Steak, Potatoes or Parsley - Which One are You?
Our Culture Chat podcasts have sparked so much conversation that we're inviting our podcast interviewees to post a few thoughts following their podcast interview. Here's the first such post, a follow up to our conversation with Erin Diehl at Improve It.
Hello world! Allie Keller here – Director of Operations at improve it! I just listened to my esteemed colleague, Erin Diehl, on “The Culture Chat” podcast and wanted to add a few thoughts on improv and the workplace. Because, whose brain isn’t going a thousand miles an hour after that great convo!
One thing that really stuck out to me from the podcast was the idea that every person in a company has the power to be a part of that company’s culture. In the world of improvisation, we’re huge believers in every member of an ensemble having a critical and valued role. (Similar to the saying “There are no small roles, only small actors” – thanks, Billy Shakes!)
There’s a specific long form improvisational activity that I think really demonstrates this idea well – we call it “Steak, Potatoes, and Parsley”. In this activity, three players start a scene. One of the players is the “Steak” of the scene and carries most of the responsibility of the content of the scene. The second player in the scene is the “Potatoes” of the scene, and has the responsibility of supporting what the “Steak” says and responding as needed. The third and final player in the scene is the “Parsley”. This player’s role is to stay mostly in the background. He or she can only speak one word at a time intermittently in the scene.
Almost every time we begin this activity, the reaction is the same: the “Steak” is excited to be able to be featured in the scene and the “Potatoes” and “Parsley” feel like they got the short-end of the stick. Who wouldn’t want to be the lead role in the play they’re writing for themselves!?! Sure enough, as the scene is developing and each of the players are discovering their roles, there’s a change. The “Parsley” player, who has been staying out of the limelight for most of the scene, says a line – the audience reacts with laughter. The scene continues with the “Parsley” player staying quiet and in the background until… “Parsley” throws out a second one-liner. The audience ERUPTS! By the end of the exercise, every player is wishing they were the “Parsley” of the scene, who is now getting the majority of the laughs and is setting the pace of the scene with ease.
In most companies, one could argue there are “Steak” players, “Potato” players, and “Parsley” players. While the “Steak” & “Potatoes” may appear to have bigger roles in the company, there’s no doubt that the “Parsley” players can make just as much of an impact on the scene as their counterparts. Never doubt your power, “Parsley”s!!!