News

Arts and business news from around the country.

RSS

Art at the Office: How Theater Companies are Transforming the Workforce

Posted by Jessica Gaines
0 Comments

*Madison Cario, Georgia Tech’s Office of the Arts director, was walking across campus in the Spring of 2015 when she passed a career fair in progress.

 

After noticing how uncomfortable the students looked in their business suits and corporate attire, Cario’s mind flashed to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The 40-year-old, all-male, contemporary ballet company — featuring men wearing makeup, tutus and wigs while dancing on pointe — was scheduled to perform at the Ferst Center in the coming weeks.

 

Who better, thought Cario, than performers who’d perfected the art of drag to teach millennials how to transition from uniforms of hoodies and flip-flops into young professionals whose wardrobes reflected their career aspirations.

 

One year later, a half-day seminar titled Drag 101 was offered in anticipation of Tech’s next career day. Brooklyn-based drag king Goldie Peacock, who has been performing and teaching the fundamentals of “power posing” for over a decade, was invited to lead the workshop.

 

GA Tech’s

Madison Cario

(Image courtesy

of GA Tech)

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Goldie Peacock

 

“As with any performer,” says Cario, “students [preparing for job interviews] are not just putting on a suit. They have to put on a persona and adopt a personality. They must embody the confidence and poise needed to take up space in a room, and engage in conversation.”

 

The practice of nonartists turning to actors for guidance on how to adapt to unfamiliar situations and settings is not unprecedented.

 

The late-Margaret Thatcher worked with a tutor at London’s National Theatre to help lower the pitch of her voice after she decided to run for Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. By sounding more authoritative, she hoped to silence opponents who said, “Methinks the lady doth screech too much,” in response to the high, shrill tone that resulted whenever nervous energy strangled her vocal chords. Given the cognitive and emotional effects the voice has on listeners, and Thatcher’s subsequent victory at the polls, it can be argued that her lessons paid off.

 

The Alliance Theatre has institutionalized a program that teaches business clients how to apply the methodologies and mechanics of the theater to help improve presentation skills in corporate settings. The workshops, called Alliance@Work, are a natural evolution of the Alliance Arts for Learning Institute — a 20-year-old initiative designed to teach theater skills to general classroom educators to help engage students.

 

“The same skills that make for great acting also make for great presentations,” says Christopher Moses, the Dan Reardon director of education and associate artistic director of the Alliance’s education department. “People crave authenticity and connection, whether you are sitting around a boardroom table or auditioning as an actor. In order to connect with an audience, you must be yourself.”

 

Of course, being oneself does not come naturally once most people are out of their comfort zone. Stressors like having to impress the boss, making a sales pitch to a reluctant (if not hostile) audience or being required to address large gatherings only add to the tension.

 

“Most people would rather have [a] root canal than speak publicly, and most actors feel the same way,” says Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, an Alliance@Work coach and professional actress (Disgraced and Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance, and HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrrietta Lacks). “As kids, we’re fine speaking up without inhibition. But as society starts putting constraints on how we should look and behave, we will go to any length to avoid feeling vulnerable. We would rather have something unpleasant inflicted on us than be judged for making a mistake in public.”

 

Increasingly, corporations are placing a premium on hiring candidates who are better equipped as communicators, storytellers and collaborators. In other words, people with a high emotional intelligence quotient.

 

“The skills, which are pejoratively called ‘soft skills,’ are not taught on the job or at university,” says J. Noble, cofounder of Alliance@Work and communications specialist at the Alliance’s education department. “Some people are naturally inclined to be present, empathetic and self-aware, but the majority of us aren’t as much as we should be. And we’re not given opportunities to explore, rehearse and refine those characteristics.”

 

Borrowing from the actor’s tool box, accountants, scientists and bankers who enroll in classes can learn how to eliminate stage fright by taking deep, controlled breaths. They are encouraged to be mindful of body language, which can convey passivity and anxiety, or project self-confidence and what’s known as “executive presence.” Simulated group exercises help to highlight the unconscious, default setting participants tend to fall into when collaborating with others.

 

Atlanta-based companies including Chick-fil-A, Home Depot and TalentQuest have ongoing relationships with Alliance@Work — as do national clients like Adobe and Grant Thornton, a global public accounting and advisor services firm based in Chicago which has sent over 1,000 employees to participate in workshops since 2014.

 

“Soft skills can be the hardest to adapt and master, but they can be a game-changer,” says Julian Malnak, director of Leadership & Talent Management at Grant Thornton. “It used to be all about technical knowledge and prowess in our industry. But what matters is how people show up, their distinctive brand, and how they carry our culture.”

 

“People just want to see the truth,” says Kajese-Bolden. “Despite the onslaught of reality TV and social media profiles [which tend to be more grounded in fiction than fact], people can see past anything that is false, fake or put on.”

