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Back to Our Roots: The Ariel Group, Acting & Authenticity

2 min read

Richard Richards on acting, authenticity and reconnecting with the Ariel Group mission.

When I joined The Ariel Group, I inherited much of what we deliver today in the classroom – and I was lucky to inherit such great designs and thoughtful workmanship. Since then I’ve been caught up with all the important organizational pressures and suddenly realized that it’s been a few years since I personally have been really thoughtful about what we do.

I have therefore made an effort to reconnect with our roots to make sure that we follow our internal compass as we navigate the vagaries of business and the demands of the learning world. Specifically, the leadership skills that we teach at the Ariel Group are infused with the concept of authenticity and I’ve been thinking about this concept in all parts of our work including its roots and influences, the sources for its inspiration and its unique quality.

T. S. Eliot somewhat ironically captures my own feelings for “Ariel authenticity”:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

In our sales calls and client presentations, we are often asked to explain the seeming paradox between “acting” and authenticity. Kate Nugent in her most recent blog, “Leadership Lessons from Great Actors” has provided a contemporary and eloquent explanation for this. I thought I would add another modern perspective to this idea of authenticity.

I believe (and I have been told) that the experimental theater work of Jerzy Grotowski, a Polish theater director who died in 1999, has directly or indirectly influenced the foundation of our work at The Ariel Group.

In his book, Towards a Poor Theatre, Grotowski says:

“Civilization involves a donning of masks, people hiding motives and feelings. Theatre seeks to discard these masks and reveal the “real substance.”

Grotowski also believed that an actor should learn to use all parts of her body in order to project her voice to the audience better. Consistent with this approach, at The Ariel Group we seek to uncover and unlock in each individual their natural resonance – their authentic cadence or essence – that is often locked down by university or graduate school, by community or religious beliefs, by organizational or cultural norms:

“Theatre – through the actor’s technique, his art in which the living organism strives for higher motives – provides an opportunity for what could be called integration, the discarding of masks, the revealing of the real substance: a totality of physical and mental reactions.”

Which brings us to our vision:

The Ariel Group envisions a world where people authentically engage with others and unlock their most generous selves.

And so after a few days of research, I feel like I’ve arrived where I started, “and know the place for the first time.”


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