Asking The Question

Sep 23, 2021
 Written By Melvin Tunstall III

Last month I shared my plans to finally take the 30 Day Script Challenge after accidentally pitching a new Christmas musical about the famed Charles W. Howard Santa School in Midland, Michigan. A lot of interesting developments have occurred in the past month, so I thought I’d give you an update.

If you’re new to this blog, here’s how it all went down! 

While getting a tour of the local hotspots in downtown Midland, I was told about Santa School and jokingly said “Well, that sounds like a Christmas show waiting to happen!” and within days, I was sitting down with the CEO of the Midland Center of the Arts pitching the idea for an original musical.

Cut to 2 weeks later, I presented them with a “mini” Pitch Deck that included a budget for my research trip that includes actually attending Santa School and to my delight they not only accepted the proposal but officially moved the idea from “pitch” to the “commission” stage!

I definitely did not have “attend Santa Academy” on my 2021 bingo card, but here we are! 

I’ve been thinking about this quote from Susan Stroman a lot lately, and after seeing Stroman herself elaborating on the topic via the TheaterMakers Instagram, I knew I wanted to share it with all you fellow TheaterMakers again. 

Not that I feel I am the authority on being courageous- again, all of this came about because I jokingly made a comment. The reality of what it takes to commission a new musical became clear as the numbers began to add up. I’ve always been on the receiving end of commissions, so when it came time to sit down and talk numbers- even though I used Ken’s Pitch Decks in the Sample Document Library as a guide and knew my “asks” were standard- I was afraid. 

“What if I’m asking for too much? What if they say no?” 

“You go on” I imagined Stroman saying with the strength I needed in that moment. 

But there was no “no.” Actually, they barely blinked when I revealed the grand total. 

So say “Hello-ho-ho!” to the newest enrollee in the Charles W. Howard Santa School! “That Santa School Musical!” (working title) is underway and I’ve stopped shaving my beard. Next month I will embark on a tinsel-filled 30 Days to get a first draft and 5 songs completed. 

All because I asked the question.

Meeting with theatrical movers and shakers can indeed be intimidating, so if you need a little help in the asking department, check out these 5 tips!

1. Act as if you expect to get it.

You need a solid level of certainty and expectation when you ask for something you want. Your state of mind will affect everything else—your body posture, eye contact, tone of voice and choice of words.

2. Be clear and specific.

Be as concise as you possibly can in your requests. Ask for what you want, not for what you don’t want. At the same time, be careful what you ask for. More often than not, you get exactly what you’ve requested.

3. Ask from the heart.

I believe you can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. Keep that unbridled passion for your project stirring in your soul as you begin to ask and maintain eye contact throughout the entire process. This further establishes your integrity, trustworthiness and passion on the subject.

4. Ask with humor and creativity.

This one should be an easy one for all you creatives out there! Humor captures our attention and breaks down our defenses. Creativity disarms our resistance and opens our minds to new possibilities.

5. Give something to get something.

When you’re asking, always be sure to explain what’s in it for them, how they benefit and win because they’ve granted your request.

Okay TheaterMakers, I have a 2 questions for YOU! 

  1. Have you become a member of The TheaterMamkers Studio yet?

Today is the day to join our tribe and open up a treasure trove of ideas, resources, and so much more that will help get you to the next stage of production!



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