Here are articles on theater

What do you do when you hit epiphany halfway through your career?

Our final performance for Creating Cabaret: Storytelling Through Song was last night. My 1st time singing solo before an audience. The high F#s in my piece are well within my range, but they’re also just at the point where the slightest relaxation of my frame causes them to break. Hit every one, and my ending note (F#) filled the room. My Professor said afterwards, “You caught the bug. I can tell.” She is so right…

During our dress rehearsal, I’d been sitting in front of the stage watching one of the other performers and while I was being a perfectly good little doobie, listening to my compatriot’s song, my sneaky, dastardly brain offered up a thought: “This is where you belong.”

The last time I had that thought, it scared me so much I (inadvertently) used self-hypnosis to wipe out every memory I had of performing, including the seven years I spent doing comedy improv. I think this time I’ll keep it and find out where it leads…

Business has a lot to learn from theater people

We wrapped up Evil Dead: The Musical this weekend. I am sad. I miss rehearsal every night. I miss singing and dancing. I miss wondering if that is water in the makeup, or whether Zach’s drool was a bit too enthusiastic. Part of why I decided to start acting was the suspicion that it would be good for me socially and emotionally. I couldn’t have been more right.

The amazing thing about the experience was how quickly we created a feeling of community, shared goals, and closeness. We were all working together on a project much larger than any of us could possibly have done alone. Most people on the project were under 25 (and many were still in college). No one had any formal training in teamwork or group dynamics. No one was using models from Leadership 101, or Good to Great, or … or, frankly, any of the 80,000 business titles that purport to teach people to work together.

And yet, the production demonstrated teamwork that most businesses would kill to have. How could a student theater group on a shoestring budget with no  education or background in training or group process pull this off? It really gives me pause.

Perhaps good teamwork isn’t a matter of training. Perhaps there’s something structural that can produce teamwork, simply by its very nature.

I’m intrigued, and I don’t know the answer. What makes the teamwork “just happen” when flesh-eating zombies are involved, when it takes pushing, shoving, pulling, tearing, and training to do the same thing when soul-eating corporations are involved? What do you think?

What Acting Teaches About Building Reputation

My first acting experience has given me a profound appreciation for how we build reputation (or “personal brand,” to use the 21st century parlance). I just finished my first weekend as part of the ensemble for Evil Dead: The Musical. I play a dancing tree, a headless corpse, a ghost, and a singing zombie. As you can imagine, I draw on significant real-life experience in bringing each of my characters to life (though technically, only the tree is living).

What’s made a huge impression is realizing how little the audience evers see of the actors. When I watch movies, plays, or TV, I leave with a feeling of connection with the characters, and by extension, the actors. While I intellectually know it’s nonsense, being in the play really drives the point home. What the actors bring to the experience is the authenticity of their emotions and emotional choices, but everything that knits those choices into a story—the dialog, the plot, the lights, the band, the sets—is staged and as close to identical as possible night after night. Almost none of it comes from the actors.

Shakespeare was Right—All the World’s a Stage

Then I realized that much of how we show up in the world is the same. No one we interact with gets the experience of us. They get the sum of their glimpses into us. But we expect them to behave as if they know us and our intentions.

Our reputation with any given person is the sum of the glimpses that person has had of us. If we had to reschedule a meeting twice with a prospect due to genuine emergencies, their experience of us is that we don’t make it to meetings on time. If we show up to a meeting with disheveled hair and bloodshot eyes, that’s the impression they have of us. Never mind that we were in a car accident the previous day and are still a bit vague from the drugs… they build an impression anyway.

This works for “good” reputations, too. Every time you put on a suit and go out to a business event where you nod, smile, and talk about the things that are “acceptable” in that context, you’re presenting a small slice of yourself. Never mind that you play in a rock band on weekends and have a complete reproduction of the Mona Lisa tattooed underneath that dress shirt… people at work build your reputation from the little building blocks you give them, that were carefully scripted by the current business culture.

The Scripts We Choose Determine the Impressions We Give

People only experience you through the glimpses you give them. What do you show the people around you? Do you let your idea of “expected” behavior be your script? When I was bitten by the theater bug last year, I mentioned it to my friend of 10 years, Steve. Steve’s a sales manager. After our conversation, he revealed he’s a sales manager whose degrees are in stage managing and directing. He directs 4-8 shows a year. He’d mentioned he did high school drama once or twice, but I figured he did it as a volunteer parent. He’d never shown me anything that suggested it was such a big part of his life. He was acting the script of the good, conservative businessman.

My friend Paul is at every networking event in Boston, handing out his card, flitting from person to person. Is it any surprise people know him as a major networker. Yet all he ever talks about is business, so his reputation is purely professional. People don’t feel like they know him, but they do know to call him when they need an introduction. He’s a whole person, but he’s living the high-powered, type-A networker script.

My script is a bit less mainstream. I talk about Evil Dead: The Musical and zombies. I write and produce a funny podcast on personal productivity, and do my best to find excuses to dress in jeans and T-shirts and wear colorful sneakers. That’s one glimpse into me. I also write about leadership, business strategy, entrepreneurship, and psychology. That’s another glimpse. Depending on where you get exposed to me, you’ll walk away with profoundly different impressions. People who love one of those characters may or may not relate to the other. Yet they’re both me.

Who Writes Your Script?

How do you show up? Be careful with your answer. Don’t consider how you want to show up, consider how you actually do show up: your appearance, the things you talk about, how you treat people. Are you brusque? Courteous? Fawning? Assertive? Tentative? Caring? Guarded? Open? Friendly? If you say things like, “people will just have to learn to deal with the fact that I don’t mince words,” have you ever really thought how you’re coming across when you don’t mince words? Have you considered the reputation that builds? Is it the reputation you want. The way you build reputation is by showing up more and more as the reputation you want to build. All the world’s a stage, we’re just actors, and you can let everyone around you write your script, or you can write your own. Your choice.

Stever in Corporate Mode