Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Problem Solving

I thought the following link had an interesting article:
It reminded me of an article I read in grad school about firefighters. That article discussed how younger people tended to rely on balance sheet / algebra equations, and as more skill was gained, the choices shifted to a “gut feeling” decision. Experienced firefighters would come across a challenge, and would think through the first idea, and then the second, and so forth. The first idea they came to that worked out reasonably well through the current scenario was immediately put into action.

Theatre, of course, isn’t an emergency, despite what it occasionally feels like, and we don’t have the pressure of making decisions where lives are at stake. However, I often see different people approach the same challenge differently, and often arrive at a different solution based on the approach they take. I think that sometimes it is useful to fully think through several different options – building stud walls for platform legs work best in some situations, but not in others. Without reevaluating choices you may get into a groove where the choices are the most efficient for your time or budget, or for the good of the show. Yet, completely evaluating every choice would bog down the process to such an extent that nothing could progress. As with much in life – it is a fine line.

It’s also to think of when you have different factors to think of. There are many theatres where labor and the costs associated with labor don’t impact design or construction decisions. But the places where labor is involved with the rest of the budget can mean dynamically different approaches. Suddenly, it is cheaper to buy something than build it, or buy a different, more expensive material, because it saves labor. In the shop where I work now, the CNC machine is a great example. It saves a lot of time, but building set pieces is accomplished in a very different manor, and with different materials than standard construction.

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