So today, I'm very excited! Today you won't be hearing about Jasper Mountbatten III coke fuelled trip to Monte Carlo, you won't be hearing about Derek Bluebottom's bed sores or 1000 mile stare, you won't be hearing about the rage and violence boiling inside Colin Shitsmearer and you certainly won't be hearing a whisper out of Timothy...
Today I am hosting my very first GUEST BLOG!!! Sound the trumpets, bring out the monkeys, carry forth the golden elephants and bang your sausage filled bellies. Amy Draper (genre busting Director/Maker of These Trees Are Made of Blood and the RSC's Day of the Living) was bored so I suggested she write a blog.
I'll let Amy speak for herself, but needless to say, in her own Amy way she went about producing something that was completely NOT what I suggested and is ever the more wonderful for it. If I want my blog to be anything, I want it to be a place for humour, honesty and truth in an industry that is absolutely drenched in facade. Amy has done exactly that.
Just a little bit about Amy before you hear from her. Amy and I have known each other and worked together for about six years now. She hired me to write songs for a little show she was working on called These Trees Are Made of Blood. She is a unique, special, brilliant and honest collaborator. I have seen her at her highest and at her lowest. We have shared and solved more theatrical conundrums than I can remember. We have argued passionately and intensely about many a thing and we have laughed so much that the rehearsal room has been fit to burst with it. Today I get to count her as not only one of the finest new theatre makers in the UK but as one of my dear friends.
You can read all about Amy's credentials and her work here:
But enough of all that. Amy has written a blog and that's why you're all here so listen up. She's got some important shit to say:
Kintsugi (Or how not to write a blog about devising)
By Amy Draper
"There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
- Leonard Cohen
Hello. I’m a director and long-term collaborator of Darren’s. Together we have been through the highs, the lows, rehearsals, production politics, late night celebratory beers and early morning creative crisis meetings. He’s seen me at my buoyant, intuitive best mid-rehearsals, and my gloomiest, rejection-receiving lowest. I’ve seen him eat a lot of McDonalds (and, ya know, create
musical magic during a tea break). It’s been a journey. Our latest project was a gift of a project at the RSC. But right now you need to picture me sitting at home mid-week, about 7 weeks in to an unemployed stretch that, at current prediction, will last until the start of February. Darren suggested I write a guest blog for his website to help keep myself occupied. He suggested I write one about the devising process, a real passion we share. I thought about this for a week or so and then decided… not to. Which is a little presumptuous on a blog that isn’t even mine. But you’ve got to write about what’s getting you fired up, and, currently, what’s getting me out of bed is… the issue of not having anything to get out of bed for. Theatre at its beautiful best can bring people together, facilitate empathy through storytelling and therefore, I really believe, effect change. What I wanted to muse on is how we, as theatre makers, can not just survive, but thrive during the “off periods”, when creative connection is limited and often the greatest change you’re pondering is of the underwear variety. In fact, even the language I’ve been using doesn’t help. Off period. Unemployed. Not working. Between jobs.
Off. Un. Not. Between.
For the purpose of this blog I’m not going to talk about money or day jobs (as covered by Darren). Money worries are obviously a thing, but I want to talk about wellbeing. Like many of us, I struggle in these times. It’s not that I can’t think of lots of things to do – emails, coffee meetings, reading or research (not to mention “fun life stuff”, which is equally if not more important) – but somehow, as the days trickle by and your inbox remains empty, it’s not enough. Directing is, fundamentally, a
team sport. It’s a collaboration and there’s only so long I can collaborate with myself, in my pyjamas at 2pm. When people ask, “so what are you working on?”, I stammer. I could, legitimately, tell them in glorious detail all about the projects that are maybes. The sparks, the ideas. But instead, I just kind of go “um…”
Off. Un. Not. Between.
Negative space. This is not healthy. In fact, even for a high-profile-super-woman-director who had upcoming productions all the time, I’d say 4-5 a year is the maximum possible. Which means that even then you’d only be in a rehearsal room for about half the year. Which leaves a heck of a lot of this troubling negative space. What I lack during these times is connection. I mean the kind of creative empathy that comes when rehearsing exciting work in a room full of artists, experts in their respective fields. The kind of
empathy that makes me a bit softer, a bit kinder and a bit more open to other people and their experiences. In the negative space I simultaneously become a bit woolly and also harder edged. Less patient, more self-centred, less empathetic. Which I think is a problem, not only for my work but for how I interact with people close to me and react to the world at large. See there I go, “me, me, me”. Of course, by “I” I really mean “we”. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that every freelancer knows this place.
This blog could also potentially have been about useful activities and coping mechanisms for the lower moments. Fresh air, exercise, reading, seeing friends. These are all as obvious as they are important.
So, this is where I’ve got to instead.
In Japan there is an artform called Kintsugi, which is when broken pottery is mended using precious metal. The cracks suddenly gleam gold or silver. The pieces are reconnected, and the break becomes the most beautiful thing. Traditionally this is seen as a poetic comment on embracing your unique imperfections. But I wonder whether it could also be applied to perceived imperfections of work schedule – time that feels empty.
Could we try to reimagine these seams of time as golden rather than grey? As vital, positive space that is full of possibility – personally and professionally – to grow a little. Above, I described the RSC job as a gift. Is it possible to see the spaces between in the same way? After all, what could be more valuable than the gift of time. What will you do with yours?
END OF BLOG
Thanks for that Amy, you're a blooming legend for sharing your experience of a difficult and little talked about aspect of the career of the freelance theatremaker. You can read all about Amy's credentials and her work here:
Also, producers and venues reading this. As wonderful as it is, let's fill some of that downtime huh? Check her out. She's fricking awesome.