12 December 2007
Jonathan B. Lerner
“Just because you’re trained for something doesn't mean you’re prepared for it.”
Never were words so true. Theatre, particularly musical theatre, is one of the few things that I can confidently say I have a knack for. From performing in a plethora of musical theatre productions to researching the history of the art, I have developed a passion that has not only aided my personal growth in the field, but has given me the knowledge and confidence needed to be an effective leader.
With this notion in mind, I could not help but to feel excited, enthusiastic and confident when I was asked in the spring of 2007 to serve as the director of the Indiana Memorial Union Board’s 2007 Fall musical production. In the midst of my buoyancy, however, I seemed to have forgotten that there was much more to being a director than understanding the art of acting and being experienced as a performer. This marked the beginning of my impending journey…
As the director, it was my job to oversee and orchestrate the mounting of the overall production by unifying various endeavors and aspects such as lights, props, costumes, set etc. One of my main functions was to ensure the quality and completeness of the show, and to lead the creative team into realizing my artistic vision for it. I also worked very closely with the cast. In addition to working out their blocking and running the rehearsals, it was important to me to that each member of the company fully understand and appreciate the subtext of the show’s plot and the different characters that made up the ensemble. I went about working with them on this a couple of different ways, some more successful than others.
After all was said and done and the cast had taken their final bows, I was attempting to put together a list of what I felt were the most substantial lessons I learned throughout the process. Before long it dawned on me that while each of them are important general life lessons to some degree, they are even more so lessons that will help me immeasurably as an educator, and universally as a leader. The following are some examples of these lessons:
Š When putting together a production team, make sure you know, trust and understand someone before bringing them on board and make sure that they feel the same about you. If possible, try to find people you have successfully worked with before and that know your style.
Š Set your boundaries and make your vision clear right off the bat.
Š Never allow yourself to be walked on or taken advantage of. Stay true to yourself and your integrity for you will undoubtedly regret it if you do not.
Š Never go into anything (auditions, rehearsals, meetings etc.) without an organized plan and/or schedule.
Š Do not procrastinate. Ever.
Š Never settle. Things can always improve and continue to progress. With this in mind, never allow yourself to think things are “fine.” Fine is not a finished product.
Š Always remember to let those who are doing their jobs and working hard know how much you appreciate them.
Š Do not talk so much. A lot can be explained without using words.
Š Always try to avoid “talking down” to people, even when giving them direction or guidance. People appreciate being made to feel like an equal.
Š Be blunt, upfront, and always take care of issues immediately when they arise. Do not avoid dealing with them, which will inevitably lead to the building of tension.
I could go on and delve into a number of other lessons I feel I have learned throughout this process, but instead I think I will conclude with what I felt was the most significant and will help me the most throughout my life: communication! When it comes to being a quality teacher, leader, director, manager or anything else along those lines, it is all about how you communicate. If one can learn to communicate well with a variety of people, then they can learn to be an excellent leader.