Do artists want to invest time in their craft? Do they want to take themselves on without fear of what they might discover? Do they care about growing and deepening their work? Artist development. Discuss.
Just one of the really interesting topics at the theatre moot event at Z - arts last week, along side the cynicism around actor training, how big and small artists and venues can support each other, how to develop audiences and much more. The over arching question of the day was what would a Manchester theatre hub look like and how would the artist and wider communities benefit from and access it? It seemed being present with each other and open to communication was a good start.
The following day on Performer’s Playground we were practicing just that with one of John Britton’s ball games (author of Encountering Ensemble). I find this game the perfect analogy for our course and the benefits of performer training.This game puts a mirror up to how you approach life, performance, relationships the lot. I know it really is awesome, thanks John. A number of key principles emerge in the playing of this game. The overarching quest can we be present? The game asks us to follow our first impulse to throw the ball across the space and to do that immediately rather than waiting to receive eye contact as in other similar exercises. The thinking that by stopping your throw you are blocking your first impulse and censoring yourself and secondly you’re not allowing your friend to respond to or play with your impulse (also applies to blocking an idea/improvisation and so on). There is a lot to draw out and consider but pretty soon the game gets going there are balls flying all over the place, often you miss, get hit in the face, bum, or tender parts sometimes you catch one, two, three at the same time and feel like a hero. Now that’s where the game gets interesting. In the celebration that follows from catching the ball against all odds you find yourself out of the present moment and into your reflection on how amazing you were at which point you often get hit in the face, or your mind drifts to how terrible you are when you keep missing and you keep on missing the ball. When you get hit you can say "thank you ball for reminding me I am not present" In this game you will get angry, irritable, fearful, impatient, bored, confused, very hot, competitive, mesmerised, addicted, envious and distracted at balls.
Playing on Thursday reminded me of one of my favourite quotes… “How you do anything is how you do everything!” seriously test it out for yourself. If you have something to get done what is your habitual way of doing it? for me I plan so much that stepping aside and being in the moment sometimes can be difficult. I rush around and do everything a bit rather than one thing thoroughly. So in the game I work on being present and recommitting to now, now, now, now…..The game reminds me that I have choices about how I operate, I can challenge my ways of being if I want too which is what the Performer's Playground is set up to do. If you play hard you will learn about yourself deeply and will have break throughs in your work and life. The game illuminates this beautifully. Our course isn’t going to tell you what to do, or exactly why we are doing something all of the time. Instead we will provoke you time and time again to be present and play the game in order to discover. I take my hat off to the ten performer’s on our course who have stepped onto the court, rolled up their sleeves and committed despite life getting in the way to their artists development.