ready for collage at PlayPen

ready for collage at PlayPen

As I look back at passing year, I am aware that I have changed. I have spent the last 12 months doing the things that are important to me: writing about belonging, re-mounting and dreaming on “HOME” (Queensland Theatre Company) one of our Belonging Trilogy plays, performing for Brisbane Festival in ‘Prize Fighter” (La Boite), a play about a child soldier from Democratic Republic of Congo, playing with the contemporary dance company Phluxus2 and co-creating The Paratrooper Project (The Judith Wright Centre) which focused on war and home life. One of my directing gigs was at Queensland Academies of Creative Industries (QACI) where I worked with 22 fifteen year olds, and along with my colleagues Ben Knapton, Simon Tate, Stephen Matthais and Travis Ash, created a version of the Belonging Trilogy which we called “Coming Home”. You can read about our experiences in older posts.

All of these projects began with small beginnings: some grew while sharing a coffee, some while engaging in creative developments for something entirely different. Other projects grew out of emails, meetings and some just happened. All with small beginnings.

I am listening to ABC Jazz and sipping tea in a favourite cup with the inscription that seems so apt: “Big things often have small beginnings”.

cup of Really Russian Caravan, pen and diary

Presently we are negotiating big things from another small beginning and this has created conflict within. A question always comes into my consciousness whenever I am about to embark on a big project:
“Why do this?” and “What is it about creating art that nourishes and nurtures the soul?” So I am pondering these questions today, particularly the first one.

My first port of call is the collage table.

preparing for collaging

preparing for collaging

I collect magazines and spread them around me, hold on to a glue stick, listen to good classical music (some of you may prefer jazz or contemporary). My dogs sit at my feet, Russian Caravan Tea in my cup, pastels and cartridge paper in front of me. I am ready to begin.

COLLAGE PROCESS:

Today I am using the back of Frankie calendar as the base on which to build a collection of images that will help me understand what/why I am embarking on this new project. I trust this process infinitely, for there is always something that surprises me, that awakens me, that alerts me to reasons why. It is a direct route to meaning making.

I begin to “rip and stick” and sometimes use scissors to cut out images: one that I cut out is a woman, a painted woman, looking into the collage rather than out of the images. She leans on a painted horizon. The other image I cut out is a chair, wrapped in fabric, like a rag rug but it is a rag chair, a beautiful chair. I have stuck it on a very textured walls and floor. I am embracing enormous amounts of texture and bright colours as I build the layers.

My confusion begins to clarify as I place an image of a pair of scissors, balancing on a rock, and holding in the air a crane in the area of the collage where a brain could be. It took time to understand the “scissor/rock/paper” representation that’s going on inside my own head. Paper is winning, that is good. Paper is beautiful. That is good.

scissor paper rock

scissor paper rock

The Crane is known as a symbol of peace, of longevity (they live for 1000 years in the legends). A symbol of hope.

The Legend of the Crane (cut and pasted from (out of the darkness community walks http://www.sos-walk.org/sos/crane.htm

Throughout history, birds have been viewed as animals of special value and have been ladened with meanings often derived from legends and stories that have survived over many generations. The Crane may conceivably be the oldest bird on earth; there is fossil proof that they existed over 60 million years ago. Greek and Roman myth tended to portray the dance of cranes as a love of joy and a celebration of life. The crane was usually considered to be a bird of Apollo, the sun god, who heralded in Spring and light. Throughout all of Asia, the crane has been a symbol of happiness and eternal youth. In Japanese, Chinese, and Korean tradition, cranes stand for good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. …The Japanese refer to the crane as “the bird of happiness;” the Chinese as “heavenly crane” believing they were symbols of wisdom. The powerful wings of the crane were believed to be able to convey souls up to paradise and to carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment. Over time, the crane has also evolved as a favorite subject of the tradition of paper folding – origami. It is said that a thousand folded cranes, one for each year of its life, makes a wish come true.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the folded origami cranes also came to symbolize a hope for peace through Sadako Sasaki and her unforgettable story of perseverance. Diagnosed with leukemia after being exposed to radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako became determined to fold 1,000 cranes in hopes of recovering good health, happiness, and a world of eternal peace. Although she completed 644 before she died, her classmates folded the remaining 356 to honor her. A statue was raised in the Hiroshima Peace Park to commemorate her strong spirit.

