Startup Journey #3 with Paige Price of the Philadelphia Theatre Company

In this episode of Startup Journey I speak with Paige Price of the Philadelphia Theatre Company. She talks about her transition from being an actress to helping run the business side of a theater company. Her words of wisdom and inspiration will help you on your journey, so have a listen!

Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

Jason Sherman

In today’s episode of startup journey, I’m interviewing Paige Price to producing artistic director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Hi Paige thanks for coming on my show today.

Paige Price

Thanks for having me.

Jason Sherman

The first question I think my listeners will want to know is how you actually got hired by the Philadelphia Theatre Company and why they hired you.

Paige Price

I got hired by a search committee who was looking for someone to do a turnaround. I had come from a theater in Aspen, Colorado, which I took over. Actually I made the launch from actress to producing artistic director there, which is kind of an unlikely transition but I did turn around at that theater as well and so after about nine seasons there. I was headhunted for this job.

Jason Sherman

So you were an actress back in Colorado and what kind of productions were you acting in.

Paige Price

Well actually I was a Broadway Actress for several years. I lived in New York, and I went to ask them to do an acting job. And while I was there they were firing their artistic directors so they asked me for help because they knew that I have a big network of people that I knew and so

Jason Sherman

you had Broadway experience, which they probably didn’t have there.

Paige Price

Correct, correct. And I was also the vice president of the actors union so I knew, I just knew a lot of people, and I had done some producing, but, you know, then mostly event work. And then as it turned out, is a very dick cheney kind of thing I ultimately became I they offered it to me and

Jason Sherman

we’re Yeah. So it was really an experience based thing they found your experience, what they needed here and then here you are in my hometown. So,

Paige Price

yeah, glad you’re here. My whole life has kind of been like that actually.

Jason Sherman

That’s cool. That’s good. So, the theatre company in Aspen was smaller than this one. What was the difference between running the small one there and this larger one here in Philadelphia.

Paige Price

I think the biggest difference

Paige Price

is that in Aspen we were the only theater of note. There were several nonprofits and several cultural institutions and so the summer festival season was bonkers crazy busy, so we had to fight for market visibility here but here we are one of maybe 30 theaters that uses professional actors, so that’s the biggest sizable difference is differentiating ourselves in the market. The other big difference is the venue. We had a very small venue that was very flexible in Aspen and here we have you know multimillion dollar state of the art theater on New York’s and so the economics are vastly different

Jason Sherman

yeah this theater is actually I was just looking around it’s beautiful the way it’s set up, what does it hold about 500 people,

Paige Price

less than that it’s

Jason Sherman

a 362, but you also have the outside which holds people to if you need to. So tell me a little bit about the financial business model of both Aspen and here in Philadelphia, the differences and I think

Paige Price

I can’t talk about the difference in model without talking about the difference in philanthropy and in Aspen, of course, there’s great wealth, there’s great source of wealth and it is a is a vacation destination and so the vibe there is just different and you can make a case to a lot of people there who have a job that you either have three jobs or three homes and Aspen, you entertain the people with three homes and drew money from the people with three homes, because we were looking for people who would also want to take their families and their guests to top notch entertainment so we brought in that model was really importing all of our talent, so we had to literally fly in on your talent or anywhere from the rest of the country.

Jason Sherman

So a good point flying in New York town is very similar to when you run a business and you have to kind of find really good employees and programmers marketing specialists. How did you convince these new york actors, or you know theater production assistants, whatnot to help you and ask them if what made them want to come to you.

Paige Price

How did it was the vibe we created and the culture that we created which was very, you know, we built it upon actors who could have a long spate of work, and in an equity actors equity to get your health insurance you have to have a minimum amount of weeks, we were able to provide that minimum amount of weeks, so that people could stay and do one or two shows and get their health insurance. Wow, in Aspen, Colorado,

Paige Price

you know we got a fleet of bikes we made it sort of a mind body spirit is the most. So we really appealed to that vibe,

Jason Sherman

towards like a change of pace like hey you want to get away from the city life in the chaos and the pollution come out to ask them where you have bikes in nice weather and mountains and

