If I can’t take
My coffee break
Somehow the soul no longer tries
Somehow I don’t metabolize
Something inside of me
Coffee or otherwise
Coffee or otherwise
Something inside of me

Ring true?

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying made its Broadway debut in 1961, sharing the story of one man’s quick and inventive rise within corporate culture, filled with heart, big dance numbers, and lots of humor. The musical inspired a movie in 1967 and then went on to have two Broadway revivals, most recently starring Mr. Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe.

The show has had continued success because while offices have changed since 1961, human behavior has not, and neither have certain elements of the work culture.

Like coffee.

In the first act, one lone employee walks half asleep up to the coffee machine to find it empty, and while confusion is the first response, soon the whole office has gone into absolute hysteria.

No coffee?
No coffee?!?!

The stage fills with reaching arms and desperate pleas for that:
One chemical substance…
Gets out the lead

Ring true?

This past week I took an advanced theatre dance class with Choreographer Jeffry Denman. He was actually in the first Broadway revival of How to Succeed in 1995 and decided tonight we were going to dance to this comedic song.

Before the choreography began, we had several counts of improvisation to get us into place, a chance to basically embody the characters.

Most of us went for Night of the Living Dead, slowing moving forward like the zombie who feeds on caffeine.

Chuckles ensued as we all went glass-eyed with arms stretched out at odd angles, all heading towards the phantom cup.

We were all making the same choice.

Then Jeffry challenged us,
Do something different.
Do what no one else is doing.

I heard that and immediately began to run about the room, looking everywhere for the coffee, upending clothes and bags.

We did the dance several more times, and each time I made a new choice for the beginning. I stared at the mirror, I had hallucinations, I broke out into endless giggles, and I even prostrated myself calling out to God….anything that was a different choice than the first one.

And all of them served the same purpose, because everyone has a different way of expressing shock and withdrawal, right?

After class, the teacher came out to introduce himself to me and remark how much he enjoyed my choices.

Now THAT was different for me.

For most of my performance career, I chased after directors and choreographers, saying,
Look at me!

I felt like I was waving my arms to get their attention and while sometimes it worked, most of the time I just felt disappointed and unheard.

Didn’t they see my brilliance?

Apparently not, because I was too busy shoving it in their face.  I used to look around the room first and see what others were doing, or have a great idea but be too scared I would just look stupid.

So what was the difference?

When Jeffry asked us to improv and make new choices, I just did it. I knew what the song was about and started to have fun.

I opened my creativity.

What was missing?

Self judgement and a need for external validation.

Ironically, it was when I was just staying in the moment and the process that all the ideas came to me, and ultimately a connection was made with the choreographer. I wasn’t trying so hard.

Ring true?

We are all creative beings. We have tons of ideas and we want to connect with our audience. But when the ONLY reason we are creating is for the validation, the audience can feel that. They may not know what is off, but something just doesn’t seem right.

Something doesn’t ring true.

And if we can be in our bodies and allow the initial inspiration to just express itself, then we actually will connect with our audience, and it will be in a way where they will want to return. And return, and return.

What you bring to the process is what sets you apart.

So trust it, and don’t let that die.

Truth is, you aren’t a zombie. Thank goodness!

So how can you bring back the play in your creativity? Answer in the comment section below!


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