Brian Posen

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and who are good, kind supportive positive people.


Most people would require more than one lifetime to accomplish the things that this man has achieved in the relatively short time he has walked this planet. Brian Posen is a Pianist, a performer, a director, a producer, the founder and creative director of Stage 773 and a former teacher at Columbia College and Second City Theater.

He ran major festivals, including The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, And The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, which are both thriving. The Chicago Sketch Festival is the largest sketch festival in the nation, hosting an average of 150 groups, about 1000 artists, performing 188 shows in 8 days in the dead of winter to about 10,000 patrons.

Brian Posen devoted his life to the Chicago art scene. In addition to teaching, performing and directing, he founded the Non-For-Profit: Stage 773. The organization serves the community in many ways, including in 2010 taking over a run-down three theater complex, raising 2 million dollars and converting the complex into a four theater complex. Stage 773 hosts hundreds of itinerant artistic companies (musicals, drama, dance, stand-up, burlesque, storytelling, among many other mediums). In one night you can see up to ten different productions under one roof. Stage 773 offers highly subsidized rental rates so that artists can afford to do their work.

As a teacher, Brian taught and served as Program Head at The Second City Training Center- the largest comedy training center in the nation. He worked there for 25 years. As program Head, he ran the biggest part of the program, overseeing 800 students and 50 faculty members. He also taught at Columbia College for 25 years. Brian has also taught as a guest instructor at a variety of universities, colleges, comedy institutions, and theaters across the country.

One of Brian’s many accomplishments, Brian created the longest running musical sketch comedy show in Chicago: “Cupid Has a Heart”. The show ran for 15 years.

Where did the idea for Stage 773 come from?

The way I became a successful teacher was by being a successful student. I studied for ten years in higher-level education. When I was awarded the position as a teacher, I emulated all of my teachers that positively affected my life.
I come from ‘old-school’. My piano teachers were disciplinarians, teaching that three hours of practicing every night is not enough.

Then Some mu teachers were super nurturant and always had my back, teaching that it is always cool to fail, as they gently were there to help you up. They taught that you should never be motivated by fear … you should always be motivated by love.

The combination of these strong role models created an artist in me with a very strong work ethic, always trying to exceed expectations and always based in love. I am driven to help every artist succeed to their fullest potential.

The way I became successful at the festival. I took my comedy troupe to all the other festivals and learned by their example. I emulated the positives and was cautious to not repeat the negatives I learned from the other comedy festivals.

I created my own reality in the Arts. The idea of how to run came from an incredible passion and appreciation for the artist, the process, the powerful effect it has on all the players involved. Of course, how I was treated as an artist also shaped my mindset. I developed a philosophy that guided me throughout my artistic journey that hung on three words: celebration, collaboration, and community. Art of any kind should be a celebration and part of a joyous and loving community. We are an ensemble collaborating with one another. Everyone embraces one another’s ideas and exhausts every possibility to make these ideas come to fruition. This mindset has been my guidelines and philosophy throughout my training and when I became a professional. I have had some amazing teachers and role models and I have always tried to emulate the mentors who empowered me and encouraged me to move forward.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is completely different. It depends on what institution I am serving and what hat I am wearing. My days consist of a multitude of positions and a multitude of jobs. One day I might go to the theater and work on the not for profit. Then leave later in the day to teach a class, followed by an evening of directing a project. Sometimes I will even sneak in a 10pm-midnight rehearsal afterwards. I am working as an administrator and programmer, or teaching College during the day, and at night either teaching adult classes, directing of performing. That is a fairly typical day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I came out of grad school and immediately started working. But I was never on the same page as many of the artists. As an example, I don’t party and drink. I am a little awkward in large groups. Many of the artist visions of my peers were ones I didn’t quite share or weren’t that passionate about. As I immersed myself in the Arts more and more, I started to see my vision as my passions guided me. As I dove in, I found the people who shared the same vision and believed the same way I did. We joined forces and became unstoppable. We continuously discovered that you do what you are passionate about and the next step will be revealed. That is what happened to us. I continuously surrounded myself with smart nurturing, positive people. Present an idea and know that we will exhaust every possibility to bring that idea into fruition.

I also discovered that you need four types of people to have a solid working force:, the guy with the idea, the leader to implement it, the ‘yes’ person to run with it, and the detail guy to implement it. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Flexibility is an absolute requirement in the entertainment arts.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Right now, one trend that excites me is that I have been eating plant based Whole Foods only. I have shed 25 lbs already. It is organic, no meats, no dairy, you eat strictly plant foods. I use to take all sorts of prescriptions. I was so close to becoming a diabetic and my cholesterol was stupid high. I stopped taking everything and started to research. I found too many agendas in the meat, pork, chicken, dairy industries. We can get plenty of protein from plant foods. There is no need to take pills or to kill animals for food. I just cut out sugar and changed my eating habits and my workout habits. I eat simple fruits and vegetables. As a result, I feel better than I have in decades.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One habit that makes me productive is when I listen harder and be kinder. Be more patient.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to listen harder and be kinder. Be more patient.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

What I always believe is that regardless of anything, stay true to yourself. The minute you start playing into someone else agenda, it is going to compromise you and your natural gifts out of whack. Stay true to yourself. Trust your spidey senses.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I do several things over and over that, I would recommend everyone does, listen harder and be kinder. and never stop working. Work harder than the next guy. Have heart, stay positive. Approach everything with Love and kindness Follow your passion and keep it exciting.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and who are good, kind supportive positive people.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

With failures, you look at it and examine it. You lick your wounds. You surround yourself with people who understand it and do not pass judgment, and then you move on and adjust.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I have an idea that I am working on right now but it is one that is important to me. One that I would be willing to give away is for someone to open a business that would go to shelters to train dogs so that when a person adopts a dog they will already have their training.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just spent over a hundred dollars at the farmers market the other night. I know it was just fruits and vegetables, but it is so amazing. Everyone should support their local farmers. The food is so fresh that you have to wash the dirt off of the food that has been so lovingly nurtured. I buy all of my fresh fruits and vegetables from my local farmers market.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am not a tech person in any way shape or form. I am a musician and an artist. You are talking to someone who sits at the piano and creates music. Your talking to someone who takes a bunch of actors and asks them what they are struggling with right now. Let’s create satire and put it on a stage to move an audience to thought, feelings, and action. You are not talking to anyone who sits in front of a computer. So my answer to this question would be: ask my tech guy.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Places We’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

What is your favorite quote?

If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

Key Learnings:

• Do something that you are passionate about and the next step will be revealed.
• Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and who are good, kind supportive positive people.
• Support your local farmers and fresh produce markets.