Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Theatre degree/business degree

Great post by Brian on Changagent.wordpress.com

This is the point that NPT hopes to make in it's mentoring programs.  We help create leaders, not just little thespians.

9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree

Some of you may know this about me, some may not. Despite having spent the last 15 years as a PR & communications professional, my college degree is in theatre. I have never in my life taken a marketing class, or a journalism class, or a business class. Yet, by most measures, I’m enjoying a successful career in business.  ”So what?” you ask… read on.
I was having a conversation with a friend this week. She’s an actress. Like most actresses, she also has a Day Job that she works to pay the bills between acting jobs. This is the reality for most working actors in LA, New York and the other major centers of the entertainment industry. She was pointing out to me that she viewed her theatre background as a weakness in her Day Job career field, and that it was holding her back. She asked for my advice.
My advice? There IS no weakness in having a theatre background. There is only strength. Here are just a few skills that a theatre degree gave me that have served me enormously well in business:
  1. You have advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills: taking a script and translating it into a finished production is a colossal exercise in critical thinking. You have to make tremendous inferences and intellectual leaps, and you have to have a keen eye for subtle clues. (believe it or not, this is a skill that very few people have as finely honed as the theatre people I know. That’s why I listed it #1).
  2. You’re calm in a crisis: You’ve been on stage when somebody dropped a line and you had to improvise to keep the show moving with a smile on your face, in front of everyone. Your mic died in the middle of a big solo musical number. You just sang louder and didn’t skip a beat.
  3. You understand deadlines and respect them: Opening Night is non-negotiable. Enough said.
  4. You have an eye on audience perception: You know what will sell tickets and what will not. This is a very transferrable skill, and lots of theatre people underestimate this, because they think of theatre as an ART, and not as a BUSINESS. I frequently say (even to MBA-types) that theatre was absolutely the best business education I could have gotten. While the business majors were buried in their books and discussing theory, we were actually SELLING a PRODUCT to the PUBLIC. Most business majors can get through undergrad (and some MBA programs, even) without ever selling anything. Theater departments are frequently the only academic departments on campus who actually sell anything to the public. Interesting, isn’t it?
  5. You’re courageous: If you can sing “Oklahoma!” in front of 1,200 people, you can do anything.
  6. You’re resourceful: You’ve probably produced “The Fantasticks” in a small town on a $900 budget. You know how to get a lot of value from minimal resources.
  7. You’re a team player: You know that there are truly no small roles, only small actors. The show would fail without everyone giving their best, and even a brilliant performance by a star can be undermined by a poor supporting cast. We work together in theatre and (mostly) leave our egos at the stage door. We truly collaborate.
  8. You’re versatile: You can probably sing, act, dance. But you can also run a sewing machine. And a table saw. And you’ve probably rewired a lighting fixture. You’ve done a sound check. You’re good with a paintbrush. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty for the benefit of the show. In short, you know how to acquire new skills quickly.
  9. You’re flexible: you’ve worked with some directors who inspired you. Others left you flat, but you did the work anyway. Same goes with your fellow actors, designers and stagehands… some were amazing and supportive, others were horrible and demoralizing to work with (we won’t name names). You have worked with them all. And learned a little something from every one of them.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Making room for the best....

This was a great blog post from Seth Godin and hit me at the right time today.  Yesterday I got an email from one of our Board members. We had had a board meeting this week and were brainstorming new ideas as we continue to add to the board. There used to be another theatre in the Stamford area and there was a person on that board that two of our folks knew.  Thought it might be worthwhile to talk to them.  

I have specifically been avoiding the old guard partially because of the "Gloom and Doom" mentality that goes along with folks that don't shift with the market when it comes to the Arts.  This company, in my opinion, programmed themselves right out of the market by producing shows they thought the community needed (read: avant guard and not enough popular titles) as opposed to shows the community wanted.

It's easy to say that their group struggled because "corporations didn't want to be in the arts business anymore".   I say that if the arts don't adjust and view their "business" as a civic contribution instead of just an Arts contribution, they might be right.  

A diversified portfolio of offerings that benefits the community is the way an arts group stays relevant for it's community.  There is huge power in the Arts.  Marketing and community building.  But it has to be about more than just the funding needed for shows and administration.  If all we see of you in a community are posters for your shows, you have failed. 

