking at two potential spaces in Stamford with Deb and Andy.
 Meeting with the mayor finally in another week.  Leader to leader.  One on one.  Wizard to Wizard.

Seizing the Ring. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What do we want?

Riffing on Seth Godin...again!

What (people) want

What do customers, friends, the socially networked, users, neighbors, classmates, servers, administrators, employees... maybe even brands... want?

notice me
like me
touch me
do what I say
miss me if I'm gone

(Let's add donors and audience members to that list)

Our website will do all those things, and so will our theatre.  Ask yourself to name other arts groups that really indulge in those ideas.  Online.   Or in person. 

I do not mean sending them an email saying "come back to us/donate to us/we've missed you!".
I do not mean only "touching them" from the stage.

I mean literally getting in the trenches and building your tribe one-on-one.  Treating them all as if they own a part of your company.  Making your website more than an online brochure and instead, a place that they want to visit daily (like broadwayworld.com) to find out what cool stuff they can be a part of, can comment on, can influence, can contribute to OTHER than just coming to see your shows.

Getting it yet?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This week

From my daily Tuts: notes from the Universe: "For the one who continues, Kristin, failure becomes impossible."

I like it! 

This week we met with the highly regarded architects from Fletcher Thompson.  They spent more than an hour with our team (lisa, deb, andy, kunjan, russell)  discussing spaces and places in Stamford, Norwalk and Greenwich.  Exciting!  They really 'got' what I described as our mission.

Deb, Andy and I are going to the meeting with the mayor tomorrow in Stamford for small businesses and hopefully get a little time with him at that point.  Even though we are a non profit, we are a professional theatre and I think most non profits realize they need to think like a business to be successful.

Speaking tonight with my web designer and getting exactly the right details for what kind of site I need to buy as we begin beta testing our website this summer. I hope to have it up for you all to help us beta test by end of May, beginning of June. 

Last weekend I judged a choral competition in Boston and we are just finishing up all finals for Western CT State University this week.  See, you can work, "Starting a professional theatre" into your small pockets of time. You just have to have a good team working with you who believes in the mission.

Suggested reading:  Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


As we approach the end of college term with finals and juries for the voice students I have decided to extend an offer to anyone reading this blog.

I have one intern already (former voice student and person-extraordinaire Jamie Rose) who will get credit as an intern, be the coordinator for any other interns and also have something fun to write on her resume ie "Intern for The New Paradigm Theatre".  But are there any other folks out there who would like to help us this summer?

Here is what I will be offering as your mentor (it is of course a take off on one of Seth's posts)

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it's solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Professional finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • The self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving for the arts.
  • The chance to get some writing/blogging credits
We are going to be loading the website this summer and beta testing it with mighty Zach as our webmaster. So most of your work will be internet related. Finding articles, contributing to the videos and pictures, helping me meet people and interview them, personal assistant stuff, emailing and brainstorming. If you are good at formatting and making things look professional on paper, that is a good skill too as I am not highly artistic in that way.

It's getting to the point where we need a few extra hands! Let me know if you want to be one of those for college credit, or just for resume fodder.  At this point I cannot pay anyone, but you can be a part of our exciting adventure in a more substantial way.  You may also refer trustworthy friends. Anyone 18-80 is eligible.

Monday, May 2, 2011


This past week was all about judging an international choir competition in Toronto.

Got me thinking that I should eventually ask to host one of those annually at our theatre. It's a great corporation that brings in choirs and bands from all over the nation, and Canada, and hires qualified judges to give the groups awards and feedback.  This particular group also asks the judges to do a 15 minute onstage workshop with the groups, so it's very helpful to the choirs. Bus loads of choirs and parents come to the host city. When I add this to my marketing list it's going to be one more thing that folks who don't know me will say, "how are you going to do all this?".  It'll only be those of you who read this blog and know me who will understand that I am just making life easier for myself by hosting them in my own space.

We drove home from Toronto last night and right to the Broadway Babes concert I produced and performed in for FSW, a great charity that had us as one of their fundraisers. Again, these concerts are something that is on my marketing plan.  The largest donor of our season gets a Broadway Cabaret of performers from our season for that donor's favorite charity.  A two-fer.  Be our largest donor of the season and get a charity cabaret for your favorite charity. Performed at our theatre.

Again, I often get the comment, "how are you going to do all this?" when they see that element.  And you and I will chuckle inside knowing that it's going to make my life easier to host them at our own theatre. 

This week Deb is setting up a meeting with very well-respected architects and sound designers who will become part of our 'tribe'.  Enrolling them in the vision of what we are doing is my job. We are looking at a few spaces and I want to be sure we are all on the same page.  Our theatre can potentially drive traffic and create such a buzz in the city that we want to pick exactly the right space to rennovate.  Any architect/crew we use will be a part of something new and get to put their stamp on it.

So far that sounds like a normal theatrical proceedure doesn't it?  Guess what, we aren't waiting till we have an actual space to make a difference in the community.  A website that is content rich will be beta tested, with many of you, this summer.  We can exist in a substantion way long before we have our space open for business because the internet is free. 

And our internet marketing company is full of experts who know exactly how to stay on the cutting edge and how to drive traffic to a site that is informational and interactive. 

Stay tuned....