Archive for December, 2014

Who Are Your Five?

Posted in Creativity, Got Me Thinkin', Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Thoughts on Leadership on December 22, 2014 by RobALott

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So the story goes…

It was my parents’ first Christmas together as a married couple. They were still in school and as is so often true with young married couples, the budget was tight and the celebration would be small.

They were asked by one of their professors if they had put up their tree yet. Sadly, they had to answer no, and explain that a tree and decorations were not in the budget that year.

Aghast, the professor exclaimed and explained to them why they needed a tree. He struck a deal with them.

“You get a tree, and I’ll provide the decorations.”

They agreed.

My parents found a small tree suitable for a young newlywed holiday. Their professor arrived at their door with a box of lights, garland, a few ornaments, and some red ribbon.

They began to decorate.

While they were putting the final ornaments on the tree, their professor began cutting the red ribbon and fashioning the strips into bows. He handed a few bows to each and began to explain.

“You are at the very beginning of this journey together. While you are together on this path there will be people who come alongside you to help. Sometimes they’ll help you both, and sometimes they’ll help you individually. Sometimes they will help you for a few months while others will stick with you for decades. Take some time each year to remember who those people were and are, and put a bow on the tree in their honor.”

Thus, the tradition began.

It was just the two of them for a few years. But their family began to grow. My sister and I came along and they taught the tradition to us.

On our Christmas tree growing up, we had twenty red bows. Five for each of us to dedicate. It started somewhat small and predictable. For many years our tree had a lot of bows for Mommy and Daddy, younger brothers and older sisters, and a lot of family pets.

But as we got older and our circles of influencers began to expand, the list extended not only to parents and siblings, but to best friends, teachers, directors, co-workers, significant others, and sometimes entire groups of people that had had significant impacts on our lives that year.

The rules were pretty loose. But the main idea remained; who has helped and encouraged and impacted your life this year?

Who are your five?

Who has helped you and encouraged you and impacted your life this year?

Is it your mom? Your dad? Your sister or your brother? Maybe it is your dog. Maybe it’s a co-worker or a friend.

Who are the people who challenged and inspired you to do more and be more this year?

We all have them. No one has ever accomplished anything without help.

No need for ribbons or bows or big tear filled ceremonies.

Who are your five?

Bonus points for telling your five who they are and why.

Originally posted in December 2013.

The Illusion of Spontaneity

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Quotes on December 15, 2014 by RobALott

All too often the pursuit of ease and comfort on stage tends to lead to the appearance of laziness and boredom.

“I don’t get nervous anymore.”

“I’m completely relaxed and at ease.”

“You can’t surprise me. I’ve seen it all.”

So often I hear young and inexperienced artists make such boasts in an effort to appear seasoned. However, the pursuit of relaxed and at ease is rarely a good aim.

Tension is good. Tension leads to engagement. Engagement keeps an actor poised and ready to respond with freshness to whatever comes their way.

Sure, in a scripted show we should know what’s coming. It should not surprise us. But as a friend told me recently, it’s the illusion of spontaneity that fascinates.

While we may know what’s coming next, the audience doesn’t. It is our job to create an illusion of spontaneity within our responses and reactions that will fascinate our audience.

No one buys a ticket to watch someone live their everyday life.

Leaders Who Refuse to Listen

Posted in A Note to Directors, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on December 12, 2014 by RobALott

“Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people with nothing important to say.” -Andy Stanley

Dealing with the Distraction

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Nuts & Bolts Stuff on December 8, 2014 by RobALott

We’ve all experienced it.

We’ve all been the cause of it at one point or another.

It’s so common, there are public service announcements dedicated to making sure it doesn’t happen.

And yet, it still does.

It can happen in front of you, behind you, or right next to you, and there’s very little you can do about it.

What is it, you ask?

It’s the dreaded cell phone ring in the middle of a performance.

Actually, it’s not just the cell phone. It’s any distraction. A candy wrapper, a flash photo, a voice behind you that thinks it’s whispering. None of these things were ever intended to be a part of the show. And yet, they happen every day and every night in theaters and at stages all across the world. No one is safe.

Dealing with this as an audience member is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Nor would I blame an audience for an adverse reaction to such a disrespectful distraction.

But…

Your reaction as an actor is your choice and is completely within your control.

It’s been my experience that when these distractions occur, (and they do) (and they will) your best course of action is simply to continue on. Do your part. Play your role. Tell the story.

Will your concentration be jarred? Absolutely! I would hope so! A foreign sound or action has entered your world. However, it’s entered the audience’s world as well, and they are looking for you to be the steady home base that they can return to. The audience, the ushers, the house manager, they will all help you regain focus and maintain your world. But you’ve got to give them a reason to come back to it and to trust that you’ve got the show and your role under control.

It has become a bit of a fad that artists of all types stop what they are doing to address a distraction in the audience. It’s exciting for the audience when it happens, it might get a quick laugh, maybe some applause, and sometimes it even gets some press. The only problem is, the artist’s tantrum becomes the story and probably the most interesting thing to happen in the show that night. And from that, you’ll never get your audience back.

This may be just my opinion, but it’s true.

Do you think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to drop character, break the fourth wall, and address an audience member directly?

(Medical emergencies. Of course. Don’t be that guy who brings that up.)