Today this practice of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times. After the events of September 11, as a gesture of support and healing, thousands of cranes were folded and linked together in chains and sent to fire and police stations, museums, and churches throughout New York City.

Traditionally, flocks of 1,000 cranes are offered at shrines or temples with prayer, based on the belief that the effort to fold such a large number will surely be rewarded. Chains are often given to someone suffering from illness, as a prayer for their recovery, as a wish for happiness, and as an expression of sympathy and peace. A prayer often spoken over time by mothers seeking the protection of cranes has been:

“O flock of heavenly cranes
cover my child with your wings.”

With these values floating throughout the collage, that of hope, peace, happiness and eternal youth, I am feeling as though good things are at hand. One thing I take note of though is an awareness that the scissors are in balance. If they stay in balance all is well. If not, the crane comes tumbling, could even be cut in two, could fly away and turn into Icarus. So much to think about. So much to write about.

But I will leave it there: it is enough to ponder the question “Why do it?” and see how these values influence my answer. The project has happiness and peace surrounding it. It is also capable of being threatened. Someone just needs to roll that rock and it can come tumbling down. Or can it?

I look more deeply and find other stories that could provide other outcomes. For another time.

laughter is the best medicine

laughter is the best medicine

Don’t forget the humour.
Never forget the laughter.
Always tell the joke
again and again and again.

I know many of you have been waiting for the studio to open for 2016.

I have some time slots on Monday 8th February. I know some of you have sent messages...please re-contact if you want to see me Monday at Metro Arts, between 11am and 1.30pm. Sessions are up to 45 minutes depending on what you need.

These introductory sessions are free for professional artists as part of our Company in Residence commitment to the artists of Brisbane: The Re-Enchantment Project. To exchange energies, to give this deeper meaning, you are asked to bring an object that symbolises your question. This object remains in the 4change studio as stimuli for you and other artists. Thank you, Margi Brown Ash 4change.
...

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Hi Brisbane:
Wonderful artists are coming to town: their work is showing at APAM, the performing arts market at Brisbane Powerhouse in a few weeks.
You may have heard of this Melbourne/International bunch called "onestepatatimelikethis" ...another one of those companies that is better known internationally than nationally...anyway they need our help.
They are needing an older style TV (not a flat screen) that is still in good working condition & that can connect to a DVD player for our APAM show.
So if you, or someone you know, has one sitting in the shed that you wouldn’t mind us borrowing that would be great!
Can we help them out? They are marvellous marvellous artists and if i had one i would! x
#onestepatatimelikethis
@onestepatatimelikethis
...

View on Facebook

When leaders are transparent we know we can move forward. I have had a warm and informative chat with @RosemaryWalker who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to creating the Matilda's . Her graciousness regarding the ideas that have been offered regarding change is impressive. Her courage is admirable. This will be a win win for everyone over time...the best way to continue to empower our theatre community. Thank you Rose ...

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stairway to play, creativity, sharing, community

stairway to play, creativity, sharing, community

This year has been a fast and furious one, with no time to do my usual workshops in “The Playpen”, the name I call our workplace where I live. Many years ago, when our fourth child was born, we created an area that we called The Playpen, where children could play and not be threatened by the wildlife here. Back then it was also used as a tennis court. Over the years we have let it go and now there is an uneven surface, turf torn, net gone, but it is perfect for playful creative practice. We erected a small stage, from the set of the play Eve, the first of my Trilogy and threw in Eve’s bathtub where she would “write the lines of shape and shadow”. We have tables and umbrellas and a fireplace for the cold evenings.

