One of the most daunting and exhilarating processes for me as as a theatre maker is generating new work from nothing but an idea. This year I’m on a fact finding expedition, gathering as many different ways to generate new material or explore a theme theatrically. I’m creating an arsenal of weapons with which to smash open the barriers of my awkwardness, fear and procrastination to let the creation flow.
Back to Back Summer School was a great start to this journey. I started with a Writing for Performance workshop with Dan Giovannoni, who ran a well structured workshop. In fact all the workshops were well presented. I have been to masterclasses in the past that were rather vague and took me no where in particular.
Anyhoo, back to Dan. He lead us through a brainstorming discussion about why we tell stories and why story telling is important. I’m going to be boring and just list what we came up with:-
- Use our imagination, keep our brains active and provide inspiration
- Remember. A way to link the past and presence
- Share experiences
- Help us make sense of the world
- To inform and educate around issues and morality
- Entertainment and escape
- Create a sense of community – connect us to others
- Stories should contain some truth that should connect us to who we are
The other exercise I found very useful was one where we were presented with a variety of photographic portraits to choose from. In small groups we were asked to answer the following questions;-
- How old?
- Where they live?
- What they want now?
- What they want in 5 years?
- What is getting in their way?
Each group was then asked to present their findings. These pictures came alive for us, they were people with complex histories and a rich emotional landscapes and it hadn’t taken us long to create these large narratives. I have done these types of exercises before and it was a good reminder to come back to the basics of storytelling.
I worry sometimes about not being clever enough or that I need to make more “sophisticated” work. That fear and self doubt can be overwhelming, sometimes to the point of paralysis. Stories about people are always complex and powerful. All I have to do is to explore the layers of an individual and tell their story. The sophistication is already, there I just have to uncover it.