Pilgrimages cannot be identified as being a certain thing…they can be linear or cyclical, they can be internal or external…the interior landscape or exterior landscape…it feels like I am on a pilgrimage of sorts here at Sostrup: a journey where we have no preconceived destination, yet a destination all the same: We are endeavouring to push theatrical form, trying to find the liminal entry points into the performance itself. And while we test this liminal topography we have moments of relief: wonderful new Danish friends who entertain us as only Danes can.

Danish supper at Sostrup

Danish supper at Sostrup

Liminality is that point that sits between beginning and ending…we do not know it well. It is the opposite of solid. It is the land of the unknown. We begin our day in the known, we move into the unknown and then hopefully we exit knowing something more than when we entered this strange vortex of experience. As we sit in the library mid morning I realise that the library is a metaphor of our journey: we sit in a library of books. We understand books. We love books. My own home has stalagmites of books growing from floor to ceiling. They are my walls. But in this library I cannot access the knowledge. It is written in Danish, it is a locked world of knowledge to me. Just like the creative process. We have to unpick the lock and one cannot take a short cut…until the lock opens, we sit in that in-between space, in liminal time.

Sostrupp dining salon, next to the library

Sostrupp dining salon, next to the library

Today was a big day of liminal time. We presented Playreading/discussion No. 2, presenting something that need to engage our audience and at the same time challenge their ideas of what it is to belong in this world. Our subject matter today is of course EVE, a story of a woman that I have been fascinated with for over 25 years. This woman who wants to be the artist she believes she was born to be. But she was born out of time. She knew that she was a woman. A comical woman. But she wanted to be a serious and handsome man. So she decided to change her name to Oscar Wilde by depoll. In doing so, she believed that she was Oscar’s reincarnation:

on this day I slew Eve Langley before she could slay me

2pm. Saturday afternoon. The Kings Room:

the storytelling chair

the storytelling chair

We sit in two beautiful chairs. We talk to our audience. We morph into Eve’s words, and morph out again. We make the movement from first position to second position to third position with a fluidity of simple moves. First position, in this case, the me in the here and now. Second position, the character I step into. Third position in the one who observes the me being the character. So I slip from one to the other and finally to the third position, where I am able to safely reflect, make decisions and operate with a clear and present mind.

We loved the experience, hearing the questions that our audience asked, trying to answer them to the best of our ability and at the same time posing our own questions as we move into this complex and layered landscape of multiple realities.

After our reading we walked. To walk in these woods of crisp, the brownness of the leaves slowing turning into green as the days move closer to spring. The light is muted, the air alive with potential.

we are not sure where we are but we know we are where we need to be

we are not sure where we are but we know we are where we need to be

I love rehearsal process. That constant return to the Unknown, that scary unpredicatable place of challenging ideas, discussions that move around rather than through the subject matter…and I am noticing my pattern of circular talking until it is not.

It’s late now. We have partied, eaten terrific food, shared the evening with our new Danish friends, friends that Kirsten our hostess has known all her adult life. We made a huge list of Danish movies to watch on our return to Australia while we drank Elderberry flowers next to red wine.

Time to sleep, and not without a huge smile. Such stimulation, aliveness, generosity, joy. Sostrup Castle is a hearty place, fecund and vibrating with ideas and understandings.

Reflective practice is a crucial and fundamental way forward when it comes to creating art. It is only in reflecting, either through engaging in conversation or writing, taking photos, making music, drawing images, painting, collaging, meditating and walking that we can see beyond the obvious. The images and thoughts flirt with you, they sit just outside your reach and it is through creative reflection and untamed thinking that they land sometimes. I often reflect when I am walking, inviting the thoughts to come together in rhythm with my steps or inviting them to merge with the landscape I am moving through.

Blue skies, clear undergrowth, tall trees, bare branches...Sostrup park

Blue skies, clear undergrowth, tall trees, bare branches…Sostrup park

The landscape in this part of the world is mysterious, it is foreign yet strangely familiar. I am in a landscape of bare branches and clear undergrowth, of blue skies that suddenly turn black and I race for cover only to turn around a few minutes later and it is blue again.

