Steps…to using drama as a corporate tool

 When I heard about an audition for actors in the field of corporate training, I was intrigued, and decided to try my luck and see if I would be chosen for the audition, even though I lacked the theatre experience that was asked for in the email sent by Steps Drama Learning Development.

I quickly got a response from Mohan Mudgalkar, the Senior Associate of Steps in India, asking me to choose whether I wanted the morning or the afternoon stint, on the 8th of October, 2011. I chose the afternoon, and went there to find several others also arriving.

Charumathi Supraja, who had auditioned last year and who was helping Mohan with the proceedings, met us, and Mohan opened the audition by giving an introduction to Steps Learning. He said it was an organization that has moved recently to India from its birthplace in the UK, where it was founded by three "resting" actors looking to use their talents in a field different from the regular theatre stage.

He also explained the way actors who worked for Steps would operate. The first was "Role Play", which is a one-on-one staging, where a trained Steps actor interacts with an employee who might take on a fictitious role for the duration of the scenario. These will be practice sessions.

The second method is the non-interactive or the scripted scenario. Here, pre-set scenes are staged by a group of actors, who take on the roles of employees in a fictitious company, which bears a resemblance to the participating corporate, but is fictitious enough to give the employees a "safety zone" of drama, distancing themselves from reality. This scenario is followed by the process known as "hot seating", where the performers (still in their roles) are grilled by the members of the audience, about their behaviours, and the rationale or logic for it. The scene is halted at the appropriate time, and discussions follow.

The third method is the "forum scene", where there are two actors in an improvised scenario. One actor never interacts with the audience, but only (in the role assigned) with the other actor. It is the other actor, in the role of "interactor", who, at times, steps outside the story, and asks the audience members for help or inputs to deal with the behaviour of the actor in the scene. The scene proceeds with the interactor taking the cues exactly as the audience instructs, and improvising with, sometimes, the very words or phrases that the audience members give. If several audience members give suggestions, the interactor chooses one input and goes with that.

Once he had explained this, we went straight into the second mode; which also served as an audition for the participants. We were divided into teams of three, given prepared scripts, and we were given fifteen minutes to "rehearse" the script and scenario, and to assign roles to each of us. Then each team was asked to the central table, where, rather than "acting" it out as on stage, the participants just "read" from the scripts, taking on the roles assigned.

For example, one scenario had X asking Y to set up a meeting, and when Y and Z turned up for the meeting X comes in more than ten minutes late. He then keeps talking about the "big picture" while Y and Z try to pin him down to the details of how the big picture can be achieved. He asks questions of Y, about Y’s family, the answers to which he never listens to. Y is a person for details; Z is a person who seems overawed by the location of a retreat that they had been to recently.

After the scenario, the participants were duly "hot-seated", and asked searching questions regarding their behaviour; they had to remain within their roles for the duration. Mohan conducted these auditions very deftly, sometimes cutting in and closing the scenario, to ensure that the afternoon went punctually and smoothly.

Once the scripted scenarios were over, we took a short break, and then re-assembled to go through the forum scenes. Due to paucity of time, Mohan chose just two sets of people to do two scenarios. Both were so interesting that they had me quite caught up in them! In one, X had been substituting for another, senior person, and now that person had come back. X was hoping for a raise and a promotion…it was the duty of the "interactor" to convey both appreciation of the job well done, and the simultaneous "no" about the raise/promotion.

When the forum scenes were enacted, Mohan told us that those of us who fitted the Steps criteria would be hearing from them, and wound up the proceedings neatly and professionally. It was a very interesting experience to watch an audition for theatre of a different kind.

For more information about Steps Drama Learning Development, see their website




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