Being Agile on a Shoestring

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[1].  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![2]  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[3].

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[4] 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.

[1] I know I am “brosat’ ostorozhnost’ na veter” as the Russians say, throwing caution to the winds, by bringing up the subject of Star Wars.

[2] “Enter Reality” in Latin.

[3] Sorry kids.

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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26 Responses to Being Agile on a Shoestring

  1. Carol says:

    Wow Brian!!!! What high praise for Marcie! I am sooo jealous! 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    Brian your review is so compelling, I am sorry I cannot make it down from Vermont for a performance. I wish everyone in APT all the best and congratulate Marcie on her much deserved success.

  3. Jack says:

    Brian – You make a good point! Sometimes more is less. When we have so many possibilities open to us we tend to get distracted and take our eye off the ball. Good lesson for us all to learn. This was a very nice review of an actual performance of your local theater group. It sounds like is was a great success. It seems like Marcie is someone special and is destined for Broadway! Please offer my best wishes! APT is very lucky to have you as an advocate.

  4. Sally says:

    Hi Brian! How are you doing? Glad to see you are posting more often! This is a neat little analysis and I agree with you. I think the same thing can happen in a reverse sort of way if you have too few resources. What do you think?

  5. Fran says:

    Hey Brian! Marcie sounds like a real winner! She’s lucky to have your support. I imagine it is tough for actress/directors. I know faint and then kiss you for a dedication like this one. Mine seems bland in comparison. lol Your friend Frannie

  6. Marcie says:

    You always find a way to leave me speechless. Thank you for your words. Thank you for support. Thank you for your friendship. And thank you for your unwavering faith in what we do (and hope to do) as artists and community members.
    We would be lost without you.
    Respectfully yours,

    • E. Lyndy says:

      Hi Marcie! I am so happy for you that Pinocchio was such a success. I knew you would do well based on Brian’s admiration and respect for you. As I said in my previous comment on Josh’s interview, I am sure you will be successful in your efforts as a Youth Program Director. You, like Brian, are very special and gifted. It is good that you don’t take Brian for granted. It seems so many people take the supremely kind and generous persons like Brian for granted. Maybe that is why there are so few of them today.
      Appreciatively yours,

    • V. Bogrov says:

      Marcie, Brian is good man to have by your side…

    • Holly Shaukowski says:

      Oh Marcie I am so happy that your show was a success and the Brian is offering you his support. Things are a little bit better for me now that I have a new job, but it is still tough to make ends meet as a single mother of 3 wonderful children. Although it is difficult economically here in Iowa, I would not move for anything. There are good people here like you and Brian are. My pastor and I sometimes read pieces from Brian’s blog during our church group meetings because they have such a strong moral undertone. It is meaningful to see such current real world examples. It is so good that you are working with children Marcie. it seems so many times they are forgotten today. God bless both you and Brian for your good work. You are both always in our prayers.

  7. Julliette says:

    Aw gee, I am so sorry now that I didn’t go to see Pinocchio and take little Jimmy as I had planned when I read Josh’s interview. Brian’s writeup was so favorable I feel I missed something very magical. I’d go this week, but we are leaving for vacation on Friday. I wish Brian’s review had come out earlier. Darn!

    • Gaylord Collins says:

      Julliette brings up a good point here Brian. You could have gone to the rehearsals and written up a review like this one, prior to opening night. Naturally it would not include audience reaction, however it could describe the performance, outlining what audiences could expect. I am quite sure that such a wonderfully complementary review such as this posted on APT’s Facebook page, website, perhaps even local papers could have boosted attendance significantly. You could have even scripted a radio add. Your praise for the show is admittedly lavish showing some prejudice on your part, however it is technically detailed enough to be rather convincing. I am surprised you have not thought of this yourself, actually.
      Since I have your ear and hopefully that of APT as well, let me that this opportunity to again suggest that 12 Angry Men be the subject of an APT performance. As you recall I had already cast it in my previous comment on Josh’s interview.