Outside PlayPen

Outside PlayPen

So, because I have not had my usual three day workshop this year, I decided to invite colleagues out to play. Over the years I have formed groups of women and men to engage in creative practice. One of these groups from two years ago was called “Writing My Way Forward”. We have a Facebook page and keep in touch sporadically. I contacted the writers, along with our “Women in Theatre Bridge Club”, a political group of women endeavouring to work towards gender parity in our theatre industry–you will hear more of this group in the new year–and we decided to meet at The Playpen and hold a salon, a place of sharing stories. I set up inside the house this time: the sky was threatening rain. Our living room studio is perfect for creative work, full of hundreds of books and paintings of all calibre. I set up for collage: piles of magazines, pastels, pencils, glue sticks and cartridge paper. I made brownies, cheese plate, lemon water and three different teas. People began to arrive with plates of delicious food to share, we poured our tea and began.

Far less formal than a workshop, the salon provided opportunities for the group to inform each other. We began with a sort of informal check in sharing where we were at. I love checking in, be it over a coffee with a friend or a workshop with three hundred people. It is a chance to hear where people are physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. We heard about some of the changes that have happened for people, some of the dreams that still have to awaken, some of the achievements this year had allowed. All of the themes were relevant for everyone: we were all artists, most of us were mothers of varying aged children, and we all dealt with the issue of wedding our artistic life with our domestic living and at the same time earn a living. The importance of self care for the artist was emphasised, it always is when artists get together at The Playpen: we try to do too much for too many and then wonder why we feel burned out.

After about the fourth person’s check in, one of the guests opened a large box of pencils. That was interpreted by the group as permission to begin and so while we were chatting, the creative work began: drawing, doodling, tearing out words and images from tens of magazines. We continued this way for the next few hours, only stopping to refill our teacups and indulge in the treats on the table next to us.

On completion of our collages, we talked about what we could see: what images sat next to other images, shapes, size, colour, intensity, that sort of thing. Normally, if this was a workshop, I would help guide the unpacking of the collage, pointing out different things that I saw. This would then be opened up to the group, who, with careful use of language (no assumptions or interpretations are needed) tell their own story in relation to the person’s collage. Eg. “When I see that I think of…” All of these stories add data to our own understanding of what “we don’t know we know”. This way of working has been highly influenced by several approaches to understanding: MIECAT, a creative arts institution based in Melbourne, which focuses on finding meaning through art making; and COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE (Taos Institute), a postmodern way of being in the world that embraces multiplicity of self and other, multiplicity of stories and an awareness of the environment that contributes to the situation at hand. In our salon, the unfolding of meaning happened collaboratively. We all responded in our own time to what was happening in front of us: what we saw, what we felt, what we heard and what we imagined.

What emerged last evening interested me enormously and took me back to Greece last month, where I co-facilitated with Dr. Jean Houston and Jennifer Evanko. We experienced an “Aesclepion Group Dream”, where parts of one person’s dream were relevant to all. This is what happened with our collaging: we could take parts of our fellow traveller’s collage and apply it to our own lives. This expanded and enriched our own meaning.

What I love about collage is that everyone can do it. People rarely feel confronted with the task. I issued no instructions this time (usually I do) and people approached it all differently. Some started with doodling, some doodling turned into symbols. Some began drawing and then built on the drawing with images from magazines. I like to have a wide variety of magazines available and one of my favourite are the old National Geographic. But you can just as easily do it with contents from your handbag or brief case. Or your top drawer.

As I look at my collage this morning I can see it has two distinct sides to it, divided by a beautiful image of an actor standing in the centre of a floor filled with faces. The room has an ancient feel to it: a great hallway in the true tradition of the hallway, where everything happened, not so much a hallway today, a passage to somewhere else. Though as I look at this image I see that it is a passage to the imagination. This central image is the one I am ‘indwelling’, applying it to constructs inside my head, experiencing it, dreaming it. Images have power in them and if we allow time to absorb that force it can give gifts of transformation. I notice in the lower right hand corner an orange chair, a chair for storytelling, for dreaming. It is empty.

