About a million years ago, when I studied theatre and movement, I was fascinated by what appeared “real” on stage and what looked like it was a person slouching across an open space. There was a real difference between an actor who was able to inhabit and own the stage and someone who seemed to shrink within its open space. For some actors, this ability comes naturally but many have to work on it. And it is these techniques that interested me the most.
For a while I studied with Leisa Shelton, a brilliant and patient teacher. We would spend hours in quiet, but intense, routines, learning to stretch our bodies, extend our arms from the shoulder to the fingertip, create difficult but beautiful arcs across our shoulders, and walking with fluidity. One of the core “figures” we’d work on was drinking a glass of water – amazingly technical and challenging to master.
Leisa had, herself, studied for years in Paris, working with Ecole de Mime Corporel Dramatique de Paris-technique Etienne Decroux (1983-89) and was a member of the Meryl Tankard Co (1990-93). As a result, she generously shared not just her abilities and experiences but her stories which brought her theory and theatre practice to life for us all.
But there was one particular story that has stayed with me. It was about the physical proportions of Rodin’s The Thinker. Taking into account the position of the viewer, Rodin had created his famous sculpture larger than “real life” in order for it to appear in-proportion from the audience’s point of view. Parts of the sculpture – especially across the shoulders and back, were significantly larger than they would be in real life. And the lesson for us in this, was to appear “real” on stage, we had to work to extend the appearance of our bodies on stage, not just to be seen, or for aesthetics, but to appear real.
The same principles apply in the digital world. In fact, we are seeing a greater blurring of the distinctions between the on and offline world – they are merging into what we call “life”. This is made ever easier by the five forces impacting the future of business – social media, mobility, big data, unified communications and cloud computing. As consumers we are ever more connected and connectable – and enterprises continue to struggle to keep pace with consumer expectation and business demand.
However, we DON’T need to be in all places at all times. We need to take a lesson from Leisa Shelton and Rodin. We need to be larger than life in the spaces that we do operate. We need to be hyper-real – 10-20% bigger than we are in real life. And now, more than ever, we need to be PRESENT. That means we must be hyper-real and IN LOCATION.
Take a look at this great video promoting the upcoming release of the movie Carrie. It’s 6 million+ views come not just from a great idea, but from brilliant execution. They captured a real world impact and amplified it into our digital lives. They put a physical experience into our consciousness through digital storytelling.
In a world where our experiences dominate our perceptions, businesses, governments and not-for-profits can no longer be satisfied with a DIGITAL ONLY presence. To be talked about online, you have to be remarkable in the real world. You must act with purpose. And serve with intention.
It’s time for leaders to step up and own the space.