Archive for March, 2013

What’s Right?

Posted in A Note to Directors, Creativity, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on March 25, 2013 by RobALott

“If your only skill set is to look around and see what’s wrong, I think you just might have a worthless skill set.” -Matt Chandler

 It doesn’t take too much discernment to point out what’s not working and comment on it.
It’s easy to feel smart by pointing out a problem no one else saw.
(We call these people theatre critics.) 
Discovering solutions is actually the result of intelligence. 
As creatives, while it is important to have the strength to cut what’s not working, it also takes a great deal of skill to look at what is working, discover why, and apply these findings to the areas that need the work. 
Ask yourself: If I liked something about this, what would I like?

Know Thy Limits

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin' on March 22, 2013 by RobALott

You know those real fancy single serving coffee machines? Put in all the desired information and thirty seconds later you’ll have a hot cup of coffee with all the right everything.

This morning I was plugging in the information for my ten ounce cup. I could have sworn I pressed the eight ounce button. (I may have grazed the twelve ounce button.) Usually I would appreciate the upgrade, but in this case, my cup could not handle the excess and I ended up making a big mess.

So often I hear performers priding themselves in giving all they have to give. Pushing themselves beyond their limits. I’ll hear directors and choreographers pep their casts up with expectations of giving 150%, or 200%, or 2000%. “Leave it all out there”, they’ll say.

It’s a good sentiment. I agree with the sentiment.

But this sentiment comes with confusion.

Pushing yourself to break and to failure is great for rehearsal or a workout, but pushing yourself beyond your abilities in front of an audience can come off as indulgent and selfish. It can be dangerous, and really, you might just make a mess.

Go above and beyond for your audience, sure. Exceed their expectations, yes. But we should also be careful not to push beyond our limitations for an audience.

If my barista hands me a half full cup of coffee, I’ll probably hand it back and ask them to fill it up.

But then, if they try to hand me a messy overflowing cup, I’ll probably hand that back too. In fact, I probably wouldn’t take it at all. Would you?

Push and learn your limits in the rehearsal room. Then as a result of that work you’ll be able to give your audience polish and control.


Posted in Creativity, Quotes on March 13, 2013 by RobALott


“Just start. That’s all you have to worry about. Starting. Get away from your computer. Grab a notepad and pencil and just start. Play. Doodle. Whatever. Ok? Just start.” -Jeff, [Title of Show]

Agree to Disagree

Posted in A Note to Directors, Creativity, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on March 11, 2013 by RobALott

“If you are dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you are smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” -Isaac Jaffe

Let the smart people do their work.

And when you are the smart people, don’t assume all who disagree with you are not.

The most rewarding projects are often the result of much disagreement.

Stop Working So Hard! (No really, stop.)

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Thoughts on Leadership on March 8, 2013 by RobALott

A number of years ago I was rehearsing a monologue with one of my favorite actors.

I gave him some direction to deliver the monologue a little more conversational and a little less presentational. “Just talk. Less like you are delivering a speech, and more like you’re just hanging out with some friends. Keep it natural.”

And that’s when it happened.

I was a young director (I guess I still am). And regardless of how clear my direction was, what he said next changed my whole outlook on direction and line delivery.

“With all due respect, if I don’t care about what I’m saying, if I’m too casual, then how is what I’m saying important? Why should I expect my audience to care to listen?”

I had to rethink every bit of direction I had ever given and every bit of direction I had planned to give.

His way was better.

A parallel came about as I began applying this to my directing and my own acting and performance.

Of course, when we are talking to a group of people, we need to care about what we are saying and how we are saying it. It needs to matter to us and we must have an appropriate amount of passion to sell the idea.

But, what I discovered is that if I am having a difficult time finding the words, if I can’t be articulate and clear…

…then, probably, I have not yet bought in to what what I am trying to say.

And if I haven’t bought in, how could I possibly ask my audience to buy in?

Some of you may be thinking, “How sad for Rob. I can sell anything. I don’t need to believe something in order to be able to justify it. That’s just sales. And sales is just show business!”

Well, sure. I felt that way too. I knew I could justify anything. My actions. My words. My thoughts. Just give me enough time, and I’ll be happy to justify any and all of that for you.

Justification wasn’t the problem.

It was how hard I had to work at those justifications that raised the red flags.

The longer it takes, the harder I have to work, the more I have to search for just the right words, the more I know something is wrong. And now the question rises, why?

Is it unclear to me?

Do I really agree with what I am trying to say?

Am I crossing a moral line by getting this thought out?

These questions clarify if I should pause,

or if I should stop and start over,

or maybe, possibly, just stop.

Bad Choice Or Different Choice?

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre on March 3, 2013 by RobALott

A Note to Directors:

Learn to know the difference between a bad acting choice, and a good acting choice that you would not have made.

Job Description

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on March 1, 2013 by RobALott

In a world of unions and specialty skills, more and more I’m hearing the phrase, “Not my job.”

I get it. I really do. Especially if what is being asked to get done is, in fact, someone else’s job.

But what if it’s not?

What if the thing that needs to get done is a job without an owner? Or, what if the job’s owner is in over their head?

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on an interview with David Kiser. David is not only a friend, but he also holds the title of Director of Talent for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Many questions were asked and many stories were told about his start with the circus as a clown, then his years as a Production Manager, and finally now his role of scouting and securing new talent for The Greatest Show on Earth. I highly recommend making a trip to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida to see and hear the interview in its entirety.

As they were finishing up, a question was asked about how his job and responsibilities with the circus had changed since he started in 1982 all the way to now. His response has stuck with me.

“With all the awesome things I have had the privilege to do, and the terrific and specific responsibilities I have held and seen through, my job description has not changed in over thirty years. My job is to do whatever it takes to make the show happen tonight.”

Did you catch that?

Whatever it takes.

I stood around after the interview with David and some of his colleagues and they all echoed the same sentiment, and began to tell stories of doing whatever it took to make the show happen that night.  Stories of things far above and far below their pay grade.

Whatever it takes.

When you’re working on a team, of course everyone should have specific jobs and responsibilities. That’s called organization. But a full trust and commitment to doing whatever it takes to make the project happen, that’s called passion and a responsibility to your art.

Sure, don’t take someone’s job away from them. But by all means, let your team know you have their backs and you’ll do whatever it takes to make the show happen tonight.

The curtain’s not up yet, but the doors to the house are open.

What still needs to get done?