Checkout Checkov

Image result for anton chekhov

Search for Checkov on the interenet and you get lots of hits for Pavel Checkov, the navigator of the Star Trek Enterprise! This is Anton Checkov the 19th century Russian playwright and short story writer, born January 29th 1860.  Along with Ibsen and Strindberg he is one of the three seminal writers of modernism in theatre.

Below is a quote from a letter to his brother on how to be a civilized person, advice that is relevant today.


“Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

1) They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable … They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don’t make a scandal when they leave. (…)

2) They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (…)

3) They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.

4) They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. (…)

5) They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don’t play on other people’s heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted … that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it’s vulgar, old hat and false. (…)

6) They are not vain. They don’t waste time with the fake jewellery of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar … They regard prases like ‘I am a representative of the Press!!’ — the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] — as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing’s work they don’t pass it off as if it were 100 roubles’ by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don’t boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren’t allowed in (…) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight … As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (…)

7) If they do possess talent, they value it … They take pride in it … they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (…)

8) They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility … Civilized people don’t simply obey their baser instincts … they require mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That’s what civilized people are like … Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.

[From a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886]”
― Anton Chekhov, A Life in Letters

Happy Birthday Richard Grant Esterhuysen


I’m an actor playing an actor but it’s not inception?

The most famous Swazi actor in the world was born on this day in 1957.  Richard reduced his very Afrikaans last name to a single letter and became Richard E. Grant on his Equity card.

Nobody has ever been luckier in landing their first film role.  Grant was perfect to play the lead in the cult classic Withnail and I in 1987.  He played a tour de force opposite Ian McKellen in Jack and Sarah (1995).

These days he is better known to the world from parts in Dr Who, Downton Abbey and a deliciously hammy part in Season 6 of Game of Thrones in which he plays Izembaro, the impresario, writer and lead actor in the Gate troop of players in the City of Bravos.

Oh we’re all thinkers now, are we? Full to the tits with ideas. You have ideas, I have ideas, he has ideas. Why should my ideas have anymore value than yours, simply because I have been doing this my whole life? Who’s anyone to judge my work? This is my profession, I know what I’m doing! You have no right to an opinion.

Transition Space

Chez Hans

Transitional spaces can significantly enhance or detract from an experience. Do you recognise your transitional spaces? How do you design your transition to introduce and enhance the drama of your experience?
I was out for dinner at a local restaurant last Saturday and it got me thinking about transitional spaces. Chez Hans in Cashel is more than just a restaurant, it is an experience. The main dining room is in a restored ecclesiastical building, the old Church of Ireland Synod hall. There are no eye level windows, so passing walkers cannot have a look into the restaurant. To get in to the dining area you must commit yourself fully to the experience.
Entry is by way of a square bar room. There is no off putting hostess desk acting as a barrier to entry which is the key feature of high profile American restaurants. The reception in Chez Hans is in the back of the room. You must cross the transition space and fully enter to engage with the staff.
The room itself reeks of age, heritage and class. It is dark in the transition space. Ideal for taking people from hectic, busy lives and slowing them down before they enter the dining room. In the bar area you order a drink and they bring you the menu and the wine list. You can take your time ordering, have a chat and generally relax for a moment.
The staff can set up the table in the dining room for you before you ever enter. You will never know if your arrival caused any fuss. When you arrive at your table it will all be perfect.
The dining room itself is an airy high ceilinged room. It seems bright after the darkness of the bar, but this is an illusion. The dining room light is also muted, adding to the slowing of time and allowing you to savour your meal in pure relaxation.

Disney understand the power of the transition space to enhance excitement. Before you can step onto a roller coaster you must pass through a long entry transition, and generally in a queue. The area you walk through is carefully designed to give you clues about the ride, and to tee you up so that you get the best from your experience.

Waiting rooms are also transition spaces. They are designed to establish the power relationship between the professional and the customer/patient/client. Professional’s waiting rooms commonly display power symbols, diplomas, certificates, professional memberships, photos with high profile personalities.

Medical professionals may have several transitional spaces. A dentist administering anesthetic does not want to return the patient to the entry waiting room, where they might frighten away potential customers. There is generally a second waiting room for those “in treatment”.

A hotel lobby can be set up as a grand space, exhibiting comfort, class and high prices. A budget hotel will have a simple functional transitional space, a place to move through quickly to your room and not designed for guests to display their presence. Some very cheap hotels have a cage or grill, a warning to guests not to leave valuables lying around.

Cinemas & Theaters design the transitional spaces to raise anticipation. The cinema moves you through an area of total darkness into the sanctum of the screen. The transition is almost religious in nature, a rebirth from the norm to the world of magic. Theaters use high design, expensive curtains and sculpture, acres of plasterwork and brass to let you know you are in for a treat.

Think about your offices. When a customer calls, or an applicant attends for interview, what do they learn about your company from the transitional space? Is this the message you want to convey? How do you want clients to feel when they arrive? Do you want to overwhelm them with your brilliance?  Do you want them to feel comfortable and welcome, as though they have come home?  Do you  want to set them up with anticipation for a piece of magic?

What props do you have at your disposal?  Architectural offices frequently exhibit models of previous projects, or concept work.  In colonial times it was common for governors to display weapons on walls as symbols of raw power.  Leo Burnett’s ad agency always has a bowl of apples.  Irish International in Dublin have a bin filled with awards (we win so many we throw them away).  Is your transition space celebrating the past or the future?

Who represents your company at your reception desk?  How do they dress, speak, look etc?  Did you spend more on decorating your reception or your CEO’s office?