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Smells Like Team Spirit: Master the Art of Collaboration
Director Diane Paulus delivers a crash course in team dynamics, how to nurture creativity, and the importance of obsession in a good leader.
Diane Paulus is the Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, and was selected for the 2014 TIME 100, TIME Magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Paulus is the 2013 recipient of the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical (Pippin). A.R.T.: Eve Ensler's In the Body of the World, Waitress (currently on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theater), Crossing Finding Neverland, Witness Uganda, Pippin (Tony Award, Best Revival and Best Director), The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (Tony Award, Best Revival, NAACP Award, Best Direction), Prometheus Bound, Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera, Best of Both Worlds, Johnny Baseball, The Donkey Show.
Her other recent work includes Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, Invisible Thread At Second Stage, The Public Theater's Tony Award-winning revival of HAIR on Broadway and London's West End. As an opera director, her credits include The Magic Flute, the complete Monteverdi cycle, and the trio of Mozart-Da Ponte operas, among others. Diane is Professor of the Practice of Theater in Harvard University's English Department. She was selected as one of Variety's “Trailblazing Women in Entertainment for 2014" and Boston Magazine's “50 Thought Leaders of 2014."
Diane Paulus: When you work in the theater you always begin privately. There isn't always an audience. But interestingly there is always a test of what that relationship to the audience is going to be. So you begin with your team of colleagues. On a musical you have a big village of people. You have a choreographer, a writer, a conductor, a musical supervisor, and I've always felt the job of a director is to get so obsessed with the subject matter and then your job is to spread the obsession and you've got to do that in phases. So initially you do it to your inner team. And then there's a moment where you bring actors into that process and you have to transmit it to your actors. And then ultimately as a collective we transmit it to the audience. So my job as the director, even though we don't get in front of the audience until the baby is born and has learned to walk and has done some test experiences, I almost have to stand in for the audience at every phase of the process. And I often use this expression of you've got to wash your eyes clean and you have to dare to be what Peter Brooke called naïve, you have to be a naïve spectator. And you have to see without desire, which is something I often talk about, you know, how can you look at what you've done and not just get hung up on oh God the actor didn't do the line the way I wanted them. No, you can look with a lot of desire but you can also look without desire.
So you are trying to stand in for that audience at every phase and by doing that I think you cast that audience in your head and you can make a choice about how you're going to cast that audience. And I'm a great believer in the audience being a great partner and the audience wanting to stretch you and the audience wanting to learn. I just think their human needs and we want to learn; we want to be moved; we want ritual; we want to go through and experience together in life; we want spectacle. There's a human need for spectacle, and I spectacle I mean to be in the presence of something larger than yourself. It's why we stand on a beach and look at a horizon line and get lost in it or stand on a mountaintop and look at a vista. That's what we recreate in the theater is an idea of awe and spectacle so you can feel yourself in the presence of something greater than yourself.
So you can make a choice about how you're thinking about the audience and wanting to aim high with your audience. As I say that I also believe an audience needs to be diverted. This French word divertismall, entertainment gets a bad word it's like oh it's just fluff, it's just entertainment. Like no, we also have a human need to be entertained, to laugh, to leave our current situation and divert from that. So I guess I try to make a show, the ultimate dream show is something that touches on all of those that you can be challenged in your mind, you can be challenged in your heart. I actually also believe in the body. I'm so fascinated with all these studies of I have a young daughter and I remember being told when she was in kindergarten that she might need to see a specialist because she can't sit still. And then all these studies that have come out that now actually moving helps you learn and now we know we stand at desks. So this idea that the theater is a form that actually also engages your body and vibration.
The other thing about audience is I always like to think about with the audience as a creative partner. And what I mean by that is that the audience can meet you more than halfway and they can help fulfill the moment. So you actually don't have to micromanage and deliver everything, actually the space that you leave for the audience to tap their imagination, to complete something, to bring themselves is as important as what you provide for an audience. And I think that's also really important in my work with actors, when I direct a show not only am I trying to, with the actor and the play writer or the composer, make all the decisions about how we're going to tell the story, but I'm also trying to engage the actor to be creative because if they are just following directions it won't be fulfilling. And I think this is something that can be applied to anything you do in life, any kind of business, any kind of group endeavor. In our business sometimes actors feel they're a good actor if they say to the director just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it. What do you want me to do? And to me that is like the death of a process is like it's so not about what I want. Actually I start every process with this statement: I say I'm going to come with an idea and I'm going to expect you to come with an idea. And I know that together we will make a third idea that is better than both of our ideas.
