Saturday, February 13, 2010

A little professionalism, please

What gets my goat is a paid professional instructor in the performing arts who has no clue about performance discipline and backstage etiquette. As someone who should be setting the example, he's breaking every basic rule while his students are showing a little more restraint than him. Disgraceful.

He is no one I know personally, but at this morning's CNY concert, while waiting for his troupe's item to cue up, he's blithely walking past wing space and standing clearly visible onstage to check out the MCs making their welcome intros. Strike one.

When he's not making a nuisance of himself with his uncued presence, he's back in the wings rocking in a squeaking comfy-chair and making conversation with his students -- while the P is giving his address! Strike two.

Then he gets bored. He reaches in front of him and picks up a drumstick that has been preset for the Chinese Orchestra's performance. He uses the purloined drumstick as a personal back massager! Anyone with even a modicum of professional courtesy will keep their paws OFF props and equipment that do not belong to them or their part of the show. Strike three!

Two things I'm concerned about in confronting the man is that I don't speak his language well and anything I say could potentially spark off a diplomatic incident. And two, because he knows kung fu, he could well beat me into a pulp if he detects an antagonistic tone in my voice. So I simply walk through the wings to his immediate location and place my physical presence right next to his, and between him and the other Chinese Orchestra instruments. I don't have to say a word, though I don't like the way he's eyeing the triangle either...

How do I know he was the instructor despite him being dressed like the rest of his troupe? His bushy mustache gave him away. If he was one of our students, he'd just look seriously overaged.

I think that's the problem with us as a whole. We focus on being competent, excellent even, in the work we are supposed to do; but we forget that beyond our little world there is a larger performance going on around us. We forget that even if we're not yet called on to perform, what we do while waiting our turn still contributes to or detracts from the larger performance.

Why is our little country ranked 53rd among the most liveable cities in the world despite scoring high in "stability, healthcare... education as well as infrastructure"? Because our scores in "environment and culture" pulled our overall grade down. That's exactly what I mean from today's little story. It's a waste if our overall efforts to perfect our personal competencies are let down because of poor environmental awareness and a lack of cultural propriety. Those are the niceties, the little things we don't consider so important and thus we tend to ignore them. But they do add up towards the final tally.

Your individual performance may have been spot-on perfect, but people are more likely to remember if the concert on the whole sucked or not. Perhaps you think I'm being a Nazi about this but, even if occurring offstage, just one thoughtless act, one moment of indiscipline, or one misplaced prop could bring down the entire show. Fortunately today's concert, apart from the above-mentioned backstage shenanigans, turned out quite tolerable after all.

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