Posts Tagged ‘Producer’

When You’re Feeling Creatively Stuck…

An earlier version of this post was published as “What Role Were You Born to Play?” in June 2009.

Behind the stage door, great wisdom lives...

When you’re feeling creatively stuck, it’s time to identify those inborn talents of your youth – the ones that went into hiding as you morphed into an adult – and rediscover your Theatrical Intelligence. 

Try this:

Think back to your childhood. Remember the neighborhood where you grew up? 

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and inhale the smell of that long ago place. If the neighborhood isn’t quite clear for some reason, or if you moved around a lot, breathe in a moment or two of shared secrets with your closest friend…

As you’re breathing, ask yourself: Was there a time when you and your friends decided to put together an event of some kind?  A gymnastics demonstration? A neighborhood circus with performances by your pets? Maybe a swimming show with a lemonade stand? Whatever it was, your part in this event made you really proud.

Write down what you remember. I’m willing to bet that your actions resemble one or more of The 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence, listed below:

1.    The WRITER: You had an idea and wrote it down. You understood the concept: tell the audience, tell them again, and tell them that you told them; with humor, drama and clarity.

2.    The ACTOR: You performed. You lived moment-to-moment. You understood that timing is everything, and that theatre isn’t larger than life – it is AS LARGE as life!

3.    The DIRECTOR: You “saw” the ideas as if they already existed, then staged it to please the audience. Your friends placed their trust in you because you gave them positive feedback about their strengths, and you made them feel good about themselves.

4.    The PRODUCER: You thought up the whole event, assigned your buddies the tasks that matched their strengths, sold the idea to everyone in the neighborhood and got them to pay for tickets. You invited everyone you saw, and one restaurant owner was so enthusiastic he threw an after-show party at your request.

5.   The DESIGNER: You envisioned the environment for the event. You drew it with vivid strokes and it took on a life of its own. You told your friends what to build, what to wear and why they had to wear it in spite of their objections (and they thanked you for it afterwards!)

6.    The STAGE MANAGER: You knew that your best buddy’s vision could be built. You crafted the schedule as to what had to be done by when, so your friends would have a chance to practice. You arranged parking places for bikes, strollers, cars, and managed the traffic and access to rest rooms.

7.   The TECHNICIAN: You made calculations from your friend’s drawings, found the right person to donate materials and stayed up all night building the set. You finished on time, and with no budget. When people got nervous and asked “What’s happening?” you replied “Workin’ on it!”

8.    The CRITIC: You recognized problems from the get-go, and knew that if the project had been approached from a different perspective it would have worked better. But heck, it was fun, and set the precedent for the next time. You wrote a flattering article for the Neighborhood News, in which you had instigated the “Kids’ Column”.

Do any of these roles sound familiar?

As kids, chances are that we played at least two roles with complete abandon. And as we morphed into grown-ups, many of us ended up playing a role that didn’t quite fit.

  1. What was the role (or roles) that you played?
  2. Are you currently playing one of them in your daily life?
  3. If not, when did it (or they) go underground?
  4. What was it about the event that made it so unforgettable?
  5. Can you imagine experiencing it again?

The goal of Theatrical Intelligence is to IDENTIFY the roles that gave you such joy and freedom as a child, TAP INTO that creative pulse you’ve been craving, and USE IT in your daily life.

Once you’ve experienced that pulse, it will keep on beating. Hold it close to you. Unexpected opportunity awaits.

 

Rocco at TCG: Back From Peoria

Rocco Landesman

Rocco Landesman

Rocco Landesman had just gotten off the plane from Peoria on Saturday when he arrived at the Theatre Communications Group Fall Forum. We were a group of about 120 TCG theatre members and board chairs, gathered at the Desmond Tutu Center in Chelsea. (Full disclosure: I am neither a theatre member nor a board chair; I had received special permission to attend.*) Everyone in the room was honored that Rocco had carved out the time to meet with us so early in his tenure at NEA, and we were eager to hear what he had to say.

I don’t know Rocco well, although he was our Studio landlord for a few years. As he walked in I didn’t so much assault him as take the opportunity to congratulate him on his provocative entrance into his new role, and to express my hope that he wasn’t discouraged by his critics. His response: “Ann, I’m 62. I’m not about to change now.” I don’t know why I expected anything different, but it was so reassuring to hear those words I almost threw my arms around him and kissed him on the lips. I tend to be a little over-the-top in situations like this, so decided against it.

Rocco opened his talk by telling us about a “gruesome meeting on the Hill” recently, after which he told his wife Debby it reminded him of a favorite old country song: Joe South’s These Are Not My People. Then he told us that he was relieved to be here, because “…you ARE my people!” Vigorous applause. It  felt good to be included.

He drew a parallel between the theatre as “the most aspirational of activities” and the Obama administration as driven by aspiration. In his no-nonsense-get-to-the-bottom-line style, he respectfully referred to our President as an artist “…who has faced the blank page” and succeeded in that perilous journey. And he spoke passionately about the theatre as “…the most essential, the most basic and primal of all human activities; the activity that appeals to our deepest needs and impulses.” It was stirring. “I mean it’s gossip – we’re overhearing people talk when we go to a play!” Impeccable timing.

