Does it really matter?

By kattekrab, 21 June, 2024
Newly opened La Trobe University Moat Theatre in 1977

Once upon a time, in another century, I directed a student theatre production of Romeo and Juliet. A couple of things went very very wrong.  But in the end, they didn't really matter.

The first thing that went wrong? Our costumes weren't completely ready in time for opening night. They had been hand made by a team of volunteer costumers, out of cheap off white calico fabric. By the day of our opening, the costumes were made, but had not yet been dyed to the colours of our "two houses, both alike in dignity."  But, the show must go on, so we went ahead with the costumes all the same. The costumes got dyed, and dried, after the opening, and from show 2, all was as it was meant to be.  

Later, someone thought it had been intentional and loved the fact the montagues and capulets were all wearing the same non-colour.  They had developed a whole theory and rationale about that choice to go against convention!  I sadly can't remember the details of their thinking now, but the lesson I learned, as I had fretted and stressed about our "failure" to be ready, was that perhaps it didn't matter so much as I'd feared.

The second thing that went wrong? It rained.  Our venue was an outdoor ampitheatre, and I had failed to prepare a plan for moving the production indoors should this occur.  Normally, we would just cancel and refund, or offer attendees the option to come to another show.  But it only started raining as people arrived, and we hoped it would be a light shower and pass quickly.  It didn't. It started raining more heavily. I struggled to decide to cancel, or quickly pivot to re-stage the production indoors in the hall nearby.  We had a huge school group in that night. Ugh. I was so stressed. We pivoted.  I walked onstage, apologised for the weather, and thanked everyone for their patience, as the cast and crew scrambled to move everything indoors, and reset the show.

It turned out to be one of our best performances. 

On the flip side, I've been involved in lots of planning, identifying risks, thinking through every possible contingency, then preparing detailed guides for mediating those risks, only for the whole thing to be cancelled before it even began.  Or preparing plans and business cases, and drafting budgets with different scenarios only to fail to get buy-in and budget to proceed. 

Failure is profound.  So long as we can afford to fail, there will be value to be found in the lesson.