Directors Lab West: Day 8

My brain is broken. For the last two or three days, my mouth has repeatedly stopped in the middle of my sentences, like a wind-up toy that has run out of spring force. My notebook is about full, and I’m covered in bruises, so it must be time to go home. I’ll miss the intensity and the amazing people I’ve connected with here. But I am certainly looking forward to a nap.

Our final day at the Lab began with a workshop on Spring Awakening, the text we had all prepared before we arrived. It had been sort of tangential up to that final workshop, a common ground for talking about themes and character and big ideas. And in fact, though I read two translations earlier this month, and carried them both around all week, I never needed to pull out the script in a Lab session. The group as a whole has been quite focused on new work and collaborative creation, so when we split into groups to devise a 5-minute piece yesterday morning, the exact text of the original play was not something any group used.

In other sessions earlier in the week, we had split into groups and were given 5-10 minutes to generate material – so an hour to work on our final day felt like a luxurious eternity. We were actually able to arrive at a central idea together, with some inventive staging and audience placement, character, story, and even a little tech. Of course, we were still improvising in the final performance – which has got me wondering about the nature of devised work, time constraints, and performance/production.

In my own ensemble work so far, we tend to set everything in stone the week before performances so that we know what we’re doing on opening night.  Some companies continue to work in major flux until opening night, or even after opening night, and I know that it’s a scary way to work for most people. There is never enough time; work is never finished, but abandoned. I am very interested in exploring the looseness we found in our devising yesterday – I’d like to find a way to foster that safety to improvise and flexibility to continually refine, even in front of a public audience. Time to do some more research on companies who do this kind of work and say hello.

More research is also needed on… graduate school. Oh, what a can of worms. About a year ago, I got some great advice about going for an MFA: “if the idea of being in an academic environment excites you, then you should go.” So I thought, great! That was easy! I really don’t want to write papers ever again, so I’m off the hook. But this week, I have had an amazing time learning and listening and sharing and furiously taking notes and debating and considering and wondering and stretching and connecting with other directors…

I’ve also recently come across the idea that if it were not for the state of health care in this country, I might not be working a full-time job with benefits. I might be able to have a flexible schedule and piece together theater work with other work when necessary. I might be able to focus entirely on being an artist. You know where I can get healthcare? England. You know where some really amazing collaborative theater is happening? England. You know where a lot of my family lives? England. So more research is needed on MFA or MA programs in London, and more soul-searching is needed, too. I have a lot to think about in terms of my family here, as well as the theatrical connections and momentum I have built in the last five years… but it’s blowing my mind a little to seriously consider the idea that my British passport and I can head on over across the pond any time. Actually, it’s blowing my mind a lot.

So there you go. Mission accomplished, Directors Lab West! My brain is broken and my mind is blown. To the future!