Those of you who follow my posts and my Facebook page know that my life right now is working with 22 beautiful young artists, directing them in a collaged version of HOME, EVE and HE DREAMED A TRAIN, the plays that make up my Trilogy of Belonging. The entire rehearsal process is very short, having to fit in rehearsals in class time, and then some afternoons and some weekends. Although short, it was been enough time to create a bond between us. These young artists are moving into our industry in a few years and their passion and commitment will stand them in good stead…but I’ve got ahead of myself…one of my major stumbling blocks is speedy thinking. I think too fast for my own good…so…
Many years ago, our family was holidaying at Linderman Island. It had been a big year with no breaks so we decided to visit an island, something we rarely do. We were all walking along the coastline and far off into the sea I saw someone waving. Look, I said to my family, someone is waving at us. Mum that’s not waving. that’s drowning and they sprung into adolescent action, leaving their uninformed parents wondering what had happened. All Good.
Fast forward to now, and I am understanding quite clearly how closely waving and drowning sit to each other especially in the rehearsal room. It seems I move from waving to drowning and back to waving in minutes when I co-devise a scripted piece (I know. How does one devise if its scripted?).
I’m juggling a number of questions:
1. how do I make this experience a powerful one for all the participants and at the same time
2. how do I engage in rigorous visual and aural dramturgy serving the artform?
Sometimes the two things run counter to each other. one wishes to empower the actors yet the material sometimes simply does not fit.
The tasks have been clear. The actors have chosen the passages in the three plays that resonate with them. They have then been invited to ‘dream it on’, sticking as closely to the original as possible. They have made the piece age appropriate and age relevant.
I have loved their work and dedication. The work is strong. Sometimes it moves the story forward. That’s when I feel I’m waving. Sometimes it moves it sideways. That’s when I feel I’m drowning. So much material I think to myself. And not much forward movement. So I cut. And in the process of keeping the work firmly in mind, I can see the decision has hurt my young actors. They so want to do their work. And my red pen is taking it away from them.
So the lessons of collaborative writing are learned. Hard lessons. Painful lessons. And I remind myself, and my actors, to follow Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:
1. Do not take things personally (this is not about your writing or your acting, it is about the fact that it is not moving the story forward).
2. Do not assume anything (no, you are not a bad writer, you are possibly a brilliant writer but it simply does not fit)
3. Always do your best (and you are. I can see that. And the one or two of you who are struggling right now have permission to do so. It is the adolescent’s role to discover and re-discover where you belong. It may mean you do not do much in the production. I call that ‘life getting in the way’. All good.
4. Use impeccable language (and you do. I love your check in and check outs. Positive and as honest as you dare).
One of the best protective factors and motivational tools that I have engaged with in the rehearsal room is The Entelechy Exercise, taught to me by my mentor, Dr. Jean Houston. When I did this exercise with the actors, they seem to become bigger, stronger, more daring. One of my co-creators did the exercise with us and commented “Wow, why don’t I become that guy!”) and I totally agreed. We so often operate in the zone of the ordinary. We forget that we are capable of the most extraordinary things, if only we dare. If only we bring risk a little bit closer. Jean Houston’s entelechy exercise encourages the participant to step into their future self, fully developed, fully formed, fully alive, fully functioning: the exquisite creator of an exquisite world. The best of the best. This wise one can answer questions, can journey along side you, can become you, is you.
So we are journeying gently and not so gently with each other. Creating some sort of performance about a young woman who wishes to re-locate herself through telling the stories that have impacted her life so far. We have two and a half weeks to go. I’m excited. Yes, I’m drowning. And I’m waving. Just like all of us who step into this world of theatre making. We just don’t talk about it.