The best and biggest biggest example of a knowledge creating exercise around a very serious prototype would do Michael Schrage proud.
Michael wrote in Serious Play "The value of prototypes resides less in the models themselves than in the interactions - the conversations, arguments, consultations, collaborations -- they invite. Prototypes force individuals and institutions to confront the tyranny of trade-offs. That confrontation, in turn, forces people to play seriously with the difficult choices they must ultimately make. The fundamental question isn't, What kinds of models, prototypes and simulations should we be building? but, What kind of interactions do we want to create? The latter question aims at the heart of strategic introspection. Consequently, the design focus - the value emphasis - must be on the quantity and quality of human interactions that modelling media can support. Who should be working together? What should they be talking about? Who should see the model next?"
The Courtyard Theatre was opened in Summer 2006, at a cost of £12.5m and is a functional prototype of the new thrust stage design to be built in the shell of Royal Shakespeare Theatre which has recently been gutted in autumn 2007(pictures). This has given the possibility of a year of feedback on the temporary Courtyard facility to inform the permanent RST facility, which is budgeted at £112.8m. So the prototype is about 10% of the cost of the one that will be with us for a generation or so..... it puts the economics of prototyping into perspective.
Last weekend, we went to see two plays at the Courtyard: Richard III and Richard II, two of the 8 history plays that Shakespeare wrote. To create a cycle of plays the RSC have invested in the ensemble principle: the RSC explain:
What is an ensemble?
An ensemble is a group of actors, directors, designers and other theatre artists who work together over an extended period of time. A normal acting company might rehearse for four weeks before performing a single play for the same amount of time, but in the case of the Histories Ensemble, 34 actors will work together over two years on eight productions, between them playing 264 roles, and eventually performing all eight plays in repertoire.
What are the benefits of ensemble to actors?
The benefit of an ensemble is that it allows actors and directors to gain a far deeper understanding of each other, and of the plays on which they are working. A sustained rehearsal period allows for additional training, helping them to develop their craft and grow as actors. It makes it possible for them to explore and experiment as a company, with time to play in an atmosphere of increasing trust.
What are the benefits of the ensemble to the audience?
Productions never stop evolving as actors continually gain fresh insights that they feed into the work the audience sees on stage each night. Audiences are able to join the actors on this journey over the course of several seasons, as both discover new characters, plays and perspectives.
When Geoffrey Streatfeild begins rehearsing to play Henry V, he will do so already having rehearsed and performed Henry IV Parts I & II, in which he plays King Henry as a young man. Once he has started performing Henry V that experience may in turn lead him to re-visit his performance in Henry IV, trying new ideas or interpretations of the text, all the time comfortable that the actors around him, with whom he has worked continually over the previous eighteen months, will support and respond to his work.
The people that make up the History Ensemble are profiled here.
I first saw Richard III in 2000 but it was not as memorable performance as the one last Friday. In the programme for Richard III Tom Piper says
"In 2000 we remained in my version of medieval for Richard III, and felt in retrospect that we could have been bolder in creating the world of this final play."
It certainly was a different, more engaging, experience this time!
We are working with the Royal Shakespeare Company
as it embarks on a major programme of change in the way it is led and
managed, to mirror the physical transformation of its home in
From 2007 to 2010 the RSC will embrace and extend the principles of the ensemble, currently being applied to the acting company, to the whole organization, both in its internal management and external relations. Currently, business school models of leadership and organizational development are mostly focused in the commercial world. The RSC hopes to provide a new model, based on the collaborative and distributed leadership practice of the ensemble, to drive the vision of the Company forward, harnessing the management of creativity.
This method of leadership will become even more important for both the public and business sectors as they struggle to embed decision-making and action across entire systems, and are challenged by emerging markets across the globe. The transfer of knowledge between the business and cultural sectors has never been more vital. We are following this journey, observing and reporting back through a publication on the organizational development thereby providing a leadership legacy for the future.
So we are seeing the emergence of innovative approaches to unleashing creativity in the whole of an organisation's people which will make interesting reading as we watch the cycles of experimentation and change unfold for as Jacques said in As You Like It:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players...
meaning: Life is like a play - we merely go through the stages of our life acting it (the script) out......
in a collaborative and distributed prototypical sort of way?