I am interested in the art of collaboration. Which is absolutely an art. Here is a random quote I saw that is not credited to anyone but inspired the musing I am having today. "Collaboration is not about glueing together existing egos. It's about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room." I suppose that is one of the beautiful things about the theater. It is always exciting to be in a room with other creative folk who are all interested in finding out together how they will tell a story. If one person is replaced the story will suddenly be told differently. Exciting!! I know with a certainty that everyone on the planet wins when they are seeking out collaboration. When we look for solutions in the spirit of collaboration we will find them. So why is arts education hacked away at in most schools, when the theater is the one place where the act of collaboration is the central event and a life skill we all need? I pose that it is because unless you have experienced it, you cannot know the joy that comes with good collaboration. When I was in high school and had become bitten hard by the theater bug, my father was confused. He is a sports guy and didn't understand what had such a hold on me. But my father is a rather special dude so he decided to audition for a community theater play that my little sister and I were doing. And the amazing thing was that by the time we finished he got it. He loved building the set, and playing his little part, and meeting all these people from different walks. He got it. When he came to NY to visit after I had first moved here there was a professional production of the same show we had done at the local community theater in Montana, so I thought it would be fun to take him to it. I absolutely loved that when it was over he said, "Well that was pretty good but I think our production was better." It wasn't but I loved that his investment had been sown so deep so quickly. He didn't continue to do theater but he experienced collaboration where those ideas only exist when we all come into the room.
I have been thinking about my students and how I hope that when they leave their respective schools they will hold their classmates dear to them, as they are their first collaborators, and those that know them the best. So often we are exhausted from the intensity and rigor of drama school, and so upon graduation run fast and hard from our schools and our classmates. I do understand the impulse having had that same one but ultimately I love those nuts I spent 4 years with at Juilliard . I know them, and they know me, and we spent 4 years in deep collaboration. Not always successfully, and not always with ease but damn did I learn a lot from them...that could be an entirely new blog! So my hope is that if you are reading this you will find a classmate today and share a laugh and think about a future collaboration. Don't wait for someone to give you a job, go make a job. Do something that will fulfill you and don't worry about the results. Just go make some art!
My Sister Said It Was Time
Okay, figured out this blog thing two times in a row....Clearly on a roll. So I was chatting with my sister tonight and she said that I got brownie points for actually getting the first blog written but because she is the only person that I actually told, she is probably also the only one who read it. She seems to think that defeats the purpose. She said it was time to "blog" again and then share. And I realized that I am still in conflict with this entire concept of talking about the things that dance around in my head and then sharing them. The thought that anyone would really be interested, or should be interested seems unlikely but the question I actually have is do I have any DESIRE. The sis is a very accomplished speaker and coach, (check her out, karenmcnenny.com) and she is in the process of fully immersing her self in the on line world. She knows that building her business is dependent on mastering and harnessing the WEB. She knows why she is doing it, for whom she is doing it, and she has a strategic plan to accomplish her goals, I on the other hand am clueless. I am curious I confess to being somewhat amused and baffled by what makes someone stop and click on something or give it the all important like, but I don't know as though I have the "desire" to pursue the click. Hence right now this blog exists only in this little corner of my web site where some stranger may stumble upon it but I don't have much desire to make the leap to "sharing" . I hate that word almost as much as the word blog. I mean doesn't the word blog sound like you just barfed. I blogged...yep that about sums it up for me. So this is my little experiment to see if I can generate desire. To see if there is a way of engaging other like minded folk in a way that I might find surprising and interesting. And most importantly this is my little peep sound to see if there is anything dancing in my head that actually wants to be shared. I am looking for the art of the blog. Is this a medium that has an art? Is it useful? Or is it just throwing up the weird ideas dancing in our heads? So Sister here is your second blog, we all need to surround ourselves with those that can push us out of our comfort zone just because we might like it, so thanks for being my pusher. But the jury is still out on this barfing....I mean blogging thing.
Learning to Blog
It only took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to actually begin to blog! This has great potential to be an epic disaster. I have been working with actors for almost 20 years now. My class is titled "How to make the transition from school into the business, from the actors side of the table", or "Buisness 101 for Actors". Crap title but not nearly as bad as the REAL WORLD, the name of the course they used when posting to the Juilliard scheduling board 19 years ago. I had been teaching almost 6 years before I realized that was what they were calling it! Ridiculous, but I guess you have to call it something.
Over the years everything about the way actors market themselves has changed. The most obvious being the use of social media. So every year I rewrite my classes to incorporate what ever new trend is being employed. So here I find myself blogging for the first time in my life. I figure I can't actually teach my classes unless I am somewhat versed in the changing landscape of the business. My actual feelings on whether actors should have web sites or be tweeting, and face booking, and blogging and running a linked in page are almost irrelevant at this point because they are, and it is quickly becoming as common as having a cell phone. I would like to point out that my daughter is 17 and when she was born I was still resisting getting a cell phone, ask my agent how happy she was that I was refusing to give her my cell number. But my pager now lives in the bottom of drawer and I dare you to find a working pay phone. That being said, if I weren't teaching, none of this would be necessary for someone of my advancing years. I could probably continue to work without participating in this obsession to share everything. That is not the case for the graduating classes of this generation. They can choose not to play in the social media arena but not without knowing what the realities are if they don't. Remember, I tried like hell to throw out that damn cell phone.
So, in the last 3 years, because of my students, I have found myself dipping my toes into all sorts of new ponds. These endeavors have been challenging, invigorating, frustrating, hair raising, frightening and surprisingly satisfying. I directed, wrote and produced my first 6 episode web series about event Planner Preston Bailey. I hand't a clue what I was doing and this project almost killed me. But boy did I learn....a lot!! I have my students to thank for lending their talents in a variety of ways to get this project to the finish line. It was recently picked up by the Huffington Post over 50.
I recently directed another project that is going to be made into a series of training videos. How I became involved in this is still a mystery to me. I also started the Catskills Retreat Weekend, again my students encouraged me, telling me if I built it they would come and they did. These weekends have been magical and have touched my life in ways those that attended will never quite understand. I have branched out and now teach my own private scene study and play classes, the joy this brings to me can not be quantified. It is humbling to have these talented students in my class and their trust in my hands. I will be directing a small project for the stage in December if we find a home. And finally I am looking forward to collaborating on a book about what it means to live an artful life. I have begun interviewing Juilliard alumni , curating conversations about how they translated their training into meaningful new paths outside the performance box. The stories are inspiring and I can't wait to share them with you. So this my first post is to say thank you to my students, who have encouraged, pushed, inspired and demanded that I keep up and show up.