In a strange way the landscape reminds me of the Celtic countries of my ancestors. I have been reading “the Ancient Wisdom of the Celts”:

Down the centuries the Celts have kept their reputation as a secret people, guardians of an unknown lore…the Celtic view of nature takes on a new sophistication when we consider the role of the Four Elements in Celtic cosmology. To the Celts, the universe was made up of four forces: earth, air, fire and water.

…and as i walk the landscape here at Sostrup I am very aware of the brown earth, the crisp air, the mote around the castle full of still water, sometimes so still that is is hard to know which is the castle and which is its reflection. Always, when we eat or chat or just sit through the day there is a candle burning and not just one candle but many. The landscape is potently alive and exists with a different energy to the landscape at home. I do not need to be as alert here rather I can engage in soft focus which seems to match the bare trees and the contained sky.

After a big breakfast we move over to the castle, up to the first floor and begin a conversation in the library. We have a playreading at 4pm and we are not sure what we are doing. As artists in residence it was important for us to do something within the community as a way of saying thank you or rather “Hi, we are the AIR, and we are so happy to be here creating our new play…here is a little bit to share with you”. Today we are so lucky to have two beautiful Danish visual artists visit and listen to what we are doing along with Bill my partner who is journeying with us. Bente Lyhne is a visual artist who is exhibiting at the moment at the castle: http://bentelyhne.dk is where you will find some more information and many more images of her powerful work:

Bente's work demands visit after visit...each time I enter the gallery the experience gets deeper and my thoughts become denser...

Bente’s work demands visit after visit…each time I enter the gallery the experience gets deeper and my thoughts become denser…

Bente’s friend accompanies her: Xenia Lassen is an international light artist, and creates unique structures. http://xenialassen.com …really astonishing works: if you go to her website you will see some images of her creations. What a treat to have these artistic minds in the salon, helping us unpack this new theatrical landscape.

We begin slowly, creating a new way forward…to begin slowly is not an unusual way of starting the day: A book I refer to every now and then, “The Art of Slow Writing” by Louise DeSalvo, talks about how writers can be very slow.She writes:

Slow writing…could be one way to slow down time, to “articulate time”. A way too, to “slow down life”. Like Slow Food, “slow writing” doesn’t “just take time, but makes time”. Slow writing is a meditative act: slowing down to understand our relationship to our writing, slowing down to determine our authentic subject, slowing down to write complex works, slowing down to study our literary antecedents” (The Art of Slow Writing)

Late night Skype meetings and rich dinners certainly slow our rhythm for the day. We notice this and go with it, allowing our stories to unfold as they needed, rather than as we needed them to. To understand our rhythms and embrace them, to refuse the invitation to manipulate them to fit a prescribed timetable is the way we want to work.

Dunne, in her book “Carl Jung-Wounded Healer of the Soul” talks about how understanding ourselves is a tool for understanding the world. Same I think in the world of theatre making: we move towards an understanding of character, we move towards an understanding of the world of the play and we move towards an acceptance of the unfolding and unique “how”: how do we create this new story? Every process is different, regardless of the philosophical framework that underpins it, in our case our base line includes a high regard for the creative process, a “yes and” approach, a need to hear our stories out loud, a patient stance, a respectful ear, an acceptance of everything at this stage of development. All of these qualities are within RIC, the frame that I have created for creative practice: Relational Impulse Cultural Training. I use RIC as a way of staying on track, of understanding the unfolding landscape of creative play. You can read more about RIC on other pages on this website.

Today we unpack a little more the importance of exploring a character such as Eve. A character that never ceases to move me even though I have journeyed with her since 1991 when Doug Leonard, an astonishing director, presented two texts as scores for our devised piece “Songs of the Hut”: Doug wanted to work with Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines and Eve Langley’s The White Topee, two books I had not read back then, but once started could not put down. Primarily it was the description of the landscape that captivated me…Eve writes things like

I turn my head, incline it to the right and stare out into the awful loneliness of the painted looking Australian bush, the course blue gums, the coarse yellow dry earth. All these, looking like a vast savage picture to be thrust forward to influence Australian and world art

As I read this I am thrust into the Australian outback, its dry beauty, its old beauty. And I am moved. I look out Sostrup’s window and I am back in Denmark, a landscape so vastly different it jolts me.

