Archive for April, 2013

Just Look Up

Posted in A Note to Directors, Nuts & Bolts Stuff on April 29, 2013 by RobALott

You are standing downstage of a closed act curtain. The director has asked you to exit through the curtain when you are finished with your speech. Unfortunately, he forgot to ask the stage manager to ask a stage hand to page the curtain for you.

So there you are.  On-stage, but finished.  About to do the never graceful, always embarrassing, dance with the curtain to find your way off-stage.  
How to avoid this all too common scene: Instead of searching the curtain for its opening (which was designed and built to go unseen until ready), simply look up into the fly space. There you will clearly see an upstage track and a downstage track for the curtain, thus revealing its separation point. 
That’s it. 
Rob, that wasn’t much of a blog post. 
You say that now, but wait until you have found yourself downstage of a closed curtain at the end of your speech.  Just you wait. 

How To Get In The Way

Posted in A Note to Directors, Got Me Thinkin', Thoughts on Leadership on April 22, 2013 by RobALott

GrandCentral Station

I spend a lot of time navigating through crowded spaces. I actually seek it out. I love the energy of always crowded and always moving.

It didn’t take me long to learn to spot the path of least resistance. It might not be the straightest, most effecient path, but it is the path I can move most quickly through.

I’ve been doing this for so long now, spotting an open path and quickly slipping into it has become second nature. I have recognized a strategy for creating paths of least resistance.

The person moving with the most momentum will have the least resistance.

Try this the next time you are in a crowded airport, a mall, or Grand Central Station.

Move with confidence and purpose. Know where you are going, and begin to walk. No need to run. Just walk with a firm destination in mind. And watch how your path clears. People will see you coming, sense your momentum, and step aside. Or if they are headed in your same direction, they will slip in right behind you and begin to follow, taking advantage of your cleared path.

Don’t have a destination in mind? That’s ok. The people in your way don’t need to know that. Just keep moving.

But notice, as soon as you start to second guess your steps, people will begin to crowd your path. You will either be crowded by those with less momentum, or moved out of the way by those with more.

A couple things to keep in mind…

Moving through a crowd solo is easy once you’ve mastered this principle. However, add just one or two more people, and the path becomes vastly more difficult to manage. An easy remedy is to communicate where you plan to take the group. Then, they’ll be able to move with you and with your same confidence. If for some reason someone gets separated, since they know where you and the group are going, they’ll probably be able to find their own path and meet you at the destination.

Also, when two people with solid momentum fail to see the other coming, the outcome is rarely good. Do keep an eye out for those with their own momentum, forging their own path.

Sorry. This week’s post was supposed to be about leadership. But I got carried away with this navigating through Grand Central Station thing…sorry ’bout that.

The Willing, The Skilled, and The Passionate

Posted in A Note to Directors, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on April 15, 2013 by RobALott

“No matter what accomplishments you make, someone always helps you.” -Althea Gibson

We all need help.

I write the body of this blog on my own. But only after lots of conversations with my wife, my friends, and my family, all of whom I trust very much.

And I do lots and lots of reading.

Only then, after all that discussion and inspiration and influence, do I feel ready to start writing.

And even then, I’ll have someone (usually Kate) take a look at it before I post.

As artists we must continually be looking for those that can help us. Not to take advantage, but rather just because we need help!

There are three kinds of people that will help you: The willing, the skilled, and the passionate.

The Willing: These are the people who respond to a sign-up sheet or a plea for volunteers. They don’t have much else going on, so they are more than happy to help you. I make fun a little, but truly, willingness is the essential ingredient to attain someone’s help. How valuable that help can be is determined by the next two.

The Skilled: These are the people that know how to do something that you don’t yet know how to do, or they know how to do it better. When you want to move your art to the next level, or you want a result beyond your abilities, you’ll need the help of the skilled.

The Passionate: This is the part that can’t be taught and it can’t be asked for. We all have passion for what we are working on. But we can’t do it alone. We need others to come alongside us and share in the passion to get the thing done.

Help can and will come from any one of these areas. However, as soon as you start mixing and matching any two out of the three, the value of the help will multiply greatly.

It’s been my experience that help that runs on just one or two of these remains just that. Help. Whereas, help that runs hot on all three often becomes a partnership.

If you find it, hold onto it and don’t let go!

It’s Ready.

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Thoughts on Leadership on April 8, 2013 by RobALott

I was at an open mic night a number of years ago. The host called out the name of the next group and asked them to take the stage.

Instead of taking the stage, they ran outside to their cars and began carting in all their gear. And all their gear. And then some more gear. Smartly, the host recommended that everyone in the audience take this time to get a drink from the bar.

I stayed in my seat and watched as the band began to plug everything in and power everything up. Which was no small task among the tangled web of cables and wires.

Finally everything was plugged in and working.

Now it was time for the sound check.

Thankfully, they had brought a sound guy with them to make sure everything was mixed juuuust right. After all, this open mic night was probably going to be the space and time where everything came together and they would receive their big break.

Ok! Sound check checked! The host timidly stepped back on stage to introduce them.

By this time, to say the audience and energy of the room had dwindled would be a bit of an understatement.

The host introduced the band to a smattering of applause.

The band stepped downstage to play their opening song…

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming out tonight. If you’ll just give us a minute or two to tune…”

What was left of the audience, left. The band performed for their girlfriends, the host, and me.

I stayed for one song.

They lost their audience due to too much preparation.

We live in a world that preaches that there’s no such thing as too much preparation. Make sure the product is perfect before you launch it, ship it, or put it out there.

Interesting thought, but I do wonder how many opportunities and potential audiences were lost due to too much preparation.

I have worked for theater companies that rehearsed for weeks and months in pursuit of perfection and excellence. Unfortunately, the cast peaked too early and the audience never got to see it.

I have worked for other theater companies that would workshop something for an hour and immediately put it in front of an audience. The audience would then get to see the rehearsal process and all the mistakes that go with it.

I think there’s a place for both methods. Every process calls for a different approach and balance.

But in every case, at some point we need to take the step and embrace that it’s ready. It might not yet be perfect, but it is ready.

Put it out there.

Lest you lose your audience.

What are you perfecting that can never be perfect?

Don’t Wait

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Quotes on April 5, 2013 by RobALott

“We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is a habit, not an act.” -Aristotle

Perform each show as though it’s your last. Then, when it is your last, you’ll have the ability to make it your best.

There’s a Reason the Circus is Thrilling

Posted in Creativity, Thoughts on Leadership on April 1, 2013 by RobALott

And it’s not because it’s safe.

Calculated? Yes.

Rehearsed and polished? Yes.

But definitely not safe.

I’m not suggesting that you add a high wire act or a lion to your art. (Unless that’s exactly what your art calls for.) But I would ask, “Where’s the risk?”

Where’s the thing you are unsure of? The thing you are unsure will work? The thing that’s keeping you up at night?

I had a teacher in high school that tried to include a “No Way” moment in every lesson. As in, “No way did he just do that!” or “No way did that just happen!” or “No way did that just work!”

Sometimes it didn’t work. But we sure were paying attention!

Safe has never resulted in thrills. Not for your audience, and certainly not for you.