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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

By Sharon Nelton, Nation's Business

Copyright 1998 U.S. Chamber of Commerce October, 1998

The play's the thing on the education circuit; deciding how to treat the children.

Does this cast of characters sound familiar? Jake and Sol Schwartz, twin brothers in a family business who are always at each other's throats; their father, Izzy, the patriarch, who owns the business; and Josie, a college-age granddaughter who observes that "parents aren't always the adults in the family."

How about the plot? Jake and Sol both want to run the company, Schwartz & Weiss Tools, after Izzy, who is 70, retires. The brothers expect to inherit the business but learn that their father expects them to buy it from him. Izzy throws his sons into a tizzy when he makes a surprising announcement: Four days earlier, he secretly married Sarah, the company's marketing director.

Then turmoil turns into utter chaos when Izzy has a heart attack and dies. There's other stuff -- the threatened defection of a major customer, for example, and a banking relationship that grows shaky after Izzy's death.

These are the characters in and the story line of "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home," a three-act musical comedy by Ira Bryck and Erik Muten.

Bryck is director of the University of Massachusetts Family Business Center in Amherst; Muten, a psychologist who also has a master's degree in stage direction, runs his own consulting firm, Kailo Consulting in Northampton, Mass.

"Wait Till Your Father Gets Home" is making its way around the country; Bryck says he has 20 booking for it at university-based family-business centers. You'll see it listed from time to time in this section's family-business calendar.

And it really is funny. I laughed throughout as I watched a preview videotape version that Bryck sent me. My favorite line? When one exasperated twin tells the other, "I can't believe I shared a womb with you!"

The play, performed by actors from a community theater, was taped before a live audience of business-owning families. During group discussion between acts, one member of the audience observed that there was a lot of talking going on in the Schwartz family "but absolutely no communication." Another felt that Izzy was a bad role model because he used a management style that "diminished people."

It's clear that the audience is very engaged in the discussion -- led by Bryck -- and that they're having a good time.

This is not the first time Bryck has turned to drama as a family-business education tool. He also produced "The Perils of Pauline's Family Business," introduced two years ago and performed around the country 20 times.

Bryck calls the plays "interactive family-business dramatizations" and "living case studies."

When a traditional case-study approach is used, not everyone reads the case, and those who don't are unprepared for the discussion. But a drama, says Bryck, provides "a way for everybody to be exposed simultaneously to a story that has great emotional impact."

The UMass center offers panels and other programs, but Bryck says the plays "get a louder and longer-lasting conversation going than anything else we do."

The "table talk" that took place between the acts of the videotaped performance -- that is, the conversation among playgoers at their tables preceding the groupwide discussion -- "was relevant, and it was in-your-face," says Bryck. The play, he adds, "really stirred a lot of emotion among family members."

If "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home" is going to be playing at a family-business center in your neighborhood, run—don't walk—to see it. (Yes, I filched that line from a movie advertisement.) For more information, you can call Bryck at (413) 545-1537.

When you get a chance to see this show, follow the advice of its promotional material: "Relax -- it's happening to someone else!"

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