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? 



5 Responses to “The Actor Is What We See, But Only 1/8 Of What Is There”

  1. The photos in the article are very powerful! Love it!

  2. Ann!

    Yes! One of the best years of my life was my year as an apprentice at Actor’s Theater of Louisviille- a year spent acting about a third of the time, and working in the shops and backstage for the other 2/3rds.

    I had the good fortune that year to be the dresser for the character of Heidi in The Heidi chronicles- something like 13 complete changes during the show. After a few runs Heidi probably could have managed to change herself, if imperfectly – and that’s when it hit me! That’s why I was there!

    I wasn’t Heidi’s dresser because actors are gods, I was Heidi’s dresser because it was my job to make sure the integrity of the costume design stayed intact. Why? Because a great production is a sum of all of it’s parts- none can exist in excellence without the other.

    I have always been so grateful for that experience!

  3. Ann Sachs says:

    Kathryn, what a fine story of an unforgettable experience. Thank you for sharing it here. You sure learned your lessons well, and Actors’ Theatre was lucky to have you.

  4. Wendy Hanson says:

    Ann-loved your post. This made me think about we all need to find the part of ourselves that we are not bringing to the surface. As a coach–that’s what I hope to do for my clients. Your perspectives are always inspiring!

  5. Judy T says:

    As an owner of a meeting planning/logistics company, I used to think that you were creative or you were “technical”–that is, you created the “scene” at a meeting or you planned the ground transportation, the meeting room set-up, etc. What I came to find out–as the article so beautifully points out–is that each of the meeting planners is creative in how they do their logistics and each planner also works within a team. All team members have different roles for the best outcome–a successful meeting! And the tip of that iceberg is the face running the meeting while the lower part of that iceberg were all the people who helped make it happen back at the office. Thanks for the clarity Anne and for making it so clear that any profession has to have all eighths, not just one.

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