A Little Irreverence Would Do Us Good

In case you missed it, the 2011 Tony Awards offered up a fabulous opening number featuring Neil Patrick Harris that takes a “different approach” to dealing with the audience development and financial challenges that stalk performing arts orgs. But unlike the Debbie Downer style “straight talk” adopted by some service organizations, the theater field seems to have remembered that they are filled with creative, artistic, entertaining folks…

And just to make sure you’re paying attention, the edgy opening number is laden with counter political correctness while simultaneously poking fun at all of the negative elitist stereotypes that plague our collective field. But don’t take my word for it, watch for yourself (don’t miss the tangent about audience caricatures at the 2:00 mark)…

And really, if we can’t poke fun at ourselves, then there truly is no hope. Fortunately, this business is sincerely filled with talented, creative, and motivated professionals all of who are capable of finding new ways to connect with their current and future audiences.

We just need to remember that all of this can be fun if we let it and redirect all of the self-defeatist energy surrounding what some are calling “open and frank” discussion and come up with ideas like It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore!

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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