Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Apparently William S. Gilbert and Arthur S. Sullivan were completely different personality types. Gilbert was married, a homebody; Sullivan was single, a swinger, liked to party with the glitterati of the day. The two men rarely met face to face (and sometimes were angry with each other and not speaking), but they managed to produce thirteen operettas, most of which are still being performed today, more than 100 years after their first productions.

Both had other collaborators, but neither achieved the enduring success that they found with each other. The two complemented each other perfectly.alison.jpg   (3993 bytes)

I thought about that today, sitting in Alison's living room for our first planning session for the new Lamplighter history.

We have been friends for more than 30 years, yet we are so different in the way we work.

I have realized over the years that it's a very good thing that I never went to work in any sort of a corporation. I am not a team player. I hate the whole "corporation" mentality, watching every word you say, the groupthink, the endless discussions to reach a decision. It's why I worked well in the medical office when it was a stand-alone office, but couldn't deal with it when we merged with the big medical corporation.

I am also not a good "board" person. I have been a member of several boards from s couple of nursery schools to the School Arts Foundation to the SPCA to my latest term of office on the Davis Community Network board and several in between. The endless discussions make my eyes glaze over. Give me a project to do and I'll happily do it, but don't make me discuss it for weeks before decisions are made.

Alison is a great board person. She has been on a number of boards since I've known her, including the Hayward Library, and she was a trustee for the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. She thinks in terms of bullet lists, she thinks in terms of board decisions and board processes.

It's why our first two books went so well.

If I were to write a theater history on my own, I'd start interviewing people, transcribe the interviews, write the book and then take it to whoever was in charge and let them deal with it.

Alison starts from the board perspective. What does the board expect of us? Should we make regular updates? With whom do we need to check to get which permissions? Whom do we contact about specific persons to interview? Who is going to investigate printing options? What sort of budget are we considering? etc., etc., etc.

We met at her house today. It's a 2 hour drive from here and I don't think I'd made the drive since the mid 1980s. I remembered which off-ramp I was supposed to take, but nothing looked familiar as I got into town. It's just possible that there have been some changes to streets and buildings in the past twenty years! I was glad I had a GPS to get me where I was going. I didn't really recognize where I was until I was about 2 blocks from her house, which sits above California State University at Hayward (where her husband taught for many years).

It's kind of up in the hills and looked more remote 20 years ago than it did now, but I had no problem recognizing it when I got there. She had pulled out the box she kept from our last two collaborations and it was amazing to see how organized it is. I don't know that I have anything left from those projects, and if I do, it would take me years to find it.

We settled in on the couch and began to discuss what our plan of attack should be. She sat surrounded with sheets of paper filled with bullet-pointed lists and arrows pointing to important subjects to remember to discuss. My lap was empty. I take lousy notes and then can't read them anyway, so what's the point?

She worried about process. Should I just call this guy I know who happens to be the current president of the board or should we make a formal presentation to the board? I'm for the phone call, or the e-mail. She thinks in terms of what is the proper thing to do. She crosses Is, dots Ts and think in terms of what is legally appropriate. She keeps us honest and legal and on schedule. All the things I can't do.

We finished our discussion in a couple of hours and then broke for lunch, after which I drove home again, knowing that we have now taken the first steps, we know where we are headed, we know how we want to get there, and who needs to do what before we can get started.

Sounds like a plan.

(Thanks to those who asked about Polly; whatever was going on with her was over sometime in the middle of the night and I was relieved to wake up and find her cuddled up against me like every other night.)

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