In this talk, Jessica Burlingame continued an inquiry begun during her workshop at the Tavistock Institute’s 70th anniversary Festival, “Acting in the Here and Then: The Theatre of Working Together, 2017-2087
Organisational life can, at its best, feel like a gathering – a collaborative, even celebratory, joining together of colleagues who share aims. At other times, it can feel like a contest – a zero-sum, winner-take-all scenario, in which colleagues become adversaries. The ancient Greek concept of agon may be translated as both “contest” and “gathering” – offering a rich point of departure to explore collaboration and competition in contemporary workplaces.
The ancient Greeks engaged agon consistently in their theatre – between individual actors, and between individuals and the group (or chorus), in both comedy and tragedy. Our exploration of agon in contemporary workplaces will, likewise, include a playful theatre-based experiential component, drawing on techniques used by many actors to bring alive key elements of their craft. Participants may note meaningful parallels between some of these techniques and Group Relations practice – including attunement to status, role, and boundaries; focus on the here-and-now; and the use of self as one’s primary instrument.
Similarly to the festival workshop, neither performance during the workshop, nor prior theatre experience, is required or expected! We will conclude with a discussion of potential implications and applications of agon and theatre-based practices in the gatherings and contests of our working lives.
Recording of the talk
Jessica Burlingame is Founder and Principal of Agon Advisors, through which she offers training and consultation to leading and emerging organizations, integrating practices from theatre and Group Relations. She also provides individual and group coaching as Master Consultant for The MBA Exchange, and has held staff and consulting roles with organizations including The Condé Nast Publications, Citigroup, and The Bridgespan Group (an affiliate of Bain & Company). She holds a BA in Literature and an MBA from Columbia University and completed additional undergraduate work at the University of Bologna. Selected theatre roles include The Winter’s Tale (Camillo), Twelfth Night (Feste), The Master and Margarita (Stravinsky), and King Lear (France).