This blog talks about making room for the best customers.  Apply it to the arts and our board, audiences and donors.  

Unreasonable clients- Seth Godin

Who gets your best work?

If you reserve your best effort for the irritable boss, the never-pleased client and the bully of a customer, then you've bought into a system that rewards the very people who are driving you nuts. It's no wonder you have clients like that--they get your best work.
On the other hand, when you make it clear (and then deliver) on the promise that your best work goes to those that are clear, respectful and patient, you become a specialist in having customers just like that.

One of the largest turning points of my career was firing the client who accounted for a third of my company's work. We were becoming really good at tolerating the stress that came from this engagement, and it became clear to me that we were about to sign up for a lifetime of clients like that. 

Set free to work for those that we believed deserved our best work, we replaced the lost business in less than six months.
Years ago, I heard the story of a large retail financial services company that did the math and discovered that fewer than 5% of their customers were accounting for more than 80% of their customer service calls--and less than 1% of their profit. They sent these customers a nice note, let them know that they wouldn't be able to service them properly going forward, and offered to help them transfer their accounts to a competitor. With the time freed up, they could then have their customer service people double down on the customers that actually mattered to them... grease, but without the squeaky wheel part.

No, you can't always fire those that are imperious or bullies. But yes, you can figure out how to dig even deeper for those that aren't. That means you won't take advantage of their good nature, or settle for giving them merely what they will accept. Instead, you treat the good guys with even more effort and care and grace than you ever would have exerted for the tyrants. 

The word will spread.

[The other alternative is a fine one, if you're up for it... specialize in the worst possible clients and bosses, the least gratifying assignments. You'll stand out in an uncrowded field! The mistake is thinking you're doing one and actually doing neither by doing both.]


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Updates for NPT

This week marked the beginning of a few things for NPT.

 First, I had my first class with ECA, a magnet school for arts high school students.  NPT created a partnership with them for their "guest artists" program and Jerold Goldstein and I are teaching a twice-a-week class on musical theatre in New Haven under the mentoring outreach arm of NPT.  Photo of the great high school kids we are working with below.

Next, we had our first board meeting with our new members this week. Penny, Andy and I planned the meeting down to the minute with a history through video (a recap of our great video work by Mark Holleran) and nominations to specific committees (finance, education, marketing, building, board development etc).  Also officer nominations as well as immediate and future goals.

All very exciting.  There were a couple folks who couldn't make it, as happens on boards with busy businessmen and women, and I will be going to Stamford on Thursday to meet with those folks in person and do an entire recap for them. I find that if you send board notes, sometimes we get to reading those and sometimes not.  And it's far more exciting and memorable to share the info in person.

It will be a very strategic year for NPT.   Upcoming events include the start of ASK (After School at the Klein) partnership in mentoring starting in two weeks in Bridgeport at the Klein Auditorium.

Watermark's "So ya wanna be a Broadway star" event..not competition, but quarterly open mic event.

Webshow for the Youth Board in partnership with Itsrelevant.com, a Fairfield County webshow.

 The restart of Sunday Spotlight, again produced by the Youth Board.

Much to be excited about this year!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

FOCUS ON: Casey Dupler

Another FOCUS ON blog today about Casey Dupler.

This college junior has been a student of mine since she was a freshman at Hartt and I saw how dedicated she was from the very start.  Not only has she had leading roles at theatres in Long Island, she has also been featured in some of our NPT shows and is making a great name for herself at Hartt.

A loyal singing waiter and featured performer who actually came out with her side kick, Jeremy, during a blizzard all the way from Hartford for the United Way of Milford Gala last year to help me with that show.  That is dedication! She has also been an "intern" during our Bruce Museum gig and a competitor in our very first So Ya Wanna Be a Broadway star event.

One of her idols is Gwendolyn Jones who she has now met a few time (in person and on Sunday Spotlight) Her belt may rival Gwendolyn's some day as she works hard on her technique and her acting as well.

This summer I coached Casey through our company's TLS (transition's lifestyle) system that helped her lose 15 lbs in the most healthy way. All Low Glycemic!  And she is a convert for life when it comes to putting the right and most healthy things in her body. Since her body is her instrument for this business she is psyched to have a long career.

Hard working, very talented, dedicated and loyal, as well as healthy in mind and body. What a package!  Very proud of you Casey and happy to recommend you when the directors and casting agents call me. :)