Live Theater: A Lesson in Teamwork

I spent some time last weekend at the theater – first at a high school production of Horton Foote’s “1918,” with my grand-daughter in the lead role; the second a premiere musical version of “A Fortress of Solitude” at Dallas Theater Center. Not only did I see some great live theater, I realized at the end of the weekend that live theater is the ultimate example of teamwork. And I wondered, what lessons were there in this experience that could apply to the workplace?

Like most of us in workplaces today, a theater has a customer – its audience. A theater also has stakeholders, like the producer and theater owner. Just like business professionals, a theater’s goal is to satisfy, even delight, their customers and their stakeholders. And, just like in the business world, theaters are made up of people with a variety of talents, perspectives and skills.  How do they do it?

There is a plan

And the plan is called the script. Situations, actions, and dialogue are typically defined in a script, which is then  used by the set, lighting, costume and sound designers to create a three dimensional world to entertain, amaze and transport the customers and stakeholders.

There is someone at the helm

In order to make the play happen, there is a director, who directs the action, provides feedback and ensures all the necessary resources are available.

Everybody is in the right role

Casting is a critical component of any successful play. Actors audition and audition again. They audition alone and with other actors. A great director looks for just the right set of talents and skills to fully portray each character.

No lone wolves allowed

A great play is not great just because of the acting. The set and lighting design are critical, costuming helps define the characters, and stage hands make sure all props are in their places. If the play is to run smoothly night after night these different teams of people with different areas of expertise have to work together, counting on one another to do their parts.

I’ve got your back

Live theater has the extra pressure that there is no opportunity for a do-over. The audience is in that room with them, mistakes and all. Dialogue is created to cover a delayed entrance of a character, lines may be improvised to explain the flying shoe that hit the leading lady’s face by accident, or the power goes out in the middle of the play, leaving the cast with no lighting and sound. Most of the time, the audience doesn’t even realize when these mistakes happen. No matter the situation, obvious or not to the audience, the play remains interesting and entertaining. In  order to delight the customer and the stakeholder, everyone working on that play on that night has the plot ingrained in them, are flexible, creative and resourceful and understand their ultimate goal. They have one another’s backs.

Live theater can be entertaining, moving, engaging and even provocative. It can also teach you a thing or two about great teamwork.


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