Entrepreneurship Lessons From Drama Class, Part 1

“Curtain!”

I was excited to see the progress Kevin, my contractor, had made on my house. It was hard to believe that I had been away for only 3 weeks. So much had changed in that short period of time. I stepped into my living room and greeted him. “Hi Kevin, good to see you here. How have things been going?”

Kevin looked up from his blueprints. “Hey Kay, I thought you were coming back this evening. Things have been going well. A few surprises like I mentioned in my email but nothing we can’t handle.”

We spoke for a few minutes about some additional modifications I wanted to see. As our discussion drew to a close, I could feel the anxiety mounting. I stepped over to check the molding on the fireplace and said, “I have some news for you. It is hard to tell you this since you have been so hard at work here. I got engaged last week! My boyfriend proposed during the trip. I am getting married and moving to France!”

I didn’t hear anything from Kevin for a minute, so I turned towards him. He had a puzzled expression on his face and spoke slowly, “Wow, congrats. I could tell there was something going on from your response to my email, but I had no idea that the news would be as big as this! I guess that changes your plans for the remodel, huh?”

I answered, “Thanks, I am still adjusting to the idea. It is going to be a big shift for me even without the move. The remodel will need to be completed sooner than we planned.”

Kevin enquired, “Do you plan to sell the house?”

I confirmed, “Yes, I do need to sell the place. Ideally I want to list the house by next month. But let’s see if we can get the project finished first.”

“Given that you are planning to sell, those additions that you are requesting are even more inadvisable than before.”, he cautioned.

I reluctantly agreed, “Fine. I am not sold on that, but I am open to further discussion. Did you schedule the meeting with the architect?”

“Not yet, I will see what I can do. Meanwhile, consider my thoughts on the changes you proposed. This neighborhood is not ready for extreme modernization.” said Kevin as he gathered his keys. “I will contact you tomorrow after I call the architect.” The door closed as he left the kitchen.

“And Curtain!”

Kevin and I stepped out of the scene that had ended, and awaited our director’s feedback. This was one of the first scenes we had created based on her instructions. We were eager to hear her thoughts. Not being one to mince her words, our director had plenty of feedback. The lessons I learned from her comments apply not just to being a better actor, but also to being a better writer and entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship Lessons from Drama Class

Image Credit: deapeajay

Entrepreneurship Lesson 1 : Remember Your Audience 

A famous poet once said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

But a few actors and a stage, do not a play make. For a play to serve its purpose we need an audience. In acting and in writing, everything that we do is for our audience. While Kevin and I were constructing the scene, we discussed several possibilities and picked that particular one because we felt most of our fellow students could relate to the subject. Our initial idea to create a Marketing seminar scene fell through as we didn’t believe it would generate any interest.

It is very important to be clear from the start about the content and context of your scene. The goal is to intrigue and entertain the audience, not befuddle them.

Our director had asked us to create a scene where we would inject a surprise at the appropriate time unbeknownst to our partner. Kevin’s surprise was his reaction to my proposed remodel changes. My surprise element was the engagement that came out of the left field, and added a different twist to the tale.

Which brings me to my second lesson…

Entrepreneurship Lesson 2 : Don’t Let Creativity Break Continuity

There was an expression I heard often in my corporate days that I came to detest, “It is what it is.”

If there is one thing I love about drama, it is never what it is; it is what we make of it. There are no limits to creativity (not in drama class). All we need to do is listen to the muse and draw upon inspiration. However, we always need to cater to our audience. An actor can not, must not, and should not break the continuity of a scene.

The surprise I had planned in having the homeowner get engaged was believable. However, the way she presented it to the contractor (anxious and anguished to confront him) suggested something further. The intent of the scene was now altered. Instead of focusing on a disagreement between a homeowner and her contractor, it imbued the scene with a different undertone. Was there a prior relationship between Kay and Kevin? How had she treated him? Did she still care about him? The way she spoke to him certainly suggested it.

Suffice it to say my creativity confused my partner, the director and the audience. In hindsight, I should have played the scene differently. I should have retained the established framework.

The lesson I learned was this, by all means get creative but stay consistent. Don’t alter your content or context drastically; you will lose your audience faster than I lost mine.

Onwards to the next lesson…

Entrepreneurship Lesson 3 : You Define Your Boundaries

If you are working for someone, you are probably expected to follow predefined policies. However, in entrepreneurship just as in a drama class, you create your own boundaries. There are no rules, but your self proclaimed boundaries do matter. They highlight your context and set the stage for your scene. Once you have established the parameters of the scene, your goal is to engage the audience and keep them riveted to your dialogue.

Say you are on stage acting the prior scene and refer to a fireplace in your vicinity (without any props being present). If a few minutes later you tread over your imaginary fireplace, the audience is bound to get distracted. You have lost their attention because you forgot your boundaries.

Similarly, in entrepreneurship you can choose to establish protocols. You may use a specific writer’s voice or connect with your clients in a unique way. No matter what they may be your actions need to reinforce those conditions. Especially, if they are a part of your brand identity. If you change the terms midstream, you will jeopardize the relationship with your audience.

That is not to say that your boundaries can’t evolve. Many entrepreneurs begin with a narrow focus and expand their influence over time. Even as they grow they never lose sight of their limits and never forget to invite their audience along for the ride.

Most businesses declare a manifesto or a mission statement to define and reinforce boundaries. It is a good practice that all entrepreneurs and writers should adopt.

Which brings me to my last lesson today…

Entrepreneurship Lesson 4 : Overcome Self-Consciousness

The hardest part about acting is not memorizing the lines, remembering your boundaries or even channeling the creativity. It is overcoming self-consciousness. I am no stranger to the stage. I have had my fair share of being up in front of large groups. Most of those times, I have managed to acquit myself quite well. But somehow with acting it has been hard to find that poise.

I am not worried because my director enjoys the challenge. She loves giving me all the exciting roles. There is nothing that shatters your reserve as expediently as professing your undying love to a fellow student you barely know. Once you realize that it is the character that speaks the words and that self-consciousness can only detract from your portrayal, it becomes easy to overcome.

Entrepreneurship and writing are similar, they are roles that we assume. Imagine yourself stepping into the role of an entrepreneur, what could be more natural than reaching outside of your comfort zone to network with potential clients? You may even begin to market yourself. The more often that you practice, the sooner that it will become second nature to accept what the role demands of you.

Perhaps my strategy, of rehearsing dialogue that would make a fairer skinned woman blush, wouldn’t be your approach. But you too can take chances, speak in situations that you may not have before. You too can abandon your reserve and allow the brilliant entrepreneur or writer within to shine through.

Tell me, have you taken to the stage? Do you have any interesting stories or lessons to share? Which entrepreneurship lesson of mine struck a chord with you?

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