Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 1: It's showtime.

Lesson one: Figure out how to translate some pre-show rituals into pre-work.

So, what are my pre-show rituals?

1. Start getting excited about show between 2-24 hours in advance. "Excited" meaning: Nervous stomach, lack of focus, preoccupation with preparation. Sometimes to the extent that I have to take PTO on show days. (Might get an ulcer from trying to replicate this 5 days a week.)
2. Above-average concern with wardrobe and makeup. I dress for the way I want to play—smart/sophisticated, playful/silly, fearless/badass. It is not unusual to make Nikki and Megan pick my wardrobe. (This will be difficult to replicate on a daily basis.)
3. Control-freak behavior manifested in desire for alone-in-the-theater prep time. I set up chairs, make sure everything is where I want it, check the cash drawer, check sound and lights, whatever it takes for me to be able to not worry about how the show runs and think about nothing but playing. (This...this I could do.)
4. Contrary to what a lot of people suspect, there is no drinking before improv shows. For me, and the folks I like playing with, anyway. Anything that fuzzes up the brain is baaaaaad. (After is another matter. There should be more after-work gatherings. Haven't had one at my house in a while.)

OK. Numbers 3 and 4 it is.

Lesson two: Remember the tug-of-war exercise.

In the days when I taught corporate workshops, I ended them with a boneheadedly simple exercise:
1. Make two teams.
2. Tell them their job is to have a tug of war.
3. Watch them fail—stretchy rope city.
4. Tell them their job—all of their job—is to show us a tug of war.
5. Watch the lightbulb go on.
6. Watch them give and take...pull and and lose.
7. End with a goose-bump inducing speech about the fact that we're all on the same team.

There are meetings, sometimes, that feel like going into battle. Which sounds especially ridiculous in a greeting card company. But sometimes, you walk into a room with other people...and you just sense (right or wrong) that they don't trust you to do your jobs, respect what you bring to the company or value your point of view. You feel like every discussion is a battle over territory.

That, let me tell you, sucks. Especially when on an intellectual level you know the people you're meeting with are smart, capable and out for all the same things you are. Which is why that exercise made such a big impact every single time I did it.

So it helps to remember the "all on the same team" theory. And as trite as it sounds, to assume people are building on an idea instead of tearing it down. When I do, it keeps me from going into a room with my defenses up and lets me hear what they're saying, which is usually valuable. And it turns out that if I'm willing to watch the other "team" and heighten their actions, we stay out of conflict.

Here's the hard part, and the one I haven't figured out yet. What happens when you disagree? Or when the disrespect and mistrust becomes obvious and inappropriate? I know that'll come, and I'm not sure how I'll deal with it. Maybe read Mick's book again ( (Blame my antiquated Powerbook on the lack of ability to embed links.)

Lesson three: Eight hours is a long damn time.

12 is even longer. So maintaining the EXACT level of show energy...uh, no. Will work on that.


  1. When you don't agree:

    Step #1 You want THIS, I want THAT.

    Step #2 You want THIS because it meets your need for ______ and I want THAT because it meets my need for ______.

    Step #3 What solution can we create in which your ____ and my _____ are both satisfied?

  2. After four or five years to perfect this, you will have one heck of a book to write. You'll be a millionaire!


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