It's no secret that I'm proud of my acting training. I think all of Team Ovation would say the same about their own training. I've never known a time when I didn't want to be an actor- I wasn't a child that dreamed of being an astronaut one day and a doctor the next. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) I would play at being an actor- or a teacher. (Which may have been an early indicator of my future in professional communication skills consulting, but I digress.)
Without going into the ins and outs of my training over the years (I am well aware that no one may find that interesting but my mother..) I will say this- my work in the theatre has armed me with skills that I've reflected on with gratitude in all aspects of my professional life. Here are just a few that come to mind, in honor of World Theatre Day:
1. Just pick up the phone: When I was in High School, as I was dipping my toes into the waters of acting classes and voice lessons, I suddenly became aware that there were theatres all around me, outside of my school. One weekend I got a newspaper, opened to the arts section, and started calling every theatre listed saying, "Hi. Do you have any auditions coming up for 15 year olds?" Sure, some laughed me off. Sure, some were movie theatres. But I learned a huge amount from those calls. (It was the first time anyone ever told me what a "touring house" was- a commercial theatre that only brings in professional productions that are out on the road.) The best part? I kept calling until someone answered with a "yes". That summer I did my first show at the little community theatre that I grew up in, and was set on the path for what years later would become a professional career.
2. It's OK if You Fail: In terms of acting, most people equate "failure" with the endless cycle of auditions that actors go through. But that's not where I learned this lesson. In college, I was working on a scene from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure with my acting professor whom I respected immensely. Not matter what I did, the scene fell flat, felt wrong, and wasn't working. My professor stood up, came over and said "Bridget, you will never crack this scene. And that's ok. There are some we will never get." That was it. It was such a simple idea- we can't be the best at everything. I've thought of this moment so many times, both in and out of the theatre. Some things, we just can't crack. And that's ok.
3. It Doesn't Happen Overnight, but Sometimes it Has To: Once you get out of educational theatre, you realize that most productions don't have three months of rehearsal. (Unless you're Peter Brook...) More often than not, it's three weeks. Or ten days. And yes, occasionally overnight. Because I'd learned about the rehearsal process in my acting training, I was able to not only prepare in a structured way, but meet a deadline no matter where it was in the future.
In the corporate world, I spent a long time working for a legwear company. The company had major market weeks during the year, where seasonal lines would be sold to massive department stores and beyond. Often, things would be changing up to the last minute, no matter what department I was working in. I remember changing display boards with legwear samples in another room moments before they were brought out for a presentation- because styles or colors had just been updated. At the time I thought it was just like learning a new scene overnight or doing a cold reading in an audition- the deadline was there. It had to be met.
4. Eye Contact is Everything: As a child I was often chided for my wandering eye contact. Because the amount of eye contact required on stage feels very vulnerable, I found myself being chided for the same thing as a young actor- "Where are you looking! You're not looking at him," a director might say. Acting technique and training helped me become more comfortable with steady, sustained eye contact. It is essential for connections on stage, and imperative for trust and communication in business. The way I worked on it was not unlike the "Three Second Rule" that we advocate in our training. I practiced, day in and day out. As a professional, I no longer feel vulnerable looking someone in the eye, on or off stage. I find it calming and empowering. When you're looking someone in the eye, you know you're not alone.