As I write this post, my friend calls from USA. And I immediately think: no, the chair was waiting. I place myself in the chair and hold my telephone (in fact it is a computer) and we begin to talk. We are creating new stories together, trips to ancient lands to rediscover the potential and possibilities of our future selves. A time to reflect and grow new ways of being in the world. We chat for a long time about different things, including what Jean Houston calls Terma: here is a link that will give you an idea of what a Terma is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terma_(religion),

An idea, a symbol that we can plant in our past and in our future so that we can to move towards a purity of action. What can I do in this world to make it a place of nurture, of wonderment for the community at large?

Everything we do can contribute to enlarging the joy and aliveness of each day. Our salon of yesterday has enriched all of us. As I move through today I have firmly inside the images that I arranged (subconsciously) onto some cartridge paper. I have images that my colleagues chose. All swimming around inside my head. And I have a phone call positioned in my orange chair in the lower right quadrant, reminding me of the dreams for 2016. Soon we will be inviting you all to be part of that dreaming.

My intention today:

May today be a day of richness. May every image that enters our consciousness enrich us in some capacity and move us forward towards an authenticity of awareness, deep attentiveness and joy: the secrets of character.

I know many of you have been waiting for the studio to open for 2016.

I have some time slots on Monday 8th February. I know some of you have sent messages...please re-contact if you want to see me Monday at Metro Arts, between 11am and 1.30pm. Sessions are up to 45 minutes depending on what you need.

These introductory sessions are free for professional artists as part of our Company in Residence commitment to the artists of Brisbane: The Re-Enchantment Project. To exchange energies, to give this deeper meaning, you are asked to bring an object that symbolises your question. This object remains in the 4change studio as stimuli for you and other artists. Thank you, Margi Brown Ash 4change.
...

View on Facebook

Hi Brisbane:
Wonderful artists are coming to town: their work is showing at APAM, the performing arts market at Brisbane Powerhouse in a few weeks.
You may have heard of this Melbourne/International bunch called "onestepatatimelikethis" ...another one of those companies that is better known internationally than nationally...anyway they need our help.
They are needing an older style TV (not a flat screen) that is still in good working condition & that can connect to a DVD player for our APAM show.
So if you, or someone you know, has one sitting in the shed that you wouldn’t mind us borrowing that would be great!
Can we help them out? They are marvellous marvellous artists and if i had one i would! x
#onestepatatimelikethis
@onestepatatimelikethis
...

View on Facebook

When leaders are transparent we know we can move forward. I have had a warm and informative chat with @RosemaryWalker who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to creating the Matilda's . Her graciousness regarding the ideas that have been offered regarding change is impressive. Her courage is admirable. This will be a win win for everyone over time...the best way to continue to empower our theatre community. Thank you Rose ...

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“COMING HOME”

HOME…photo by Bev Jensen

HOME…photo by Bev Jensen

“Coming Home”, a performance that was described as beautiful, heart aching, whimsical and lighthearted has come to an end. Simon Tate, the head drama teacher at Queensland Academies of Creative Industries, where we were artists in residence, described it like this in his facebook post:

I’m just going to come out and say it – all my theatre friends should come and see Coming Home. I just love it so much I want to share it with people that will appreciate the storytelling, the simplicity and the empowerment of 21 young artists who are completely present – because they want to be, rather than because they are trying to prove something, or are suffering to be intense, or any other pretense. They just want to tell the stories they now own as a means of writing their own. Well played Margi Brown Ash – you can now fart, drop the mic and walk off stage to thunderous applause.

Simon Tate, FACEBOOK POST.

I love the irreverence that we all embraced while creating this show: we broke what rules we could break safely, we swore like troopers (just joking, Education Department), laughed, cried, yelled, danced and meditated. We reflected, we dreamed, we evoked the Muse of Theatre to come and visit us, we met and engaged with our Entelechy. Dr. Jean Houston, my mentor from Ashland, Oregon, teaches about how our entelechy can enrich our process: just as the oak tree is the acorn’s entelechy, our entelechy can be evoked to help us achieve our potential and possibility.

