Posts Tagged ‘Workplace’

The Actor Is What We See, But Only 1/8 Of What Is There

Two earlier versions of this post were published in 2010 and 2012. Several colleagues asked me to re-post it, so here it is.

When I work with individuals or groups on ways Theatrical Intelligence can make a difference in their lives, my goal is to stimulate an exploration into their creative core.

The term Theatrical Intelligence evokes responses such as: “Yes! It’ll help me when I have to give a presentation” to “Not my kind of thing – don’t like being in the spotlight” or “No way. Acting? Yuck!” There is an assumption that Theatrical Intelligence = Actor.

What we see

In a theatrical production model, the Actor is what we see, but only 1/8 of what is there. She/he wouldn’t be on the stage if it weren’t for the Writer, Producer, Director, Designer, Manager, Technician and Critic. The talent and skill contained in each of these roles is interdependent, and without them, the Actor wouldn’t be seen at all!

What's Really There

What’s Really There

Creative collaboration requires that each person within a group takes on his/her most comfortable role, and everyone contributes to the creative potential of the collective. It is built on the premise that all collaborators’ talents and skills complement one another. In other words if I don’t have a particular strength, one of my cohorts will.

Recently I worked with a young woman who told me “I don’t have one creative bone in my body. It’s just the way I’ve always been and I’m fine with it.” She was politely annoyed that I didn’t accept her “non-creativity”. What became abundantly clear during a quick writing exercise, is that she was a born technician (the only one who could get the electronic hook-up to work); and a gifted manager (she organised a group photo while keeping large egos satisfied, and everyone ended up grateful that she was there).

When I pointed out her strengths in those roles, she explained “But that’s the easy stuff!” which gave us our biggest laugh of the day. Everyone admitted their techno-ignorance, impatience with managing differing personalities; the combination of her geeky-gift and people-management-savvy was something they longed for in their employees.

The talented young Technician/Manager took all this in, and with just the hint of a grin, said: “Well, maybe I have a couple of creative bones…” 

Understanding her Theatrical Intelligence that day, she fully experienced “the fun part of being smart”. Yes, it was easy. And the smartness was all her own.

What’s “the easy stuff” for you? How much do you use it every day? Are you giving it the respect it deserves? 

 

Falling In Love With A Theatre

This article is revised from our Studio Newsletter archives in honor of World Theatre Day.

World Theatre Day

What makes someone fall in love with a theatre? I asked a bunch of theatrical colleagues to name a theatre that they love and say why they love it. Here are some responses:

“There are so many! But the one that comes to mind is THE GUTHRIE when it was being built and I was going to be playing Hamlet in the inaugural production. Tony [Tyrone Guthrie] and I walked into what felt like Yankee Stadium and I was terrified. How was I going to fill that space? Then when we walked down onto the stage, suddenly it was only half as big, and I did manage to fill it; over the years it was as if I was playing a dearly beloved instrument.” George Grizzard, Actor

“GLYNDEBOURNE, the famous Opera House in England. My husband and I had a private tour, and I stood on the stage alone and sang into the empty theater. The acoustics were incredible – I got the chills hearing my voice ring out like that… it sparked my imagination!”
 Melora Hardin, Actress

“THE MUSIC BOX, on Broadway. It’s a theatre of reasonable size and seating capacity, yet it manages to feel intimate. Rounded boxes flanking the proscenium are a particularly pleasing feature. It is a theatre that really helps the director.”
  Ed Sherin, Director

“IL TEATRO PIU’ TEATRO PICCOLO DEL MONDO (“the smallest theater in the world”) in Umbria. What a gem! It was built in the early 1800s by the families of Monte Castello di Vibio who wanted a place for social gatherings. The mindset at the time was of concordia tra i popoli (concordance between the populations) so the theatre was named Teatro Concordia. It is a space with perfect proportions; a space where you can feel the history of elegant and probably melodramatic performances in that tiny town.” Marianna Houston, Theatre Educator

