Last night was the last night of my acting class, so it was “performance night.” We put our scenes on stage at the Citadel. Four things jump out at me as I reflect on the evening:
- “You look like you want to do something with the gloves. Follow your impulse.” These were our instructor’s words to one of my mates as we were going through our scenes one last time before we hit the stage. It can be a big leap to trust our instincts in this rational world, but it is our instincts that take us to a creative place where new possibilities arise. We have a choice to make about where and when we let our impulse out.
I’ve got a hunger
Twisting my stomach into knots
That my tongue has tied off
My brain’s repeating
‘If you’ve got an impulse let it out’
But they never make it past my mouth.
“The Sound of Settling,” Death Cab for Cutie
Perhaps it isn’t my brain that keeps me back – it may well know I should let my impulse out, but there is something deeper within that I need to pay attention to. As I contemplate my work in conversational leadership, I will ponder these questions for a while:
- What am I hungry for?
- If I truly notice that, what is my impulse about how to let it out?
- What keeps me back from what I truly offer our craft and the world?
- No matter how well you know your lines, you need to grasp the plot or you’re sunk.And your mate with you. There was a moment in my scene last night when I lost my line. Stuck. I drew a blank. It didn’t matter that my mate and I had nailed them many times before. Somehow I just lost track, and when I look back I can’t quite explain why. It just happened. We tossed a few lines in that “went with the plot” for a bit. It was shakey for a bit, for both of us sitting there in the bright lights, but my mate didn’t panic, neither did I, and we trusted we would find our way. We did. He threw me a word that got me back on track and all was good.Even when you know something well, you know it works, the recipe is never the same every time. Everytime the circumstances are different. In conversation or theatre, there is no silver bullet/cookie cutter.
- There are people rooting for you, even if you can’t see them.Often on the theatre stage, the lights are in your eyes and you can’t see the audience. You can’t tell if they are legion or few – except for the sounds they make. Even if you could see them, by and large to don’t know who they are.In the case of last night, it was a modest audience: our class mates, our instructor/director, the lighting guy, Citadel staff and a few people class mates brought to the event.Out front, I have a choice to make about how to proceed: trust that everyone is critically watching your every move, or trust that they want you to play a part in something wonderful happening. My choice about what I trust has an impact on what I will do and how I go about doing it. Do I believe in the worst or do I believe in the best? If I lose my lines, which plot do I want to draw on to carry me through?
- Brake a leg. Even the Safeway cake writer can’t get everything right. Nobody can. And the cake tastes just fine. How much of what I worry about is just icing on the cake? (Like the numbering in this blog…)
One thought on “Brake a Leg [sic]”
Great insights! Thanks for sending the link to the Art of Hosting (http://www.artofhosting.org) list.
I did theatre in college and your lessons took me back. I remember learning some of the same lessons.
I also had a breakthrough when I realized that the head wasn’t the top of a hierarchy of skills. It’s just part of an important mix with heart, body and spirit. Acting used all of me.
A great learning ground for conversational leadership, indeed!