Six weeks of working in class time and two or three afternoons a week, we created a collage of texts from my The Belonging Trilogy, including Eve, HOME and He Dreamed a Train.

We adapted the performance so that 22 beautifully passionate 15 year olds could work the stage. They moved as one, stepping into role and stepping out again. We began with a list of scenes that the young folk really liked: we read the scripts and chose the scenes that resonated with us. The selected scenes did not dramaturgically belong next to each other, but our team (including Ben Knapton and Travis Ash) had faith that there was an underlining connector, all we had to do was wait for it to present itself. It took five weeks to find the path to re-map the core of all three plays. The core of the play, or the spine of the play finally became:

“How do we deal with, or how do we re-story long term grief and loss so that we can move on in our lives?”

Depressing theme for teenagers? Not in the least. The joyful exuberance that the young folk brought to the stage ensured that we did not tip into melancholy. The intense dramatics of the theme of death and dying also matched the drama that sat within these potent beautiful young actors.

I learn so much from young actors: they reminded me why I have stayed in the theatre profession for over 40 years. They reminded me of the importance of schools such as ‪Queensland Academy of Creative Industries (QACI), a performing arts senior high school that embraces creativity and accomplishment. They reminded me of the power of relationship. The power of story.

So after four performances, the show has closed. But there is big take-away. At the same time as we rehearsed the chosen scenes, we also learned processes to keep the actor safe and healthy. Why? Because acting is the only art form whereby the artists’ instrument is their body and their emotions. The brain does not distinguish between make believe and reality. Sadness is sadness. Anger is anger. The actor has to learn ways of de-roling after a show so that they can return to their world clear and lively, not weighed down the psychology of the character or the limitations of the world of the play.

How do we stay safe as performers? One way is embracing Relational Impulse Training (RIT). I devised the training a few years ago now (there is an article about RIT on this website www.4change.com.au ). This postmodern training is based on collaborative therapy principles, focusing on relationships, the space between, the multiplicity of selves and the multiplicity of stories. This is where the magic lies. We are relational beings and as such are altered by what is happening between and among each other. There is never just one story. There are multiple interpretations of everything that happens. For the young person to gain an understanding that their story is not necessarily THE truth, just A truth, will stand them in good stead.

The acting training also includes frameworks such as The Four Agreements, by Miguel Ruiz, four ways of being in the world:

THE FOUR AGREEMENTS BY MIGUEL RUIZ, ADAPTED FOR QACI YEAR 10:

1. Don’t take things personally: there are always multiple perspectives and multiple ways of interpreting.

2. Do not assume anything: stay curious, ask questions, stay alive to other interpretations outside of your own.

3. Use impeccable language: for us that meant we needed to be positive and affirmative when talking about others, always with the thought that they could overhear what we are saying and not get upset.

4. Always do our best and keep connected to the space between me and my fellow actor.

Simple principles that make a whole lot of sense… the actors leave the whole theatre making process with a deep understanding of self and others and how they fit into the scheme of things:

1. They leave with a knowledge of ritual and its importance within the creative cycle. They understand the creative cycle, the ebbs and flows, the ‘I am drowning/I am waving’ syndrome…one second it feels like you are drowning and the next second it feels like you are rejoicing, the highs and lows of the creative process…

2. They leave with a very fine experience of what it is to be an ensemble. That it is not all sweetness and light. That there are difficult times, difficult relationships, difficult decisions to be made. But, when the young actor looks into the eyes of her/his fellow ensemble member, they see themselves:

“I am only as strong as the smallest and frailest within the ensemble, so it is my responsibility, my duty to help my fellow actors achieve their potential”.

Only then will my ensemble thrive.

Our FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE team is hoping that this experience is the basis of a prototype which could be taken into senior schools as an Artist in Residence model, where the young folk choose the passages from The Belonging Trilogy and create a new story about grief, loss, re-dreaming their own stories and at the same time recognising their own resilience, joy, healing and friendship without the judgement that we so often witness in our culture.

