"I plan to leave. You want me to stay. Well, an element of conflict in any discussion’s a very good thing. It means everybody is taking part and nobody is left out.” – Elwood P. Dowd (Harvey, 1944)
CrisMarie Campbell as Nurse Ruth Kelly and Gail Cleveland as Vita Louise Simmons in Whitefish Theatre Company’s 2014 production of Harvey.
At various times in the year, I lose my business partner to her calling for the stage. Currently, CrisMarie is performing as Nurse Ruth Kelly in Whitefish Theatre Company’s production of Harvey.
Now, for some of you hardcore business folks, acting may seem like just a hobby. However, over the years, following CrisMarie’s acting pursuits, I have come to learn that Community Theater is an ultimate example of teamwork!
Maybe I should have anticipated CrisMarie’s pull to the stage; she was already a master at teamwork as a rower on the Olympic crew team. I did not, however, equate theater to an elite team sport until after I watched a few shows.
In sports (and business), one of the biggest failings of a team is each person being an individual champion – focused on their own success – versus coming together and performing as a championship team. In theater, the job of the actor is to support the Playwright and Director in telling a story, not to focus being a star on stage.
Actors, like athletes, can have egos. Right from the first night of auditions, when there are 15 to 30 people trying out for a few available parts. The Director makes decisions. If an actor is lucky enough to cast, they can be cast in the part they wanted, or a part that is quite different than what they planned. Either way, the first rehearsal is one where, no matter what ego strokes or punches have been delivered, actors need to make quick adjustments so that the show can go on.
There is, of course, solo (or silo’d) work on the part of the actor to memorize their lines, their blocking (where they move on stage), and their character. It takes practice and effort. For some it’s quick, and for others it takes much longer. But no matter how well an individual actor is prepared, it can all fall apart if they stay focused on their own role and don’t work together.
Acting on the stage demands relating. Being willing to stay present and not simply thinking of your own lines. Actors do drop lines, and suddenly, what was perfect becomes a potential disaster – unless the actors become a team! They must operate together, and trust that each will know the story, and their part AND be flexible and responsive (not just reactive and blame) when something goes wrong.
That’s what is so awesome about live theater.
Like a sport, it all may seem like fun and games when you are watching the play. But putting on a show on in front of a live audience isn’t a simple process.
There are hours and hours of work that goes into a relatively short run of live shows. Plus, teamwork does not just extend to the people you see on stage. No, there are just as many people off stage working diligently to make the show a success: the Director, Stage Manager, Production Manager, Tech, Costumes and Props, plus the people promoting the play to draw the audience! It is very much a team sport and a business.
So when those actors take their bows, I must say I am often in awe, even when it wasn’t prefect. Actually, I think that is what I love best, when I notice the lines were dropped, and the actors responded to find a path back that kept me totally engaged without missing a beat.
These actors in Community Theater aren’t paid. It’s their love of performing and embodying a character that often seems to be reason for making the commitment.
It takes discipline, commitment, courage, and heart to make the lines and the story come to life.
Indeed, this type of teamwork is worthy of a standing ovation!!
When CrisMarie returns from the stage, I know our business will be, and is, the better for it.
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.