A professor / actor I’m working with described a harrowing experience that illustrates the value of fundamentals and technique.
He told me he forgot his line on a Broadway stage in front of around 500 to 1,000 people. Some paid hundreds of dollars for their seats and want a professional performance.
What do you do if you forget your lines on stage?
There’s a fundamental technique a lot of actors start training early with called the repetition exercise where you repeat the same words back and forth, learning to pay attention to things other than words and react. I don’t know many actors, but I think most of them know the exercise. The American-trained ones, at least.
This actor, on the Broadway stage, forgetting his line, fell back on technique. He repeated back to the actor he was responding to the line they just said. I don’t know the line, but if they said “You’re wearing a blue shirt” he reacted “I’m wearing a blue shirt.” He could trust that the other actor would recognize he was using technique and help him. Also, he knows that the technique enables him to express himself enough that the audience will see acting on stage, not an actor struggling.
A value of fundamentals and technique is that they enable you to practice your craft when you have nothing else to go on. The repetition exercise endures because it works.
By the way, his using fundamentals and technique worked. The other actor repeated the line back to him, adding enough to prompt him to remember his next line. He remembered his line, the audience followed, and the show went on. More than that, all the actors on stage picked up on what happened, so he kept the team together.
Technique and leadership
I develop fundamentals and technique in my clients. I give them exercises that work for leadership contexts like the repetition exercise works for acting.
I practice them myself in my regular life too—especially in situations where I don’t know what to do. Then I fall back on fundamentals and technique. Sometimes, for example, when I work with a client in a business situation and they ask me how to handle it, if it’s a situation I’ve never been in and have no direct experience to fall back on, I think of the most relevant technique and use it. The more challenging the situation, the more I follow the technique by the book.
Falling back on technique hasn’t failed me yet.
I tend to regret the times I feel so confident I think I can handle a situation without technique.
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