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Taking over when things are already in place….

I got a call from a good friend. She is a brilliant actor and I hadn’t heard from her in a while. She was in a play and the leading actor had to drop out because of some health issues, would I be interested and available in taking over the role. They had been in rehearsal for almost a month and opening was 13 days away. Well, the play and the role were very interesting; challenging and difficult and remarkable. The theater company had a spectacular reputation and I had just heard the director and producer speak, quite eloquently, at a ceremony where they received several commendations for their company and their work. I was actually looking for a chance to do a play and this seemed like a happy coincidence. Does any of this sound familiar to my lawyer friends out there?

You get a call to take over a case. All the pieces seem to fit very well with your schedule, your expertise, your experience and your practice. You agree to take it. So, what are the problems?

Well, as I found out all the decisions had been made. The circumstances of the characters, the relationships among the company, on and off stage, were pretty well set. The opportunities for mutual exploration and struggling together to find the world of the play and fill in all the details of the lives of the people and the specifics of their situation were pretty much in place. Sure, I gently elbowed my way in and re-tooled some of the relationships to fit my take on the role, but time was limited. Basically, I was inheriting the work of the other actor, fine as it was, and learning to adjust my process to what was in place. Not that my process or my work is so precious and fragile that I am unable to accommodate but a lot of the fun was gone. Technique and craft would have to replace a lot of the joy of original creativity. Still good work, just different from what I usually do. Sound familiar at all to my lawyer friends?

I just taught for a week with a wonderful, talented woman trial lawyer and she spoke about a very similar situation. She had just taken over a case and found that her usual style and approach would have to adjust entirely. Discovery was done. The case was set. The challenge became how to take someone else’s work and make it her own. How to accommodate her usual approach and make it work using someone else’s way of doing things.

It is certainly do-able. I opened the show to generally excellent reviews and am enjoying the run with a wonderful cast. She won the case and got an excellent result for her client. The lesson seems to be: Be flexible. Embrace the very things that are problems and make them work for you. Not a new lesson I know. But, certainly one worth learning over again….from time to time.

AB Speaks

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