Paige Price

fancy condos yeah that the

Paige Price

fresh air fund for actors and it was, you know, we

Paige Price

really

Paige Price

spent a lot of energy on creating memorable summers so that people, you know, I mean, I still see people that said that was one of the best summers of my life and that’s what we were trying to create because it’s not like we were paying them exorbitantly

Jason Sherman

because we just don’t have that kind of money, or it sounds amazing. It sounds like you did like what Google did for technology you did for art. That’s pretty cool. Yeah, let’s go back in time a little bit to when you first started out as an actress. Right. The first thing is how did you know you wanted to be an actress. How did you get into acting cuz it’s very difficult. There’s a lot of competition. And you have to kind of differentiate yourself from other actresses So when did you first know you wanted to be an actress and how did you actually get into the acting field,

Paige Price

I started as a dancer, when I was four. And I pretty much knew by the time I was eight that I wanted to dance on Broadway and that was my goal as a little girl. And then when I did my first play at 13 and made people laugh I thought hot, too. Sing and so I became that sort of Triple Threat

Unknown Speaker

person,

Paige Price

but I also loved school and so the two paths that I saw were either performance or low. I was going to move to LA. And so really much to my parents’ chagrin I chose the arts because, you know, I just had a similar mindset, but that’s where I was going to go.

Unknown Speaker

You know, I

Paige Price

I think I was just a gritty jersey girl who just wouldn’t take no for an answer and you get lots of noses.

Jason Sherman

You talk about that a little bit because everybody gets a lot of nose, and there are very few yeses in life, especially when it’s something that’s your passion or a new business that you started or a line of work you want to start, you’re going to just get rejected, how did you get through that what was the thing that you finally broke through what was that moment where you said, I finally made it How did you get there.

Paige Price

Well, there’s this, there’s some so many of those sort of seminal moments and some of them are small and some of them, something mundane,

Jason Sherman

you can get an example of one than the other.

Paige Price

Yeah, I think, you know, I got a free ride to NYU, which to me said okay somebody thinks you’re, you’re good. And I hated it. I hated it so much, why it was terrible back in the day when I went to school. The arts were not very good. Oh, and it felt like a bunch of pretentious posers walking around and I was like, Oh no, no,

Paige Price

no, it was not for me and fortunately I got a job. The second day in my second semester and I was shooting a movie with Tom Cruise.

Paige Price

Oh wow, and like, whoo. So there you go,

Paige Price

and I had a lot of moments where I had. Luck came to me but I think it was because of something I had done to prepare for it. He was a cheerleader and that turned out to be something that they needed for all of the work I did. I was always obsessed with business for instance and so when I got involved with the union and ended up negotiating contracts. The producers, you know the opposition right to help produce an event because they said you know you seem to speak both languages really well and so all of the ancillary curiosity I had about other things other than acting served me in a larger way and so

Jason Sherman

you’re bringing up a great, these are great points because this is the kind of stuff I try to tell people when you want to learn how to run a business, you have to learn the marketing of the business you have to learn how to manage the programmers of the business or the you know the front end employees, you know, you have to learn every facet of the business and a lot of people don’t want to do that they want to just do the one thing that they like to do and it sounds like you got experience in a lot of different fields that all came together, and it sounds like also the right place at the right time, because if you hadn’t been there, and they had somebody else or if you didn’t know how to do the business stuff they would have gotten somebody from the outside so it sounds like a lot of the right place, right time but also learning outside of your comfort zone, in some ways, that that kind of. Yeah,

Paige Price

I mean, I was always haunted by a phrase that my mom said when I was about 14 and she said, I’m just so worried that you’re going to be a jack of all trades and Master of None. And I have fashioned a career on doing just that. And so I talked to young people all the time I’m highly involved in mentorship programs, largely because I really didn’t have a mentor. And so I think that’s why I went to all those places to learn because I didn’t have a guiding force you know my parents were not, they were you know very blue collar New Jersey family they didn’t know from the arts, they let me do it and they made it happen but no one could tell me what kind of make those decisions and so I developed my own decision making processes which have served me well as an adult. Yeah, but it was largely because I was just interested in so many things. And I have a lot of energy. So I just learned about all the things I want to learn out of you know and I will give my parents credit because they may be, you know, as long as I get straight A’s I could do.