The ensemble did thrive. They understood connectedness. They understood what it was like when they stepped out on their front foot, rather than leaning back waiting for things to happen. They understood the need to listen, to remain curious and to leave judgement at the door. To avoid what I label “car park gossip”, the talking about someone behind their back…a most damaging cultural practice that needs to be modified.

Here are some of the things that the ensemble wrote in “My Book of Myths” that they presented to me on our last evening together. It is a beautiful, handmade book and I will treasure it for a long time:

Photo of Book of Myths
My Book of Myths, created by Year 10 QACI

I have read my new, highly valued Book of Myths, beautiful personal stories about transformation, re-generation, learning and love and connection.

Here are just some extracts, the ones that will make sense in isolation.

Things our ensemble learned from the Coming Home experience. Sometimes I have changed pronouns so that it reads more easily:

1. “To believe in myself”
2. “To be generous with our performance”
3. “To be generous with our voice”
4. “We have so much potential, we are so much bigger than we thought we were, both on and off the stage”
5. “This experience has completely altered my existence and my views on everything”
6. Our ensemble is “stuck together with superglue, spirit and brilliance”.
7. “I made a promise to myself…that I would put all of my ideas forward so that I could grow as a theatre practitioner, and as a person, an individual”
8. “…permission to be alive and real in this space”
9. “Accepting constant change means it is far more difficult to hold onto the things that hold us back”
10. “I am a multi-faceted individual with tens of thousands of stories to tell”
11. “This is where I belong”
12. “The arrows are not what I thought they were, they are really seeds growing out of me”
13. “It was such a beautiful experience seeing everyone become a big and happy family and be able to show people our passion towards art”
14. “Car park gossip is damaging”

So another show closes, but the resonances and reflections continue on and on, because

Aren’t we are work in progress?
Aren’t we every story we’ve ever heard
Every place and time we’ve ever been
Every person we’ve ever met
Every myth we’ve ever dreamed

Our lives, my darlings, are huge
Who shall tell the stories
What stories shall we tell

(HOME, 2015).

I know many of you have been waiting for the studio to open for 2016.

I have some time slots on Monday 8th February. I know some of you have sent messages...please re-contact if you want to see me Monday at Metro Arts, between 11am and 1.30pm. Sessions are up to 45 minutes depending on what you need.

These introductory sessions are free for professional artists as part of our Company in Residence commitment to the artists of Brisbane: The Re-Enchantment Project. To exchange energies, to give this deeper meaning, you are asked to bring an object that symbolises your question. This object remains in the 4change studio as stimuli for you and other artists. Thank you, Margi Brown Ash 4change.
...

View on Facebook

Hi Brisbane:
Wonderful artists are coming to town: their work is showing at APAM, the performing arts market at Brisbane Powerhouse in a few weeks.
You may have heard of this Melbourne/International bunch called "onestepatatimelikethis" ...another one of those companies that is better known internationally than nationally...anyway they need our help.
They are needing an older style TV (not a flat screen) that is still in good working condition & that can connect to a DVD player for our APAM show.
So if you, or someone you know, has one sitting in the shed that you wouldn’t mind us borrowing that would be great!
Can we help them out? They are marvellous marvellous artists and if i had one i would! x
#onestepatatimelikethis
@onestepatatimelikethis
...

View on Facebook

When leaders are transparent we know we can move forward. I have had a warm and informative chat with @RosemaryWalker who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to creating the Matilda's . Her graciousness regarding the ideas that have been offered regarding change is impressive. Her courage is admirable. This will be a win win for everyone over time...the best way to continue to empower our theatre community. Thank you Rose ...

