"Leave the corporate at the door." That's what my voiceover teacher advised me last weekend, when I was in the booth performing the script for a Florida Orange Juice radio spot.
It was a director's note I'd heard before, coming back to haunt me. Only, when it came from my improv teacher, it sounded a little different: "I want you to be less instructive. You tend to enter a scene a little teacher-y, often telling your fellow players how to do something."
Whether voiceover or improv though, it's the same idea. The feedback addresses the habit which - let's face it - has been drilled into me over 20 years of client presentations, internal meetings, new hire trainings and manager dialogue. The Corporate is part of my neurostructure and I've got to do some major synapse rewiring quick, before my performance career dissolves into a dull echo of PowerPoint openers and strategy outlines. What for so long has felt needed - to be successful, convincing - is now a habit I need to address head on...and then crush. And if that sounds easy, think again.
In voiceover, my teacher Vicki suggested I start flexing my free wielding, okay-with-unpredictability muscle; to throw myself into situations (even whole days) where I willingly relinquish control. We talked about the value of listening and paying attention to better understand the nuanced sound of free flowing conversation. Oh! And I liked this thought, "You have the high status thing nailed. Now all you have to do is focus on performing low status..." (Er, I'll take that one as a compliment?)
All of it awesome advice. And yet c'mon Shannon. You know this stuff. These rules show up everywhere! They are quite literally the guideposts of improv: pay attention, be present, listen, remain flexible and ready. They are clear and sensible maxims that we should all be practicing every single day, particularly in the business world. And hey, if that were true, I'd have no Corporate to beat out of me as a performer. Things might be a little easier.
So I stand on stage/in the booth and I present. I give direction. I instruct. But my audience is changing. Has changed, actually. As of yesterday - my last day with my employer of over 16 years - I truly have left The Corporate at the door. At least for now.
This massive shift in my life will most certainly influence how I occupy space, use my voice and engage with fellow players on stage. It might just take a little practice. "It really is a muscle..." Vicki said, relatedly sympathizing with my process, having been through the corporate-to-artist shift herself. "...and you'll just need to keep strengthening it. You'll get there."
She's right. If I keep showing up to this work, which I am deeply committed to doing, I absolutely will get there.
So adieu Corporate self. You've treated me well, but I'm on a new path now. And although parts of this road may be long, I delight in the journey. Saying yes and flexin' my proverbial muscles.
(Hard to put all of that into a PowerPoint slide deck, huh?)