It is the landscape that holds me, regardless of where I find myself. The space, the colours, the shape, the size of the sky,the temperature, the smell, the sound, the feeling that emerges. And it is the landscape that then moves me forward.

we are in spring, and things are just turning...brown is everywhere with tiny flowers, green grass, beginning to peak through...we cannot rush this new growth. it will take the time it needs...

we are in spring, and things are just turning…brown is everywhere with tiny flowers, green grass, beginning to peak through…we cannot rush this new growth. it will take the time it needs…

Our reading goes well…we have created a new form. Whether this new form stays in the final production is another question. Whether this play changes its name and moves away from Eve and into other territory is likely. But the essence of Eve will remain. The reason why I want to do this topic again and again is because I believe it is extremely relevant right now. Women are putting up their hand to be recognised in our Australian theatre industry. In Brisbane we are led primarily by men, men are the artistic directors and the people with power. We are lagging behind the world in gender parity. Eve is a terrific example of a very talented and original voice being “invisibilized”. As Australians we do not tolerate difference too well…Eve Langley was an artist of unique vision who did not fit the mould. Australia needed to find a way of accepting rather than silencing her voice. Eve’s words influenced my world greatly and I use her words when she/I write:

It is alarmingly easy to commit your wife. One simply requires the collusion of a relative or two and a couple of medical professionals. Perhaps i am just someone who loves planets and the Gods. Someone wh wears clothes that don’t quite fit: someone who dreams so loud that they find the world an awkward fit. My husband says “She’s acting odd. She’s alway stalking about Saturn and she thinks she’s Oscar Wilde”. Then the doctor interviews me and I’m committed”

Eve, the character I keep returning to again and again...for she is the voice of the invisible female artist of the Australian landscape

Eve, the character I keep returning to again and again…for she is the voice of the invisible female artist of the Australian landscape

Doorway to the tower...we stop at  the first floor and make our way to the library

Doorway to the tower…we stop at the first floor and make our way to the library

Today was a rich one, listening to several recordings, improvising, dreaming on ideas, reading parts of scripts from elsewhere, all pointing in the same direction: who is Eve? Not so much the person that Eve was inspired by, that of Eve Langley, but who is the Eve within every one of us. We talked about why people do what they do: for example, the woman who wrote the spectacular book on Eve, The Importance of Being Eve Langley. Why did she dedicate so many years of her life looking into this remarkable woman. What Eve was awoken within? And my preoccupation with Eve has spanned over twenty five years…why would one person create such passion? I think it is because there is an Eve within all of us, the one who wants to do what she was born to do. In Eve’s case it was to write, to write…

I write. i write for myself. i write for myself by myself.

deep in conversation about why we are doing Eve in the first place...what does Eve mean to our audience?

deep in conversation about why we are doing Eve in the first place…what does Eve mean to our audience?

What I love about big rooms is that it gives room for big thought. The rehearsal space is crucial when it comes to creative thinking…and sometimes we just sit and chat:

… It quite frequently happens that you’re just treading water for quite a long time. Nothing really dramatic seems to be happening. … And then suddenly everything seems to lock together in a different way. It’s like a crystallization point where you can’t detect any single element having changed. There’s a proverb that says that the fruit takes a long time to ripen, but it falls suddenly … And that seems to be the process.
Brian Eno at http://99u.com/articles/7034/developing-your-creative-practice-tips-from-brian-eno”

We are dreaming Eve2…

an image of EVE...always longing to belong

an image of EVE…always longing to belong

Eve1 is a play I wrote about the tension that sits between the role of artist and the role of mother: how do you hold both of these things? As a mother of four I found this topic an extremely relevant one. I was inspired by the writer Eve Langley, an Australian writer well before her time, who wrote stream of consciousness way back when James Joyce experimented in a similar way while writing Ulysses. Eve was extraordinary and had many obstacles to overcome. I absorbed her journey and borrowed some of her words as I collaged together a script that hopefully related to our time right now and our place right here:

“I am not sure of parenting baby girl, i am unsure of romance, I do not believe in my own talent, but to write, that is something I understand. To write the lies of living…the great Australian loneliness that old disease of mine.