“I love various parts of many Broadway theatres: the Tiffany stained glass fixtures and wood paneling of the BELASCO THEATRE; the inner lobby of the MAJESTIC and its grand house; the ingenious combination of new and old to combine two theatres into one dazzling space as the HILTON THEATRE [ed: now the FOXWOODS]. And I want to add another gem of a building Off-Broadway, the WESTSIDE THEATRE’s building, lobby and interiors are remarkably beautiful.” Bob Reilly, Company Manager

“THE VIGSZINHAS (Vigszínház) THEATRE in Budapest, Hungary – a magnificent 19th-century horseshoe shaped house with four or five balcony tiers. The stagehouse was completely re-built, and the stage is so deep – it covers a whole city block – with the loading door smack in the middle. For Six Characters In Search of an Author the city agreed to close off the street to traffic every night one half hour before the performance, so the audience saw the cast enter from the city beyond. That 19th century magic was made possible by the 21st century rehab.”
 Peter Frisch, Director

“THE BARTER THEATRE in Abingdon Virginia because it’s where I fell in love with my husband of 50 years! Barter inherited the seats and the curtain from the old EMPIRE THEATRE on Broadway, which gave it a certain mystique, and by the way, probably fostered more romances than any other theatre in America!”
 Diane Hardin, Acting Teacher/Coach

“I love lots and lots of theatres. At the moment I love the McCARTER in Princeton because Emily Mann and everyone there is so wonderful and willing to do anything I ask.” Eugene Lee, Scenic Designer

What is YOUR favorite theatre? Please share it!

 

A Life In The Arts

 
What does it mean to spend one’s life in the arts? Whether you’re a painter, a poet, a composer or a choreographer, your day-to-day reality begs comparison with others. A dozen world-class artists provide a sampler of experience: 
 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya-AngelouMaya Angelou (Born 1928)

 

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

PicassoPablo Picasso (1881–1973)

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

Twyla TharpTwyla Tharp (Born 1941)

 

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.”

SondheimStephen Sondheim (Born 1930)

 

“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.”

MorrisonToni Morrison (Born 1931)

 

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

EinsteinAlbert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

“Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.”

AdlerStella Adler (1901-1992)

 

“There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.” 

Alexander WoollcottAlexander Woollcott (1887-1943)

 

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Henri Cartier-BressonHenri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)

 

“You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father and finally he played my husband. If he had lived I’m sure I would have played his mother. That’s the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older.” 

Lillian Gish-1983Lillian Gish (1893–1993)

 

“The good die young, but not always. The wicked prevail but not consistently. I am confused by life, and I feel safe within the confines of the theatre”

Helen HayesHelen Hayes (1900-1993)

 

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

Woody Allen CUWoody Allen (Born 1935)

 

Photo Credits: Adler: Irene Gilbert; Allen: Terry Richardson; Angelou: Brian Lanker/Little Brown; Cartier-Bresson: Jane Bown; Einstein: Yousef Karsh; Gish: Getty Images; Hayes: Richard Avedon; Morrison: Princeton University; Picasso: Arnold Newman/Howard Greenberg Gallery; Tharp: Chester Higgins/The New York Times; Wilder: Gisele Freund; Woollcott: The New York Times Photo Archives
 

A Theatrical Love Story

 
I’d like to introduce you to a great love of mine. Mind you, I’m not alone: hundreds of other theatre professionals continue to participate in our love circle of 33 years, including my husband.
 
Please meet THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE (EST). 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve been a member of EST since 1978. My husband and business partner, Roger Morgan, is a founding member who signed the original articles of incorporation in 1968, alongside EST’s Founder, the late Curt Dempster

EST is a safe haven for several hundred theatre professionals who apply for free membership based on:

1) the quality of their work

2) their commitment to collaboration. 

