One of the benefits of being attached to Peter include getting to sit in on closed rehearsals for whatever production the Skinner Barn is hosting for its summer season. This summer’s production, ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ features a rather large cast with varied backgrounds. There are seasoned performers with years of experience in movies, television, and on stages on and off Broadway. In contrast, there are also young, recent college graduates who’ve studied musical theatre or performance arts in school and are spending five weeks with us this summer, on reprieve from attempting to make their mark in New York City. The company also includes local Vermonters who do other things for a living, but have sufficient talent and interest to work alongside the professionals.
During a rehearsal about mid-way to opening night, I overheard a local actor ask a question of the music director, whose attention was firmly focused on the singer standing directly in front of him, working through a number. One of the recent graduates who was standing nearby listening intently to the exchange between the music director and the singer, also heard the question. When he realized that the music director perhaps did not hear the question, the young actor turned his head toward the actor standing in the wings, answered the question in rapid-fire fashion, and snapped his head back to the music director. He wanted to be helpful and resourceful, but he wasn’t planning to miss a thing the music director had to say!
He made me think of the new hires in my corporate office: bright, energetic, at the ready, intent on proving themselves, motivated and paying attention!
Over the course of a long rehearsal day, one gets to see and hear wonderful bits along with witnessing a few sub-optimal behaviors: stubbornness, resistance to feedback, impatience, intolerance and what might appear to be differing work ethics. Seeing this also made me think of my office.
It occurred to me that this cast, this company of actors, is a microcosm of the ‘actors’ I work with at my other company in corporate America. Each ‘company’ is comprised of talented individuals working together toward a common cause. They can be efficient and successful if they work together and focus their collective energies and talents on the goal and the schedule. They can blow the schedule and/or miss the mark if they waste time squabbling, not cooperating, not believing or buying into the vision, or otherwise engaging in ‘diva-ish’ behaviors.
Performers, at the end of the day, know that the show must go on. On the afternoon of the rehearsal during which this company heard their lead singer belt out the rousing final number, “Writing on the Wall”, they collectively and obviously delighted in the assurance that the show was clearly going to send the audience home thrilled! I believe I saw them ‘gather themselves’ as a unit and prepare to amaze audiences!
Because a summer season is so short, it’s possible to see this arc clearly. It is very easy to see Tuckman’s stages of group development in an acting scenario: forming, storming, norming and of course, performing are clearly delineated. In an office, where projects can have much longer development cycles, ‘actors’ can lose sight of the big picture and may give up or shutdown when faced with on-going difficulties or unexpected challenges. Doing so means that they don’t get to enjoy the real ‘performing’ stage.
Following the close of any Skinner Barn show, I find myself humming its big songs well into the winter. The song that most resonates with me this year, and is so fitting for all of us with a mission to accomplish, is ‘Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead’. It serves as a reminder to keep going - the goal line is never really as far away as it may seem.
The ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’ is being revived on Broadway in the 2012-2013 season. If you get a chance, go see it, if only to hear that wonderfully apropo song.