By Brian Lucas
Dedicated to Marcie; director, actress, artist, singer, photographer, model and writer. The Muses and the Graces have gifted thee in abundance with beauty and talent.
“Managers today have to do more with less, and get better results from limited resources, more than ever before.” – Brian Tracy
One characteristic of being agile is making do with what resources you have. There are unfortunately, some circumstances where this will not work and it is not advisable to try. However, great things can be accomplished if you have the desire and the will. Often when we are deprived of resources, we become even more creative by being forced to focus on the core elements of the endeavor. This focus can improve the product or service immensely.
Take the case of Star Wars the movies. The first Star Wars trilogy was done with very limited budgets and technical resources for special effects. So the concentration was on the acting and the story. The results were a masterpiece of an epic saga strongly themed by morality. I loved the original trilogy. The story line was simple, poetic and philosophical. George Lucas became a god in my eyes who could do no wrong.
Fast forward a decade and intra realitatem! I eagerly attended the prequel, The Phantom Menace on its opening weekend. Unfortunately, being cursed or gifted with an analytic mind, I did not break out in applause at the end of the movie. Instead, I was profoundly disenchanted and felt betrayed by an idol. Today, most people speak of this film as a serious disappointment. All the prequels were marred, not advanced, by exotic costumes, high powered special effects and of course the ridiculous Jar Jar Binks. Binks is symbolic of the lack of creativity in the films. The character is absolutely ridiculous and at least to me, represents a blatant attempt to commercialize on the young market.
Let us look at an example closer to home. Last Friday I attended the opening night performance of The Allentown Public Theatre (APT)’s production of Pinocchio. I can state, without reserve, it was warmly received to a full house of children and adults alike. I am going to relate this review in terms of Marcie Schlener, the director, being the visionary Agile Team Leader who made this wonderful production possible.
First, since APT does not have a permanent home yet, the production was held at a local church’s community room which had a stage. That is one point of agility in Marcie’s favor, lacking an environment, she found an affordable one that would work. Second, Marcie possessed a deep and profound vision for this production, which saw her through all the trial and difficulties of putting together a show when you are starting with zero or near zero resources. Under her wonderfully capable hands, the timeless story of lonely Gepetto and precocious, yet naïve, Pinocchio came to life, once again.
Third, Marcie’s direction showed undeniable creativity in all the little touches that made this performance a magical one. Her expertise enabled a highly professional production from the charming opening introduction she delivered herself to the final curtain’s applause. She used her experience and dedication to carry the day and compensate for any short comings.
Fourth, the cast was lively, enthusiastic and clearly well-rehearsed. They gave spotless performances with excellent timing and line delivery. Lana Brucker was delightful in her physical antics as Pinocchio and Steve Aquirre as Gepetto delivered a matching set of comedic pratfalls and drama. Bolstered by the enthusiastic Kate Huges as Lampwick, the deliciously tongue-in-cheek performance of Jen Kurtz as the French accented Blue fairy and the multi-role of villains played by Vivian Rose. All were in excellent form. I know from experience that this does not happen with a young cast without a phenomenal job of preparation and rehearsal driven by the director.
Fifth, to make up for the lack of a professional theater setting, the colorful sets were beautifully painted by Marcie herself. This brought life into what could have been a drab setting. Attention to detail is always a sign of professionalism I admire. She used all recycled materials which can be quite difficult to do, since you have to get very creative and inventive to make them look professional. Marcie even hung paper lanterns with electric candles in them around the seating area as touch of warmth. She even showcased puppets in the opening puppet theater sequence that children made in the workshop sessions prior to Pinocchio’s debut. Marcie conducted these sessions as well. This is a superb example of reuse and multi-use, two prime characteristics of being agile.
Sixth, as APT’s Youth Program Director, the multi-talented Schlener is at the heart of all youth related activities and its driving force. This means not just the glitter aspects of the acting, but the behind the scenes aspects of the production as well. In Pinocchio’s production, the crew of Lindsey Wolfe (Stage Manager) and Daniel Sottile (Sound Design) made everything come off without a hitch. They were helped by APT’s celebrated artistic director, Josh Neth. Josh is an artistic performer of considerable renown and the visionary force behind APT. In this case, Josh represents executive management. When you see an executive manager who is not afraid to step in, get his hands dirty and help the troops, you know that your efforts are understood and appreciated. The fact that Marcie has cultivated a relationship and communicates enough with her executive management to make this kind of support possible is a tribute to the maturity of her reasoning.
Finally, it is rare and tremendously refreshing and rewarding to see such dedication, professionalism and talent today in hardworking young people, especially when they have limited resources. Pinocchio is undoubtedly the gem of children’s theater in the Lehigh Valley during the 2013 season. The wholehearted response from the audience of parents and children testify to that. It speaks of a bright future for APT’s youth program. This is due to Marcie Schlener, APT’s Youth Program Director’s dedication, amazing array of talents, professionalism and agile thinking. I hope she inspires you to remember to keep agile.