Coach Caleb’s Corner
The Play’s the Thing
Back in my high school days I had the privilege to learn from some really life-changing teachers. Quick shout out to all the teachers out there changing lives every day! One of these teachers was my high school drama teacher who taught me something huge in my senior year, that has had far reaching implications on many aspects of my life. She taught me how to direct a good play. Not just how to direct a play, mind you, but how to direct something people might actually appreciate sitting through.
It turned out that the secret was… a monumental amount of painstaking, detailed preparation! I was into drama club because it was fun, and I was kinda good at it, not because I needed all that additional stress in my senior year. As it turned out, however, the method we were taught for directing a theatre piece is a blueprint for how to handle ANY complex project, and handle it well! What we learned could be applied to anything form construction projects to (cue the trumpets) successful fitness training & programming!
Here are some of the key steps that make the approach so effective:
1. There is a master plan to reach the goal on time, and there are clear cut deadlines that keep you on track.
In order to bring a project to life, every target we needed to hit along the way was given a due date that was planned for in advance. By backing up from the performance date, we established “drop dead” dates by which costumes, props, set, memorized lines etc. all had to be done. If you missed a deadline, there was a consequence. Usually it meant you had to cut something out of the production. Didn’t get a costume ready on time for “costume parade?” Then your actors would perform in their underwear. Didn’t get a set piece ready in time enough for the actors to get used to it? Do without it. The lesson here was that sticking to the schedule was the priority. Sometimes it got in the way of lofty artistic visions, but because of the clear cut consequences, the job got done on time.
2. Document everything in one easily referenced location. Take extensive notes.
A huge part of our grade was based on the dreaded “Prompt Book” which had to be turned in after the performance. This was the director’s bible, containing the script and all notes on stage direction, technical cues, concept drawings etc., but also a journal that catalogued every rehearsal and play-related activity. The notes were to be so comprehensive that anyone with minimal understanding of theatre should have been able pick up the book and reproduce a carbon copy the show.
3. Every rehearsal had an objective.
With all the obvious organizational stuff described above, this was perhaps the greatest but most subtle key to success. Before every session, an easily stated objective for that meeting had to be documented in the prompt book. After the session, a journal was kept to describe if and how the objective was met. If it was not met, then contingency plans were drawn up. This really kept us from becoming distracted. Objectives like, “explore the relationship between Stanley and Blanche” were not given high marks. Instead, “set stage directions in scene 5 and run it at least 5 times with time for notes before rehearsal ends (on time)” were approved ambitions. With limited rehearsal time, missing an objective created a lot of challenges we just didn’t want to deal with.
4. In spite of all the preparation, be comfortable with improvisation.
The show must go on! Live theatre is exciting in some part because it is just that – live. If something goes wrong, it goes wrong in front of an audience. Before the performance date, the cast and crew were put through several runs without any stops for line promptings or tech fixes. If something went wrong, they had to figure out a way to deal with it and still do the performance. Taking the training wheels off early meant that we could be confident the show would continue unaided, even in less than perfect conditions. Confidence is its own reward.
At Breakthrough Strength & Fitness, we use this methodology to ensure our training is successful and gets results. The more closely we are able to follow a master plan, with a series of deadlines and checkpoints along the way, the better our results will be. Every training session has an objective but we are quick to improvise and adapt as needed based on the given circumstances. If your ambition is to do a powerlifting meet or to drop two sizes by a certain date, the same approach works and it makes training so much more fun because you’re working with intention and have a system to support you!