Startup culture can learn a lot from live theatre

The Company of ‘A Separate Peace’, 2020

It is all about collaboration, communication and rehearsals.

First and foremost, it must be said that the theatre community is like no other – it brings people together in a way that no other business or industry can. When you walk in the door for the first day of rehearsal, you are instantly welcomed as part of a new family. Everyone in the room is striving for the same thing – to create art and tell a story…something unique and memorable. Everybody has subscribed to the same mission statement.

For some, the journey starts long before rehearsals though. From an idea, a script is written (no mean feat in itself), and then cautiously presented to others. The script may go through several iterations, involving re-writes, workshops, test readings, possibly even a performance along the journey to a final working piece. This is clearly the most important aspect when building the ‘company’.

It is this story that bonds the whole team together – from the writer to the producer, the creative team and production manager who assembles the technical backstage team to bring that story to life. Each designer adds an aesthetic layer that nuances the script, and the talent who get through the rounds of auditions and casting calls. become the ‘players’ of that story.

“The play’s the thing”

The glue of the production, is the story, the piece of writing itself. This is just like a company vision. The stronger it is, the better the production will be. Each department taps into this, draws it’s actions, cues and goals from it – and it is a constant throughout the show, it does not change.

The creative team and backstage technicians all mould how this vision is presented to its’ audience – and this process is refined and tested at various points until opening night. At that point the future and success of the show will largely be determined by the initial response of the press night audience.

The analogy of an iceberg is not out of place when it comes to describing the full collaborative team behind a production – what you see onstage is really just the tip of it. The length of time that the audience spends watching the production is similarly analogous to the amount of time put into the creative and technical process that precedes it. This can be equated to the customer experience and reaction to a product when it is first launched.

Theatre creates some of the strongest bonds in a workplace. It is the ephemeral nature of theatre that makes the connections within company members so strong. If you know that your time is limited on a production, you make sure that every day is a day you’re learning something – whether you are the automation operator, a member of cast, or part of the stage management team.

So there you have it – there are key elements to putting on a production that can easily serve as inspiration to any startup founding team:

  • Get a strong script – this is your company vision, your story, your why
  • Assemble the right team – starting with the script, build out the key players to bring it to life
  • Set up communication – allow and encourage open collaboration and sharing of ideas
  • Rehearse – test assumptions, the product itself, and how all your teams can work seamlessly together towards a common goal
  • Preview – go into beta, and test with audiences until you are ready to push live

We love theatre because, in every form of the word, it is a fantastically effective education for whatever life can throw at you. It teaches us how strong a collaborative workforce can be at bringing a vision to life. We can also learn from the conviction and tenacity of the creative team in going in a certain direction. If you’re going to do this, then stay true to your vision – focusing on the experience your customers (the audience) will have.

We believe that everyone involved in a production deserve to take a bow, and that without each of them, there would be no show, no audience, and no applause.

— — — — — —

The first production of The Remote Read took place on Saturday 2nd May 2020 — with a production of Tom Stoppard’s short play ‘A Separate Peace’, directed by Sam Yates.