So, to avoid real, responsible writing, here’s what I would expect from a coach. A couple of disclaimers:
—This one’s a little tougher, because we don’t work with coaches much in KC. So this is really more of a wish list than a list of demands.
—There is a little crossover with directors—but coaches have less responsibility for the content of the show, the cast and the creative environment. They’re there to make things better for a piece—not turn a troupe into something it’s not.
For context, here’s what I believe to be true about coaches: They focus on ensemble work—they’re all about process. They come in at the request of a troupe to work on specific elements, like teamwork or character-building, or to polish a show the troupe has created.
So here’s what I would expect from a coach:
—Collaboration with the troupe to set expectations. The group should know what they’ll get for their money, and the coach show know what she’s willing to do. Has the coach seen them play? Is he coming in with a clear idea of what the troupe can do, or will he need to take some time to figure out what’s up? Will she just be watching and giving notes, or coming up with exercises to get the troupe past problems? Will he attend a show and give notes? How many sessions or shows will she attend?
—Insightful diagnosis. It’s not just enough to say, “This is good. That’s bad,” and put the troupe through a boilerplate set of exercises. A good coach should be able to get at the reasons behind success or failure. Is it about individual performance? Group dynamics? Grasp of technique? Awareness of principles?
—A big toolbox. Because players respond differently to exercises, the best coaches know a bunch of different ways to solve a problem. Coaches don’t teach from a syllabus—they follow a flow chart (and sometimes figure things out on the fly).
—Clear, straightforward, honest feedback. Don’t blow smoke. The nicest thing about being a coach is that you don’t have to live with the group or the directors. So don’t pull punches.
What I would be against, probably:
—Agendas. A coach is there to help the troupe or director accomplish their goal—not put his or her stamp on the troupe. Unless, of course, that’s what they’re being asked to do (for example: the troupe knows their long form isn’t working, and they need the coach to make some recommendations).
See? Less responsibility…fewer expectations.