Thursday, May 10, 2007


I was rereading Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) yesterday, partly because it is simply a good read, but also because a student in my AutoCAD class this semester made the analogy between the battleroom and 3-D drafting. Its a pretty useful analog really: Ender in the book makes attempts to always reorient himself, and the others continue with the game oriented in the same position they came in the door with. The skill to reorient yourself around 3-D in cad is useful, but often difficult for people who aren't used to thinking in 3-D.

At any rate, there was a couple of passages in the introduction that I thought was interesting. First, was that card spent time in theatre, as an actor, playwright, but also behind the scenes some as well. It would be interesting to read some of his plays.

At another point he says "even though I could not articulate what I understood...I knew that I did understand it. I understood, at levels deeper than speech....." Why I think this is interesting is that I often feel that way. I go through a learning process to sometimes realize that I knew everything previously, but could not articulate it. I learned a language to communicate what my "gut" told me. Plus, I believe that this is a common thing in many areas, particularly Technical Direction. A TD "knows" that 2x4's are fine for platform legs, not because he has done the math (usually), but because he has seen it and used it and empirically tested it. Yet if asked on the spot why the 2x4 is the best solution, some would not be able to articulate that knowledge very fully (as in beyond "it just works'').

Lastly, I liked the quote "The essence of training is to allow error without consequence." First, this compared to most training that we do in the theatre doesn't hold true. We take on projects where failure matters, if not for safety but for the sake of the show and the team. As an industry we seem reluctant to train (in areas like technical direction) in ways that allow failures. A designer designs many paper projects prior to designing for a realized production, yet TD's rarely do this in its entirety. (meaning that they do a rigging paper project or an automation paper project, but rarely a whole production). And, I do believe they can do a significant portion of TD work on a design that isn't meant to be realized. TDs can still budget, draft, determine materials, schedule, and so forth with any realization of a project. Of course, it is like design in that a paper project isn't the real thing - both are needed in training. Yet how do you determine how and why a student should be allowed to fail. What is failure? This issue has been a thread at USITT. And even in my commencement, the speaker announced to all that we should fail, as that leads to more success than success alone. Freedom to fail allows risk, allows freedom to try new things. Under time and financial restraints, and an opening night coming, it is sometimes difficult to find that freedom to experiment in theatre, which I feel is damaging to the theatrical process. After all, you eliminate one of the joys of theatre in that scenario.

However, it is necessary to LEARN from failure. (Its also necessary to learn from successes as well). No matter how old you old, I believe that there should be something that you learned from every project. There could have always been something that you improved upon. If at the end of a project someone asks you what you would have done differently, and you can't think of anything, perhaps (I think) you should do some reevaluation. because that, to me, signals a rut - a lack of growth. And perhaps that's the worst failure....

Yet, if you actually have read Ender's Game it is ironic to be discussing that sentence, because like theatre, the battle school in the book does associate failure with a cost. The consequences are losses in rankings, lost in esteem or respect (granted after the "launchies" have learned most basic stuff). This too is important, because without risk, failure isn't very important. No one will sweat a lost game of checkers (I'm excluding exceptional and champion checker players I suppose). if failure in a learning environment is that inconsequential that it won't be motivating enough for growth. So, all in all, its a carefully orchestrated balance between too much risk (people won't innovate) and too little risk (people won't grow).

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