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“This is the moment”: Leading peerless with Authenticity


The central theme of the play peerless by Jiehae Park, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is achieving success by any means necessary. The play emphasizes that sacrificing one’s humanity and integrity in pursuit of success will lead to suffering and loss. The production process of peerless revealed my default behavior of self-sacrifice. Throughout rehearsals, I denied myself the necessary space to replenish by giving all of my time, energy, and compassion to the process and my collaborators. Sacrificing myself for the production bred feelings of shame, disappointment, and resentment, which caused me to disengage. I began to question this response in order to reconnect to the production and identified a long-held and destructive belief that in order to be an effective leader, I needed to be completely selfless. I ultimately turned further inward to examine how I could navigate my emotional responses and lead with authenticity to bring myself back to the process. Several components of peerless reflected what I had felt and experienced during 2020 and 2021: loss, grief, cruelty, disregard for human life, and valuing the individual over the collective. I aligned my personal values of kindness, compassion, grace, and connection to my approach to stage management by leading conversations about the events in the play and themes of murder, arson, and death with care, empathy, and humor. I named and acknowledged when I was activated by these themes, and reminded myself to welcome the emotions rather than try to deny or suppress them. I modeled how to compassionately embrace my humanity by stepping away due to illness, overwhelm, and grief. These open and vulnerable conversations contributed to a brave space where all collaborators could discuss their honest reactions to the text. The eight weeks that I spent alongside characters who were embodying the worst of humanity revealed that my approach to stage management is centered on being whole and embracing authenticity while acknowledging that sacrificing myself leads to suffering, not success.

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