Putting It All Together - Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success - Gina Barnett

Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success - Gina Barnett (2015)

EPILOGUE: Putting It All Together

After years of classes in voice, movement, scene study, character work, and text analysis, actors enter the theater world trained and ready to work. They audition as much as possible, always in hope of landing a role, but also with the full knowledge that statistically their chances are slim at best. Still, they try out again and again. They are almost never told why they don’t get a role. Often it can be due to something as uncontrollable as an actress being three inches taller than the previously cast male lead. When actors are hired, they enter a company usually of strangers, all of whom may have very different techniques and approaches to rehearsal and acting itself. Some actors memorize all their lines before they step into the rehearsal room; others don’t know their lines until the first public preview.

What is the job of the director? A good director casts well and then creates a safe space where failure, experimentation, risk taking, and varied approaches are encouraged, where each actor feels heard, attended to, protected, supported, and encouraged. Actors are hired because of their gifts, smarts, and instincts, and to discover what their unique talents will bring to the interpretation of a character. A director may lead an actor into totally unexpected choices, and the actor may do the same with the director. An actor can reveal to a director an idea or interpretation that the director had never imagined. There is created in the company a pulling-and-pushing energy of ideas, experimentation, and risk. Eventually, the “family” is formed, the “team” is made, these disparate parts are made into a whole, and the show opens.

The theater is not unique in this. Company announcements, mergers, brand launches, commercial campaigns—all businesses have their versions of opening night, but few have such systematic rehearsal techniques and processes. Make no mistake; actors have egos, and with high-stakes careers on the line, there can be ugly backstage politics. Given the enormous obstacles to success—the extraordinary vulnerability of the process, untried players, the harshness of the press, fickle audience tastes, a new untested script—it is quite a miracle that any production becomes a hit. But a great team, if smartly pulled together, knows it is there to serve the play and serve the audience. Ultimately, that trumps all petty squabbles. How often does that happen? As rarely as it does in the “real” world. But it happens. And when it does, it feels like a miracle—and in a way it is.

Often, when I’ve departed a team training at a large corporation and gotten an earful on the internal squabbles and high-stakes politics, I’ve wondered how the participants succeeded so well. It is always amazing, given bruised egos, unresolved infantile tendencies, and everyone’s varying needs for attention, that anything is accomplished at all. But, in general, the trains do run on time; lights turn on; food gets to market; drugs get made. The miracle, as I see it, is that despite all of our incredibly complex challenges, we do find ways to pull together. We do focus; we do listen; we have powerful minds, open hearts, and smart guts. We care. Given the tools now at our disposal, we may usher the planet’s and our future into long-lasting health and abundance. Or not. At root is the degree to which each of us can achieve compassion, mindfulness, service, and a willingness to imagine and play. My hope is that some of the ideas and suggestions in this book will assist you along the path of connecting with yourself and with others.

Success is utterly personal. It needs to be investigated deeply, quietly, in the dark of the night. The process that enables each person to find his or her passion, to develop all the skills needed to share and devote that passion toward work, play, and service, is never finished. This book was not written to instruct, but to engender a deep, ongoing practice of conversation. It is fun to play with imagination, self-conception, and the body as an instrument of connection. There is no single magic bullet that will align all apects of mind, body, emotion, and spirit; it is a lifelong process. It is my hope that by playing with the exercises suggested throughout this book, by experimenting and even making up your own, you’ll discover all kinds of things about yourself that you may have never known.

I’ve one final suggestion: take an acting or improvisation class! The skills learned there—how to listen, to trust your gut, to build a team, to collaborate, to use your imagination, to offer yourself to the role, to serve, to connect, and to play—can be applied to any profession. Further, if you have a child, or know of any youngster between nine and college age, enroll or suggest to your friends or relatives to enroll that youngster in an acting, improvisation, or even theater games class. Team sports are a fantastic way to engender loyalty, strength, confidence, collaboration, to name just a few of the skills fostered there. But an acting class enables all that in addition to a whole host of other emotional, social, and spiritual skills not found in sports. Why not offer both?

There’s a game often played by children in preschool in which they pretend to be animals—elephants, lions, monkeys, and such. You may have even done this when you were very young. If you were four or five, you likely did it with complete and total abandon and no sense of embarrassment or shame. It was fun. You didn’t want to stop. When the teacher said, “OK, kids, time to sit down,” you felt different, wonderful. You’d made fantastic sounds and gestures and experienced yourself in a new way. But not totally, because back then, your body was used to moving in all kinds of wonderful, unexpected, and amazing ways. What happened? You grew up. What about now? Can you play?


Why not? No one’s looking. Bend forward; make a trunk with your arms; let them swing low and then wave up; make an elephant trumpet call. Lumber around. Go ahead. Give it a try.

No? OK, here’s another: play air guitar. Put on some music, stand up, and let yourself go. Too much for you? Then just skip. Remember learning to skip, how exciting that was? It should have been exciting because skipping is a real marker of growth. Only after connections between the right and left hemispheres and across the corpus callosum are formed can we skip. You were about five. So go ahead. Try it again. Skip for a bit. Let yourself feel and enjoy the amazing instrument that you are.

If all of the above are still asking too much, that’s OK, although I hope that one day you’ll let yourself try at least one of them. But even so, now that you know the power of thought, merely imagining yourself doing any of the above just for a few moments might be enough to illuminate the enlightening power of play.