Sleep Deprivation is a Bad Management Strategy

It was shortly after midnight. The cast was seated or sprawled in the aisles in the house. I was onstage, clipboard in hand, with the Director, Choreographer, Band Leader, and Tech Director. We had just completed Tech Rehearsal. We opened in four days. We were about to do “Notes”, where the Director and others would walk through all of the things that needed fixing or adjusting. As Production Stage Manager, I was poised to capture all of those to dos on my clipboard. 

Milt Lyons, the Director, had been working with the Triangle Club since 1955, two years after I was born. Scarcely his first rodeo. 

We had worked together before, but I was unprepared for his very first note.

He deputized two of the cast to escort me to my dorm and put me to bed. I turned my clipboard over to my assistant and left with Milt’s deputies. Fifteen hours of sleep later I was back on stage. A bit of quick arithmetic indicated that I had been working on three hours of sleep a night for the preceding week. Nor had any of my professors in any of my classes seen me that week. 

This intervention didn’t lead to any sudden epiphany; I continued to make poor choices about how I managed my time and energy. But it did plant an important seed. A seed that did take root and eventually led to more respect for balance in creative work. We talk about knowledge work in abstract, cerebral, terms. Bodies are simply transport systems for moving brains from place to place. 

When circumstances tempt me to pretend that my brain operates in splendid isolation. I remember that moment. There’s Milt announcing that the health of an entire production needed one foolish young stage manager to go get some sleep.

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