Why all the drama? The Stages of Cast Development

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“That girl who’s playing Blanche is so stuck-up! I’ve been nothing but nice to her, and all she does is ignore me!”

“The director HATES me. Did you hear how he talked to me last night? Everybody else he was, like, “Good job.” But with me? “You need to show up on time,” and “Eat your dinner before you come to rehearsal.” And everybody else just AGREED with him. They all hate me.”

Does this sound familiar?

Drama Queens, of all genders, abound in theatre. Sometimes it seems like there’s more drama off-stage than there is on-stage! The bad news is that this is normal. The good news is that the process of transforming a Group into a Team, or in our case a Cast, can be managed and its negative effects minimized. Understanding the process of Team Formation is the key.

Team Formation is an integral part of Organizational Behavior. It affects teams of all sorts – production crews, casts, Boards of Directors – any group of individuals who come together with a shared purpose. There are five stages to Team Formation and each has unique qualities. In this, and my next 2 posts, I’ll explain these stages and how you can minimize the drama of each.

Stage 1 – Forming

Forming is the time when all the individuals come together and agree to pursue a shared purpose. It may be being cast in a play, or joining a Board of Directors. Regardless of the reason, this is the time when introductions are made and the process of getting to know each other within the context of the project begins. Even if you know other members of the group beforehand, you’ll be re-defining each other during the forming phase.

Stage 2 – Storming

Storming is where we see most of the “drama” come into being. Petty arguments, power struggles, misunderstandings and hurt feelings are all normal common during the Storming phase. Every group moves through this phase on its way to becoming a functioning team. So, what’s going on?

Storming is how we establish and define our positions and power within the group. We do this through disagreement, confrontation and compromise. Communication is the key to this phase. Often, as the group moves through Storming, a hierarchy emerges and roles within the group are established. For instance, Dan – although neither the director nor the leading actor – becomes an unofficial leader. Estella keeps everyone on-task. Lin and Jorge make sure that all opinions get heard and ruffled feathers get smoothed. Both orientations, task and social, are necessary to the team’s functioning.

Forming and Storming are normal stages of Team Formation and a Cast or Running Crew or Board of Directors are all types of teams. I’ll explain the three remaining stages – Norming, Performing and Adjourning – next time. Following that I’ll explain how you can help your organization’s groups move through these phases so that the drama stays on the stage, where it belongs!

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Katie Strickland

A Collection of Strategic Communications Portfolio Work

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