My Theater Management Rule of Three.

As a Producer, General Manager, Company Manager . . . or Manager of Anything (including a family, by the way). . . keeping your company/actors/employees/KIDS happy and productive is an integral part of being an effective leader.

You’ve heard the expression, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Well, I always say, “Happy staff, happy accountants when they look at your P/L statement for the year.”

(Ok, that didn’t really have the right ring to it, but you get the idea.)

It was on my first tour as a Company Manager (the National Tour of Jekyll & Hyde in 1999-2000) when I came up with one of my principle rules of Theater Management, which I call the Theater Management Rule of Three.

It was a great check for me to make sure I was doing my job.

It went like this:

If ever I got the same question from three different people, I knew that I wasn’t delivering information that my company needed in an appropriate time frame.

Let me explain . . .

I remember the day I came up with this policy specifically and it had to do with one of the biggest concerns for Actors on the road.

An ensemble member came into my office one day and said,”Ken, when is the Boston housing selections coming out?”

I was a rookie manager back then, so I semi-blew him off saying to myself, “These guys know that I always deliver the housing options eight weeks before the date.”

And then another person asked.

And then another.

Finally, a bit annoyed, I shot back to the third Asker, “What’s the deal?  Why are you guys asking about Boston so soon?”

This chorus girl smartly shot back even faster, “We know Boston is going to be more expensive, and we want more time to think about other alternatives.”


I worked like a mad dog for the rest of that day getting the info I needed and put out the housing choices the next day.  And then I apologized to everyone and told them I’d work hard to have my finger on the pulse on their needs better in the future.

And that’s why if someone asks me a question, it’s one thing, but if I get two asks, then I’m getting to tardy territory, and three . . . well, I’ve effed up.

Because, if three people have the same question, in whatever group of people you’re managing, then that means there are probably a heck of a lot more peeps with the same question . . . and you have a responsibility to get them some information and fast.

Don’t?  Well, those questions fester . . . and then, they end up coming up with answers themselves, which are never good.

Now look, sometimes you don’t have the information . . . and that’s ok . . . but that doesn’t mean you hide under a pile of coats until you do have the info.  No. That’s when you say, “Hey everybody, I’m sure you’re concerned about Boston housing. We’re working on it now and I will have it for you on XXX date.”

End of questions.

Companies want to know they are taken care of, which means answering questions before they even have them.

(BTW, the inspiration for this blog came from the fact that I just broke my own rule very recently.  In the last week, I got about TWENTY (That’s over 6x my rule of three) emails from people asking me about my annual holiday Producer’s Perspective Social.  Where would it be?  When would it be?  Would I be wearing my Santa hat again?

The fact is, we are having a social.  But over the past few years, the social has exploded.  And so many people who really would have loved to be there, couldn’t get it because the event “sold out” too soon.  And then some folks didn’t show, which made me feel bad for the people who we had to say no to.  And getting a proper venue has been super challenging.  It was starting to get a little messy.

I didn’t want to do away with it entirely, especially because I just love meeting people who feel the same way about the theater that I do.  So we decided to do a smaller one this year for just my ProducersPerspectivePRO members, my coaching clients, our theater and GM clients, some investors, etc. etc.  I invited them privately and wasn’t even going to talk about it on the blog, but then I got those questions and realized I broke my own rule. So, mea culpa.  And if you did want to come, there is still a bit of room. Just get a free trial to PRO and you’ll get an invite.)


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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.