From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – A colleague of mine a few years back was describing the importance of client input, and he relayed how his wife was part of the Canadian Opera Company. So first, that is not something you hear every day and must be one of the top five coolest jobs in the world.
So my colleague talked about how, when the theatre was being renovated, the planners took the time to talk to the chorus and regular singers. As a result of this consultation, the doorways between the dressing rooms and the stage are all 8 feet wide. Imagine a door as wide as that, I am sure no engineer or planner has ever imagined such a thing!
The actual performers and users of the doors understand well, though. An opera often includes elaborate costumes, especially for the women, including gigantic, hooped skirts. After years of twisting and bunching and snagging on their way to the stage, the performers knew what they wanted… 8-foot-wide doorways!
I love this story because it reinforces two things. Firstly and most importantly, is the idea that lived expertise, person-centred planning and a deep understanding of what is needed does not come from the professional planner or designer – it comes from the person at the heart of the venture. The person who knows what they like, what they need, what they want to try is the one at the heart of a plan for them.
A student knows best where they want to head after high school and to what they want to dedicate their lives. Members of a neighborhood know best what a new recreation feature should look like. And only a full-time member of the opera chorus knows that a wider door makes all the transitions smoother.
Secondly, this story highlights to me that someone actually does make a living dressing up and singing in the opera chorus full time, reminding us all that we can dream a lot bigger than we usually do. We may have a certain job now, but there can be dreams that we can still work on, interests that we can still explore, doors that we can still walk through – especially if they’re 8 feet wide.
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