Managing Metrics

by Jacob Coakley

SD Editor Jacob Coakley
SD Editor Jacob Coakley
Resolutions are fine, as long as you have a way to measure them.

How many of you track your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you codify them into goals, develop a plan to achieve them, and then follow that plan? (Improvising along the way, if need be?) And if you do, how do you measure your progress or success? Here’s another question for you: Do you use the same metric to measure success across all your goals? Obviously not. How much I weigh has zero bearing on if I finished the script. (I didn’t reach my weight goal this year, but I did finish the script.)

I bring this up because I had an interesting conversation with some family members this holiday season. They are one step away from leasing a building and opening a theatre. They know what property they want, how much it would cost to lease, what the foot traffic is, who they’d rent space to for classes, the numbers of their audience that they’ve already built through classes and productions at other venues… In short, they know just about everything except whether or not they should open up a new theatre in this economic climate.

And that’s why it’s a hard decision. Because they’ve got to make the decision based on two different metrics, simultaneously. They want to make theatre. They’re good at making theatre. Making theatre fulfills a deep part of their soul. That’s one metric. The other metric, though, is their mortgage and their kids’ college fund and car payments…and the list goes on.
There’s a reason it’s called show business. And that sounds glib, until you come up against it.

And so we talked. We talked about the theatre they wanted to build. What they wanted to do with it, what they hoped it could become. We also talked a lot about the fact that the building they were considering was already ADA-compliant, which meant they wouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to renovate it—an important fact considering they want to make their theatre a space for practice and performance for people of all physical abilities.

We talked as I helped them prep for a holiday dinner. When we got the drinks from the fridge in the garage we had to make our way around the stacks of platforms they’re storing there. Then we took the drinks to the back patio, where we laid them out in tubs on a picnic table—after we moved the costume for Chip they’d made for a production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

We talked a lot, and we never came to a decision. Partly because it’s hard, and partly because it’s theirs to make. I haven’t heard what they decided to do yet. But I did get them a copy of the Stock Scenery Construction Handbook by Bill Raoul as a present. Because whether or not they get the building, I want them to continue making theatre. That’s my metric. Let’s all find a way to make great art in 2012—however and wherever you do it!