By Tali Pelman

On Broadway in the past month we have been working on our Tony Awards campaign for TINA. We opened our ‘for your consideration’ letter to the Tony voters with this: “If Tina Turner has taught us anything, it is that we are all more resilient than we could possibly imagine”.

“we are all more resilient than we could possibly imagine"

I think if this pandemic has taught us anything as a company, it is that same lesson. Despite the shuttering of our global business, the enormous daily strain and the hardship our workforce is experiencing, we have become closer and more communicative, and I think stronger and smarter together as a result. We have proven our resilience, and as we work through the twists and turns of this shutdown, I do not doubt our ability to relaunch with success.

Our CEO Arthur de Bok often speaks of returning not only stronger but better. It is a unique occurrence to have such an enforced collective ‘pause’ to our business. Just as we contemplate long-term changes this pandemic may usher into our lives – in technology or our work habits for example - we also have a unique window to pro-actively consider our future and who we want to be as an organisation. The question is, what does ‘better’ mean for us?

A key part of my responsibility at Stage is to develop original content, together with our creative department and country MDs. Our business model demands that we set a very high bar for development, in order to ensure that the shows we create can be presented in multiple territories. Thus we only develop universal stories, which can originate from any country in the world but must transcend borders and be embraced by multiple cultures. The strategic approach we have devised for licensed content is similar. Being international, being diverse, is not only our USP but perhaps our greatest strength and source of competitive advantage in the industry. But to be truly effective, our organizational culture also needs to reflect these characteristics that define our company’s mission: to bring people together through storytelling.

Work last year between colleagues across different functions and countries led to agreement about the core values that define our company culture. Two of these are Respect (we trust one another and appreciate everyone’s talent, we show genuine interest in each other and are open to different views) and Challenge (we dare to challenge and be challenged to achieve best results, we actively invite others to share new perspectives and share ours). Given our cultural values as an organisation and our company mission of universal storytelling, the question is not why diversity and inclusion is relevant for our company, but rather, how can it not be?

I have been asked by internal and external colleagues, why now? When our business is fighting for survival, surely this is not the right time to work on improving diversity and inclusion? I would counter that if we only work to safeguard the present - relaunching our business – we ignore the opportunity presented by this crisis. That we can take a beat to ensure that our organisational culture is consistent with the work we do. Underpinning an ambitious content strategy, and goals of venue expansion, digitisation and continued operational excellence, our resilient and diverse culture is what can help to fuel our future growth.

“One of my favourite aspects of producing is selecting and marrying authors and creatives for a show.”

I often return to one of my favourite quotes from the late American theatre and film director Mike Nichols, who in an interview was asked how he chose his creatives and cast his films. He replied that making a movie is like journeying to the Wild West; the voyage is tough and full of unknowns, so you had better be happy with who is in your wagon. More than ever this year, I think we are all grateful to one another as we navigate this journey in our wagon as one company. Hope of relaunch is just over the horizon. Let’s take this moment and ensure that when we get there, we haven’t just survived the trip, but are better for it and working together towards an even brighter future.

Next column by: Martin Broderick