Wednesday, January 21, 2009

plays well with others

         I think people are some of the most interesting creatures. I like to go to the mall to (let's just be honest here) shop, true, but I also really enjoy observing the behavior of others. I listen to their conversations and no, it's not eaves dropping if they are speaking out loud two feet away. Goodness, what do you expect me to do? Cover my ears and hum the Star Spangled Banner (yesterday was the Inauguration, true, but still!)? 

       As I was saying, I like to see how people interact. I even like to see how people dress and do their make up. Actually, when we are out, Drew often tells me to stop staring. I forget myself and get lost in analyzing people and yeah, sometimes that leads to staring. 

       Actually, funny enough, I guess my staring has gotten me into trouble before--more than just with Drew. When I was maybe 12 I was spending the night at one of my best friend's house. Her little brother informed me that his friend was convinced that I liked him ( not the little brother--the friend thought this). I clutched my proverbial pearls in incredulity! To make this preposterous accusation even more unseemly, the boy who was so sure that I liked him was two years younger than me. When you are twelve, that's like two lifetimes. The thought of liking a little ten year old was just absurd.  I'd sooner like a toad--at least there was the prospect of him turning into a prince, which was a much more acceptable object of my affection than a measly ten year old! After making it quite clear that I did not in fact like this ten year old who, apparently, was given to visions of grandeur, I asked how in the world this boy could come to that conclusion anyway. 

    Oh, said my friend's brother, He said you stare at him a lot during church.  

    Oops. And by the way, Drew is two years younger than me. But obviously I am not 12, so it's not so bad now.

   Like I said, I manage to do a lot of observing. And in this business, scratch that--in any business or endeavor, how you behave towards others is extremely important.  See, like it or not, people call the shots basically wherever you go. So if you don't get along with people, than you are screwed.  

   I once worked with a guy who made it very clear that he was not there to make friends, he was there to do a job. What happened? Surprise, surprise--he made no friends. He was lonely and isolated and eventually didn't even win a lot of respect from the creative team. His attitude went from strange to bad and that did not help the energy of the show. What he considered to be"professional"-- acting aloof socially, doing the bare minimum when it came to any kind of human connection, while learning his lines, choreography, and harmonies--actually left a bad taste in people's mouth. Because every job involves people to some degree, than the lion's share of "being professional" is learning how to interact well with others. To put it simply, you have to play nice. And he really didn't. 

  Oh, and it also didn't help that this particular guy was very stinky. Just keeping it real. Deodorant also goes a very long way in this business. 

   I have worked with other people who have so much ego that every note they get is a personal insult to them. I have literally heard an actor say that they should not be allowed to get notes after having done the show a certain way for a certain amount of time, in those words. What's worse, I heard other actors agree with that sentiment. 

   As if any actor is above a note. As if any person is above correction.  

   What I am trying to say, is that this whole issue of professionalism is really more simple than not.  I don't have the corner on it or anything, but I have seen that these are the things that tend to work and if you'll notice they are basically in accordance with the way you were (hopefully) raised: 
  • Be kind to others; respect them and listen to them. 
  • Most of the time it is wiser to say less. 
  • Be flexible and able to see that there may be another way to do something than your way, and wonders and wonders, it may even be better.  
  • Realize that you are not the only one on stage (or in the office, or wherever), and maybe somebody else is having a tougher time than you. 
  • Work hard.
  • Be gracious and thank your boss, your co-workers, your dressers, your security guards, your guy who runs the spotlight--everybody who makes it possible for you to do what you do. 
  • Be positive. Period. Or even when you're on your period. Even when you have rehearsal for something that you already know--maybe you'll learn something new or get just a little bit better. Or if nothing else, maybe it will be fun because you'll quietly make jokes with the person who stands next to you in the Ones and you'll both laugh but not in a way as to be distracting and this is purely hypothetical, of course. What? You thought I was speaking from experience? Why--I never...
  • Be willing to admit your mistakes and apologize, even if it was for something that was not intentional on your part. 
  • Have a sense of humor.
    Again, I am not saying I am perfect at this. It's a journey. But I try to live this way. And you know what? How you act towards others, no matter where you are, certainly does affect the outcome of your life. My first international tour was a job that I got because the casting director saw me audition in New York, was interested, and noticed that he was old buddies with someone who owned the dinner theater where I did my first ever gig. The casting director called his friend, asking if he would recommend me as a good employee--he did--and voila! I had a great job.

   But had I been rude, a diva, or difficult at this dinner theater in Delaware, then that door would not have opened. 

   Bottom line, it matters how you act and relate to others. All the time. And if you have anything at all to add to this list of how to work with others, please feel free to let me know. In fact, I would love your input.


kathiek said...

I agree with everything on your list. It seems pretty comprehensive to me, but if I think of anything else, I'll let you know. One thing I think cannot be stressed enough is that manners matter...everywhere. More and more people seem to think they don't anymore, that they are just convention or old-fashioned, but manners are a way we show caring and respect to others. There is a way to talk to and act with people and a way not to. Being considerate of others in your speech, your actions, etc., is a way we put them first...something people nowadays seem to think unimportant, unnecessary, or even ridiculous. People are so accustomed to being impolite, and it is so pervasive, that they don't even realize they are doing it...other people just don't care, they go around offending people as if it were their right to do so.

Anna K said...

You are one of the most professional--and friendly and fun!--people I've had the pleasure to work with. So I think anyone reading this would do well to note your list!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Kathie--I agree totally about manners--they never go out of fashion!

Anna--you are so kind to say that; and I really want to reiterate that I do not think I have being the consummate professional down, or anything--I am still learning!!! :-)

merry said...

I seriously don't understand how some people live with themselves. I mean, the people that are horrible to work with. If I was that mean and I knew everyone hated me I would really have to think that maybe I was the problem.