These words I love for they sum up Eve’s passion for her art and for Australia, despite the fact that she wrote most of her writings in New Zealand where she lived for over 20 years.

What does Eve1 sound like after two three and a half years? We read the script aloud in this beautiful room:

Piano Room

Piano Room

I read it aloud without stage directions. The words hang in the air creating new meaning…the body remembers but stays still. I read it without Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant…and so we create new meaning. Words sound different when they are not juxtaposed with other text. Yet the message is strongly there, the understanding or rather non understanding of what it means to belong. Eve’s unbelonging is potent. Her sense of not being in this world. I have spent some time researching Celtic mythology and for the first time I am thinking that Eve passes the fine line between this world and the other…she belongs in the other world perhaps, the world we don’t acknowledge aloud but one that Celtic mythology is most aware of:

The Celts believed that there was another dividing line that all people could straddle, if only they stretched themselves a bit. And that’s the divide between the world and the otherworld. Steve Rabery, In the House of Memory

Eve straddled this line. She managed to stretch herself forever in her attempt to understand her role as an artist: she flew through paper windows and out into the stars…Eve lived a life of exile as do many of us:

Exile is that undeniable sensation of being cordoned off from what is most essential to our souls…Family in the Celtic sense, is meant to feel like a warm hearth fire, a downy nest of repose, and yet all too often our families contain the fiercest blades that slash at the peace of our souls”(The Mist-Filled Path Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers and Seekers by Frank MacEowen)

Its a joy to be reading Eve again. She has always resonated with me, for she is a storyteller and so am I. She was of Irish decent and so am I:

Druids, poets and storytellers shared a major responsibility in traditional Celtic communities: they reminded the Celtic people who they were.Tom Cowan in Frank MacEowen’s book The Mist-Filled Path.

Each morning as I awake before going to work I find the Danish sky soft grey, the light soft, no sharp edges so early in the morning. And I am reminded of how the mist is seen as that liminal space within Celtic spirituality: the thin veil between this world and the other…and that is where we are whenever we rehearse. We sit in a space of neither here nor there. It is a time of magic.

Bente's painting, Sostrup Gallery

Bente’s painting, Sostrup Gallery

Easter Sunday. A day of celebration. It is the first Sunday following a full moon after the March equinox…symbolic of rebirth and renewal…a celebration of the goddess of Spring…Easter to me is a day of reflection…of embracing what is to come even though in this minute I have no idea what that is.

In Sostrup garden there stands a crucifix...

In Sostrup garden there stands a crucifix…

Sitting in the old beautiful library on the first floor of Sostrup Castle I have been researching, preparing for an intense new creative development of EVE2, a play that had a brief season called EVE in 2012 in the delicious Sue Benner Theatre Metro Arts downtown Brisbane. EVE had a beautiful creative team with Leah Mercer in her usual role of director/devisor, Anna Molnar as Producer, Gabby Castle as Stage Manager (with Johnny Castle as ASM), Amy Ingram as Executive Producer and Stace Callaghan playing the role of Oscar, the storyteller, matched by Moshlo Shaw who played the musician/husband. Aaron Barton created a magical set and his partner Gen Trace designed the lighting while Travis Ash was sound designer. Daniel Evans was co-devisor as well as co-ordinator of the Independent Program at Metro Arts. Because of force of circumstance, the untimely death of Moshlo, we decided to return to Eve and do it differently, wedding some of the character of the Man in the third show of The Belonging Trilogy, “He Dreamed a Train” with Eve’s voice. This idea was an offer from Travis and when he suggested this I knew it was the right direction. Travis will now devise and play Musician/Storyteller/Man and Benjamin Knapton will direct/co-devise this new version with Freddy Komp and Nathan Sibthorpe creating visual magic. We have a decent task ahead of us these next ten days.

The library at Sostrup where I am working

The library at Sostrup where I am working

Being here, half way round the world in a town where I know one person apart from my partner Bill, provides an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be in relationship with the world. What it means to connect to others. What it means to live deeply. I see this residency as a pilgrimage of sorts.

