Kings and Queens and Committees

Every little kid wants to be a prince or a princess. To be royal is to be special. To rule, to have power over everyone in your realm, to be loved and feared and probably get to ride a sweet pony. What’s not to like?

I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series, like everyone else in the world right now. Years ago, when I first started reading fantasy (so approximately when I started to read), it was the love stories I was in it for. Sure, adventure and sword fights were cool, but it was the balls and magic and destined romance that I was holding out for. These days, I’m interested in other parts of the story. Family relationships. True friendship. And even, somehow…politics?

There are a lot of committees in the George R.R. Martin books, even if they go by other names (councils, advisory meetings, I don’t know what all). And I would have assumed that I would find those parts of the book boring. Sure, they’re not my favorite parts–they don’t top little Arya’s sword-fighting or Tyrion’s plotting–but I’m more interested in them than I ever expected to be. And it makes me realize something about royalty: a) that there’s a lot more boring stuff to deal with than little kids realize, and b) that even the boring stuff can be interesting when it comes to the details that make something you love function.

This goes hand-in-hand with the realization that I sort of like business, at least the business of running a theatre company or production. I always looked at it as the dull background work, but somehow the fact that the administrative effort makes a show possible redeems it for me. The work you do for a theatre company has a clear purpose, a clear end-goal, and it happens to be the thing I love most in the world. So I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

I was thinking most about this last week when I sat on a board meeting for a company to whose board I was recently elected (not Underscore). It was my first meeting, and I was catching up on all of the efforts they were making, and listening to people trying to negotiate around each others’ tics and personalities, and I realized that this was just like a scene from A Game of Thrones or A Storm of Swords. There are tasks to get through, very real people to debate issues, and decisions that need to be made if your little kingdom (read: your company) is to function–to have even a chance of prospering. Individual pride comes into the equation, so you have to be savvy to the sore spots of your members and know how to communicate effectively so that no one feels that their ideas are being slighted, while choosing the best path for your company based on your knowledge of what you do and what you want to do. It’s strangely like planning a battle or organizing a kingdom.

Maybe my co-board members would find it strange, but when I’m in board and staff meetings, I’m going to be emulating the (admittedly fictional) advisors and royals I admire as much as possible. If I can give advice like Ned Stark but be as clever as Tyrion Lannister, as compassionate yet strong as Danerys Targaeryon, I think I’ll do at least a halfway decent job at collaborating on a theatre company board. Sure, it shows I’m a huge dork, but hey, whatever gets us through the business and to the fun stuff, right?

And if that “whatever” turns out to be a skin full of spiced wine a la every scene in A Song of Ice and Fire…well, so be it.

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