      • Bob says:

        I’ll second that great idea APT needs a publicist that can write snappy promos and Brian can certainly do that! And hey I am still on board with APT doing 12 Angry men. Use my casting instead of Gaylord’s though. lol Just kidding! I really do want to see Marcie and Samantha on stage in that play. It would be a must see!

  8. Gail Hunnicut says:

    Lord bless you Marcie! That was some dedication Brian made to you there! He sounds like such a fine gentleman, he must be from the south. Take my advice and don’t let go of him. He is a keeper! Things are going well for my business now and I might be able to send a little Tennessee cheer your way this Christmas. Our family always remembers you in our prayers. Our family always remembers you in our prayers.

  9. Slinky says:

    Wow Marcie you’re a lucky girl! I wish I could meet Brian and get a dedication like this one, but then you’ve got all that talent and I can’t even whistle. 😦

  10. Lauren says:

    Excellent as always Brian! I am sorry I have not been able to make it up to see an APT show yet. You know how crazy it gets. Marcie is someone I have to meet!!!! Keep writing and speaking and educating us.

  11. Gary Wainwright says:

    Unbelievable Mr. Lucas! You make Ms. Schlener sound like a combination of Pam MacKinnon, Diane Paulus and Lauren Ward and Pinocchio seem like an improved production of A Christmas Story. With promotions like this they should be packing them in! I wish you had worked for me as a publicist when I was running a public theatre group back in Cincinnati 10 years ago. I loved the Star Wars lead in! It was very effective! Nice job! -GW

  12. Rafe says:

    I am a producer of community theater in Ohio. I can tell you this does occur. Good point Brian and excellent article.

  13. Lucy Vaughn says:

    Praise like this from someone you respect is the highest tribute. Congratulations Marcie, you are very fortunate!

  14. Riko Nakamura says:

    Brian: I do not know how I missed this post before. As is everything you write it is perceptive, kind and filled with knowledge and wisdom. I am so honored to be your friend. Marcie is fortunate to have you close by! -Riko
    ** My rib has healed! 🙂

  15. Doris Beedle says:

    Brian I am just blown away by the scope of your agile thinking. The difference between you and the rest of us is that it seems you think about everything you do and never just DO anything without thinking. Things would be much better if we all followed your example. Have you ever considered doing a radio show? I am in the business and would like to discuss some possibilities with you. Please email me if you are interested in hearing more. I hope we get the chance to talk soon!

  16. Joel Pataki says:

    Great post Brian!!!!

  17. John Defelice says:

    Just goes to show you don’t need big $$$ to do agile just smart people with open minds! Bravo Mr. Lucas!!!

  18. D-Mon says:

    Just goes to show, if you know what you’re doing you don’t need to make a big production of it!

  19. Gretchen Schmidt says:

    Dear Brian – Your approach to agile thinking is one that I admire very much. I enjoy the clarity of your writing and the logic behind all your posts. Do you have any books or webinars out? I am very interested in learning more about your agile philosophy. I would like to friend you on Facebook- Sincerely, Gretchen.

  20. L. Gulden, CSM, PMP says:

    Brian, I believe you should document your own approach to agile in a generic methodology. Express your self in goals to be accomplished and provide a set of logical tools that can accomplish them. Provide some overall guidance of DOs and DON’Ts and note all the measuring points you feel are most important. I know you don’t like fixed methodologies. I am not suggesting that you create one. I do think you can express your ideas in a more formalized fashion. Not everyone can act on the generalized principles you evangelize. Please don’t think I am criticizing you in any fashion! I believe you are a brilliant and original thinker. You are also a very talented writer. It is just that the rest of us are not on par with your order of intelligence and we need a little more hand holding to implementing the good ideas you write about here. :Larissa

  21. Steve Dolan says:

    Concise! Smart! Effective! A perfect example of what a knowledgeable person can accomplish with limited resources.

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