He went on to explain that if we hadn’t heard about “Art Works” yet, we would soon, with its triplicate meaning :

1. Art works on the wall, as in “a piece of art”.

2. Art works to transform lives, as in his case, he was changed forever when he saw Long Days Journey…

3. Art IS work!  As in: there are 5.7 million arts related jobs in our country.

Rocco spoke from his heart, and didn’t refer much to his scribbled notes on a yellow pad. He admitted that the Chairmanship is still so new to him he hasn’t figured out how it works. He is comfortable in his discomfort, however, and is not afraid to fail. It is one of the reasons I’m so excited about his arrival in Washington; he is living proof of the Theatrical Intelligence principle: failure is the quickest way to learn.

He was a good sport and answered a few questions we had submitted earlier in the day. His lack of endorsement for ‘No Child Left Behind’ was palpable: “It leaves too many children behind who could be saved by arts programs.” He spoke of a charter school in New Orleans which gave him a glimpse into an inspired program, as he watched young children start the day singing Fats Domino songs.

And he answered my question (don’t even ask how thrilled I was) which was “By what measure will you define your success at NEA?” His answer was to tell of the crusty old New Englander who was asked his advice about what makes a happy life. His answer: faster horses, younger women, better whiskey, and more money.

Rocco: I’ll let the first three go, but without a doubt the way I’ll be judged is by how much money I can bring into the NEA. What can I say? I am optimistic. And with apologies to Mel Brooks – perhaps my optimism is delusional –  I can’t help it, I’m a broadway producer.

Applause. Standing ovation. Exit.

My opinion? Perfect casting.

*I was meeting Futurist Jack Uldrich, a Twitter pal, who had presented a stimulating talk on “unlearning” earlier in the day.


What Role Were You Born To Play?

Recently I’ve re-connected with some old friends who cannot wait to retire. They’re ready to do what they’ve “always loved doing” because for one reason or another, they didn’t end up doing it in their regular work.

If you are stuck in a job you don’t like, tapping into your Theatrical Intelligence can help. Identifying your inborn talent(s) that may have gone underground in your adult life, can get you unstuck.

Try this:

Think back to your childhood. Remember the neighborhood where you grew up?  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and inhale the smell of that long ago place. If the neighborhood isn’t clear, or you moved around a lot, picture a time when you shared secrets with your closest friend…

Was there a time when you and your friends decided to put together an event of some kind?  A gymnastics demonstration? A neighborhood circus with performances by your pets? Maybe a swimming show with a lemonade stand? Whatever it was, YOUR part in this event made you really proud.

Write down what you remember. I’m willing to bet it resembles one or more of The 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence:

1.    The WRITER: You had an idea and wrote it down. You understood the concept: tell the audience, tell them again, and tell them that you told them; with humor, drama and clarity.

2.    The ACTOR: You performed. You lived moment-to-moment. You understood that timing is everything, and that theatre isn’t larger than life – it is AS LARGE as life!

3.    The DIRECTOR: You “saw” the ideas as if they already existed, then staged it to please the audience. Your friends placed their trust in you because you gave them positive feedback about their strengths, and you made them feel good about themselves.

4.    The PRODUCER: You thought up the whole event, assigned your buddies the tasks that matched their strengths, sold the idea to everyone in the neighborhood and got them to pay for tickets. You invited everyone you saw, and one restaurant owner was so enthusiastic he threw an after-show party at your request.

5.   The DESIGNER: You envisioned the environment for the event. You drew it with vivid strokes and it took on a life of its own. You told your friends what to build, what to wear and why they had to wear it in spite of their objections (and they thanked you for it afterwards!)

6.    The STAGE MANAGER: You knew that your best buddy’s vision could be built. You crafted the schedule as to what had to be done by when, so your friends would have a chance to practice. You arranged parking places for bikes, strollers, cars, and managed the traffic and access to rest rooms.

7.   The TECHNICIAN: You made calculations from your friend’s drawings, found the right person to donate materials and stayed up all night building the set.  You finished on time, and with no budget. When people got nervous and asked “What’s happening?” you replied “Workin’ on it!”

8.    The CRITIC: You recognized problems from the get-go, and knew that if it had been approached from a different perspective it would have worked better. But heck, it was fun, and set the precedent for the next time. You wrote a flattering article for the Neighborhood News, in which you had instigated the “Kids’ Column”.

Do any of these roles sound familiar? Even at an early age your Theatrical Intelligence was at work.

What made your event so unforgettable? What worked?

You wanted everyone to talk about the event all week! That is the first of The 6 Principles of Theatrical Intelligence:

1. Everyone shares the same goal.

Next, everyone would’ve been mortified if no one showed up, if one of the pets didn’t cooperate, or if the setting wasn’t finished. Embarrassment doesn’t begin to describe it! That’s the second principle:

2. Everyone shares the risk.

What else worked? Everyone worked together and beat the deadline!  Third principle:

3. Collaboration rules!

The 4th principle takes over (sometimes against all odds) when a show is being developed:

4. The work matters.

Chances are that you experienced 4 of The 6 Principles before you were 8 years old.

(The 5th and 6th principles occur when there’s a more sophisticated level of production: 5. Failure is your friend, and the fastest way to learn. 6. Success comes with the courage to step into the unknown. We’ll take those on later.)

I believe that every one of you was born with Theatrical Intelligence. As a kid, chances are that you played at least two roles with complete abandon. And as you morphed into a grown-up, you may have ended up playing a role that didn’t quite fit. It happens to many of us.

What was the role you were born to play?

Are you currently playing it?

If not, when did it go underground?

How will you get it back?

The goal of Theatrical Intelligence is to IDENTIFY the role(s) that gave you such joy and freedom as a child, and put them to USE in your daily life.