Lessons From The Stage: Behind the Scenes

My husband and I backstage after the show.


This is the final post in my series about lessons from the stage. I’ve talked about the director and the ensemble, and now I’ve got to talk about what goes on behind the scenes! We’ve been rehearsing for weeks to create the perfect show, but let’s be honest, nothing’s ever perfect, right?

Late nights and payoffs. I’ve talked before about payoffs and satisfaction, making sure that the hard work is really worth it. To me, there’s no better feeling than the adrenaline high of opening night, standing backstage, listening to the overture, just before you hit the stage. When the night is over, and you go back to “real life”, you really evaluate how the rest of the “rushes” stack up. I think the same is true in business, particularly for those of us that like the spotlight! I always feel energized after a big presentation in class or in the boardroom, and pushing the button for a website go-live makes the insanely long email chains and multiple meetings worth it!

Support structure. Our set stands about 30 feet off the ground, so I definitely want some good nuts and bolts to hold that thing together! And, somehow, my props and costumes ended up in their proper place prior to the show, every night. These things are the support structure, and the show can’t happen without a lot of people manning their places, hidden in the darkness in all-black attire. I can’t help but think of our IT staff as the men in black. These guys keep the computers running (and, let’s be honest, who can do any work without their computer?). But, it’s not just about the literal support staff, but the culture as a whole. We have what’s called a “stumble through” during rehearsals for our stage productions, and it’s the first time we put all the elements together. Usually, it’s a crash-and-burn-freak-out-we’re-not-ready kind of rehearsal… weeks in advance of opening night. Companies need to let their people fail, and they need to build it into the structure! If people don’t have time, support, or feedback for failure, new innovations and ideas will stay buried in their heads, buried by fear. The structure to hold up to the abuse of pounding feet, crazy ideas, and rabbit-holes may be the key to the next big thing for you business. It’s not just about the computer infrastructure, but about the people and the relationships that run behind the scenes.

Respect, civility, and modesty. Things get crazy backstage, with people running to hit their next mark, shedding costumes as they walk during a quick change, and generally cramped spaces prior to a full-cast entrance. The bigger issue, is how you handle all this stress. It’s tempting to push past people, to make a rude comment, or generally make things difficult, but respect and civility are key. How often do we let the office pressure turn us into monsters? If we’re all gunning for a promotion, grabbing a bigger piece of the budget pie, and finding reasons to undermine co-workers for a leg up, how are we going to actually make the business grow? Your attitude and actions under pressure are much more telling than the shiny resume or interview mask, and I think people sometimes forget that their worst self often counts more than their best self.

I enjoyed my role in “A Christmas Carol”, and I love performing in general, both on-stage and off! I’ve found that it’s the behind-the-scenes work that really counts during performance (review) time.

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