struggle and joy

July 31, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Posted in creative process, creativity, Ensemble, Physical Theatre, Psychophysical Training, Theatre | Leave a comment
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At the end of the last post I mentioned how we were entering the difficult central part of the residency. I mentioned the coexistence of struggle and joy. The interaction between those two things has become crucial to my emerging understanding of the dynamics of an intensive, immersive residential development process.

Yesterday was a really hard day. People’s struggles appeared (to themselves and to others), overwhelming. We are tired, and far from home (if by that we mean far from familiarity, routine and the comfort of routine). Self-pity is perfectly understandable and very seductive. Grumpiness or a search for someone to blame is only human.

Yet our struggle is our own and though we can sympathise one with another, we cannot fight someone else’s demons for them.

Joyousness seems remote, trivial and annoying.

And yet….. Joyousness – our joy in ourselves and our delight in others – is perhaps the only really useful gift we can give to another when the going is tough. We can celebrate a person’s struggle because we admire that person for being strong enough to undertake it. We need them to know that, whatever the outcome, we are delighted by them and that we can share time and space with them. Through our joyousness we remind each other that we are here by choice and that we have got what we came for – the chance to struggle with our demons and, through that struggle, to grow. That act of remembering that we are personally responsible for our own struggle (and that if the going is to tough, we can always walk away, as no one is a prisoner here) is both a tough lesson and a gentle support to us all.

So if joyousness is the gift we give to others to support them as they struggle, what is the gift we give to ourselves when everything seems too hard? I suggest, once again, that is joy. I want to own my own struggle and reap my own rewards. I want to find and remember (however hard) a gratitude that I am in a place, supported joyfully by people I respect, where my necessary struggle can take place. For my struggle will make me stronger.

As an ensemble we consistently support, without reservation, other ensemble members in their difficulties. We are unconditional in our acceptance of people’s strengths and weaknesses. And yet we condemn ourselves for the slightest hint that we have failed to live up to some impossibly high standard we have set ourselves. Why do we always choose to treat ourselves with less love, joy and respect than we treat others? How does that help?

Yesterday was a hard day with raw struggle and utter joyousness. Today, a physically punishing day, has been triumphant. Though there will be other battles, we have overcome, collectively, a slump.

Last night, as the rain fell and the wind blew, we gathered in the barn (with popcorn and wine) and watched Kurasawa’s film ‘Throne of Blood’ projected on the end wall of the studio. Yuki listened in Japanese, the rest of us followed the subtitles, as a samauri ‘Macbeth’ unfolded. It is an immense, amazing film and to see it in such a place, as if an old travelling cinema show had, for one night only, landed in the neighbourhood, only added to its epic quality.

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