I’ve spent the last week or so working on HATS for our community theatre’s production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” It’s a big deal because we are a small community theatre and this play has about two dozen actors — not to mention all the support people you need to pull this kind of thing off: costume designers, producers, front of house people, ticket sellers, lighting and sound designers and technicians, and many more. I play a minor role on stage, but have also ended up having a fair bit to do with costumes, photography, publicity, catering, troubleshooting and HATS! It’s been interesting to watch people and how they work together (or not) and cooperate (or not) to get things done.
Some folks are very preoccupied with getting their piece of the thing done just so, and manage to draft the resources of those around them to make sure they have what they need to do a good job. Others are willing to do whatever they can to help their colleagues so that everything works well. Yet still others really don’t seem to care much one way or the other. You wonder why they bother to get involved, if not to contribute, but they do seem to have a good time.
This has caused me to reflect on the nature of competence. What causes some people to be so effective and others not? Sometimes people just don’t know how to do something. Some folks in that situation go find out and do a decent job of it after all, while others don’t bother and simply fail to perform. Then there are people who, blissfully ignorant, dive right in anyway, seemingly without concern, and make a mess, often still unaware even then. Yes, some people can’t seem to tell good work from bad.
There are people who just don’t want to do anything. Usually when pushed they do it, often badly. And sometimes they make sure you know how much they resent anything being asked of them. They need to get busy or get out of our way!
Then there are people who do things, but don’t consider doing it well to be especially critical; “just OK” is good enough for them. But the people who leave me the most perplexed are those who are hugely talented and then use this talent as a cover for lack of effort or even laziness. Why would they be satisfied with “meh” when “awesome” is easily with in their grasp? I just don’t get it.
On the other hand are people who stop at nothing to get it right. They push and prod and beg and plead, and eventually end up doing it themselves when no one else does it right. These are the folks I love! These are the folks I want to work with. More than the hugely talented or the fun-lovers; these are my tribe. I know that perfectionism is universally considered a character flaw but I think artists are exempt. In an artist, perfectionism is a good quality to have. Maybe it’s an essential quality.