Pulling Back the Curtain on Staying Connected

Pulling Back the Curtain on Staying Connected

Unsuccessful actors create performances with the same old bag of tricks and figure things out all on their own. 

Powerful actors are generous and observant, providing their scene partners interesting and useful things to respond to.  

In rehearsal, actors will run through a scene dozens of times, and they repeat their lines thousands of times in performance. How do they continue to create a performance that is alive and compelling time after time? They stay genuinely connected to what’s going on. Although it may be the 172nd time they are playing a scene together, connected actors have trained themselves to pay attention to what is happening as if it is happening for the first time. They actively and accurately observe the subtle choices that their scene partners are making in that particular performance. Then, they respond (in real time) with their own specific choices.

Why is staying connected important? 

When we are truly paying attention (really seeing our ‘scene partners’), we are able to respond rather than react to what’s going on. We are better able to absorb new information; we have increased adaptability. With our focus authentically on the other person, we interact with more empathy. We are ready to engage in a meaningful way when asked.

Staying connected with the Second Circle

We start to build an awareness of when we’re centered and alert. Start noticing what’s new in the situation, even though it is another weekly staff meeting. Choose to be curious instead of judgmental. All easier said than done, right?

Patsy Rodenburg, a theater director from the U.K., offers a useful framework to help us know when we’re really connected, and when we are not. She calls it the Second Circle1. No matter what we’re doing, we are always showing up in one of three ‘circles’ of focus and energy. 

  • First Circle – Self-focused, withdrawn, and trying not to attract attention to ourselves.
  • Second Circle – Present and connected.
  • Third Circle – Self-focused, taking up a lot of space, imposing our will on a situation, and tryin got attract attention.

The Second Circle is about making a choice to keep your focus open and on your “scene partners.” Certainly, it is absolutely okay to be reflective or to take up more space at times. But if the moment requires that you show up, listen for understanding, and offer a contribution to the group’s success, this is when we need to find and maintain the Second Circle.

The performance you want takes practice.

Ask yourself these guiding questions to build your awareness of when you’re connected (and when you’re not). 

  • When do I find myself in the First Circle? What does my First Circle behavior look like? How does this limit my impact?
  • When do I find myself in Third Circle? What does my Third Circle behavior look like? How does this limit my impact?
  • When/where do I naturally find myself most connected in the Second Circle? What does that feel like? How can I recreate that feeling when I notice I’m disconnected?

Next time we'll be pulling back the curtain on Setting Intention.

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1Rodenburg, Patsy. (2008). The Second Circle: How to Use Positive Energy for Success in Every Situation. New York. W • W • Norton & Company

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