Actors, writers, producers, directors, designers, managers, technicians and critics (the 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence I write about on this blog), become “Ensemble Artists”.

THE ENSEMBLE in the theatre’s name = its members.

STUDIO = a “theatre gym”, where members gather for vigorous workouts and candid de-briefs from fellow members and the artistic staff.

THEATRE = Place: 549 West 52nd Street, Hell’s Kitchen. In spite of its grit and an occasional mouse, it is passionately loved by its users.

These three elements = THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE, which provides a lifeline to creativity throughout the best (as well as the worst) years in the lives of its artists.

Since its inception, EST has developed an astonishing 6,000+ plays. More importantly, it continues to nurture its artists for as long as they care to be nurtured, using its own collaborative technique.

With a current annual budget of $1.3 million, EST has been recognized by the American Theater Wing, the NY Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk Awards and Village Voice Obies; collectively, its members have won Pulitzers, Oscars, Tonys, Golden Globes… the list goes on.

So why does this trashy little place matter so much to its members?

To use myself as an example, I dared to write, direct, produce, and spread my wings as an artist at EST. I had never stepped into any of these roles before.

In 1987, EST actress Christine Farrell asked if I’d join a group of leading ladies in an evening of our own making. She knew that we’d never be cast in the same play, and she simply wanted to be onstage together for a change, instead of competing for the same roles. EST member Pamela Berlin joined us as DIrector.

We wrote, workshopped, disagreed, re-wrote, disagreed better, re-wrote better, learned to trust, performed, published and produced MAMA DRAMA, a collaborative piece that is still performed in academic and community theatres nationwide.

My development as a leader is directly attributable to EST. By the late-80’s I was sick of performing, but I wasn’t trained to do anything else. I wanted to work ON a play instead of IN it. Because EST members are able to initiate their own projects, I did. I wrote. Directed. Managed. Experimented. Convinced people to work with me for free.

It became clear to me that I could bring a project to life by identifying strengths in my collaborators that they didn’t necessarily know they had. The trick was to reflect them back so they were somehow quantifiable.  Each time this happened, a profound level of trust was established in the group and we often believed that together we could do anything! (This was frequently followed by a spectacular and unforgettable failure.)

Immediately after the experience of writing, directing and producing, I shifted my career, a direct result of exploring these roles. Writing is now one of my great passions and part of my daily life, and it would never have happened without EST. It’s where I discovered my “CEO shoes”, and they fit so comfortably I never wanted to take them off.

Curt, Christine, Leslie, Rita, Annie, Donna, Marianna and Pam changed my life.

There are many EST stories just like mine. Why? Because this theatre is the place to try out new stuff and know that it’s OK to fail. In fact, absence of failure is a bit suspect, and falling flat on your face is certainly the quickest way to learn: check out the 6 Principles of Theatrical Intelligence.

And at EST, once a member always a member, so we get to fail again and again!

These days I’m back at EST experimenting in yet another role: Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. 

I believe it’s essential to spread the word about this model of creativity, and work to ensure that it builds a financial foundation for its future. Because EST is not only a theatre that is deeply loved – it is a theatre that knows how to love back.

What could be better than that?

 

Photo above left: The Ensemble Studio Theatre by Christopher Cayaba

Photo above right: MAMA DRAMA, clockwise from left: Leslie Ayvazian, Christine Farrell, Rita Nachtmann, Anne O’Sullivan, Ann Sachs (seated, center). Not pictured: Director Pamela Berlin, Donna Daley and Marianna Houston.

If you’d like to see what’s going on at EST: please join us!

 

Theatrical Logic

Imagined interior of London’s Fortune Theatre (1599). Sketch ©Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland.

Occasionally a colleague responds to the term Theatrical Intelligence with “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” and much as it irks me to hear it, I understand. Theatrical logic doesn’t make much sense to those who are not in the theatre.

