Rinse, Repeat and Adapt: An Introduction to my Bi-Weekly Column
It’s February 17, 2021, 10:58pm MT. I take off my mask. I’ve just arrived home from the office, and that timing is not out of the norm, nor was it pre-Covid era. Tomorrow, I have due: a three-year budget forecast for Pioneer Theatre Company (PTC) alongside updated projections for the current fiscal year; another article (for American Theatre); a film treatment for a major studio for a capitalized venture seeking distribution; a partnership proposal for a local media company and PTC.
In an hour I have a call with Tokyo to discuss Covid-era contingency planning for A Christmas Carol (I’ve held Asian market rights to a musicalized version of the show for over a decade). At 1am MT, I’ll be on an evening “Zoom” with a Melbourne-based theatre company that is slated, in 2022, to stage a musical on which I am a producer. Next, at 2am MT, a morning call with London to discuss the future of a theatrical world premiere of a play.
At 2:30am MT, I will sleep.
I’m up, again, at 6am MT, just in time for a quick shower, a brief date with a minty group of bristles followed by a rinse and repeat, and the pre-sunrise morning jog of a partner in Los Angeles, for another film project, currently wrapping pre-production. I’ll get an update on the last week’s progress. By now, I will have migrated to a couch away from my sleeping pregnant wife, as I look through financial statements sent to me overnight. Before we get into our next steps, he will jokingly ask what I’m wearing. He always does. I’ll tell him, as I always do, to mind his manners. We’ll laugh. Then he’ll tell me we need to raise more money. I’ll sigh and coordinate with investors to let them know how the on-schedule capitalization has been set back by, likely, as this is most-often the case these days, Covid impact precautions. From our conversation last week, I anticipate he and I are looking at needing to capitalize roughly $300,000 more, which believe it or not, is a reasonable cashline extension ask for feature film. By the end of today, I’ll likely have to give an Investor more equity in return with an additional royalty contingency should the film fail to meet its payback schedule, which is okay. That’s standard, and besides, I do what I do for the art.
At 7am MT, I’m generating and scheduling content/image copy for Instagram to serve over 30,000 active followers, of which a little north of 300 followers are currently enrolled in free courses I’ve organized to plan for longterm goal-attainment. I gleefully dedicate two hours a week to those 300, organized into separate sessions, with working groups of 10. We give each other uninterrupted progress reporting, followed by collaborative, and moderated, feedback. By 7:30am MT, I am responding to emails from my social media support team in San Diego. They won’t see the responses until 10am PT, and I won’t worry about checking those emails until after the work day at the Theatre ends— and more-than-likely I’ll not be able to make the adequate time for meaningful response until the following morning. The team and I have an understanding, and we kind of like each other, but it’s a new relationship, and we’re still feeling each other out.
Then at 8am MT, I am in my own space, meditating for 10-20 minutes, then listening to affirmations for another 20-30 minutes, knowing these moments of personal space will cease for approximately 18 years after baby’s March 15 expected arrival date.
By 8:40am, I am walking to PTC in the snow, so that my wife has access to our singular car, something fairly foreign to us as relocated New Yorkers. I’ve likely forgotten to dress appropriately, and am wearing a t-shirt or button down, forgetting that it’s sweater weather. If all goes according to plan, I’m at PTC by 9am, and almost immediately headed to an off-site meeting on the University of Utah campus, PTC’s marvelous home. These days, getting in right on the dot, doesn’t always, nor often, seem to work out as anticipated. In the Covid-era, meetings seem to have exploded, and with that, the consistency I crave has been tested to the max. At 9:45am, my wife and I are off to our 37-week midwife check-in appointment. Keeping fingers crossed that all is well, I’ll back in the office by 10:30am.
The moment I get in, I will reheat the large pot of coffee I made on Sunday that I’m still drinking. Our development director, whose office is next to mine, will tease me (friendly- we both drink “finely aged” coffee) about it, then update me on the Shuttered Operator Venue Grant. We’ll share a brief cherished chuckle – and internal cry – as we await to discover whether or not we’re even applicable candidates as a fiscally independent organization that operates under the umbrella of a University. Even if we are eligible to receive a portion of this funding, we’d be placed in the third-and-last tier. With whatever funding we’d receive, we put it on the stage, creating vital jobs for creatives, performers, and artisans alike; address structural and staffing deficits; and of course enact the vital work towards ensuring we’re building better equity at our Theatre and in our Community.
We’ve pivoted, and adapt daily, despite being severely disrupted, and in the thick of an Industry largely decimated by the pandemic. Earlier today, my partner at the theatre, PTC’s artistic director Karen Azenberg, mentioned our 1-year anniversary of shutdown is coming up. There’s such a shared sadness in our eyes these days. We both miss producing live theatre, and the invaluable service it provides, more than anything in the world. I’m hoping that my coffee hasn’t grown mold overnight.
As I open Outlook and pull up the first email in “my queue” my day will quickly disappear into 3 FT jobs at PTC that I am currently undertaking, in effect staffing the entirety of our business office – as we search to fill at least one of positions before baby Massimine emerges – not exactly knowing how the positions will morph depending on the candidate selected, but pushing forward anyhow as best as we can. There will likely be some new, challenging, and immediate issue to solve at the office, if it hasn’t already hit, and we’re already playing triage. I will at some point in the day thank my staff and express gratitude for their patience. I maybe do this too often, but I don’t think you can do that enough if it comes from a place of sincerity. Staff’s stressed. I’m stressed. The world is stressed. Right now direction is so important, but with so many unknowns, it’s hard to say with any certainty “here’s the plan”. It’ll change. It’s going to change. It changed already. And we’re working through more change. Recently our patron services director and I were talking about this: there’s so much change on top of change, on top of change.
I’m relatively new to PTC: a year and a half in, and roughly two-thirds of that time was in the pandemic. Who could’ve known? So, I need to earn my stripes, continue to build trust, give change the long latitude it needs. I know that. And it’s that much more complicated as we chart such widely variable unknowns. But, we’re doing it. And mostly with a smile, despite levels of anxiety that want to burst through our skin. We’ve brought our staff back and their jobs are secured, and that’s a big win for the entire team here.
The PTC regular administrative work day will end at 5pm, when my real work as managing director begins. I typically work an additional 3-6 hours there physically, with “homework” after I leave. When I’m back at the house, if it’s a reasonable hour and “homework” is minimal, I am preparing for fatherhood, taking in every spare moment with my wife, and coordinating catch ups with colleagues, friends, and family. The weekends are for chores and charity.
Why am I telling you this? Why should you care?
It’s easy to give up. Especially in this new world we’re in. It’s easy to be hard. Especially when so much is so uncertain. It’s easy to be caustic. The stakes have never been higher in our living history, and kindness and passive aggressive behavior have started to blend.
Here’s the corny truth: I’m here for hope. If a 30-something-year-old tucked away in the West, professionally centered in the performing arts, can push forward, so can you. I’m going to teach you how. I’m going to have some of my peers offer advice and takeaways through interviews. I’m going to keep you updated about the status of the Entertainment Industry at large, and the Industry I hold nearest and dearest: Theatre. I’m going to do it every two weeks as a Contributor, because it’s important, and somebody’s got to do it.
I forgot to mention: it’s easy to say “no.” Definitely in today’s world it’s far easier to say no than welcoming “yes.” Defaulting to “no” invites the definitive, and leaves behind opportunity. So when you can, and if the choice rests on something addressed for a greater good, step outside of yourself, and say yes. Or, at least maybe. Or, I have to think about it. And actually think about it.
Doors lead places. Keeping them closed will always keep you shut in and behind a wall. Let’s open some doors together.