Life is an open book test.
On a Friday afternoon during my first few weeks as an Assistant Company Manager at Show Boat back in 1996, two firemen came up to our office at the Gershwin theater and said there was a water main break nearby, and there might not be water servicing the building for the next 8 hours.
We had a show in 2.
The firemen made it clear. No water? No show.
Uh-to the-oh. We were sold out.
About 30 minutes later the situation resolved itself, so all was good.
But my boss later asked me what I would have done if he hadn’t been around to deal with the issue. I told him I would have called the GM and the Producer and kept them abreast of the situation, etc. I told him I would see if we could hold the curtain to give the firefolks more time to fix the situation, etc.
He told me all of that was correct, but he said that I forgot to call a few more folks.
“Who,” I asked.
“Ken,” he said. “You’re not the only Broadway show in town. There are a ton of other theaters nearby, and they all have shows tonight too. And you know most of the managers, right? Call them. Find out what they are doing. Use our network to make sure everyone is taking similar actions. Imagine if you decided to cancel the show, and you find out that the show down the block found a way around it. Remember, life is an open book test.”
I was reminded of this concept today because I was faced with two different paths to take with an issue on one of my shows.
Thankfully, because of the lesson of the firemen, I knew to use the network of people I trust in the biz to listen to my problem, hear my proposed solution and and then offer their honest expert and objective opinions on what they would do in a similar situation. I’m not talking about “Yes” men or women. I’m talking about people that would poke and prod me like a lawyer taking a deposition. I want people to challenge me.
I have five people on my speed dial that I call in situations like this. And even when I hear things I don’t want to hear, I’m always glad I called.
If you don’t have a a network of “shows down the block,” then you should get one.
Because doing business in a vacuum . . . well . . . it sucks.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.