It's a miracle this dress made it to the stage in decent condition with all the packing, unpacking, re-packing and moving about in the pouring rain. What a whirlwind!
So, it's back to my "regular" job (that's an entirely different post) today after quite the glamorous weekend. Starting Friday morning, I had a two-day corporate training event, Organization Theater, where I played the role of a ball-busting corporate executive. The venue, a seminar house with rooms to accommodate overnight guests, was a bit severe by U.S. standards. There were certainly no frills, but my room was clean and well appointed and the meals were quite good. The most challenging part of the experience? Well, besides all the numbers and accounting jargon, was avoiding the participants who were also staying in the same complex. Meal times are always cued by the director to avoid crossing paths with the clients. "Please go to lunch now and be back in the staging area in exactly 25 minutes," is a typical request. Of course the participants are fully aware we're actors, but we make it a point to see them only in character at specified meeting times.
So what is Organization theater? It's a dynamic training exercise which involves a VERY detailed case study developed by an expert in a particular industry...retail, manufacturing, etc. Then the back story is fleshed out with "real" people and a series of challenging situations. We all develop our own characters to some extent based on a rough sketch. The participants are high level executives from Japan's Fortune 100 set. The goal is to put them in an environment where they must build a cohesive team, prioritize/solve problems, develop a comprehensive business plan and communicate with a Western audience. Throughout the day, the trainees are barraged with unexpected issues and pressures from all sides, then evaluated on their performance. They will receive a pass/fail "grade" and their companies will often decide who to promote based on the results. Wow, right? Our worldly leader and company founder developed this program with the idea that the traditional corporate culture in Japan makes it's difficult for companies to expand globally without special training for their executives.
The days are long, averaging about 10-12 hours for our team and much longer for the participants. The director and boss of our company, Indigo Blue, is seated in the room with the trainees. He sits in total silence observing and giving directions via Face Book messenger which are projected onto a big screen in our staging area. He will tweak the script based on what he hears in the room. During the day I will have 2-3 short meetings (20 mins.) with the participants and 5-10 phone calls. This is multiplied by two as there are two separate trainee teams. The "Gaijin team" spends much of the day waiting for our next scene or the occasional impromptu direction, usually involving a phone call made by my character. The Japanese professional actors are quite a bit busier laying down serious drama while we watch them do their magic on a live-stream video feed. I was lucky this time to work with an American who is fluent in Japanese. He translated much of the action which gave me a better understanding of the case as a whole.
The gentlemen you see pictured with me— minus one Brit who is a very cool guy, but not Face Book friendly—are all MBAs and experts in a particular field. Me? I'm the wild-card, a civilian with no business background whatsoever. When I walk into the boardroom with my very un-Raya like assertive attitude, it provides added shock value. The Japanese corporate environment is almost all male and all Japanese so the last thing they expect to see is a black, American woman. They have no idea how to handle me. How cool is that? It was difficult for me at first, not being a real actor and playing against type. I'm still not ready for my Academy Award, but I'm learning to master the corporate shark character. The pay is insanely great ($1,000/day) and it's always interesting work, but the gigs are sporadic. They usually come in groups of three or four, but it's not like you can count on them every month. The best part is the end when I do the feedback session and they find out I'm a singer who works with kids for my day job. "Sagoi!"
On Saturday night I had to dash to the Grand Hyatt/Maduro Lounge for a scheduled performance. I was exhausted and still a bit under the weather, vocally, after a recent bout with laryngitis. My voice felt so weak and iffy after two days of non-stop talking and very little sleep, I was super nervous about getting through four sets. What a stroke of good luck to find my venue was hosting a private wedding party which happened to run late, thereby eliminating the first set entirely. Whew! It seems like my gigs are always inconveniently lumped together, feast or famine, but I'm not complaining. I made it through and had all day Sunday to rest. It's the rainy season in Tokyo and it's been pouring for three days straight, but it stopped for a bit today. I can see the sun, and I'm feelin' groovy.
I've never seen anything like this place back home. It wasn't ugly, exactly. It was just so cold and matter-of-fact. They serve beer in the vending machines, of course, but there's no bar or casual restaurant on the premises. It's as if the building is saying, "strictly business, please."
The top I'm wearing here has it's own story. It was featured in a recent FB post. I'm always thrilled to find a credible ensemble for one of these events that's not a business suit. I hate, hate, hate suits and always feel like a dweeb when wearing one.
The team, except the one who made me promise not to publish his picture. He's a Brittish chap and a bit of a fuddy-duddy about some things, but also a fun guy. It's important to have cool people to work with because there's lots of down-time when you're stuck in a room with your team.
By far the best meal of the them all. Although the breakfast on day two was a close second.
Love when they let me cook my own food at the table!
Corporate finance. Yuck!
The Japanese team receiving instructions from our tireless director.
This press conference was the final scene after two grueling days. We still had another hour of feedback, but we all cheered when this conference was over, at last!