Sunday, August 25, 2019

Cultivate Artistry

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. ~ William Shakespeare

During sophomore year in High School I was challenged in World History by one of the best teachers I would ever encounter.  One day he asked if anyone wanted to teach a class and I raised my hand. I was afraid I might stumble and get laughed at and it did happen. But, at the end of my presentation, the class clapped for me and I was hooked. I joined the drama club and performed one of the leads in our club play.

I attended undergraduate school at the University of Miami and received an incredible social education. Unfortunately, on the academic side of the equation, I was placed on academic probation after my first semester in school and entered my senior year in danger of not achieving the “ 2.0 C” average needed to graduate. There was a drama professor who provided the pathway that allowed me to graduate, raising my average to exactly one more credit of B than D. I took every undergraduate course he taught and with special permission, a graduate course in playwriting. In every first class he announced that if a student missed a class their highest grade was a B, two classes a C, three classes a D, four classes a failure, no exceptions. There were no written tests. He evaluated by questioning and interacting with the students. With perfect attendance, the lowest grade would be a B, and adequate participation guaranteed an A!  In all his classes, he would call upon students, give them a scenario, and elicit an impromptu display of “acting.”   For example, “Michael and Michele, you are 80 years old in rocking chairs on a porch, reminiscing about your lives. Do it.”   I ended up Minoring in Drama. In Playwriting, I wrote a one man adaption of the play from High School, delivering a performance to the class on the last day before winter break, including an arranged and immediate upon completion, early exit from class, “to catch a plane home.”  I listened to a robust accolade as I departed. When we are really good and capture an audience, it feels fantastic and making a dramatic exit is showmanship!

I took the Graduate Record Examinations my junior year at the University of Miami with quite pathetic results. Eight years later, with my 2.03 undergrad record, I was turned down for admission to graduate school at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). However, admissions allowed me to take a couple of courses as a non-matriculated student to prove ability. One of the courses was “History During the Time of Christ,” taught by a non-Christian Scholar. We read the Gospels included in the New Testament and he told us “what we know” about the authors and those to whom they were writing. We also considered many of the apocryphal gospels, those not considered to contain authentic information by the church leaders of the time. Of course I was trying to prove myself so I was ready for the first exam and dutifully constructed answers to the essay questions. I received a B minus with the comment that what I wrote looked a lot like what he delivered during the classes and he would not be so lenient in the future if I was unable to provide my own thoughts about what we were exploring.   

Heck, he has the ability to make topics I did not even think I cared about interesting...that is talent. ~ C Katherine DeStefano PhD, describing Michael C. Lazarchick

So Niels Bohr is credited with saying that an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. I took risks and started making my public speaking mistakes very early in life, and evolved, each time finding new solutions to perfect my craft and build in mechanisms to ensure outstanding results. My experience grew as I delivered workshops and training sessions daily for years in my work helping people explore employment, often more than one group a day.

I have spoken in a wide variety of venues, from very short to hours long on a fairly wide of topics. I have so much confidence that if asked, I will deliver a presentation to virtually any audience on any topic, with a few minutes prep time,  if that is all we have.  I learned how to entertain, to be an actor and draw from my truth about what that means. I have short humorous stories, jokes, I am very experienced at delivering and do explore options when I have information about those expected to attend. Laughter releases endorphins, endogenous morphine, natural, healing, feel good drugs. I became familiar with the basics of body language and give thought to the environment and composition of each audience. If people exhibit any type of distraction, I will interact and attempt to bring them into the presentation with gentleness and skill.

There are many actions or situations that provide an opportunity to “teach.”  When I delivered One Stop Orientations, mandatory for individuals collecting unemployment insurance or on public assistance, the letter “inviting” participation instructed people to come on time to avoid a possible disruption of their benefits, in bold highlighted text. Because I had no idea what obstacles people overcame to showing up late, I kept the door open for 15 minutes. When a new person arrived they got my attention and I stared with why are you late? I would address their circumstances and perhaps offer options to ensure being on time for scheduled events. I might tell them they were creating a distraction or showing disrespect for those who did show on time. I would always ask the audience if we should let them in, of course adding the possible loss of benefits, if we did not. I became quite capable of manipulating a suitable level of discomfort and comfort, acting with honesty from the heart.

I continually explore the views of others on techniques that improve delivery and capture the attention of audiences. One of Many on the Subject. However, I embrace the non-traditional thoughts and resources that offer to bring new ideas and sometimes healing into my work. For example, Neurologic Music Therapy has shown remarkable positive results serving people with disabilities, using rhythmic pattern of sound to turn on or stimulate inactive areas in the brain.   Some Research from the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function  I know I get pleasant feeling listening to music that was popular at my high school dances and there has been significant research for years about the value to just about everybody of Listening to Music. I was at a workshop with hearing impaired individuals, laughing with joy, expressing wonder, feeling the vibrations on the floor from playing music. When the right sounds are in the air, people move, people dance.

My Graduate School Professor gave me a B for one of, if not the greatest efforts, I have ever delivered in a classroom. He also gave me the understanding that everyone has their own unique understanding about reality. When we listen to others, it helps them understand as they express their thoughts. Ultimately however, we must form our own opinion and express our views, for our own understanding.

I love being on stage and I write often. Communications, both written and verbal, come easy to me, with significant natural talent, lots of experience and dedication to pursuing excellence. When we bring our gifts to a level of artistry, we unleash magnificent creativity and honor the consciousness of an evolving, living, energy filled universe.     

Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. ~ Edwin Hubbel Chapin