Hiring the right people… especially in the theatre!
I ran a CPA firm for 18 years. I hired and fired dozens of folks – accountants, bookkeepers, office staff, secretaries, etc. I learned quickly that hiring, and training staff – and firing, sometimes — are some of the most important and frustrating parts of running a small business. As I am starting to work on my next new musical, I am faced with the same issues. This time it will be, musicians, artistic associates and, yes, a composing team.
My mentor, Ken Davenport told me that a successful show almost always depends on hiring the right director, actors, etc. In fact, I believe casting the right actors in the right roles – more than anything else — is about 80% of what makes a show work. Imagine casting ANNIE and not having a young actress who could act. Or you may have found the perfect Frankie for JERSIE BOYS but then – soon – you realized that his voice could not blend with the other singers.
Actually, I am not good at casting. I use my staff – or hire someone to cast the show for me – because I know that is not what I am good at. But, I do know some things about hiring people in general. Here they are:
- People start out at their best behavior. If I hire someone and they show up late on their first day of rehearsal or work, that says a lot. Chances are they will continue that pattern, or worse. It is like a date – the actor/staff wants to put on a good impression. What you see is what you get – never better and usually worse.
- You cannot change someone’s habits. If they could not memorize their lines for their last show – chances are they are not going to be able to memorize lines for this show. If they are messy in the dressing room previously, they will not get “clean” for this show. If during the audition, they make excuses, or are unprepared or cause trouble at the front desk, they are showing you who they truly are. Watch what they do, and take it seriously.
People often say things about themselves….appearing to simply jest, speaking with a smile, with a chuckle. But you know what? They are telling us who they really are! “I never worry. It will all work out.” “My goal is to win the lottery and loaf on a beach!” “In this world, you plow through, or you walk right over!” it is our job as employers to “listen” to them. And, in some cases, to run the other way as fast as our little feet can carry us! I hope I can remember these things as I move forward to my next show. Oh, yeah….did I tell you I am working on another new musical?