Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
January 2012

Dance with the Prince: The Extras That Make a Difference

I danced with a prince a few weeks ago.  But more about that later....

As someone who is invited into organizations to lead workshops, I participate in many pre-session conference calls with my clients from school districts and hospitals.  They teach me about their organization and its learning goals and I speak to how I can customize a training to work toward those goals and what I feel I will need before the session starts and during the session itself to ‘set the stage’ for success.

The interaction between my clients and myself is exactly what Ronee Pelloi, producer in residence at Arena Stage, is talking about when she writes about the relationship between visiting artists and theater companies. Ronee spent a year working with a touring artist (Anna Deveare Smith) and is now at Arena Stage, in Washington, D.C., where her theater, like many, invites visiting artists to perform.  Ronee is interested in how the collaboration between visiting artist and theater can be productive, expansive and successful.  Beyond the obvious benefit of producing a great show for those who buy tickets, what more could happen? �How might the partnership go a step further?

On one level, I am a visiting artist.  I go to the theater of the workshop room and create an experience for the participants. Sometimes I tell stories, making it theatrical; other times I facilitate learning moments, making it educative.  And like Ronee, I have a few ideas that might 'stretch' the experience for the host, the workshop presenter and the workshop participant. How we might get more out of our moment together?

For the host:

  • Think about every moment with the teaching artist as a learning possibility
  • Pick up the artist at his or her hotel– invite participants to do so as well so they can get a chance to engage on a different level
  • Introduce the artist and connect your organization’s vision with their work – thread the needle
  • During afternoon drop off drive, ask about the choices made in the session
  • Inquire about where your group’s learning could go next after the session
  • Ask how other organizations have extended their learning
  • Thank the artist publicly at the end of the session; share ways the group will be taking the learning deeper

For the workshop presenter:

  • Offer additional learning options you think might also benefit the organization
  • Ask the contact, “If we have some additional time in the afternoon or evening, whom else should I meet with who should know about the work we are doing?”
  • Meet with the superintendent, director or senior team to share with them what has been happening and provide ideas that may help them support the work
  • Speak at a parent evening
  • Hold office hours with individuals working on specific challenges
  • Offer to do observations
  • Facilitate a focus group to gather data on the topic for the organization
  • Meet participants from the workshop for dinner when you arrive; learn about the group; get a feel for what they hope to learn with you
  • Consider all these options as learning opportunities for you

For the workshop participant:

  • From the minute you arrive at the session, be in a learning mode
  • Read the walls; skim the packet, introduce yourself to your table partners
  • Walk up and introduce yourself to the presenter; make him or her feel at home in your organization
  • Be an engaged participant; lean into the content
  • Ask the presenter if you can pick their brain after the session; make the learning mean something
  • Talk to your host colleague about where the learning will be going next; make requests; what might your next learning step be and how can your organization support you?

As a 'visiting artist,’ I always value when I feel part of a team working towards a greater goal.  I want to design experiences that have a little extra ‘oomph’ and benefit all involved.

As for the Prince?  The prince was a character in Kneehigh Theatre's production of The Wild Bride, which is playing at Berkeley Rep here in the Bay Area until January 22. Kneehigh Theatre is an imaginative and inventive theatre company from Cornwall, England who are visiting Berkeley Rep for two months before going next to Wellington, New Zealand. Their performances are magical.� AND in the spirit of offering more, after the show all the actors come out to the lobby to play music, to sing and to dance with audience members. They extend the experience. Who grabbed the chance to dance with the prince? Moi. I found my prince, if only for a moment, and my night was one I will never forget. �Here’s to co-creating unforgettable moments in 2012.�

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

Here are a few websites that I want to delve into in 2012.�

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

January 4
Having Hard Conversations
The Harker School
San Jose, CA

January 10-11
Having Hard Conversations
Lambton-Kent District School Board
Chatham, Ontario, Canada

January 12-13
Having Hard Conversations
Peel District School Board
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

January 19
Being Generationally Savvy
Orange County Department of Education BTSA Program
Irvine, CA

January 26-27
Having Hard Conversations
Waterloo District School Board
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


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© 2012 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699