Digging into the Hidden Landscape of Words Sam Shepard made me pay attention not just to the power of language, but to my entire life. I discovered Sam Shepard when I was in junior high-- an age when I was not really into “serious writing.” This might have even been pre-Hemingway.
“We were somewhere on the edge of Barstow…” I’m consulting on a 3 week trial and I can feel the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” everywhere here in Sin City. But, thank God, now that I’m in my forties, I can do The Hunter Thing without trying to live up to scenes from the movie “The Hangover,” while still enjoying a healthy sense of adventure.
I remember going to see U2 perform in Philadelphia for the first time almost 20 years ago. It was back in the day when I was waiting tables at Morton’s of Chicago. I still remember that concert as if it were yesterday - Bono, backed up by The Edge, rising up to the stage as they jammed “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
When you’re facing the jury, you’re a storyteller whether you like it or not. The question is, how good is that story? Is it dead or alive? Have you ever told a scary story around a campfire? What’s the thing you gotta have there more than the sound of your voice, fancy word choices, great characters, and the twists and turns of plot? You gotta have conflict.
You’re standing in front of the jury. Are you attempting to communicate to your client’s story to the audience? Are you mentally and emotionally present in the room you’re describing to your audience? Do you believe you’ve connected to the anxiety caused by your client’s sleepless nights? Are you capable of taking your audience into the grief of a father when he says goodbye to his little girl for the last time? Do you know exactly what that hospital room he is sitting in looks like, smells
“Look for the contradictions in every character, especially in your heroes and villains. No one should be what they first seem to be. Surprise the audience.” --Elia Kazan, “Kazan on Directing” Here’s another quote that I love. Walt Whitman, the great poet of “Leaves of Grass” wrote, “Do I contradict myself?
Discover the real story jurors need to hear OBSTACLE: Judging your client’s pain as an impenetrable wall that prevents you from going the distance into discovering their hidden story. OPPORTUNITY: Discovering the real story jurors need to hear. There’s always something going on behind the mask of pain that allows you to tap into a deeper sense of truth where real humor and living levity also thrive.
SETTING: The home of Ms. Frances Quinn, -- aka “Ms Frances,” a dedicated mid-forties after-school enrichment teacher. MS. F’S OBSTACLE: Lifelong depression and chronic pain, both emotional and physical -- aka Playing the Victim. MS. F’S OPPORTUNITY: Finding her self-identity, and ultimate strength -- aka Empowering herself as the Protector and Victor. Frances directs me to sit in a chair next to her.
How do you use the stories of your own experience to bring your client’s stories to life? A powerful question to ask yourself is, “Where is their story in me?” Making the Personal Connection allows you to reach deep within yourself to call upon emotional intelligence that connects you directly to the story, so you can then convey that story to another. In first person, a recent client makes a connection from his past to reach an emotional state that would be very difficult to find if he were searching
“The Personal Connection” is one of the greatest tools actors utilize to effectively embody the role of a “character,” and it’s also an invaluable tool to channel your greatest and most authentic “you” in the courtroom. I’d like to share a story with you about an experience I had while attending the Juilliard School in New York City as an eager young actor. Perhaps it’s one of the best examples I can think of that demonstrateshow to “make the personal connection” and how to utilize this important tool
The articles in Lessons From The Stage: Tell The Winning Story are designed to help you become a much more effective communicator both in and out of the courtroom. As a trial lawyer you face multiple challenges, or “Obstacles” as I prefer to call them, in your cases as well as in your own personal lives. Each of the monthly Lessons From The Stage articles featured provide a framework to begin to appreciate and powerfully use your obstacles to your benefit both inside and outside the courtroom. In this article, we will
“The cure for the pain is the pain.” --Rumi Once we identify what emotional roadblocks are blocking our way—and we listen to what they are telling us and face them—we can then choose to use them to our advantage. In this recent workshop, the main method to help break through the blockade is for each client to create a three to five-minute monologue-- a theatrical tool (picture a shovel, a pick axe, a bulldozer) which serves as a metaphorical digging device to get to the core and extricate the
THE JOURNEY WITHIN: UNCOVERING THE DRIVING FORCE OF A GREAT COMMUNICATOR If you were about to take your last breath and leave this world behind, would you be satisfied that you fully engaged not only with who you are, but with others as well during your lifetime? At the moment you take that last breath, it will be very clear that life is about far more than legal briefs, theories, and courtroom strategies. What do you see when you look in the mirror? If your reflection centers around achieving the
THE WINNING STORY VS THE WHINING STORY THE PERILOUS PITFALLS OF PITY IN ADVOCACY JESSE WILSON, MA LESSONS FROM THE STAGE: COMMUNICATION BREAKTHROUGHS WITH THE POWER OF THEATER Without question, one of the most common greatest dangers for both the actor and trial lawyer is making the assumption that the audience actually cares about the story you’re telling. Please believe me that I’m not purposely trying to be callus by assuring you… they don’t. I repeat: your audience does not care. Ever. Unless you make them care. Bottom line is this: you have to earn your audience’s
This summer, I had the privilege of teaching at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming. It was an amazing experience, one I’ll never forget. Over 60 trial lawyers I got to work closely with were introduced to the monologue, a powerful communications tool designed to help tell the winning story in the courtroom and open up the “storyteller” fully to their greatest storytelling instrument
As a native Los Angelestian, I'm in awe of the snow. I'm still in awe that something so pure and white could fly down from the sky and turn a trashcan into an object of beauty. I'm fascinated by the innocence of snow and also by the destruction that it can cause as well. Not unlike fire. I love candles. I love the ritual of lighting candles. I'm not blind to the destruction of fire. Or water. I love water. I love rivers, baths, waterfalls, puddles, rain-- I
WHAT ARE THE "BESTS OF YOUR WORSTS?" WHAT ARE THE "WORSTS OF YOUR BESTS?" From classic films like "Kramer Vs. Kramer" to "The Godfather," Robert McKee in his brilliant book for the screenwriter, STORY, proceeds to give examples of films where the worst situations turned out to be best possible thing for the protagonist and the best turned out to be the worst. In order to make the change you’re seeking to make in your life (your “stretch”) and to have it show up in every area of your life,
An actor gets ready to take to the stage… the costume is on. The makeup is on. The lines are memorized. The audience is in their seats. The stage lights dim… it’s show time. The lines come out of the actors mouth. But the performance is flat. The voice is strained. The body is frozen. The fire is out before it’s even begun. You might have “great content” up there, but who cares? The disconnect is immediate. No matter how hard the actor tries to ignite the