News Splash Interview: Paul Stroili

Friday, 20 February 2009 12:45 by kpotvin

  

Our first interview is with long-time friend and writer/performer Paul Stroili.  Paul wrote and performed a one-person show called, “Straight-Up with a Twist,” that was dubbed “Hilarious” by the New York Post, and “Very, very, very funny” by NPR.  From an initial eight show engagement, Paul took the piece on the road for nearly 10 years, culminating with an extended Off-Broadway run.  Interestingly, when Paul discusses his writing process, he uses the same buzz words that we hear in business:  “immoveable deadlines,” “discipline,” “work ethic.”  Here’s what he says:

News Splash (NS):  You have a disciplined approach to writing.  Tell us about it.

Paul:  As a writer, you have to go to work every day. My rule is to write at least 30 minutes every day.  That may be the only 30 minutes of the day.  But sometimes this mushrooms into a productive 3 to 4 hours of writing.  The idea is that it’s easier to get on a moving train than begin writing from a grinding halt.  George Carlin was in the office at 9am and didn’t leave until 6pm every day.  In this business, you need a blue collar work ethic and it’s important to approach writing as a job.  It’s not enough to be creative.

NS:  You are working on a new project, a rock musical based on the 10 years you spent performing in your one-person show.  I love that you made calculated creative decisions – just like a true marketer.

Paul:  You mean because I changed the main character to a woman?  That decision was probably more a creative one than marketing!  Women often have a shorter career in the theater (due to the inherent sexism), so it adds a little dramatic urgency.  I guess the marketing aspect would be that women are primarily the ones who buy theatre tickets, so it does give them someone to identify with.

NS:  How important is feedback in the process?

Paul:  So much depends on the audience.  The biggest laughs in the show were unexpected.  I didn’t know the audience would connect like they did.  Some of the lines I wrote that I thought would be huge laughs fell flat, and throw away lines turned into the biggest laughs of the night.  You never know until there’s an audience.

NS:  Talk to me about risk taking.

Paul:  Risk taking is…in a word, everything.  The whole reason I wrote “Straight-Up” was because I started to suffer from incapacitating stage fright -- heart palpitations, sweating… the whole bit.  So I thought:  OK…time to take a risk and stare down this dragon.  What’s the scariest thing to do on stage?  Autobiographical solo show, maybe?  I would rather risk and fail grandly than stay safe by not challenging myself.  I know it sounds trite but it’s so.  One of my college professors used to say; “Let’s hear it for failure” – You learn much more from failures than successes.

NS:  Any final thoughts?­­­­

Paul:  I hate the act of writing – sitting at the computer – but once I have a first draft on paper, it’s about sculpting…and it’s all worth it. They once asked Kurasowa why he made movies.  His response: “So I have something to edit.”  I love that mindset.

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New Interview Series

Friday, 20 February 2009 12:30 by kpotvin

You may be surprised to learn that many artists approach creativity with the same discipline and focus you do.   No matter what the medium, art is a business.  This is an important distinction because often the responsibility for developing new products, processes or services is thrust upon a few “creative types” when, in fact, more stunning results come from making this part of everyone’s job description.

News Splash is starting a new series of interviews with people who make their living through the creative process.  We hope their stories will inspire you to step outside your comfort zone no matter where you register on the creative scale and channel a new spirit of innovation into your daily life.  Send suggestions on who you would like us to profile!

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Find a Blue Room

Friday, 6 February 2009 12:02 by kpotvin

Who knew color could color your work?  A story in today's New York Times by Pam Belluck talks about a new study indicating the color red can bring accuracy to your work while the color blue helps with creativity.  One of the professors conducting the study, Juliet Zhu, explains, "If you're talking about wanting enhanced memory for something like proofreading skills, than a red color should be used."  But she advises to get into a blue room if you are in "a brainstorming session for a new product or coming up with a new solution to fight child obesity or teenage smoking." 

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Stonyfield Institute and beyond

Friday, 6 February 2009 05:06 by kpotvin

I just received a notice about the next Stonyfield Farm Entrepreneurship Institute in April.  I attended last year and it was an ideal time to reflect on my business goals for the year and beyond for Splash.  In fact, I was sitting in a session when I decided to start this blog!  The best part was hearing inspiring stories from speakers such as Gary Hirshberg (have you read his book?) who conceived the program in 1998.  I also met entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things such as Sarah E. Endline at sweetriot, Maya Kaimal (just cooked with her amazing Tikka Masala sauce last night!) and The Mom Entrepreneur Traci Bisson.  You may not have the time or inclination to spend a full day on reflection, but taking even a few hours will help zoom you out to the 30,000-foot view that you need as you start the New Year.  Have you been to conferences or heard speakers who refreshed your thinking?

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