Thursday, March 25, 2010

Defining the Problem

I just stumbled across this article about problem solving by problem definition. The main idea here is that it is very important, when approaching a problem, to make sure you are asking the right questions. Something I am continually saying as a props master and a TD is "tell me what you want it to do, let me figure out how." I think that this says it even better, "Define what the problem is before rushing to find a solution."

I find that often I will get a note in a rehearsal report that tells me of a solution that is needed rather than the problem that needs to be addressed.
For example, I might get a note that says "Can we add casters to the kitchen table?" If I add casters to the kitchen table as asked, I might get a note the next day that says "We need brakes on the kitchen table casters, it moves too much when she leans on it". If I then switch out the casters to ones with breaks, or add another type of break, we might later get a note saying "The casters on the kitchen table are too obvious, can we add a long table cloth to cover them up?", then the table cloth might clash with a costume, or get caught in the wheels while the piece is being moved and on and on.

If at the first note though, I had taken the time to ask for more detail I might have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Me: Why do we need casters on the kitchen table?
SM: We don't have enough people to do that scene shift, so it needs to be moved by one person.

Once I have the problem defined better I can open up the possibilities for many solutions. Maybe the table would be able to be moved on small discrete glides instead of large casters. Maybe I could add handles in a couple places so that one actor could grip and lift the table more easily. Maybe I could find a different table in stock that could be more easily moved by one actor? Maybe I could talk to the rest of the crew to see if there will be someone else backstage at the moment who could assist with the scene shift? Maybe in the end casters are the best option? You never know until you ask.

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