And that's a really important thing to say upfront because we live in a hierarchy and people tend to feel that they don't have space to have an idea, that they need to execute or they need to just deliver what is expected. And I think in the arts we all know the art is going to be great when you get to the unexpected. So we actually are in a profession that values that, but I think that that idea of giving agency and empowering anyone, whether you are an actor in a show or whether you sit in the box office, whether you're a receptionist at the desk to a company like at my theater, I want everybody the whole endeavor is going to be better if everyone is as invested and as engaged in the big picture. So you have to do a lot of talking about the big picture. It can't just be an execution because people don't understand. People get resentful when they don't understand why they're being asked to do what they're doing, especially if it's hard work. So I always feel my job as a director is to constantly point to the top of the mountain and remind people like we're going there. And guess what, and this is also an important lesson that I've learned and I always tell this to young directors, you don't have to have the answers. A lot of young people feel like I can't be a director; I don't have a vision; I don't have the answers. I say it is so not about the answer. In fact the whole process is finding the answer together. If you have the answer you have the wrong answer or you definitely have not asked a big enough question. The idea is together we're going to find out how we get to the top of the mountain. I don't know how we're going to get there but I know that's where we're going. And then definitely the job of the director is when everybody is tired and people are cranky and they're immunities because that happens and people just want to give up and go down the mountain, you have to find a way to engage people to say come on we're going to keep going, we're going to keep going. And that's I would say 75 percent of what I do as a director is keeping people motivated, keeping people engage and inspiring people to have a some kind of faith.
And you can only do that if you believe in where you're going. So that's so important and for me it has defined my investment. And what I do emotionally, spiritually is I will not take on a project that I don't believe in because it's too hard and it won't be authentic that investment of my personal energy and my personal blood, sweat and tears if I don't believe in where we're going.
In the arts, and particularly the not for profit arts movement there can be a lot of blaming the audience for the lack of engagement. The audience has left the building. Nobody wants culture anymore in America. We're depraved. We have no more attention span. The Internet has corrupted our minds. No one wants to sit in a theater anymore. And I remember hearing all this and thinking very strongly, well we're just blaming the audience. And I'm a producer and an artist, I actually have a chance to take a little responsibility for maybe why the audience has left the building. So I want to do everything I can ahead of time before the audience is ever invited into the process to make something that I think an audience is going to want to be in the presence of. And by want I mean they want it, they need it and they need it now. So I think in a process with my team in a creative process we're constantly asking big questions. Why are we doing this? What story are we telling? Why do we care? What are we identifying with? Should an audience even bother to stay interested at this point?
And those can be very scary questions because they're big questions and you don't want them to dismantle your process to the point where you're debilitated. But if you can find a way to ask tough questions, again, to get everyone around the table thinking and feeling as hard as they can the work will get better. And that is a process in the theater that continues constantly and that real horror of the theater is you don't know what you have until you put it in front of an audience. So even though you've tried very hard to stand in for the audience, to make all your best decisions based on what you're trusting yourself and your team and the actors and the small invited guests that are brought into the room, you really don't know what you have until you have an audience. And then if you're lucky you have a chance to change it in front of an audience. And then if you're really lucky you get to continue to work on it.
I just did a national tour of Finding Neverland, which was a musical I did on Broadway and I did it at the NART at Harvard. I did it on Broadway. It ran over a year on Broadway. Now it's on tour. We just changed it again and it's a staggering process to know that sometimes you can just get so far with something and you need to step back; look at it again; live your life a little. Everybody has to go off and put it in a drawer and then come back and then you can see fresh because sometimes this idea of seeing without desire is not always possible. So that's why we talk about process. We talk about process that there is a process of the work never being done and how you can continue to improve something. And in many cases you improve because you get feedback and you get feedback from a very, very honest audience. And there were people who said things to me at ART when we first did Finding Neverland that stuck with me. And for many reasons the actual change we made years later couldn't happen, but now they've happened and there's nothing more fulfilling than having a chance to continue to work on something and make it better.
As she explains the architecture of her creative process, Diane Paulus provides a crash course in leadership and team dynamics. Paulus knows collaboration well: she’s the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, and has directed numerous Broadway productions. Teams work to their full potential when each member has genuine input and space to be creative – the director has to steer the project, but nothing squashes motivation like micro-management. Directing a project – even beyond the theatre world – requires you to remove yourself from what the project ideally will be, and ask tough questions while it’s under construction to keep it on track: like ‘Why should an audience care?’ and ‘Why are we doing this?’. If you’re not satisfied with your answers, your audience (or product user) won’t be either. "In the arts… there can be a lot of blaming the audience for the lack of engagement," Paulus says. "I'm a producer and an artist, I actually have a chance to take a little responsibility for maybe why the audience has left the building." There is a bounty of wisdom to be gleaned from Paulus’ experiences in the theatre: never stop learning and adapting your product, don’t just see what you want to see – find flaws, know that too much hierarchy will make your team stale, and be obsessed – positive mania is infectious in a team. Find more about Diane Paulus at www.dianepaulus.net.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.