Unknown Speaker

Probably for later is.

Jason Sherman

It’s always a good gift or good report card and then you can go do whatever you want. That’s what they always say

Paige Price

it’s fascinated by the things you know I would do the one backstage and what did that cost to build and what do you do, you know, I think the people component of it is what kept me going you know you asked about how how I took the nose, I loved being among the people in theater so much that I just forged relationships in different parts of theater, because I knew I could also sustain myself that way,

Jason Sherman

right. So it sounds like you’re a huge fan of learning all the different details and nuances of a business, not so much, like I said, the one track it sounds like you recommend. When an entrepreneur or an artist wants to break out into a new field that they start to kind of veer off on tangents and paths and like learning other pieces of the business or should they just stick with the craft. Yeah, I know you’re biased but what’s the better way to do it. Do you think

Paige Price

I think that developing the muscle to learn about yourself and what energizes you at an earlier age would be really helpful to young artists, especially because we get programmed and they they ask kids so early now to specialize and I think that doesn’t serve them because you’re

Paige Price

not a human yet, right,

Paige Price

you don’t know what you respond to, you don’t know really where your passion lies, many times it’s programmed into you by external forces. And so you don’t want to listen to yourself and what I learned to listen, not only to the business because there are actors that just won’t get feedback from the business that is encouraging and you should listen to that. But there are people that do it and they’re also good at it but it’s lacking joy. And once I started to listen to the industry, you know, whenever I would spearhead something or produce something even if I was an actor in a cast and I would produce a cabaret, the world immediately spoke to me and people looked up to me as a person that could make things happen for them. And I started listening to that thinking, I’m getting much more traction from the world when I call myself a producer than as an actor, and I would hear things like you’re too smart to be an actor which offended me.

Jason Sherman

That’s gonna be frustrating.

Paige Price

And I sort of thought, Okay, well maybe they’re trying to tell me something different.

Jason Sherman

There was a good thing they just said it the wrong way. Like it’s beneath you to be an actor is kind of what they made it sound like.

Paige Price

I often talk to young people now about the myriad jobs that are available to people who are passionate about the arts, because you can be in them, but maybe not the way you initially you know almost everyone gets drawn in wanting to be a star

Jason Sherman

or an actor, of course, but they see what they see in Hollywood they see the movies the you know the tabloids and they think that they can be like that but out of the 1000 paid actors out there there are probably 10 million starving artists that can’t get an audition because it’s very difficult they have they have to understand that and it’s hard to get it through people’s heads. Nowadays kids millennials especially I see, they want the easy way out, you know they live in their parents basement they drive Ubers, they don’t own anything, you know, and they just want to find those quick little jobs here and there, and they’re not really passionate about one particular thing, sometimes they are. So, what would be the advice you could give to you mentioned kids earlier and how you don’t want to just put them into like a one track and say hey, this is what you’re going to learn, and only this is what seems what schools do, what would you suggest to say parents or kids out there, how they could kind of break out of that mold and say here’s a new way of doing things. Here’s what I would recommend you do to really find out what you’re passionate about.

Paige Price

I kind of have two answers because for those that are really geared toward being sure they want to be in this profession that are in the conservatories to nicely read the newspaper. You know those worlds can be such a bubble, and you might come out with a great talent, but without an awareness of what’s going on in the world and an empathy for the world itself. I find that that is a very narrow land and that doesn’t make entirely for a very interesting person. And I think that those programs could do better creating citizens, because I believe artists have more to give if they have an awareness of the world. And for those that are sort of taking the scrappy route. Like I ended up. I think it’s just about trying everything and being nice to everyone and really trying to to note, that internal thing you feel when you’re in your happy place or when you feel like, Oh, I’m among my people or people are responding to me, because it’s not always going to be about the thing you want it to be about or think that you’re supposed to do that that should is really terrible when you’re trying to be an

Jason Sherman

artist, right things just pop up out of nowhere and you’re like, whoa, wait a minute, I’m actually good at this, and people enjoy what I’m doing so maybe I should look into this a little more

