Here’s a world record that grabbed my attention. On September 1, 2011, George Lee Andrews left the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera after continuously appearing in a principal role since it first opened on January 26, 1988. 23 years. That makes Andrews the longest-running performer in a single show in Broadway history.
Whew. I hear that thumping Andrew Lloyd Webber score now, anesthetizing my brain. 8 shows a week, 23 years. I think I would have gone stark raving mad!
Here’s what everyone asked Mr. Andrews after his departure: “HOW THE HECK DID YOU MANAGE TO KEEP IT FRESH?”
That’s a great question for all of us, isn’t it? One routine task after the next, an unceasing flow of emails, meeting overkill, never enough time – yes, how do we keep it fresh?
Performers know. Here are Mr. Andrews’ illuminating responses:
1. Create rituals: Mr. Andrews created rituals that he performed before each show. He recited poetry to himself. Touched a certain set piece with a cane. Rituals help us to get centered in the present moment.
2. Set a weekly challenge: One week Andrews might focus on his breathing, another on the comedy of the performance. Simple challenges heighten our engagement with a routine task.
3. Focus on the variable, not the routine:
Yes, the song really is always the same darn song – but new performers rotated into the other roles of the show. Mr. Andrews’ audience was new, night after night. Focus less on the task that you know well – draw energy from the variables that you cannot control.
So – why not pretend you’re George Lee Andrews for a week? No need to belt “Music of the Night” unless you absolutely must. But please consider: What can I do this week, moment by moment, to keep it fresh for myself?