Belonging and forgetting
October 27, 2016

Looking up and out of an art gallery in Iceland...lines, circles, windows and blue sky

Looking up and out of an art gallery in Iceland…lines, circles, windows and blue sky

A small post of memory

The constructs of life, the smooth times, the straight lines, the times where we block, the times when we open up to what is beyond.

I am spending most of my days reflecting and writing on what it means to create, construct and dreaming on what home means in the 21st century. What does it mean to belong in this fast paced world where we are so connected and yet, when we stop and think, not connected at all? We still don’t have time despite the fact that we have the world at our finger tips.

I’m reading bell hooks and her book Belonging: A Culture of Place, and I love it when she says ” I need to live where I can walk. I need to be able to walk to work, to the store, to a place where I can sit and drink tea and fellowship.”

It is the word ‘fellowship’ that resonates with me this morning. The fellowship of communion, of connection with eyes and ears wide open. We have created a ‘fellowship’ of women in The Women in Theatre Bridge Club, a group of like minded theatre feminists who want to create long term change. We are all aware of the gender bias in the theatre industry and how women have to have a bigger bag of tricks in order to be noticed when they move from youth to maturity. Women in the theatre industry need to work harder, and be bigger, or not. A case in point is Emma Rice at The Globe in London where she has recently been ‘removed’ from her newly won position as artistic director (one more season to go) because she was too big for her own good. She pushed the boundaries of what went before and the Establishment did not like it. No they did not like it one little bit. Are we all trying to push the boundaries, and are we finding that the Establishment is not liking it? The Establishment, the traditional part of both our communities and the traditional part of ourselves, can be very narrow in its thinking.

As a sometimes academic finishing my PhD which has absorbed me for over six years, I know that the conservative part of me can be extremely limiting. For instance, as I write chapter after chapter I ask myself “Is this academic enough?” and I voiced this doubt to my friend and the gist of what she said was “You are writing your research using your own unique voice. You are contributing new knowledge in the best possible way you can. Only you can communicate your ideas in your way because you have done the research. Your voice belongs in the Academy” and suddenly the whole world opens again. And I start to write again, because of the things that need to be said. Things that others have said perhaps…but as I stare at the image at the top of this post, it is clear that the blue sky is limitless…and I will frame my own experience differently. I am the circle and the square. I am both blue sky and the container. And that is what Home is. That is what it means to belong. We fit in, sure, but we do it in such a way that we are bigger for it. We flow (the circle), we walk the lines, we open windows (yes, in this image you can see windows that can open), we stare at the sky…and like my beloved EVE, the first play of my Belonging Trilogy:

She will dance the war and by the light of a hundred candelabras she dances, spinning on golden wings, she leaves the earth. Her soul opens, she breaks apart and she flies right through that paper window and out into the planets (with appreciation to Eduardo Galeano, 2009).

We must all continue spinning on our golden wings, believing in our ability to contribute to our world in the way we know best and to do that we must listen well to what our inner memories are trying to tell us. My character Eve teaches us that on the hills of Australia we can read the “secrets of the great Australian loneliness”: and I am redreaming these secrets. My secrets include turning the loneliness of the Australian hills into a fellowship with others. The people I can call on the phone and say “Hello. How is it going your end?” And we exchange warm thoughts and hopes and dreams. We grow each other’s stories into stories of belonging and connection. We encourage each other to stand in our own power. To understand our values and know that our decisions are right for this moment, at this time. So this morning I will return to bell hooks, thanks to the fellowship of my friend. I will read bell’s words of wisdom and I will enact my rituals of remembering: I will listen to my inner wisdom.

Together, lets embrace our present moments, seeing them as just that, moments that point to the blue sky above, beyond the straight lines of memory, and out into the stars:

We are born and have our being in a place of memory. We chart our lives by everything we remember from the mundane moment to the majestic. We know ourselves through the art and act of remembering. Memories offer us a world where there is no death, where we are sustained by rituals of regard and recollection (bell hooks, in Belonging: A Culture of Place).

At The Big Day of Belonging, telling stories in order to find the myth within...the myth of inner wisdom

At The Big Day of Belonging, telling stories in order to find the myth within…the myth of inner wisdom

Yesterday was a marvellously alive day. I spent it telling stories…rather I spent it listening to other people’s stories. I had many guests…they sat in the large red storytelling chair…and we began our chat with what we call in therapeutic circles ‘problem free chat”…”how are you enjoying the activities today?” “Aren’t we lucky the rain held out?”…simple warm things…

I had brought support materials as stimuli, just in case the stories did not come easily. It turned out I had very willing storytellers…from every generation: young girls (from 3 to 10), teenagers, young women, middle aged women and then elders. The stories were all different, yet there was something that sat across all of them. They were all stories of the heroine: women from every generation, interested in sharing. A journey across time and place. The stories were about being in relationship within community, whether the community was a community of imaginary animals or the actual community where the individual resided. My job was to invite the participants to move their story into personal mythology, moving from the ordinary world into the extraordinary and ending up in a world of belonging.

I re-learned a lot yesterday: the joy of deep listening, the excitement of growing stories together and the many things we have in common. And I also was reassured of the importance of this and how without growing our stories together we may just miss the opportunity to grow our sense of belonging, both within our community and even more importantly, within ourselves.

Nicholas Morton-Paine and Helen Stephens

Week 1 and 2
Playing with puppets this week has been extraordinary. At first. Ahhh. Confronting. My hands don’t work! The intricacies … The pieces of the puppet go one way and I seem to go the other.

My first job this week was to inhabit the pigeon…get down on my haunches…keep up the yoga…

The pigeons are a work of art. Intricate pieces welded together with many moving pieces. Each puppet has a cup with the puppets name on, because we are
‘working them in’ and so screws cannot be too tight…as a result we have little bolts etc. falling off every now and then. We collect them and they are ready for Sam to fix at the end of the day. By the time we open the puppets will be fine tuned and tightened: we will be used to the puppets and the puppets will be used to us.

The Dead Puppet Society

We add pigeon sounds (“not sure about this…can’t roll the tongue so well”)…practice makes perfect so I am rolling on a regular basis.

Then there is my squirrel. Delicious. Love her. “Squerl” is tiny, rambunctious, energetic and fast moving (typecast?). She is teaching me about detail. Every action needs to be precise. The move of the head, the flick of the tail, the tips of her paws…

This is ridiculously fun…more than fun…puppets make us focused yet fluid, joyful yet task driven.

We are nearly the end of our second week. I can feel the ensemble growing, led by a terrific team of artists: David (picture above) and Nick (picture below with the artistic associate of the company Helen Stephens).

Sam has multiple skills and one of them is fixing our puppets

Sam has multiple skills and one of them is fixing our puppets

We are all in the rehearsal room, encouraging, offering suggestions, thoroughly enjoying the process of collaborative practice[/caption]

Our ensemble consists of four male artists and three female artists, hardly avoidable when you consider the subject matter. I get to play many roles that are male, which is a delight…we are all sailors, then we have our Cameo roles that move the story forward. We operate puppets throughout the show at the same time, which is the beautiful brand of Dead Puppet Society: the puppets and puppeteers are both very visible, working together to create magic.

David in directing mode

David in directing mode