Teamwork, when it works, is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, though, there is a chance that a smart move or helpful and usually coordinated act fails. Why? Typically, lack of communication. Think about every team on which you have ever been. What was the one requirement for success? That each party shares information or strategy with the other.

One of my favorite pastimes is local theater..., not attending, though I do love to attend, but rather directing or acting. It is something I have participated in since I was very young. A few years back, I was directing a full-length play that required a severe set change during the fifteen minute intermission between Act I and II. Several cast members, my assistant director David, and I had to move in precision in order to achieve the changes in a timely manner. We had practiced several times and knew exactly what we needed to do.

Opening night went off without a hitch, as did several shows that followed. With a four-week run, there was plenty of time to perfect the scene change, which we did. As a matter of fact, as shows went on, we were able to shave time and actually have a few minutes to spare. This was imperative for the actors that helped, as they were appreciative of the extra time to either rest or focus between acts. By about the third weekend, we moved with such exactness that we rarely spoke. And this is where our problem occurred.

Each set piece was on rollers and could be moved and turned and then locked into place. There was one piece that had a lock at the top and at the bottom, David would unlock one, then I would unlock the other and then simultaneously we would move the pieces. Unfortunately, during one matinee, that is not how it worked. I zigged, but David thought I was zagging and because I didn't tell him I was zigging, he was zigging too but, unfortunately, the top of his head ended up zigging my top teeth through my lower lip. It was about this time that I wished I had stuck with zagging.

As the blood filled my mouth and poured onto the floor, I knew there had been a gap in communication. I assured David that I was ok as cold compresses were applied and we finished the task at hand. After I made sure all was well, set pieces were locked into place, and the second act had commenced, I proceeded to the bathroom to survey the damage. It was considerable and I knew a trip to the emergency room was in order. I let the house manager know that I had to leave and asked her to make sure that she told David and my cast that all was well. I drove myself to the hospital.

I sat in the ER with ice and towels held against my face; I knew where I had failed and my lesson had been learned. This was a clear case of not talking to my team. Luckily, three stitches took care of the minor damage and the scar on the inside of my lip is a consistent reminder to always strive to communicate. 

Some lessons are harder learned than others. Seems to be my theme song.

by rayannethorn

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