The theatre ditty below reflects amusing contradictions in what some think of as our oxymoronic world

In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course
Right is left and left is right.
A drop shouldn’t
And a block and fall does neither.
A prop doesn’t
And a cove has no water.
Tripping is OK.
A running crew rarely gets anywhere
A purchase line will buy you nothing
A trap will not catch anything
And a gridiron has nothing to do with football.
A strike is work (in fact, a lot of work)
And a green room, thank God, usually isn’t.
Now that you’re fully versed
In theatrical terms…”Break a Leg”.
But not really.
Author Unknown
 
 The language is confusing but absolutely explainable.

In fact, there is a long history of theatrefolk being thought of as not quite normal or respectable: in the early 20th century, it was common to see  NO THEATRICALS signs on reputable hotels and eateries; women onstage were assumed to be prostitutes. Yes, the prejudice was rampant.

When Actors’ Equity was founded in 1913 as the first labor union in the performing arts industry, it paved the way for The Four A’s: the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.

These days there is a national hunger for creativity in the workplace. Corporations, governments, academic organizations and communities of all kinds are looking to artists for inspiration and answers to the lack of satisfaction of their workers. It’s the reason I’ve started leading Theatrical Intelligence Workshops, because it’s time to spread the word.

So,what is the answer to the question “Is Theatrical Intelligence An Oxymoron?”

YES, if you’re a skeptic.

NO, if you’re willing to challenge your assumptions and imagine a stage as the center of your world.

For those of us who work in the theatre, that’s what we’re lucky enough to do every day.


Theatrical Intelligence Workshop: NYC

There is more to what you do than meets the eye.

And it cannot be seen through a regular lens...

Learn to look through another lens: use Theatrical Intelligence.

What is Theatrical Intelligence? It’s a process that uses theatre concepts to impact work performance. In this workshop you’ll identify the role(s) you were born to play by tapping into one or more of its 8 roles as your own creative strength.

Join us in a supportive, collaborative environment, and discover “the fun part of being smart!”


The ACADEMi of LIFE

presents

A Theatrical Intelligence Workshop

THE MUSE HOTEL

130 West 46th (6th & 7th)

$195. (lunch included)

REGISTER HERE (Click CLASSES)


WORKSHOP LEADER:

ANN SACHS: President and CEO of Sachs Morgan Studio, former leading actress on Broadway; award winning entrepreneur and founder of Theatrical Intelligence.

“There is no joy in living without joy in work.” Thomas Aquinas


Where Inspiration Spreads Wide Its Glorious Wings*

* Inscribed (in french) on the proscenium of the old theatre in the Carnegie-Mellon School of Fine Arts, my alma mater.

Once again I have returned to Baker Library in the town where I grew up: Hanover, NH. This is the place I wrote my term papers in high school…

The place I Iearned from a classmate in 1963 that Oswald had been shot.

The place I found a desk with a secret drawer filled with treasures.

The place of many flirtations.

The place “where Inspiration spreads wide its glorious wings”.

The place I am from.

Of the many rooms I love in this library, I’m drawn once again to the Theodor Geisel (Dr. Suess) “imaginative place to study!” Must be something about unleashing the imagination of my childhood.

Voices from long ago join me, yet it is silent and I am alone. An exhibit in the hallway about the history of printing and binding of books reminds me of my brother Jim (who invented the electronic book).

I ponder an illustration from Dr. Suess’s last book, published in 1990: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and I can’t imagine a more perfect place to work.

It’s time to disconnect: no tweets, no emails, no calls.

Over and Out.


A Theatre Speaks

many-unions

I often think that there should be a large sign on the office wall of every person who works in a theatre building: I CARE ABOUT YOU!  Who is the “You”, you may wonder?

You, the performer; you, the playwright; you, the stagehand; you, the theatre owner; you, the designer; you, the audience member…It is a mighty list!

And who is this sign from? The theatre you’re standing in.

