The Power Of Workshopping

Almost 20 years ago I was part of a group of writers, actors, directors and a few other creative types who were frustrated by either not finding work or by not finding work that was satisfying or challenging.

A few of the actors had been typecast and wanted to explore other characters and colors of the creative palette. Most of the writers wanted a place to test their material. The directors wanted a place to play with new material and fresh talent. So we held a meeting and simply voiced our needs and concerns, vented our frustrations, and hammered out a rough schedule for getting together every week to workshop new material.

In its purest form, a writer would choose the cast s/he wanted to create something for and one of the directors would choose to help stage whatever the writer brought to the next meeting of the workshop. Rarely did the actors and the director see the material until the rehearsal that was held just before the workshop meeting. So it was a great exercise in cold reading for actors. After each piece was presented, a critique was held.

This workshop grew from a handful of people meeting in the house of one of its founders to booking a theatre space to accommodate the growing number of industry people who joined its ranks.

Why Workshops Work

This concept works because (1) it provides a space for people to play and hone their craft, (2) it gives support for pursuing dreams and testing the wings of new ideas, (3) it provides a focused, useful circle of connections for networking and brainstorming, and (4) it stimulates new ideas, friendships, partnerships, creativity – the list of possibilities is ongoing. It really is a living resource for engaging and sharing creativity.

So, think about how many people you know who sing, write, act, compose music, play an instrument, like to cook, want to party – think of how many people you know you would enjoy the opportunity to get together at least once a month to share their creative talent as singers, songwriters, composers, actors and entrepreneurs.

Start by holding a meeting to determine the direction for such a workshop. It may be something as simple as having a place to get together and sing. Maybe it’s all about exploring harmonies or choral work or different styles of singing. Maybe you’re getting together so that local songwriters can test their material by handing it over to singers and musicians to see what they’d do with it. Maybe as a singer you want to tackle some pieces you’ve always wanted to sing and want an audience for feedback. Limit your presentations to four songs or musical scenes.

A Safe Play To Play

The point is to create a safe place to play, grow, learn, and vent. It gives you additional practice at being heard. It creates a support group and circle of connections for helping you build your career, hone your skills, and maintain your sanity in the process.

When we started the workshop in L.A. we met on twice a week. That was a little too much. So it was quickly cut back to once a week. We began with no more than four short pieces for each meeting. They were anything from monologues to scenes from stage plays and screenplays. I remember back then screenwriter-actress Dana Stevens (City of Angels, For Love of the Game) was workshopping scenes from a screenplay she was working on called Blink. It later became her first full-length feature sale. One of the group’s founders, Jim Uhls, went on to write the screenplay adaptation for the film, Fight Club. Each meeting truly invigorated and nurtured the creative spirit while giving everyone a great workout.

Showcase

From your workshops you can create a monthly or quarterly seasonal showcase. These showcases could benefit a community resource or charity, with donations or proceeds from ticket sales. Maybe your attendance can bring food items to be boxed up and delivered to a local food bank. And, to top it off, you get to share your gift of music with an appreciative audience.

Your workshop will help you with marketing ideas, boosting your confidence, sharpening your audition skills – everything related to music and singing will benefit. When you’re with like-minded people who have a defined purpose and goals they are trying to attain, you will invest more time into practicing, growing, and generating results.

So, define your objectives for the group, set your schedule, hold each other accountable, and share your voice!