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It’s Time for More “Outside the Box Surrounding the Box” Thinking

Michael R. Gagliardo

Michael R. Gagliardo

We spend a lot of time in the arts talking about “thinking outside the box.” It’s what we do, and it’s our catchphrase, more so than in any other profession.

When businessmen and politicians talk about this type of thinking, we tend to scoff at them – after all, we are the real creative thinkers, right?

But sometimes we create a box within a box in our own thinking. And while we gladly and proudly venture outside of our inner box, finding new ways to present our own artistic work, we sometimes get trapped inside that outer box. It’s time to do more “outside the box surrounding the box” thinking.

What does that mean? Well, look at it this way – while we tend to be innovative within our own discipline, sometimes we hesitate to venture beyond our comfort zone.

I’m talking about collaboration – specifically, collaboration with other art forms. It’s a little frightening to consider at first. I remember a very tense lunch over the summer with a director who wanted to be in control of every element of a production that I was involved in – so much so that there was a flow chart produced at the table that showed the director as the “CEO” of the show. The give and take of control over a production, be it musical theater, ballet, opera, or a collaborative exhibition, is a frightening concept.

When we’ve worked so hard on our end of the deal, it’s difficult to let go even a little and relinquish just a small amount of artistic control to another. But this is the beauty of collaboration. As artists, we know that there is no black and white – just fields of grey.

I own at least a half-dozen different recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Each one is unique, left to the interpretation of the conductor. No one recording is right or wrong.

Artistic collaborations allow for a whole new kind of freedom – the freedom to explore other interpretations, and to work with like-minded artists who can expand our own artistic vision.

There is no right or wrong – just a balance of creative thought that, when harnessed, can create powerful, beautiful works of art that enthrall audiences and inspire performers. Artistic collaboration is a rush and a release at the same time. To experience this sensation is like almost nothing else. We should all try it more often!

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