Paige Price

yeah and I truly believe that for both of those paths. Just say yes to everything say yes to every

Jason Sherman

circuit What do you give me some examples. What do you mean by that? So there’s

Paige Price

i’ve been offered jobs that I’ve been offered and I think gosh this is you know this is a repeat of something I’ve done before, but there’s that cool person I’ve always wanted to work with and I always thought that saying yes gets you to the place of just being in a more educated place. So you might learn that you don’t ever need to do that again. But you only learned it because you went through it, but it may take you on another tangent that you didn’t expect and if you say, No,

Jason Sherman

you cut off that experience. Impossible. You didn’t learn that other thing that you could have known that would help you in another situation.

Paige Price

Yeah, just the spirit of saying yes, it just renews that sort of, right, I’m going I’m jumping off this cliff now.

Jason Sherman

That’s, that’s probably why I’m certainly not knowing what’s gonna happen next. It’s fun, right.

Paige Price

I just call it it’s time to jump off another cliff.

Jason Sherman

That’s good, that’s a good thing. So you want people to not jump up real close but you know the metaphorical Cliff of taking a chance to take a leap of faith try something new and say yes to opportunities that come their way, fool. Scary journal adrenaline rush I would think for me.

Paige Price

So often, needs to be honest so many actors feel, and we feel like frauds sometimes like somebody’s gonna somebody’s gonna bust me they’re gonna figure out, I don’t know something, or I can’t do something and it’s just sort of built into the culture of get no so many times that will make it more than I know about my abilities. Right. But that’s why like if it scares you to do

Jason Sherman

it should do it like that. So we’re at the last part of my paragraph here that talks about So, during all these journeys and all of these different things that you did because you know you really wanted a lot of different directions. What were some of the pivotal moments where you wished? Later on in hindsight that you said to yourself, ah, if only I had known this was going to happen. I could have done something differently to change the outcome. Do you have any of those moments that you went through that you could help someone now by telling them. If this happens to you do this instead, or if this starts to happen, change your way now or things like that might have popped up in your career.

Paige Price

you know I don’t have a ton of regrets.

Jason Sherman

It’s not so much regret, because you know I don’t regret much either but it’s, you know, for example like let’s say you took an audition for a role at a theater and you didn’t like the director or the producer. Okay, so I’m just giving I’m giving you a hypothetical and, but you still tell you the Yes, you still took the Yes, but you didn’t like them but you said, I’m gonna do it anyway and then it ended up being a horrible production nobody showed up, it lost money and you were out of work and you were on the street. So that’s an example of something that you could have said if you don’t like the director or the producer. Definitely don’t say yes, I’m good. I don’t know maybe you do say yes i don’t know i’m just saying, maybe there’s an example out there for someone that you can help another artist, because a lot of artists don’t have like you said they don’t have guidance they don’t have mentors, they don’t have hope so, here’s a chance for you to be a mentor to, you know, 1000s or hundreds of 1000s artists.

Paige Price

I think it would be staying in Los Angeles too long. I had not wanted I had not set out to be a film actor or a TV actor and I found myself out there. Slowly sort of shrinking my being started shrinking because not only was I sticking around and hoping for these jobs that were actually not meaningful. I just stayed too long at the fair.

Jason Sherman

How long was that

Paige Price

stick there about three and a half, four years,

Jason Sherman

and how long would you have stayed for,

Paige Price

I think I should have stayed maybe 18 months for about a year and a half. Yeah, once I started doing a couple of those jobs that were you know that you fight for and you feel like you’re winning and you’re, when you get to terrible lines on a terrible TV show that did not advance my, my soul as an artist, or my bank account, it was certainly fun but I got, I got off track. I think and I didn’t recognize it soon enough.

Jason Sherman

So how could you translate that into other artists? So are you saying that if they’re not getting what they want out of the jobs they’re getting or the path they took if after 18 months, roughly, they’re not seeing something happen that they should maybe change their path.

