Sunday, September 15, 2013

On site skit

As we drove on the Mysore road yesterday, there was a traffic jam - for some reason traffic slowed down to almost one lane on the busy highway. Perhaps some sort of a police checkpost we thought. Or perhaps a random accident. Or some vehicle has broken down in the middle of the road.

As the traffic inched its way forward, we saw banners of Toyota Logistics Kishor Limited warning about the dangers of drunk driving, and a set up of an accident. A biker with blood on his face, bike fallen down and the person (an actor) lying still in that pose. And a messaging.

I thought it was a novel way to create awareness. Accidents are never there nor meant to be seen, but then creating a live scene like this was a fantastic idea for people to realize the gruesomeness and the seriousness of the whole situation. Sure, they created a traffic jam, but this was for a great cause and with both the banners and the actual visual depiction (which, crosses language barriers) that made it like a street play (more like a street still) drove home the point very well.

Its Showtime!

I had earlier blogged about the theatre learning experience through the 12 week workshop that I had attended earlier this year. The entire project culminates with a real play that is played to a real audience complete with props, costumes etc. It is hard work. 12 Sundays of training followed by a few weeks of rehearsals – nearly 5 times a week.

First the trainings get you prepped up. Use your body. Use your mind. Voice. Train. Get physically fit. Handle each other. Trust. Work. Alone. Work. Together. Form, Storm and Norm (see earlier post).

Getting the lines right is just the first part. Then the moves. Then changes. Then some variation. Then, the script gets dropped. Then you see that the entire so called play looks like people reading news. Then you work on tweaking it, until it ultimately becomes a play. All the people in the scene have to put their best foot forward. And work work work. Get the beat right. Get the rhythm right. Get the timing right down to the last T. Expressions. Inflexions. Make those practiced dialogues sound spontaneous.

Until you are ready to perform. Dress rehearsal. Tech rehearsal. As the time for the first show nears, it is an exhilarating feeling. Butterflies in the stomach. Make up. Costumes. Planning. Rehearsing. Re-rehearsing.

And then the lights go off in the wings. The bell rings. And the show begins. As you sit in the wings, waiting for the audience reactions. Are they laughing? Do they like it? Are we doing well? And then you walk on stage, in character. Deliver your lines. A glance at the wings shows that your entire team is watching you. Banking on you. They don’t want you to fail. They want you to succeed – take it scene by scene to a different level.

And the audience warms up. With a few laughs. That makes you comfortable on stage. But let that not go to your head. Continue in character. And they laugh a little more. Somehow, that makes you more energetic. You get the wind under your wings. And then you let go. Have fun on stage. Get deeper into character. Let that energy feed you and take you higher. But not to your head. And then you go back into the wings, inspiring the others and preparing for the next show.

It is truly an unbelievable experience. That has to be experienced by being there.

And in the end people tell you, how good an actor you are. And you know that, behind that is just a lot of sweat and a lot of crossed mountains!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Building a team

How does one build a team? And ensures that it performs? We all know Tuckmans four stages of teams - Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. 

But ever so often, you will find that in teams that there are some who do not contribute as much as they should. Or as much as they had all committed to at the outset when they were selected or self selected into the team. In my view, what works in building effective things are these things:

Get commitment from the team early on about the goal and what they will do in order to make it happen. At this stage, it is necessary to give people a choice about whether they want to be part of the goal at all. If not, find options for them to support the main team with what they can do - if there is scope to do that.

Once that goal level commitment is established, get the tactical level commitment - if it means showing up each day without making excuses and so on and so forth. At this stage, again, it is important for all the team members to agree on a code of sorts. Again, those who cannot give their commitments need to be asked to decide - commit or leave.

And then once again, weed out non performers early. Carrying passengers is good for trains, not for teams. Every team needs as many engines as it possibly can. And when I say engines, I mean, commitment engines because there are times when every ounce of energy is required.

Often, we make mistakes here. In weeding out non performers. In calling out issues early. And replacing passengers with engines. Because we want to be nice. Because they were nominated. Because of a million reasons to cop out than call out issues...Because, we want to be seen as nice guys..etc. etc.

But if you are the team captain, you need a laser sharp focus on the goal and unless every team member contributes that is never going to happen. Lesson learnt...

A summer with SPOT

SPOT stands for Summer Project On Theatre, an initiative by Bangalore Little Theatre. Each summer for nearly, the last 30 odd years, Vijay Padaki, cobbles together a set of rank amateurs - and takes them through 12 weeks of training. At the end of 12 weeks, these amateurs star in an amateur theatre production. Impossible as that may sound, he has done it - for nearly 30 years now.

The fact that Vijay has done so for 30 odd years means that is safe to suggest that if anyone landed there, he can make an actor out of you. An amateur actor - and show you the gate - through which you walk in case you want to continue the pursuit of this field further.

And that is what I did. Showed up on a Sunday in May to sign up for SPOT 2013.

Many of my friends have been part of SPOTand have come back with amazing experiences.I myself watched a couple of their plays and found them to be quite mind blowing.

Imagine that you part of a training that is also a project. Imagine that you will be taken through a series of exercises where you work with yourself and others. The training is structured - though you as a participant will not know what is coming next. But each week, you will progress - bit by little bit. Of course, you need to work. And you need to participate. But once you have committed internally, the rest of the journey will happen. And in the end, the project takes shape with practically everything you learnt in the training. (As an aside this is an interesting model for trainings, but thats another thought for another day.)

Work with your body. Move. Dance. Stretch. Exercise. Explore body states.
Work with your voice. Sing. Stretch those vocal chords. Shout. Whisper.
Work with your mind. Get out and participate. Get out of your tortoise shell. Work with yourself.

And over 12 weeks, challenge yourself and slowly but surely, you reach the end of the project with an amateur play to show for yourself. And the trainers push you to go beyond your comfort zones every single day of those 12 odd spot sessions.

Then you rehearse. With the stage settings. With the moves blocked out. Work on your dialogues.

On stage, whispers are by action only - the voice is still, a shout. Stage angles, body states, actions, dragging legs, limp hands...little by little, you work your character on stage...

And, yes, like in all learning efforts, you go through a learning curve that is at times demanding, has its inflection points, but finally, you will have your own eureka, breakthrough moment that will see you through...

How cool is that? More on this later...