Opening Night

For years, we have been enjoying musicals and dramas at a community theatre in suburban Washington, DC. As season ticket holders, we were notified that while they had been highly successful as a community theatre, their board had decided to take the risk and become a professional theatre company. Over the next few months we learned a little about proposed changes including ticket prices going up (but not by much!) and that they planned to add a bar in the lobby. We wondered what else might change and would we enjoy the experience.

September 27, 2013 was Opening Night for the newly named NextStop Theatre Company in Herndon, VA. On the day the performance, I received an email telling me that on Opening Night, there would be some exciting additions to the evening including a “red carpet,” photographers, and a champagne reception following the play. To understand why this was significant you have to picture that this theatre is in an industrial strip mall and in fact, until they changed the name, was called The Industrial Strength Theatre—so a red carpet seemed a bit out of context, but it was there and it was red and standing in the center was a professional photographer who shot photos as we walked in. While it wasn’t quite as exciting as the night I attended the Academy Awards in Los Angeles and was on the red carpet with Oprah, it was still a lot of fun to be part of something that had the potential to change the theatre experience!

The opening night play was really good—excellent performances from four people who played multiple parts. It was smart, funny, and highly professional and afterwards we joined the rest of the audience on the stage for cake and champagne to celebrate.

I’ve always believed that change is good and this experience really brought it home for me. In our daily lives we face changes every day and how we approach and process change can make all the difference in the world. This small theatre company took a huge risk when they decided to change to a professional theatre company and everything that entails. After the performance the new Artistic Director shared that there was a lot of push back from board members and other contributors; however, after seeing the success on Saturday, I bet those folks will be taking full credit for the accomplishment!

Helping our employees get through change is a big part of leadership. Sometimes, the changes required by business pressures aren’t ones we would have made, nevertheless we have to get on board and support them and work to help our employees see the value in the change. And, probably just as important, when you get to the other side of the change, celebrate where you’ve come from and where you are now. While you don’t need a red carpet and photographers to do that, do take the time to express your thanks to the employees who stuck with you and then move forward!

The NextStop Theatre in Herndon, VA made a major shift in its business model and I believe it will pay off for them. How are you reacting to changes in your organization and how are you helping your employees manage those changes? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

1 comment ()

1. Alice Waagen wrote:
Not only does the transformation of the Elden Street Player to NextStop theatre show the better side of change, it also illustrates the power of thinking big. Champagne and red carpet in a strip plaza warehouse certainly is a big jump from stale cookies and flat soda!

December 10, 2013 @ 6:40 AM


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