View on Facebook

QACI students and MBA

I have had a very satisfying 5 weeks working with Year 10’s at Queensland Academies of Creative Industries (QACI), located at Kelvin Grove next to Queensland University of Technology (QUT). I was invited to work with Simon Tate and Stephen Matthais’ classes and create a scripted performance piece. I chose The Belonging Trilogy, a compilation of the three shows that I have written over the last five years: HOME, Eve and He Dreamed a Train. They have all had individual seasons at different theatres around Brisbane (La Boite, Queensland Theatre Company, Metro Arts, Brisbane Powerhouse and also The Blue Room (Perth). I believed that these plays formed the basis of a personal creative inquiry and what better way to test this hunch than to commit to 5 weeks of indwelling with 22 young artists. My job was to work out a process that would result in two things:
1. Personal and artistic growth for 22 Year 10 students
2. A succinct and powerful performance piece for the Brisbane
community.

I knew how important it was to “start where we are at”. So we did. We read the three scripts in one sitting. I introduced them to Relational Impulse Training (RIT), a training that I devised when working in the Drama department at QUT. Mark Radvan, artistic director of Imaginary Theatre, was a terrific supporter of the process and provided me opportunities to develop it within his company. Mark, who now heads up the Acting School at QUT, has gone on to do a doctorate about impulse training and its importance as a tool for creative performing. There is a link to Relational Impulse Training on this website.

Normally I start with stick work when working with a new and inexperienced group but I decided to return to the floor and allow the ideas to grow from stillness. We moved on the floor and began to wed Viewpoints with RIT. The QACI actors are very versed in Viewpoints. It is a pivotal part of their curriculum. We then introduced Body Voice, the name suggested by Stephen Matthais. It seemed to create an expectation that the voice does not just come from a breath but from the entire body: in other words the voice becomes embodied.

Time was of the essence. We took the pieces of the plays that resonated with the actors and we began to shape them, putting them together while working on the floor. We could see a pattern emerging. We had three mythological stories (The Myth of Er, The Selfish Giant and Queen Isis and Osiris). We had a handful of ‘domestic’ scenes, exploring daily life as well as ideas of identity and the concept of multiple selves.
The task was for the actors to go with what felt right. This meant that I did not ‘cast’ them as such, they actually cast themselves, which is the way I prefer to work. I believe the actor knows what role is right for them, even at this tender age.

How did it all come together?

I always choose collaboration over working alone. With like minded theatre makers, we can create something that can resonate with many. Benjamin Knapton, Associate Director at CIRCA and my key creative in “He Dreamed a Train” was my chosen collaborator. In Coming Home he has worked as provocateur, technical director, dramaturg and all round co-creator. We met at the FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE studio, Metro Arts, several times to create some sort of pattern, sticking the script on the walls, dividing the play up into three sections and building from there.

Some scenes that were dearly loved by the ensemble had to be cut. The actors learned the hard lesson that as theatre makers we serve the play rather than the actors within it. They were gracious, supportive and adaptable.

We are now about to do our first Dress Rehearsal. We meet this afternoon to bring together five weeks of solid work. The production is looking good. Ben, Simon, Stephen and myself…we are all excited about the way the ensemble has stepped up to embrace a contemporary, humanistic approach to theatre making. Yes, we had a script. No we did not have an order. We did not even understand, on a known level, what it was that we wanted to say. We had to wait, believing deeply that the core of the story would emerge when it was time.

And it did. One day, as we were working on the floor with the actors, it happened. Ben said something, I said something, Ben did something, I did something, the actors did something, and suddenly four weeks of work tumbled into shape. The story emerged. It had been there all along. We just could not see it.

Finally we convinced Travis Ash, who was co-creator for all three plays of the trilogy (writing/composing/performing as actor and musician), to join the ensemble as live musician. So we have lights, we have sound, we have surprises for the audience, we have 22 beautiful actor and we have a terrific crew (headed by Katie, Production Manager and Emma our Stage Manager).

So, once upon a time, a long long time ago and only yesterday there was a little boy and a little girl, Oscar and Eve…

Nigel Brennan, keynote speaker at #worksmartopc

Nigel Brennan, keynote speaker at #worksmartopc

Nigel Brennan was the keynote speaker at this year’s WorkSmartConference for Office Professionals, a yearly national conference for all of the professionals who keep universities and health organisations going…primarily women, we gather to share stories, learn new skills and nurture the soul. Some people only meet up once a year at this conference. This year we had 170 delegates, and I had the brilliant task of being their MC. We had six workshops, covering office skills, social media, workplace technologies, health and wellbeing, career progression, practical office tools, and the art of paying attention.

