Saltwater / 11 days in at Metro Arts

We had eight audience members in yesterday, and I had a great lot of feedback from them. But here’s a sharing of the things I have learnt over the two runs so far:

1. Transitions!

In this sketch, I played with various distances/dimensions of my performing – holding a communal conversational structure around a dinner table; a one-on-one moment away from the group; an attempt to have audience members and me participate in an activity with each other in pairs; telling a story to the group from a more conventional theatrical distance; left the group alone to steer their own…

It’s a tricky one to tackle transitions when your content isn’t developed, but it’s possible to look for strategies.

Returning to the task-driven nature of the work – the fact that the tasks are often vehicles for conversations, I do also forget to use them a lot. The story-teller in me wants to give weight to the story – and so the tendency to pause and tell the story comes up – and in a “theatrical” form, sure that might be fine, and there are definitely “director” choices that can make it work as a piece of theatre – but this work wants to sit right in the middle – fluidly in that state of being-performance, for both the audience members and I.

Yes, I did just coin that word.

And so, for tomorrow’s Friday Night: June showings, I’ve restructured some bits in the work, and have included some ideas and ways to break that pattern for me.

The aim is to have a space that almost functions as a continuum – not segmented, but intrinsically fused with each other, freely moved in and about – for the being-performance.

Yes, I also just used that word again.

2. Numbers!

The big experiment over these two weeks was to push the one-on-one work to facilitate more audience members similarly. And I as we are near the end of this period – yes, I can. I can make such a work. There’s so much more to learn and refine, but can I hold the space between six to eight people? Yes.

In fact, the big wins for me this week was probably at the moments when I believe I had held the space, and facilitated the conversations and people enough to the point, where when left alone – they continue to be held in the space, and in fact continue to build on it themselves. There were certainly moments like these in the last two showings.

But perhaps what was a much more profound experience for me – was in realising, that as we increased the numbers, I found it harder to intercept conversations – to steer it towards my score – and did at moments, feel a little left out.

The phrase “social cues” came up yesterday. A lot of the work is also driven by the social cues I lay onto the work, as well as the inherent cues that come with the framework that has been set up.

Experiencing that difficulty to return to the group once I’ve removed myself to do another task or shift the conversation, was important for me to find new strategies – but also important to remember what my audience members could be going through.

Which returns the thought to numbers – when does it get too big a group, such that it becomes harder to have shared collective moments, and instead result in very segregated private conversations that might ostracise more than bring together?

3. Characters and Worlds!

I’ve had the absolute pleasure of having Kathryn Kelly, provocateur for the week, in conversation with me. Her dramaturgical expertise, and her explicitly expressed conventional theatre background, has definitely offered me very strong considerations that are influencing, challenging, as well as affirming my choices.

She has seen a couple of my past works, and is very considerate towards the live nature of this performance work. But at the same time, in wanting to revisit theatre traditions through this work – it is about confronting the training and strategies, acknowledging the lineage and history of a tradition and a craft that I do come from – and yet am seeking my own voice within and through it.

So a couple of provocations that on the surface I have the tendency to resist – I am now embracing. I think they will definitely be beneficial when I move into the development of the content and writing – pushing myself through the extremes and clichés – and like these two weeks, the refining can happen later. So, go there.

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I must admit – right from the photo booth work, especially since I did adapt a piece of text from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting – I am extremely inspired by Milan Kundera, as well as writers such as Italo Calvino, Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster, and Haruki Murakami – of whom write beautiful fiction, as well as intelligent essays about their work, and their lives.

What I also love about their work is their incredible treatment of the human condition! The poetry is in the way they layer the gravitas of Life with a capital L, along with the lightness of life – this is definitely something I seek to capture in my performance works – in the combination of text and form.

The autobiographical framed within the convivial, casual, fleeting, transient, and ephemeral – I think I am on my way with this – but I am also aware that this is going to take some more time, a lot more sensitivity, and a gradual maturing.

I’m sure there are heaps more, but this is what I can name at the moment. And it’s only more exciting as we go.

Also, through these two weeks, I am definitely finding that I am confident with a lot more than I thought. Another thought that has been an undercurrent through this process that I want to share, though quite surface at the moment – is that of the label of an emerging artist.

Building a practice, as well as a career as a professional practising artist in Australia in the last four years since moving here – I’ve acknowledged the discovery of a practice that has been young, new, and interesting for me. And I am at the cusp of change and transition – do I know where I am heading? Sort of, and yet not – it’s all opened at the moment – with a few possible directions. And when do you stop calling yourself an emerging artist? A phrase mostly only relevant in providing context for grant applications, program applications, as well as artistic discussions – but otherwise, am I ready to move forward?

Am I ready to move forward?

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