“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This quotation by Aristotle never feels more real to me than when I am in the theater. Why? Because it is only through an immense amount of teamwork that written words on a page become magical pieces of art that can whisk an audience away from their seats into a world projected on a stage. Whether you attend a Broadway musical with a cast of hundreds, or a one-man show, the teamwork involved in each production is necessary for each act to go off without a hitch.
This was apparent to me last night as I attended “Works in Progress,” a one-act dramatic reading festival. The only reason I was attending is because something I had written was being performed and I wanted to see it come to life. The play, titled “Nine Months” was supposed to be comedic farce looking at some of the things that pregnant woman and their significant others go through during the gestation period. However, even at the very beginning of the process I was not the only one involved.
It starts at the beginning. Someone asked me to write a play for this festival. She immediately became the inspiration for the play because she was pregnant at the time and was complaining about something going on in her life. BAM! An idea is born. I thought of other couples and the stories I had heard during their pregnancies. The ideas kept flowing. Thanks to probably 5 or 6 couples and the stories I had heard, I was starting to formulate a story. The original inspiration for the piece helped hone the words. Little did I know that just 6 months later that story would live out on stage.
Last night I entered the atrium to see about a hundred chairs surrounding a small stage. There were two men fixing lights, one woman working on microphone checks and several students, faculty and staff from this small college in Georgia running around putting on the finishing touches before the start of the production. My partner, wife and I were shown our front row seats and away we went. One director, seventeen actors and numerous crew performed 3 one-act plays as dramatic readings. It was amazing to watch.
When it was time for my play I sat with nervous trepidation. What if the actors didn’t meet my expectations? What if the director had changed the play to the point I wouldn’t recognize it? The worst thought? What if the audience didn’t laugh? The horror. I sat. I fidgeted. I waited. Then the narrator spoke…
When it was over I was amazed. These three wonderful college students brought the script to life. Despite constraining rules that didn’t allow them to look at one another, or move anything besides their heads, they made the audience, or at least me, feel like I was looking at a full stage adorned with sets and costumes. I could sense the emotion, and the energy. My nervousness turned to glee and pride as I applauded their performance.
It was after the play, during a question and answer session when I was asked about working with my partner and how that took place that a word came to mind. It’s a word that a dear friend of mine has been using a lot lately, and it certainly applied here. The word is collaboration. Together, my partner and I collaborated on a project and it ended up winning a one-act play writing competition. The director, actors and crew collaborated and performed said play. Even the audience collaborated as they laughed, squirmed and reacted to the words and movements. It was a total collaboration and it is a necessity, not only in the theater, but it life.
That’s right, collaboration is a necessity in all of life. You can’t do anything on your own. You can’t eat unless someone makes the food. You can’t work unless someone pays you for your product or actions. You can’t read unless some one writes the book. Everything in life in some one or another is some kind of collaboration, relying on another human being or group of human beings. I guess you could go to a plot of dirt, lie down and wait to die without another human. But if that’s the exception to the rule, then I still think I am making my point.
Put another way, collaboration is community. It’s the interaction we all have with one another on a daily basis to live life. The military community is a great example of this. They collaborate to serve this country and protect freedom. Churches also show this example at times. Done right, they work with their members, with other churches and with community leaders to share resources and resilience with those who could be running short on both. They show love, when love is in short supply and make our communities stronger than they would otherwise be. Together, the sum is better than the parts.
That is really how it should be. The play is better when the writers, directors, actors and crew can all lend their individual talents to a cohesive production. They may never be in the same room or even meet, but they could still give each other the tools they need to bring their talents to the next level. Collaboration provides that. It gives all of us the opportunity to improve and impress. I think something about Iron sharpening iron fits here.
After the show, I couldn’t stop thinking about the play and how it could be improved. The show was called “Works in Progress” for a reason. Everything can be improved. We can always look back and tweak this or manipulate that. The show last night was great, but in 12 hours I have figured out that it needs at least one more character and should include at least 2 more scenes. Our one-act will soon be a full-length play, but that can’t be true without collaboration, and neither can life.
Who will you collaborate with today?