So today my research focuses on what pilgrimages are for…I believe every artist is required to take a pilgrimage, not to achieve anything overtly, but simply to find the time to discover what they already know. A time to step out of my ordinary life in Brisbane, full of people and artists and homes and studios and rehearsals and plays and meetings and walks and galleries and…and…and…and to STOP. What is it that I long for? And if I understand this, then I will understand what it is that EVE2 longs for: in the original script she writes that she longs to be loved. But it is far more than that. She longs to belong though she does not express it in those terms. Yet.

My Muse accompanies...

My Muse accompanies…

David Whyte, the poet who writes about the soul’s journey talks about our ” longing to belong” and I think that this pilgrimage is the perfect occasion to discover what my longing is…I know I have a longing for story in order to belong. But is it more than that?

an image of EVE...always longing to belong

an image of EVE…always longing to belong

In my search, I came across this poem that sat well with me as I read it:

The Spirit of Longing
Tell me, men of learning, what is longing made from?
What cloth was put in it that it does not wear out with me?
Gold wears out, silver wears out, velvet wears out, silk wears out
Every ample garment wears out–yet longing does not wear out.
Great longing. Cruel longing is breaking my heart everyday
When I sleep most sound at night longing comes and wakes me

Excerpt from old Cymric (Welsh) poem
Cited in The Mist Filled Path by Frank MacEowen

If we see longing as a good thing, as a way of guiding us towards what is real, what is true, what is our calling, then I can hold it closer. And if I take on board what Phil Cousineau (http://www.philcousineau.net/_i_the_art_of_pilgrimage__the_seeker_s_guide_to_making_travel_sacred__i__18018.htm) suggests:

“The call to the sacred journey your secret heart longs for won’t come by expectation, will not arrive in a logical way. If you imagine that something is trying to call to you, try to practice stillness for a few minutes each day. Be still and quiet and you may be surprised what you start to hear”.

If I take this on board I listen, slow down. I reach for my phone less. I turn off my computer. I hear more. I change my posture: I am alert. Awake. Present. My two feet are planted on the ground. And I walk. For all creative thoughts can come from that step after step.

Sometimes its hard to step forward

Sometimes its hard to step forward

Phil Cousineau also quotes Bruce Chatwin. When I first arrived in Brisbane I worked on a piece of theatre directed by Doug Leonard and our primary texts were Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines and Eve Langley’s Pea Pickers…and here I am 26 years later still working through this material. Doug had a way of selecting the most potent texts and bringing them to life.

So Chatwin is quoted in Cousineau’s book:
“I have a vision of the Songlines stretching across the continents and the ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song (of which we may, now and then, catch an echo); and that these trails much reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African Savannah, where the First Man opening his mouth in defiance of the terrors that surrounded him, shouted the opening stanza of the World Song “I AM”.

I AM

I AM

“I AM LONGING TO BELONG” is the cry for millions of people displaced, lost, or superficially surfing this thing called life. It’s as though many of us are caught up in a net not of our own making. We follow others rather than lead ourselves. And we do not know what our personal mythology is…that is what a pilgrimage can awaken…there is time to reflect on the stories, poems, journeys, relationships, dreams that make up our lives.

As I walk down the stairs in my house back in Brisbane I have written above the doorway in black “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”. We all know Goethe’s quote. We see it on people’s fridges, magnets, shop windows, gyms, bookshops. We see it, but do we take action? Do we begin what we dream? Some of us do and others of us put it off till it’s the right time, or the right place…I sit somewhere in between. I sometimes take action and other times I wait. I wait. I wait until I cannot wait anymore. I step out.

So I have stepped out. I am longing to belong in this new play, working title EVE2.

So I have stepped out. I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s “mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centres of life beyond the reach of the vocabularies of reason and coercion” (cited in The Mythic Path” (KIndle edition). I am here to rewrite my personal myth: to ‘weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story” (The Mythic Path). To create and re-create the map of belonging.

I am quoting David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner:

“A personal myth is a constellation of beliefs, feelings, images, and rules–operating largely outside of conscious awareness–that interprets sensations, constructs new explanations, and directs behaviour…your personal mythology is a lens that gives meaning to every situation you meet and determines what you will do in it. Personal myths speak to the broad concerns of identity (who am I?), (where am I going?), and purpose (why am I going there?)”.