Paige Price

It really depends you know in theater, the sort of unspoken timeline for when you get your first Broadway show. It’s probably shorter now, because the conservatories are kicking out a lot of talent, what used to be 10 years. It used to be 10 years was the sweet spot between when you got out of college. Did your regional theater gigs and all the little things that were going to make you have a reputation. It took 10 years on Broadway, why sometimes tell actors that you know you better be prepared to long haul a lot of stuff, and to support yourself and find, find meaningful support systems, until you can get that far, but in I think the reason I say I should have pivoted earlier is because I knew I didn’t trust my instincts and so that’s over and over and over again. And now my decision making processes are so much, so fast, because I’m really good instinct and I finally acknowledged it and even though it makes you have to make some difficult decisions, both for yourself and for others, that instinct is built upon your real experience and you’ve done it.

Jason Sherman

So it sounds like one of the lessons here is to trust your instincts, because maybe people, at least in my experience, people might be scared though, because just because they think that it’s the right move, they’re not sure if it’s the right move, and so they start asking people and then people tell them well No, you shouldn’t do that or yes you should and then they’re conflicted. So it sounds like you’re saying you should trust your instincts and just go with it and worst case scenario you make a mistake, and then you learn from it right. Speaking of which, if you had made any mistakes in your career. What were they and how would you have avoided them hindsight,

Paige Price

I think some of the gut checks I didn’t follow or about people, people that I asked to manage me

Jason Sherman

were an example of one of those,

Paige Price

I had a manager who convinced me to turn down a big So Bob referenced and so I think was 19 and I got offered $70,000 as a 19 year old huge, huge, but he had bigger dreams and I, I bought them even though like I said I didn’t set out to be on TV but I do get this offer, and I’ve learned a lot, but I opted to say no to that, for no other reason then for the prospect of other bigger jobs you’re worried about a soap opera shortfall in your career. My career not being the right kind of work, and that was one of the biggest regrets, certainly my family hasn’t forgotten it.

Jason Sherman

Oh no, I’m sure they never let you let that down, is because you never know what kind of opportunities that could have brought you There are stories of other celebrities that have become famous out of soap operas Yeah, so it could have happened but you know, look, you chose the right path for you and it looks like it worked out because you have had a great long career so I mean, you know, I turned down job at Google. Okay, years ago and I feel like it was one of the best decisions I ever made sure I didn’t make the couple $100,000 a year you make there and I didn’t have the Google on my resume, but I was able to make movies and write books and teach at universities, to me it’s more meaningful to do that than sitting at a desk, working on the next Android platform. So, you know, I think, you know, it’s very similar to what you’re saying and just because you didn’t get that one golden ticket, you had maybe three or four other golden tickets that came your way sounds like so that’s what I want to tell our listeners as well what you should also tell them is, you know, just because you didn’t get the one thing that you thought was going to be the end all be all, there’s going to be a lot of other opportunities out there, and it sounds like you’ve had the same thing happen. So let’s leave our listeners with some words of wisdom, what are some of the, you know, some of the things that you say true to some of your like your list of things that you think about every day your mantras you’re just the things that are true to your passion and your soul and your heart and everything that you try to tell artists out there on their journeys.

Paige Price

For me, I draw energy, strength and wisdom, simply from being accessible to people. I’ve also learned that probably Google wouldn’t be the place for me because I like smaller environments where I can have more meaningful impact on maybe fewer people, but that is very meaningful to me to mentor people and to open my doors to anyone who wants to talk. And when I talk to people I tried to in any situation, even some of the superficial situations I found myself in as a fundraiser or as a, as a leader, to make sure that that person thinks that they have all my attention, because I find that the most meaningful exchanges and the most surprising exchanges arise from situations where you really give a human being, all the focus that you have and that is how I feel I have been also seen and heard, and I really just try to honor all the time I spend with people and make it as meaningful as possible. It’s a little thing but

Jason Sherman

It sounds like a pretty big thing to me. I mean, human attention that’s very important. Everyone hates when you’re talking to someone and they’re not even listening to you, so I mean that’s the word especially when they start deflecting and are talking about themselves, instead of actually listening to the person and helping them. It’s tough. I gotta be honest with you, it’s a very hard thing to do, to not be selfish and to not want to talk about yourself so it sounds like what you’re saying is when you’re talking to other humans. Listen to what they’re saying. And see how you can maybe help them in a way or give them advice or suggestions instead of just immediately, talking about yourself.

