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PowerPlayer: Lynn Singleton

Monday, May 23, 2011


If you’ve ever seen an incredible show at the Providence Performing Arts Center, you’ve got Lynn Singleton to thank. For almost three decades, Singleton has served as head of PPAC, bringing some of the largest Broadway hits to the Ocean State.

Singleton spent some time telling GoLocalProv about life leading one of the crown jewels of the capital city.

What’s it been like in your job? 
The marketing and selling of performances and productions in the state has steadily improved since last fall, but is still very fragile and show-specific. We have increased the number and variety of performers, which has resulted in recent sell-outs of Alvin Ally, Kevin Hart, Neil Young, Earth Wind & Fire, and Eddie Vedder.

This success has given us the courage to move forward with other presentations this spring and next season. People are going out, but being selective and very price conscious. I always tell my staff, “it’s all about the shows!” Nobody buys a ticket because I run the building. Our job is to deliver to our patrons an excellent experience.

Take us through a day in your life. 

I’m up at 7:00a (but not awake) and proceed to read four newspapers (hard copies) while watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. I do the treadmill or the elliptical for 30 minutes while watching last night’s “David Letterman” I’ve taped, then check emails and voicemails and try to “push the buttons” prior to leaving home. Mornings in the office are usually focused on internal issues with the departments that report directly to me -- Marketing, Development, and Operations – or meetings with Board committees. Lunches focus on sponsorship pitches, subscription solicitations, meeting with local colleagues and various city and state “stakeholders,” all in an effort to get everybody “on the team.”

Many times I schedule lunches with individuals to “expand my knowledge of the universe” (a recent example: I reached out to Deepwater Wind to learn about their project). Afternoons usually find me on the phone, dealing with various entertainment issues external to Providence or to help attract talent to PPAC, and the “intramurals” that naturally occur internally with any dynamic organization and a large staff. Late afternoons I attend Board meetings of various city and state organizations I’m on to represent PPAC, returning to the building to “troubleshoot” and serve as a staff resource to the challenges that have popped up during the day.

Evenings fall into two categories: Show and non-show nights. If there’s a performance, I like to meet patrons, sponsors, and individuals in our President’s Club prior to the show. This type of cultivation is critical – it helps build the brand and creates a personal connection to PPAC. On non-show nights, I’ll attend a public function, fundraiser of some sort, or take a pilates class with my daughter. I’m usually home by 8:30 or 9:00 and watch “Charlie Rose” on PBS. Mine is not a job or a profession, but a lifestyle.

If you hadn’t heard, Rhode Island is small, which means everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing. Are you conscious of your role as a public figure?

Nobility is a double-edged sword with advantages and disadvantages, but you just have to be aware that any perception of negative behavior reflects on the building. The great advantage of Rhode Island’s “smallness” is you can reach out and get answers, input, and feedback quickly and determine if something is a good idea, has marketability and/or funding potential, or if it’s D.O.A. My term is, “you can see if the dog hunts!” It’s a rare occasion when someone doesn’t return the call. I try to always return calls and emails promptly.

What’s the most difficult/disappointing part of your job?

Downtown development in what I call “the hole in the donut,” which is the real estate that falls between Dorrance, Fountain, Empire, and Weybosset Streets, has started, stopped and stalled numerous times. However, I give great kudos to Cornish Associates for successful efforts on Westminster Street and to Stanley Weiss’ initiative to renovate Hotel Providence. It remains a frustration that PPAC has 350,000 patrons every year who attend performances and downtown doesn’t fully capitalize on the “critical mass” of this economic impact.

If you could change one thing about the state, what would it be? 

Direct airline flights!

Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I bowl in a men’s league on Wednesday nights.

Quick Hitters:

Role Model: Dr. J. M. Boswell, President of Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky where I attended as an undergraduate. He hired me upon graduation to build and operate the new student union building named after him. He taught me the difference between management and leadership.

Favorite Restaurants: Café Nuovo, Capital Grille, Hemenway’s, and Bob & Timmy’s Pizza. All are solid and consistent with “no surprises.”

Best Beach: My pool

Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: Game Change, Sinatra: “The Voice”

Advice for the Next YOU: Travel when you’re young. Later in life you’ll never be able to take the time and have the personal and professional flexibility to “wander” the world.


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