Saturday, July 11, 2009

Synergetic Solidarity 7/11/09

It is not the one branch that has strength but the many branches bound together in a bundle that cannot be broken.

Chief Sitting Bull
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How do you do?
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I could speak of armies. But I don't know armies.
I could speak of ball teams. But I don't know ball teams.
I could speak of construction crews. But I don't know construction crews.
I could speak of theatre companies. And I will, because I know theatre companies.
I could speak of orchestras. And I know something about orchestras.

One of the most interesting and exciting things to me about working in the theatre most of my life was the sense of the ensemble. Everyone involved in a performance is important, from the leading player to the stage manager's second assistant. Everyone is requited to be at a specific place at every point in the play and perform a specific function, whether it's to speak a line or change a piece of scenery. A theatre company consists of a cast and a crew and they are equally important even though the audience never sees the crew. I once did a play in which I had to go off stage, get a sword and bring it back on. I had no time to go looking for it. It had to be done almost instantly. At every performance the was a young man, a member of the crew, waiting to hand me the sword.

When the cast and crew are working together as a well trained team, even emergencies can be quickly solved. In another play I had to make some drinks at an upstage bar. I had very little time to do it and one night I broke one of the glasses. Shortly after that my character left the stage for a minute. When I got off stage I told the crew member stationed there that I broke a glass, She immediately said "Okay, I'll take care of it." When the lights went up for the next scene the broken glass was gone.

On the stage the actors depend on each other to be where they are supposed to be and say what they are supposed to say so that the other actor gets the right cues for his own speech and actions. If you see a fight scene in a play it has been carefully choreographed and rehearsed so that all the actors involved know exactly what they are going to do. They depend on each other. No one gets hurt.

Ask a musician in a great orchestra and he will talk about the other musicians. They are interdependent. They have to be. The violinist listen to the flute, the flutist listens to the horn and the horn player listens to the drum. They play together. It doesn't happen by accident.

When that synergy is absent it's obvious in both theatre and music. There are some actors who are not team players. We call them "prima donnas." Some of them are well known. They will grab attention and focus, and they will not care about cooperation in the process of the performance. They will frequently get a lot of applause because of it. But what the audience doesn't see is the compensation and adaptation the rest of the company has to make, which they can do because they are a company of people working together. But with a prima donna on stage that sense of ensemble is missing and the chain is broken. A prima donna in an orchestra would not last another day.

I love the theatre because of the wonderful coming together and team forming of a bunch of different people with different lives, deffernt personalities, histories and experience, for the successful creation of a work of art.

DB - The Vagabond
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Good sailing.
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5 comments:

SILVER said...

i have an award waiting for you at my place. Mind coming over to pick it up?

Janice said...

I have never tried to solve a cryptogram that wasn't a sentence or a quote...I'll see what I can do but ...

Judith Ellis said...

DB - This is so very true in all aspects of life, personally and professionally. Thank you for this post.

Lisa said...

Had we not had the good team in our company we surely would not have survived 30 plus years in a cut throat business. I never thought about it in music or theatre though until reading this. I've known a few unfamous Prima Donnas in my day.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

We are all but cogs in the bigger scheme of life :o)