On the first day of rehearsal I stand in front of the assembled group of talented and diverse actors and crew. Each has their own strengths, weaknesses, methods, and idiosyncrasies. My job, my responsibility as the director, is to mold the group of individuals into a high functioning cohesive whole. My job is to create a team.
The best way I’ve found to create that team starts with the vision. I come in totally prepared with my vision for the project. I immediately share that vision. Then I do something crazy… I let it go. Now that I’ve shared my grand vision, it will never be the same again. In creating a team, we will mold and shape my initial idea with big and small ideas from the team. So, I need to accept that this vision is no longer ‘my’ vision. It has immediately become ‘our’ vision. And that is a good thing. No, let me rephrase that: That is a great thing.
When it becomes ‘our’ vision it means that we are all invested in the product, working together to make it the very best it can be. It also means that nobody is looking to me, the leader, to “fill up their empty vessel.” They are there, excited to share their own ideas and know that those ideas will be considered in a valued way. The result of all this input is that I can honestly say—and delightedly so—that what is put on the stage on that first day of rehearsal is nothing like what is seen on opening night. It is unimaginatively better.
An active, productive, and devoted team believes that their input and ideas are valued.
Sometimes I’m at a loss for solutions to a problem. I feel like my creative well has run dry. There is no shame in that. We can assume that even Shakespeare had days when he just stared at a blank page. When these awkward moments of anticipation come, I get energized and excited. I’ve put myself up a tree, out on a limb, and I’ve kicked away the ladder. There is no way down, except to jump. Which, sometimes, is not a bad solution.
The creative process is full of vacant moments that need to be turned into positive results.
So how do we as leaders turn these uninspired moments into positive results? Through my years of directing I found a handful of comments that let my troupe – my team – collaborate with me, and stir inspiration.
GREAT DIRECTOR COMMENTS
- I don’t know. Let’s figure it out together. (‘Together’ is such a powerful word, giving ownership to all. It also demonstrates vulnerability.)
- Can you try something else? (Offering trust in your teammate’s talent.)
- Can we try something else? (Trusted collaboration is a must in all good relationships.)
- I’m stumped. Do you have any ideas? (Demonstrating vulnerability makes you human and more relatable.)
- That was an amazing choice! How can we build on that? (Giving confidence so they are willing to take another risk.)
- Can I explain to you what I see as the ‘why’? (Leading by offering an initial perspective and then being open to comments and reflection.)
- Don’t worry. That’s why we rehearse. (Rehearsal is a process, a journey of discovery. Choices are made, explored, some kept, most tossed out. Then it is on to the next choice. No judgment, just progress.)
Don’t be afraid to not know the answer. That’s what the rehearsal process is for: to collaboratively explore the “whys” and “what ifs” until a solution is uncovered that leads to a new and powerful truth.