All the World’s a Stage

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

June 2, 2021

All the world’s a stage. This keeps coming up for me. When I read as a lecture during Catholic mass, but especially when I help put on an event. Each space has its directors, its producers, its actors who all play a pivotal role. Each space has its problems and everyone has to pivot. And, the thought has occurred to me – everyone should, yes, I daresay should, take some acting classes in their formative years so they can truly learn the ins and outs of “all the world’s a stage.” 

The valuable lessons we learn from considering “all the world’s a stage” lean heavily into teamwork. In a play, a stage production, everyone has a significant role. Without a piece or without someone performing their role to the best of their ability, even the smallest role, the whole thing can teeter and and collapse. 

You can learn how to manage your ego. 

From the largest to smallest parts, everyone has a role in the production. Sometimes someone is given more lines. It can be because they need the practice or they are really good at performing that role. (And, this links to being a servant to the director.) Sometimes you just need to make peace with your ego and do your role no matter how big or how small. Trust the process. 

You can learn how to sense the needs of the whole group. 

This is so important and links to the next piece too. When you are on stage, you have to perform together. Think a chorus line. You are all trying to synchronize your rhythm. That means sensing what your partner to the left and right is doing so that you can all three perform together. If one is off, it is clear to the audience. And, when the chorus line is off, it doesn’t convey the look of a group actually working together. 

people in a stage close-up photography
Photo by Sheerazi on Unsplash

You learn how to wait for your cue. 

This is so important. When you put a production together you have a variety of personalities. Some are super eager to jump in and help. Some are more timid. And, every shade of personality in between. If you are the kind to want to jump in every chance you get, consider, “Is it your turn?” If it’s a collaboration where the roles are supposed to be equal, perhaps you take a step back and let someone else go first. If you are timid, this is a great chance to bolster your courage and volunteer when you might not. 

Then, when you are on the stage, wait for your cue. It’s super important to have a point person – consider an event you might be putting on, instead of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. If you have the point person, and it’s sometimes good to check in with that person as your cue giver. This helps reinforce the synergy of the group that everyone is working well together. 

You learn how to speak your script naturally so you don’t sound like a robot. 

You want to speak to your audience naturally. You want to have a conversation with them. When we sound like robots it lends itself to inauthenticity. So, when scripting, don’t put in words you can’t pronounce. OR, conversely, practice the living day lights out of it so YOU CAN speak it naturally. Practice, practice, practice. 

person in black adidas cap sitting on bench writing on notebook
Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

You learn that having a script can help you stay on track for the goal of the show. 

I have heard people express disdain over scripts suggesting they aren’t natural, or, “It’s too scripted,” suggesting the robot speak I mentioned above. The point of a script is that it takes your purpose, your desired outcomes and flow, and your desired audience reaction all into count. It strategizes, it brainstorms, it incorporates so many pieces to make sure the goals are on target. You start with a beginning, continue with the middle, and end with the end. When we go off half-cocked and unscripted, it’s much easier to forget those pieces. So, again, trust the process. Learn your part, and know your cue. 

You learn to be a servant to a director, which can be humbling. 

For those of us who like to take charge, being a servant to a director can be a humbling thing. “How can this individual know more than me?” Well, sometimes we just need to trust the process and go with it. So, know your role. Are you the leader of the group? No? Then take your cues from the director, trust they have a big picture in mind (a successful production), and they have your best interests and the best interest of the group/troupe/cause at heart.

You learn to speak up when you don’t agree with the direction and interpretation, and you think the space is missing its mark on achieving its goal. 

Sometimes you don’t agree with the direction the director is goin. Perhaps the director wanted you to step in a way that doesn’t flow or feel right for the character. You have a chance to speak up. I would invite you to speak up with curiosity and tame your potential bitterness, “Well, they just don’t understand what I’ve done here!” There might be a really good reason the direction was given in the way it was. 

You can learn to see things from the audience’s perspective

From the audience, you don’t want to see ego competing, you want a synergistic production that tells the story in an understandable way. If a cast member, for example, kept talking over another cast member, you wouldn’t be able to hear the whole show. If someone kept taking over other people’s lines, suddenly the production doesn’t make sense. If someone spoke so quietly the audience couldn’t hear them, well the message would be missed all together. 

Your audience is one of your end users. What experience do you want for them? Keep that in mind as you create your production so you can stay true to that goal through the end. 

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

You can understand how important it is for the lights to go up at the right time, for the tools and props to be present when/where you need them. 

TECH. All the tech. Some of the “productions” I am a part of in today’s COVID-land include a lot of Zoom events. There are so many every changing pieces to technology. Updates happen all the time. Different people have different systems that respond differently. In a traditional stage setting, the lights shining not eh speaking actor or where the director wants attention to go is so crucial. Sound showing up when it is supposed to. All the pieces functioning. 

Now, tech fails ALL THE TIME. So, what’s your plan for when it backfires? There is a piece to this for knowing your role, when your cue is, how it ties into the tech, and being able to pivot if/when it fails. 

Practice, Practice, Practice.

Did you hear me say that earlier? Let me say it again: Practice. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. You learn your cues, the director’s purpose, your lines naturally, and all of the above with practice. So, show up to learn, stay on task, keep your focus, and practice. With the practice, the repetition, you will learn to work with your crew and put on the best production ever. And, remember, when you practice because … All the World’s a Stage … you will shine.

Resources

“All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII Line 139. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_world%27s_a_stage

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