Pope-mania is sweeping the city.
As I left the my theater last night after a preview of Daddy Long Legs, I couldn’t help but notice how there was a New Year’s Eve energy bubbling through Times Square. There were more people on the streets, everyone was in a revelrous mood, and souvenir stores were selling souvenir hats and signs (these just had Pope Francis’ face on them instead of “2015”).
And His Holiness also took a bite of the box office last night, just like New Year’s Eve does, as walk-up and TKTS business was done for just about everyone I spoke to.
There’s something special about this Pope, whether you’re Catholic or not . . . or even if you’re religious or not. And even if you disagree with him on some of his specific issues, everyone agrees he has been an incredible leader in a very short time.
You know who else has to be a great leader?
Anyone interested in running a show, running a business, or running a family should study great leaders of the present, past and future. And this Pope is no exception. Here are three things I’ve learned from the leader of one of the largest religions in the free world and why I think he’d make one helluva Producer.
1. He changes with the times.
If you think Broadway has its archaic traditions that are hard to change, imagine trying to move the church! But Pope Francis has already softened his positions on so many subjects that had pushed many of his “audience” away. And now, slowly, some of those lapsed “customers” are coming back. You can’t produce in 2015 the way people produced in 1955, 1985 or 2005. Realize that as your audience changes, so must you and your business.
2. He goes to the people.
From Day 1 in office, the Pope has shocked his own closest advisers by making surprise visits to homeless shelters, opticians’ offices (where he arrived in a Ford Focus and tried on glasses!), and more. He doesn’t sit in his private papal office praying, reading, and ruling from afar. He gets to know his subjects. He gets to know their problems. And he learns from them. Too many Producers I know make their decisions from an ad agency conference table, without ever talking to patrons. Mix it up with your audience. Talk to people with Playbills on the street. Go to a mall in Tampa, Florida and randomly ask people how many people have seen a Broadway show (you’ll be shocked at how few even know what you’re talking about – I know this for a fact because I did it). And it’s not only about getting to know your audience. Great Producers have to get to know their cast and crew as well. Old school leadership sought to create an enormous chasm between leaders and their followers or CEOs and their employees. Modern businesses can’t be run that way. Especially ones filled with people that are doing it because of their passion for the product, and not for the 401K.
3. He knows the children are our future.
The Pope goes out of his way to talk to the children. He lets them through security ropes. He visits them in schools. He knows that the future of his church, and the future of this world, depends on what happens to these precious human beings. And guys, well, the future of the theater is in their hands as well. It’s very easy for Broadway Producers to worry only about tomorrow’s grosses for the show we’re opening today. But if you’re not in the business just to make a quick buck (and if you are, you picked the wrong one, dodo bird), then you must dedicate some of your time and resources to helping bring today’s children to the theater. Advocate for arts education in schools. Offer lower prices to parents who bring their kids. Create video games of your shows. Whatever you do, remember, your future success depends on the future audience. And right now, their open and impressionable minds are waiting for leaders to show them the way.
Enjoy Pope Friday here in New York City, and here’s hoping he blesses all of Broadway and the theater on his way through town.
And now, if I can just figure out how to get him to Spring Awakening. He’d like that one, right? Right???
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