(more…)

Theatrical Intelligence: The Chaos of Collaboration

I’ve spent 40 years working in the theatre industry, experiencing the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in a hazardous profession that chews people up and spits them out every day.  I’ve reached the age where I can profess wisdom simply because I have survived. This wisdom is based upon the age-old principle of the theatre as a collaborative art form, where people work together effectively, each in a particular niche that they have mastered, and that they love.

When I shifted careers about 20 years ago, transitioning from performer to small business owner within the same industry, my workplace changed from a theatrical environment to a regular old office; a serious place of business. During my first few years I made every effort to create a “corporate business atmosphere” with little success.  No matter how many businesses I observed and business books I read, none of them embodied the kind of workplace I was looking for.

It was during this search that I took a non-theatre business-owner friend of mine to a stop-go tech-dress rehearsal of a Broadway musical. As I had hoped, she was awestruck. We sat in the theatre balcony – quiet as little mice – and she barraged me with questions about who the hundreds of workers were, and what they were actually doing as they hustled and bustled down below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the woman who leaps onto the stage every few minutes? (The choreographer.)

What is that disembodied voice from above? (The stage manager on the god-mike.)

Why are the actors having trouble walking on the stairs? (The stairs are on an electronic revolve; stagehands are working out the speed.)

Who is in charge? Then she stopped, and said: No, no, no – don’t tell me!

First, she guessed that the person in charge must be the balding man seated at the table smack in the middle of the auditorium. Then she thought it must be the woman with the sassy haircut sitting next to him, talking over the headphones to the guy with the god-voice.  Next, she wondered if both of them were in charge.  We watched as the choreographer kept landing lightly in the row directly in back of them and something struck them as hilarious… Meanwhile a scrawny guy and a blonde kid kept appearing and disappearing on the staircase revolve and we listened to hundreds of bizarre sound cues.

My friend continued to ponder in silence until finally she whispered to me: There is NO ONE running the show. The theatre really IS magic!

That moment will forever be etched in my mind. Not so much that my friend thought the theatre was magic, but rather that the organization within the chaos was so clear to me, and so bewildering to her.

I proceeded to identify with certainty for my friend that the man and the woman at the table were the lighting and costume designers, the scrawny guy and the kid were the director and set designer; then I pointed out the company manager, spotlight operator, dance captain and two producers sitting in the back of the house. Mind you I didn’t KNOW anyone associated with the production except for one producer and the choreographer, yet my recitation amounted to a veritable org chart of a Broadway musical.

That day in the theatre when my friend “experienced the magic”, I recognized that the oh-so-familiar creative-chaos of a Broadway show was exactly what I was looking for in the work environment at the Studio, yet I had closed the door on my own professional experience because I didn’t think it “fit” – yet there it was, hidden in plain view.  I decided immediately to give up the feeble attempt to create my own little version of a Wall Street firm, and to lay claim to the collaborative art form I knew so well.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, the idea for Theatrical Intelligence had been born.


Photograph © Samuel Morgan


Welcome!

Are you wondering what Theatrical Intelligence is? Simply put, it is a process I have developed based on the theatrical production model, to bring joy and creativity into the workplace. It’s the fun part of being smart!

It came about as a result of my personal career shift from working IN the theatre to working ON the theatre, which (for me) meant working in a more businesslike environment.  My first three blogposts form a trilogy describing the way my professional experience gradually grew into this new venture.

Theatrical Intelligence has six principles and eight roles (listed below).

Peak performance - an "A" in lights

THE SIX PRINCIPLES

1. Everyone shares the same goal
2. Everyone shares an equivalent risk
3. Collaboration rules
4. The work matters
5. Failure is your friend, and the fastest way to learn
6. Success comes with the courage of stepping into the unknown

THE EIGHT ROLES

1. Writer
2. Actor
3. Director
4. Producer
5. Designer
6. Manager
7. Technician
8. Critic

I will be blogging about this concept (and related subjects) and you are invited to join the conversation.  

Cheers!