Living Entrepreneurship Blog / The Arts

Theater and the Arts: A New Business Mentality

Jeff Lipson:

Jeff playing the leading role of Mark in Jonathan Larson’s, RENT.
(Photo Credit: Benjamin Staples)

As a freshman, I felt honored to receive the role of Mark in our production of Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, RENT. In all my years of performing and receiving lead roles, this was my most tasking role yet. It would require patience, it would require discipline, and it would require teamwork. Coming in to rehearsals, I was amazed at the cohesive and professional atmosphere that the cast had. We were one unit – we helped one another during times of need, practiced with one another, and worked hard when it was time to work hard.

Fortunately, I was able to rely on my experience to help me through the grinding process of rehearsals, memorization, and song. It also afforded me the ability to lend out a helping hand to others who were struggling. Every day, I connected myself more and more to the character of Mark Cohen, the Jewish film-maker struggling to get by in the artsy villages of New York City. I was faced with the challenge of being the character who ties everyone together, who narrates the story, and the only character that is neither homosexual or diagnosed with AIDS. My job was to witness the world which would disintegrate around me – friends dying, relationships crumbling – and attempt to make sense of it and give it meaning.

Opening night finally came. I sat off to the side, just behind the curtains in the wing, silent. I felt an intense focus. I was Mark Cohen. After I started singing the opening number, the rest of the show simply flew by. The audience didn’t exist. It was me and my cast mates living the lives of AIDS-stricken and relationship-torn artists and friends. It was over before I knew it, and I was Jeff Lipson again.

I always laugh a bit when I’m asked questions from friends, like, “How are you going to keep singing and acting at a business school?” or, “Do business schools really care about a good theater program?” To be honest, I don’t see why a business person wouldn’t want the ability to speak in front of large audiences. I wouldn’t understand why a business person wouldn’t want to work cohesively with a group of people all striving toward a common goal, or to possess the ability to focus in pressuring situations. To me, the arts world and the business world are one. Eventually, people will understand that the “cookie cutter” style of Old Business just isn’t going to cut it, and that a New Business must be instituted, one that encourages diversities of talent and interest. That is what will prompt the critical thinking needed to allow for continued advancements and success in the business world.

Jeff Lipson, Class of 2015