And we had Nigel as our keynote:

” Nigel is a photojournalist, an author, a consultant, a public speaker and an ex hostage. in 2008 the Australian photojournalist was held hostage for 462 days in Somalia. During his hostage ordeal, Nigel suffered both mental and physical torture at the hands of his captors. After an escape attempt in January 2009 in which he and his colleague were both recaptured, Nigel was chained around the ankles until his eventual release–ten months later.
Nigel’s emotional story is one of survival, resilience and hope. His life is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the unyielding love of a family.”

(a quote from the WorkSmart program, 2015, page 13).

Nigel’s story was very moving. No, it was more than that. In my opinion it changed the course of the conference. It was an invitation to reflect on connection, on family, on decision making and on acceptance. Nigel told his story, a story that you can read in his book “Price of Life”. This is how Penguin Australia describe the book:

“Captured by terrorists, kept in solitary confinement, guarded by men with AK47s and little respect for life.
Could you survive it?

Bundaberg photojournalist Nigel Brennan travels to Somalia with Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout. They are abducted by a criminal gang, that puts a price of US$3 million on their heads. If it’s not paid, they will be killed. And the Australian government does not pay ransoms.

After more than a year of stalled negotiations, Nigel’s family takes matters into their own hands. They go against government advice, scarifying their livelihoods, their houses and personal lives to bring the hostages home. Meanwhile, the kidnappers are losing patience. Brutalised, shackled, not knowing when or how the situation will end, Nigel faces the fight of his life.

This is a story about what it takes to survive, and how far a family will go for freedom, whatever the price”.
(copied from Penguin Australia).

It was a rich opportunity to hear Nigel’s story and then begin two days of workshops. What continued to come into my mind throughout both days was: “What is important?”

Nearing the end of his presentation, Nigel gave us a list of ‘take aways’, and I copied them down because I thought we would all benefit from them.

He talked about the importance of family, friends, community.
He talked about forgiveness being the highest expression of love.
He talked about working from a place of love, not fear.
He talked abou this mantra, “and this too shall pass”.
He talked about every action having a consequence.
Finally he talked about traumatic growth phenomenon.

Throughout his talk he had different quotes, and the one that has sat with me is from Martin Luther King:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in a moment of comfort and convenience. But where he stands in times of challenge and controversy”.

Martin Luther King.

Many of us are so comfortable in our world. We have built walls around us, just like Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant and we do not invite play or creativity in. We would rather do as the Giant did “my garden is my garden. I will allow no one to play in it except myself” (Oscar Wilde). Nigel alerted us to the importance of love despite fear. Of every action having a consequence. Not just on the one who is stepping into the action, but on the whole community, something that we all need to remind ourselves whatever we do.

After this delicious morning of deep experience, we began the rest of our conference. Perhaps my most memorable experience was listening to Martina Sheeham who talked about The Art of Paying Attention. It was a valuable session and my take away was putting the mobile phone down, lifting my head up and allowing those moments of idleness full rein. We know that creativity requires space. I think that creativity may be a friend of idleness. Thanks Martina for such a sharp session.

So we finished the conference with a panel of women discussing how we hold the whole glorious mess in our hands, meaning, how do we work, play, mother, nurture and look after our own selves while staying sane. Some fabulous responses: the whole WorkSmart conference community had things to say, pulling on their recent experiences over the last two days. We applied our new knowledge and came up with some marvellous resolutions:
I’m getting myself a cleaner! I am going to embrace idleness a little more! I’m not going to vacuum!and Google calendar is the answer says the vivacious Yvette Adams, business guru! Block out me time!

Thank you WorkSmart team. It was a splendid two days. The accommodation was excellent (QT on Sunshine Coast, a funky hotel!), the dancing was brill, food wonderful and the team, well you all rock.