Building bridges, extending the staircases…
WOMEN IN THEATRE BRIDGE CLUB
has been created out of ‘Force of Circumstance’.
One fine day, Julia Rose Lewis, one of Brisbane’s playwrights (now living in Melbourne) and I met at Sol Bakery in West End to discuss how we can help create more visibility for Brisbane women artists. At the same time, Elise Grieg, a Brisbane mid career actor/writer/producer, was having a similar idea. We all decided to create what we are now calling ‘the bridge club’.
We want to build staircases and bridges to ensure that Brisbane is led by women as well as men. We are most impressed by the present leadership in our town.
Wesley Enoch changed the culture of the theatre industry here in Brisbane and this was clear when you read the sign outside of the building “The Greenhouse. our home”. This sign has now changed, but the philosophy has not. Our new artistic director Sam Strong is as committed to community connection.
We have Todd Macdonald creating diverse magic up the hill at La Boite.
We have Kris Stewart providing multiple opportunities at Brisbane Powerhouse.
We have David Berthold leading the Brisbane Festival…the list continues.
…so our question was…is there also room for women? Yes, there is. Jo Thomas and Jess Murphy are now running Metro Arts, which has often been run by women (well in the last twenty years or so) except for a year or two. QT was run by a woman at the same time as La Boite, back in Sue Rider and Robyn Nevin’s time.
Judith Wright Centre has been run by a woman for many years and if we move over into circus, opera and dance we find more women are leading the field. Sadly lagging in the theatre world, particularly now.
The Bridge Club is a strengths based organisation. We do not meet to complain or criticise. We meet fortnightly to build, to connect and collaborate in order to inspire the women in our town to step up. To step out. To help develop equally gendered organisations that inspire the community, that help develop all the artists in this town. We are developing leadership skills through engaging in courses, guest speakers etc. We have a coach, Robyn Taylor, who has taken us under her wing, we have women members who have been leading in our industry for decades and we have a strong mission.
An exciting development has occurred which works very well with Bridge Club: Brisbane Network of Women in Theatre has been born very recently by Penny Challenge and Gabby . This is a network of women with over 1,000 women interested. We had our first meeting at Backbone space last week and this group will continue to meet throughout the year as a networking organisation. We are hoping that Bridge Club will be able to work side by side this wonderful group of women as we move towards equity.
FEE REDUCED COUNSELLING/COACHING FOR ARTISTS AT METRO ARTS
The Re-enchantment Project at Metro Arts
4change coaching provides fee reduced counselling/coaching for Queensland artists. 4change uses a unique framework called Relational Impulse Cultural Method, RIC (see page on this website) which provides a container to reflect on the artist’s work, health and philosophical/ethical frameworks. Margi has borrowed from the world of postmodern therapies, embracing collaborative practice, narrative therapy, solution focused therapy, process oriented therapy and creative arts therapy. These therapeutic approaches to healthy living sit very comfortably beside the contemporary performance processes that artists engage with.
RELATIONAL IMPULSE CULTURAL TRAINING
Relational Impulse Cultural Training is a postmodern training for acting ensembles, developed by Margi Brown Ash, while working over an extended period of time with Brisbane actors (including The Good Earth ensemble, Mouthful of Pins ensemble, Imaginary Theatre, Queensland Academy of Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology Acting Students and private actors of 4change); colleagues (including Leah Mercer, Mark Radvan, Glen Guy, Benjamin Knapton, Kay Philp) and friends.
As a working therapist and acting trainer, Margi embraces a collaborative/constructionist approach in the therapy and rehearsal room. While the traditional view of the self is singular and bounded (“If I knew who I was I would get better, be less sad, less depressed”), postmodern philosophies refer to the self as relational and deeply connected and affected by social, political and cultural discourses. What if the self is a culmination of stories that continually change depending on the surroundings (including the people around you) and how you view the present, the past and the future? This possibility gives back to the individual the enormous freedom to re-create multiple strength-based stories and to re-author stories that no longer uplift and empower.
To embrace this profound shift, Margi has borrowed from postmodern therapies and created what she calls Relational Impulse Cultural Training for the acting ensemble. It is not just a set of techniques, but rather a way of being, a philosophy of becoming in the rehearsal room: a process of empowerment with enormous creative potential. Just as in psychology/counselling many practitioners have shifted from the modernist lens (the medical model) to a postmodern understanding of self, in the rehearsal room Relational Impulse Cultural Training shifts the focus from the bounded character to the relational character on and off the stage. By employing these postmodern principles, actors not only create rich and potent work, but at the same time, develop resilience and belief in their own personal abilities and potential. They build on the offers of others; they notice very small changes and grow them; they are no longer forced to be creative, rather they are moving and breathing the creative space. Actors move closer to Generosity and Open Heartedness and these qualities then transfer to their audience.
For this to occur, the rehearsal room has to be a ‘container’ of Trust, and this requires addressing implicit and explicit issues such as Power, Intimacy, Social and Cultural Discourses, the careful use of Language and the Multiplicity of Selves and Stories. Often these concepts are disregarded in the rehearsal room because “they take up too much time”. However, when things are made explicit, when the Ensemble’s group norms embrace Transparency, the work on the floor is so much more economical and profound. A long ‘check in’ (the first half hour talking about how things are going and inviting the actor to bring their personal life into the rehearsal room rather than leaving it at the door) invariably means a succinct and powerful rehearsal period. A long ‘check out’ ensures a reflective process to deepen and embody the rehearsal experience and prepare for the world outside of rehearsal.
When the Ensemble becomes aware of all of these things, Trust develops and Risk can enter, an essential ingredient of Creativity. This process empowers the actor/artist to take on the role of Creator. It is work that only the courageous embrace. The actor trained in this way is Risky, Brave, Compassionate, Loving and Generous. They do not accept the traditional ideas of Ego and Competitiveness. Rather they value Relationship and ‘The Space Between’.