Paige Price

Yeah, I think one of the things my mother imbued me with was a real sense of empathy for people. And oftentimes, especially people that have a beef with you. It’s not always about that one thing and and so you can get more from that exchange and perhaps give that person something that they were lacking or not understanding, just simply by listening to them more carefully and I also learned those skills as an actor to watch body language to watch how people respond to you, there’s lots of really interesting stories that come at you if you’re willing to look at them, and it’s often much more interesting than anything you have to say to yourself.

Jason Sherman

Yeah, that’s true. They say the best way to get to know someone is to just listen to them. So any other words of wisdom, you might want to impart to entrepreneurs or artists,

Paige Price

I think, be flexible and be fast if I’m just fast because now I trust my instincts a lot more but I think that portray yourself over decision, I think, you know, you know, and so I do the live in it kind of decision making model where I go, Okay, this is where I’m going. And I’ll live in that and see what my emotions feel like and see what my gut feels like and I play out the next steps for what I’ll have to do to get to close that deal. And now, do it the other way and I’ll decide not to do it or to do this other thing and then, and usually I immediately just my body tells me, which is the right decision. So, it’s fun to just live in the two worlds of the two choices, and just see what my body tells me is so awesome.

Jason Sherman

Are we good? Yeah, it sounds great, it’s it’s definitely empowering it sounds like people should listen to these words of wisdom right they should listen, listen to your body listen to your instincts listen to your passion Listen to your heart, and just do what you think is the right move don’t listen to other people, you know, listen to people who are experienced, but you should still make the decisions quickly it sounds like don’t waste a lot of time pondering,

Paige Price

yeah. Where’s, where does your energy come from? Your body will tell you immediately, and you know, then prepare your ass off.

Jason Sherman

Right. Speaking of which, all the hard work pays off eventually right and what’s the latest what’s going on in theater company today What do you have planned for the next calendar year or anything exciting,

Paige Price

because a really long way in in the turnaround we’re right at that stage and so we’ve retired debt we’ve reorganized the staff, we have gone into new leadership we’re really in the cleaned up house, and now we’re in the visioning phase for the future, which is really

Jason Sherman

interesting.

Paige Price

Yeah, it’s fun. Yeah, and I think now I got to get them on my train. It’s ambitious for the theater, but you know I don’t know that any of my board will be listening to this podcast, but, you know, I take it, the tack of, you know what, you built this theater. And so, you started division. And so let’s finish it, because this was a big endeavor to build this building, and it means things had to change and I’m not sure the vision for that was actually laid out, and you know, hope is not a plan so I want to actually articulate come into fruition and do it.

Jason Sherman

Are there any shows coming up or.

Paige Price

Yeah,

Paige Price

so next season, we, you know, firstly I came in I cancelled the season and that’s just not done right it’s just not done so it was it was fun to just take a minute and recalibrate and this first year was a sort of a flight of theater if you were, if you will, just to sort of see what people wanted to see, and next year we’ve got a big star coming in and bb newars is going to open our season and she’s a theatrical star

Unknown Speaker

Yeah,

Paige Price

that’s awesome on stage in seven years and. Wow, and you know I was a manager, about a decade ago so you know that’s coming back.

Jason Sherman

Yes, different. That’s cool. And what are the socs like the website social media that you might be posting stuff for people to check out,

Paige Price

Facebook,

Paige Price

Instagram, tweet like I do, and we do know Twitter for some good videos people can check out stuff

Jason Sherman

like that

Paige Price

YouTube channel, we’re getting better on socials anybody does ISO social media entrepreneur intern types out there we pay our interns but there you go, certainly looking for a monster social media

Jason Sherman

from how would they go about getting in touch with that you

Paige Price

can literally click through to my email, phone up in theaters that are worth Villa theatre co.org for the Philadelphia theatre company.org, cool.

Jason Sherman

Okay, awesome. Well, this was a great episode. Thank you so much for speaking about your long journey and it sounds like you’ve had a lot of fun and you’ve learned a lot and now hopefully others can learn from your amazing accomplishments. So thanks again for having me. Thanks for the talk, appreciate it.

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