As a powerhouse in the Event Casting Industry, David Petro reinvented his life through strength, balance, courage, a positive attitude, and business savvy that could only be acquired through decades of experience. His transition from skilled performer to entrepreneur and casting director came after twenty years as a performer on Broadway and on national and international tours.
Mr. Petro was born in Chicago and began his career as a performer at age nine. He attended the Chicago Academy for the Arts and was the first person enrolled with a double major in voice and dance. His career encompassed performances on Broadway doing shows such as Cats and Cabaret. He also worked for Disney and danced on television and in feature films. He believes his big break came at the end of his performing career. Mr. Petro was asked to assist in a dance audition for a Broadway show. As he watched eighty of the best dancers in New York perform, he was inspired to make a career transition.
His unique perspective inspired him to lift performers up and amplify their talent. He believes that it is his job to provide performers with opportunities to expand their professional reach by identifying their unique skill sets. He shares the success of his business with his performers, his staff, and his event partners.
Where did the idea for DP Casting come from?
Getting into casting happened quite organically. I was closing the show cats. I was working on another show. The show asked me to help out with auditions for casting others on a dance call. This is the most incredible thing for people who’ve never experienced it. You have the best dancers in New York or LA in a room, dancing their hearts out for a role. I was in that audition, and it was as though my soul clicked on. It was unplanned, but that one day of auditions changed my life forever. I knew that all of my life experience and training brought me to this moment in time. At that time, there were no other Broadway casting directors who had ever performed in a Broadway show. Having that knowledge and insight of what it’s like to be on the other side of the table intuitively led me to my calling.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are so different because there are so many projects, different stages of production, and services that we offer. We break it down into sections. We go from general office days to pre-production, to production, to post-production. An office day is filled with meetings with clients, conceptualizing and proposing events, along with in-depth research about our client’s goals and missions.
Pre-production days are spent creatively designing the event along with managing the logistics. I am fortunate to work with incredible talents, like Hamilton cast members, Shark Tank investors, major CEO and inventors, John Legend and Elton John to inspiring speakers like Brené Brown and Tony Robbins. They are all extremely different, and they all come with massive task lists, from costumes to security, sound to set lists to creative direction. Creating and managing celebrity’s schedules and logistics alone is a full-time job.
An event’s load-in and sound check is a whole day spent taking care of the talent. We are not event planners; our sole focus is talent. The talent of that level comes with a very long list of requirements. On production days, it is exhilarating, fantastic, and very fast-paced. You have to be able to think on your feet, be extremely flexible, and excel at solving problems quickly and creatively.
On post-production days, you’re working with the company to maximize video and photo assets, including social media and internal videos. It is vitally important to engage their team around what that event was so that it has an immortal, long-lasting life. Even though it was a one-night event, that one event can produce assets that will serve a company for a lifetime.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am a creative person and my thoughts are in constant animation. I easily visualize multiple concepts based on the event and the potential talent candidates. In my process of researching or watching talent, the wheels are always turning, and I can visualize and conceive something before we even have to bring it to paper. When it’s time to bring an idea to fruition, it’s already built in my mind. Driven by the talent, the client, and the event details, the full picture evolves naturally.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am most excited about the growth of Virtual Events. The pandemic, forced everyone to communicate and interact virtually. The evolution and the explosion of virtual events were fantastic for us. It opened up a whole new line of business. It allowed us to be far more creative with production, video editing, sound editing, and video display animation. In a live event, the event planner leads the creative direction. Virtual events gave us more freedom to curate the event driven by talent, and technology. Keynote speakers and major celebrities were already comfortable speaking into a camera and without an audience. Keynote speakers and celebrities are used to performing on a stage or screen. Virtual events make A-list celebrities more accessible and affordable to everyone. Online sessions are scalable, garner more engagement, and are far easier for all parties to operate.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I genuinely learned the power of meditation. It changed the way I function completely in life. Meditation allows you to control your thoughts instead of letting them control you. It is very helpful in business when things are coming at you and moving so fast. The thought bubbles are just popping up everywhere. But if you can become more aware of your thoughts, you can start to control them better. They say that thoughts become feelings and then feelings become action. If you have control and awareness of your thoughts, and their origin, you can better decide how to act on them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Eat more ice cream. Also, a pivot learning moment for me was when I started to focus on facts and on how those facts make me feel. While context is important, stripping everything to its facts then your feelings is the true heart of the matter. I recently heard the phrase “drop the story”. When we pile on the stories we get distracted. Excess story clouds what is factual and how you truly feel about it. When you lead from feelings and lead from facts you make stable and grounded decisions that are rooted in a place of empowerment.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I do not believe you can ever watch too much television. I live for great television, brilliant stories, and genus performances of those stories. I consider excessive binge-viewing an occupational gift, instead of an occupational hazard.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I pride myself on finding the perfect person for every role. Equally important is to provide them with every tool possible to succeed. My work is to produce every resource to elevate talent’s experience, presentation, or performance. The same translates to my team. My job is to help them discover, explore, and provide the tools needed to excel, and then we can share in that joint success.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am an extremely curious human being. The rabbit hole for me is never-ending on every subject. I have a voracious appetite for knowledge about everything. That drive comes from being curious about everything. My curiosity creates excitement to explore new service offerings, fine-tune operations, streamline our billing, and continuously update our process. By remaining curious, you’re evolving eternally.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The pandemic was a global failure with a lack of knowledge, misinformation, and a slow response time. My business was never paralyzed while we navigated through event and entertainment shut-downs. We used the crisis as an opportunity. A true test of any business owner is to keep moving when facing an obstacle. It is essential to stop, take a breath, take a day or whatever you need to take care of yourself. When you are ready, break it into smaller pieces and focus on the solution, not the problem. If you can focus on that solution, you can find new avenues, new ways, and new paths. Will you meet the challenge or will you become paralyzed in your defining moment?
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think Hillary Clinton should have a pantsuit line called “Stronger Together Separates”, featuring items like “I’m With Fur” and “When They Go Low We Go High Heel”. I’m joking of course, but I think that she would have a real hit on her hands.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought my first-ever plants. I’ve never owned plants, I’ve always been afraid that I would kill them. I recently bought matching twin succulents named Cagney and Lacey, and a fern I named Fran. I was told if you name them, you’ll take better care of them. I am proud to be a plant parent.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use Google Drive nonstop. We work with large video files of performances, streamed and virtual events. I’m an organizational freak. The ability to organize and share videos, documents, excel sheets, with all its functionalities is fantastic. Sharing information and productions live real-time with folks in London, Texas, or Chicago, is a game-changer for us.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My go-to book for business is Gino Wickman’s Traction. My all-time favorite book is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I re-read it every couple of years and it’s equally soul stirring.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is a famous Maya Angelou, “When people tell you who they are, believe them the first time.” People know the first part, but it’s the second part of that quote that can save a lot of time and energy.
- The make-or-break defining moment for any business is to not be paralyzed in that moment of challenge.
- By remaining curious in life, you’re always evolving.
- When you lead from feelings and facts you will make decisions that are stable, grounded, and come from a place of empowerment.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.