Saturday, July 14, 2007

Believe it or Not, I can Explain This

Looks like a group of my summer students has decided to demonstrate their philisophical agreement with me graphically...

It goes like this, I have a lecture I do for my Technical Design class that is titled:

Spitballing, and Why I Hate Zebras

We included that session in the summer syllabus this year, and it looks like it sunk in. The zebra thing is a combination of two truisms. The first is "a camel is a horse designed by committee." The second, which is a little more obscure comes from medical training around diagnostics and goes "if you hear hoof beats think horses, not zebras."

Theatre is very much a committee artform. It's sexier to call it a collaborative artform, and thats what we do. But the fact remains that ideas, priorities, and decisions are nearly always effected by a group of people - people with divergent interests. Just the sort of people that if sitting down around a table together to design a horse would come out with a camel. "Wouldn't it be great if you didn't need a saddle, but if there was just a natural place to sit..."

This is I guess shorthand for saying you don't often wind up with what you started with.

Engineering is very much like making a diagnosis. You take a look at all of the requirements and conditions, the technical design "symptoms" if you will, and come up with an approach. Just like in medicine often the same kind of conditions (hoof beats) can lead to both standard type solutions (horses) or exotic solutions (zebras).

Mediumhand for the longhand idea expressed by the ultra-shorthand: "K.I.S.S" Keep it simple, Stupid.

So why do I hate zebras? Combine the two truisms and you come up with the reason why when a student appears to be headed out onto the savanna that we try to get them to come back onto the ranch. There is elegance and value in keeping your solutions simple for their own sake, but when you factor in that theatre is a collaborative artform and you very rarely wind up with what you alone started with there is even more value to starting with something standard, understandable, and adaptable.

Put another way, at least if you start out with a horse the drift might only reward you with a camel. If you begin your process with a zebra, well nobody has ever even seen a black and white striped camel.

1 comment:

Varsenik said...

5:42 into the clip