'Let's Put on a Show!'

Josh Sherman '96


Josh Sherman ’96 (English, dramatic arts) is president of  BookSmart Entertainment, and he’s booked the best, from William Shakespeare to William Shatner.

How did Dickinson prepare you for your current career/endeavor?
Perhaps the most daunting challenge of entrepreneurship is the need to be nimble, the need to be immediate, the need to respond to whatever the client throws in your direction and the ability to respond. A liberal-arts education, by its very definition, prepares you in such a different way than a narrowly focused degree does, and it trains you for that flexibility. Participating as a senior class officer, a Mermaid Player, a columnist for The Dickinsonian and a tour guide for admissions all shaped my persuasive approaches, my public speaking and my ability to stay organized and focused—all of the traits that go into building a successful sales model.

“It’s important to know what you don’t know, and then try to fill in the gaps by asking questions of the people who know the things that you don’t. And then you grow.”

What was your "aha" moment?
In mid my 20s, I got together with some friends in New York City and naively declared, “Let’s put on a show!” It’s important to be fearless early on, because in the business of commercial theater (like others) it’s the scars you learn the most from. We put up The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, and I had such a blast convincing folks to buy tickets to our production that I thought to myself, “Hey, I wonder if I can make a career out of this.” I found a terrific graduate-level arts administration program (my MFA at Brooklyn College), and away I went.

What inspires you?
There are very few truly unique group experiences anymore that require you to actually leave the house—you can binge watch a whole series, engage in social media, stream any digital media possible, etc. But live performance remains one of the few things where a large group of strangers can experience something completely ephemeral at the exact same moment. That one moment of a show when you can hear a pin drop in the theater, and you had something to do with why the performance happened—that’s my inspiration.

What advice would you offer to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?
Don’t be so caught up in what your own generation is up to—odds are the generation before you has lived through a variation on whatever theme you’re currently caught up in—and ask their advice with open ears. Learn some history before assuming you know what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know—people feel valued when they can help, and you will go a lot further if you leave youthful arrogance at the door.

What’s next?
Winning that Tony; it’s going to look great in my half-bathroom. 

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Published April 12, 2016