Posts Tagged ‘Pivotal Moment’

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? 


On Writing and Handwriting

I’ve always had beautiful handwriting. With minimal effort on my part, penmanship was the only subject for which I consistently received an A+. Learning the Rhinehart Handwriting Method in third grade felt to me like initiation into adulthood: I was writing cursive clearly, I was grown up.

Since that time, I’ve hand-written countless invitations at the request of friends, “penned the place cards” for many events, and if there is ever a call for a designated scribe, I’m it. Clear, legible handwriting was just something I did; I never even thought about it.

During a recent Theatrical Intelligence Workshop a distant memory crept into my mind about winning a United Nations Essay Competition for high school students in New Hampshire. I had forgotten about this honor for 45 years and as I was pondering the reason why, it suddenly struck me: I was convinced that I’d won because of my handwriting. Every one of the judges commented about my beautiful writing*, yet it never occurred to me that they were referring to content, or style, or ideas in my essay. Of course I forgot the award – the reason (I thought) I had won it had no meaning to me.

If you had known me in high school you would have known I was obsessed with the theatre. Jeezum crow (as we used to say in New Hampshire) everyone in in my whole town knew I was going to be an actress – I had a reputation to uphold! At no time in my first seventeen years did it even cross my mind that I might do anything else. I discovered my passion early, and pursued it with a vengeance.

For twenty-five years that’s what I did; until I didn’t want to any more.

Readers of this blog are familiar with my belief that we all come into the world with Theatrical Intelligence and it often goes underground as we morph into grownups. Imagine my delight when my own theory provided insight into one of my own roles.

That role is writer. And the task is writing. Not handwriting.

*Truth be told, one out of the five judges did use the phrase “old fashioned penmanship”. That’s the only one I remembered, of course.

My Brother Jim Sachs

My recent infatuation with Twitter makes me think of my brother Jim. He was a man of few words and the 140 character tweets would have suited him just fine. I’m sad to say he’s not here to join the fun; he died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 47, leaving a void in the hearts of his wife, three teenagers and his enormous family. Jim certainly left his mark.

His name, with 3 of his colleagues, is on the patent for Apple’s mouse (below). 

Jim’s Name on Apple’s Patent for the Mouse: 1988

He invented the electronic book a dozen years ago, and predicted it would take about a decade to catch on. Need I say more? No. (But I will… he was my little bro, y’know?) Jim’s electronic wizardry made Laser Tag and Barney possible (remember that  talking, purple dinosaur?) I often wonder what other breakthroughs he might have come up with, if he’d only had a bit more time.

Jim has been on my mind this summer, influenced no doubt by the death of our mother. I’ve been flooded with memories of older-sister-younger-brother shenanigans from our childhood in New Hampshire. In retrospect, Jim was the first person in my life to give me a glimpse into what I now refer to as Theatrical Intelligence.

One particular memory from the early 60’s keeps coming back to me: he was a serious 8-year-old and I was a rather dramatic 16, preparing for one of those standardized tests and trying to make sense of a word problem that had one train going X miles an hour colliding into another train going Y miles an hour and I was nearly apoplectic at the image. Jimmy (as we then called him) asked “What’s the problem?” And I launched into a harrowing description of children being catapulted from the train and lovers “untimely ripped” from each each other’s clasp and infants rendered orphans and… Jimmy stopped me and said “Ann, it’s a math question.” To which I immediately responded “It’s a tragedy!”

I will never forget that little face peering up at me through 1960’s glasses, shaking his head in disbelief: “I guess that’s why you’re going to be a Broadway actress,” and I, with deep disdain: And you’re going to be an engineer!”

It was a pivotal moment: we understood that each of us viewed the world through a completely different lens (albeit his lens in this case sure was clearer than mine!) Over the years we reflected back on that particular moment, and as we grew older confided in one other about our contrasting perspectives. We both loved learning, and never ceased to learn from our differences.

Looking through my Theatrical Intelligence lens today, I see that Jim’s dominant roles were Designer, Technician and Producer, whereas mine were Actor, Writer and Producer.  We came together as conversation partners as Producers, and were able to expand our capabilities by incorporating the other’s vision.

Shortly before he died we had a boffo laugh when we secretly agreed that together we would have made one perfect person. How blessed have I been, to have such a brother.

Sometimes I think that writing this blog is not only a way to explore the world of Theatrical Intelligence, but a way to continue my conversations with Jim. 

And when I miss him, which is every single day, I find myself saying…

“This is for you, Jim.”


A Pivotal Moment in Second Grade


A Perfect Role!For as far back as I can remember I have written limericks and rhymes. My friends and family predictably respond to my habit in one of two ways: they beg me to read my latest ditty and cheer when I do, or they roll their eyes in disbelief that I am making a fool of myself yet again.

The poem below was written after a meeting in which it became clear that our client’s Executive Committee was just plain bored with their jobs. Their inflated incomes and external trappings didn’t cut the mustard any more, and each one of them craved something more.

As we began to talk about it, I found myself answering questions about what they perceived to be my passion for work, and I scribbled this little rhyme as soon as I got home.

A pivotal moment in second grade
I remember as magic, a vivid charade:
Performing a play for the rest of the school
(It was Hansel and Gretel) and I was no fool
I chose to play the role of the witch
Decrepit and nasty – an evil bitch.

For a girl with three siblings under my age
To be able to torment my classmates on stage
Was the perfect role to play at age seven
(I felt I had died and gone right up to heaven)
My bad-girl behavior made me so proud
Cuz the school applauded my meanness REAL LOUD.

The girl playing Gretel, my friend Joanie Fleck
Took one look at me and turned into a wreck
As I cackled and snarled and spit like a shower
Completely consumed and possessed by the power
Of letting loose those feelings of rage
And I scared poor Joanie right off of the stage.

That day I discovered my very own voice.
Authentic and scary! I see that my choice
Gave birth to my first persona that year:
The beginning of my performing career.

Do you remember a moment of pride?
Of laughter or sorrow or something inside?
That piece of work that made you just burst
Because it was such an important first?

That magical moment whenever it was
Was a gift in the form of a meaning or cause.
And however outrageous or even appalling
I hope it defined your lifelong calling.

What was a pivotal moment for you?
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