 

For Noble, a former director, mining the principles of authenticity, empathy and connection as an Alliance@Work coach is indistinguishable from his work with actors. “In both cases, the work is transformational,” he says. “I feel like I’m fulfilling the Alliance’s mission of expanding the hearts and minds of people on and off the stage — giving them new ways to think [thereby] making their lives, and the lives of their team’s and family’s, better in the process.”

 

*This article, written by Gail O’Neill, originally appeared on ArtsATL. Link to the original article is here and appears with permission from Executive Editor Laura Relyea.

Related
Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus

More News

Award-Winning Examples of Companies Supporting the Arts
Nov 21, 2017 0 Comments
The arts are an economic driver. According to the Arts & Economic Prosperity study, released by Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015, which...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: AC Entertainment in Knoxville, Tennessee
Nov 14, 2017 0 Comments
Known as one of the foremost concert promoters and festival producers in the United States, AC Entertainment celebrates the arts by bringing first-class live entertainment experiences to music lovers from around the world. Founded...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Scholastic Inc., New York City
Nov 09, 2017 0 Comments
“Creative, innovative thinking, the hallmark of artists and writers, is fundamental to building economic strength, and new and better ways of seeing the world. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards validates the creativity of students...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina
Nov 07, 2017 0 Comments
“Duke Energy is committed to supporting the vitality of the communities we serve. That includes introducing our young people to the arts at an early age—study after study shows that children benefit immensely from exposure to...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri
Nov 02, 2017 0 Comments
At Hallmark Cards, art is an essential component of the company’s DNA. From its founding in the early 20th century, Hallmark has fostered creative environments both inside and outside the workplace, and has been particularly...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Bacardi in Coral Gables, Florida
Oct 31, 2017 0 Comments
“Supporting the arts within the cities and towns where we live and work is our way of giving back at Bacardi. This sense of corporate responsibility has been at our foundation since the Bacardi company was created more than 151...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Microsoft in Redmond, Washington
Oct 26, 2017 0 Comments
“Microsoft is honored to support arts and culture organizations across the U.S. and around the world, which provide so much richness to all of our communities.” -Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Yum! Brands in Louisville, Kentucky
Oct 24, 2017 0 Comments
“At Yum! Brands, we believe in the power of the arts to educate, inspire and empower all students, especially those who are classified as ‘at-risk’.  Working with our local Fund for Arts organization we created the Yum! Family...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta, Georgia
Oct 20, 2017 0 Comments
“Turner Voices, our company’s signature corporate philanthropy program, marries our deep ties to our Atlanta hometown with our commitment to next-generation storytellers and their power to impact our community in profoundly positive...
Go to full post
It’s a Celebration! The 2017 BCA 10 Gala: Best Businesses That Partner with the Arts
Oct 19, 2017 0 Comments
On October 11th, business and arts leaders gathered at the iconic Central Park Boathouse in New York City to honor the best businesses partnering with the arts in America at the annual BCA 10 Awards. Now in its 13th year, this...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: AutoZone, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee
Oct 18, 2017 0 Comments
"Even as AutoZone has evolved over the last 36 years, we’ve maintained a steadfast commitment to our hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Leadership and active participation in our region’s arts and culture are essential to community...
Go to full post
The Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts are Featured in Forbes
Oct 11, 2017 0 Comments
This year's BCA 10 honorees are using the arts to meet business goals in moving ways. We are proud to recognize them with an ad in the 100th Anniversay Issue of Forbes, "100 Greatest Business Minds" (page 169, September 28)...
Go to full post
Hear from the Business Leaders of the 2017 BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts
Oct 02, 2017 0 Comments
Now that you have read about this year’s BCA 10 honorees, let’s take the time to meet the leaders. These business executives, representing a range of industries from hotels to healthcare to retail, are inspiring. Support them...
Go to full post
2012 BCA 10 Winning Tampa Bay Times Spreads Joy of Literature with Times Festival of Reading
Sep 28, 2017 0 Comments
Every fall, the Tampa Bay Times marketing department produces a celebration of the literary arts known as the Times Festival of Reading. This one day event draws thousands of book lovers, as well as famous authors from across...
Go to full post

Already a partner?

Already a partner?

Learn easy ways to take your partnership to a new level.

Use our ads locally

Use our ads locally

View The pARTnership Movement ad campaign and find ways to use the ads.

pARTnership videos

pARTnership videos

Watch and share our videos from The pARTnership Movement.

Partnership ideas

Partnership ideas

Inspire employees with tickets to the ballet or a concert.

Are you an arts group?

Are you an arts group?

Get listed in our searchable directory.

Recruit talent

Recruit talent

Employees want to live and work in a vibrant community.