I’m taking a very unusual class this week.
A theater class.
Not exactly the kind of class you’d expect to take at business school. But it’s our January Week, a week in which we take one class intensely for five days, so already we’re on atypical ground.
What’s the class like? We’ve done improv, created characters, played scenes, written short plays and staged a series of 10-minute scenes. And free writing. Lots of free writing.
The end game here is an original play that we will write, cast and perform as a class — in 24 hours. Everything up until now has been a prelude to tomorrow when we’ll create the play from scratch. A week ago I would have told you it was impossible. But right now I feel pretty good about our chances.
I have loved this class, which is so different from the other classes I’ve taken at Darden. It’s not case study, it’s not business focused and it doesn’t require a laptop. But I’m engaged for the entire eight hours we’re in class – mind, body and soul. The class is forcing me to use parts of my brain and my skill set that have gotten a little dusty at Darden. It feels good to take them out for a spin.
And it’s been fun to see my classmates in a different light. Because this is b-school and there are more guys than girls, some men have been playing women. Some women have been playing against type. And people I didn’t know in any other way are revealing themselves to be honest, funny and interesting. The serious guy who never cracks a joke in class is able to access deep emotions on stage, both tragic and comedic. The quiet person is absolutely hysterical and has excellent comic timing. The reserved student is a fabulous writer. And on and on and on.
I love it. I think everyone who wants to take a class like this should. It’s more enlightening and effective than any other group exercise we’ve done to “build community” or “create team spirit.”
And for all of you sticklers out there asking, “What does this have to do with business?” – back off. Can you really not think of examples at work where the ability to improv, tell stories and generally put on a show might come in handy?