Information Vs. Insight

A child has no choice but to learn.  The world around them is a giant classroom.  Everywhere they turn, like it or not, they are learning something.  Absorbing as much as they can.  Exploring.  Curious about everything and everyone.  Unable to ask enough questions, appropriate or not.

Then something happens.   I think for most of us, it was around age thirteen.  The moment when we realized, we got this.  It all makes sense.  There’s really no more need for learning.

It usually takes a couple of years, but each of us is brought back, and with quite a bit of harshness, to a reality that tells us, “No. No you don’t got this.  You don’t have this all figured out.  Not even a little.”  And we begin the slow process of learning how to learn and learning once again.  Desperately trying to make up for lost time.

But here’s what we’ve lost, and I believe it’s next to impossible to get it back.  We’ve lost the ability to learn without a filter.  Sure, we know that we don’t know it all.  But we do know a little.  And in a lot of cases, we know enough.  Life experience, job experience, relationship experience, all of this experience keeps us from learning without a filter.  So now we are left with learning on a need-to-know basis.

Sure, we have interests of our own.  But when it comes to what others think we should know, we learn on a need-to-know basis.

Adults learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it.

It’s no wonder then why there’s a shift that happens for artists when we cross over from rehearsal to performance.  We are all guilty of it.  The final dress rehearsal is the finish line, the moment when we stop working ON our craft, and rather begin working IN our craft.  We know what we need to know to get the job done.  We know what we need to do to make it happen every night.

I know we all preach the importance to never stop working on it.  That’s what makes us professionals.  But, if I could press a little, when was the last time you pulled out that script for the play you’ve been in for the last two months?  When was the last time you went over your notes from rehearsal?

Yeah, thought so.

Me too.

So, we need a shift.  A shift in our thinking as we make the celebratory leap from rehearsal to performance.  The actor, the director, the choreographer, the dancer, the composer, the fourth trumpet player, the conductor, all of us.  We all need an intentional shift in our process.

During rehearsal we drown ourselves in information.  We study.  We study hard.  Because that’s what it takes.  But then once we open, once we start, once we have a few performances under our belt, there’s no need to continue the search for new information.  We got this.  We know what it takes to get it done.  We’ve learned what we needed to learn, and now we know what we need to know.

This is the quickest way to a stale, boring, and uninspired performance.  We’ve all seen it, and some of us would even admit to having experienced it on stage ourselves.

So, the never ending quest to keep it fresh continues.

Might I suggest this.

Actors, you have all the information you need.

Directors, you’ve given all the information the actors need.

What’s needed now, is insight.

Information is useless to someone who already knows how to do it.  Insight is what’s needed.  More light.  More time.

Actually, insight only comes in time.

Talk to the people you are working with.  Let them talk about their process to find their performance, and in doing so, you’ll bring new insight to your performance and force them to discover insights of their own.  It happens every time.

When you feel the pressure, be it from others or from yourself, to keep your performance fresh.  Don’t go searching for more information.  More information often leads to confusion and messiness.  Instead, search for more insight into what you already know.  Insight, more often than not, leads to clarity and simplicity.


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