a small crack

August 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Posted in creative process, creativity, Ensemble, Physical Theatre, Psychophysical Training, Theatre | Leave a comment
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I had left the ensemble to work on developing some small performance pieces and was working in the house which stands next to the studio. I heard someone calling my name, with urgency, and went downstairs to hear of an injury.

In the studio, two of the three groups were working, though in a subdued fashion, while the third group sat and comforted a friend, a colleague, a-whatever-we-have-become-to each-other, who lay crying on the floor. She had felt something ‘go’ in her back and everything in there felt wrong. Perhaps she’d not be able to carry on. Perhaps she’d not be able to become the sort of performer she wanted to become. Perhaps her dreams would simply slip away from her.

When the back feels ‘wrong’ everything feels ‘wrong’.

The ensemble worked on. I sat and talked with her, trying to see through her panic to the reality of the injury itself. She lay still and breathed deeply. Then we left the studio and walked gently while she talked to me of what she experienced in her back. Gradually the panic receeded and the back proved not so bad.

Inside the studio, the ensemble faced a choice – to work on or to stop for the day. They sang a song together and worked on. In that decision lay one of the tough strengths of ensemble – for though it my appear uncaring and unsympathetic to work on while a colleague is in distress, it was the best decision. The shaken ensemble members refocussed on a creative and complex task. The injured individual could focus on herself, taking all the time she needed without feeling that she was obstructing others or impeding the progress of the work.

She rested, relaxed, shared supper with us, bathed, slept and woke with a back that was clearly not right, but nor was it so terribly wrong. She’ll monitor herself for a day or two and we’ll do whatever she needs. But the ensemble carried on working. It worked in the studio when she was in crisis. It worked at dinner when we ate together and laughed. It was there when she woke this morning, and, during a beautiful and gentle morning’s work, it was there to absorb, support and offer her the chance to work at the level she today felt able to. At the moment of possible crisis the ensemble had a choice –  survive or fail. It is in the interests of the broken individual that the ensemble survives so that it will be there to offer her the support she needs.

I feel a terrible weight of responsibility, of course. If I did not set up environments where people are tested and push themselves to their limits, there would be no chance of people hurting themselves, of breaking down. Yet if those environments are not there, how are we ever to grow?

This is a central paradox – and it is the risk we take, as artists, all the time. We pursue dreams of individual and collective excellence. To achieve those dreams – of excellence and transcendence – we test the fabrics of our bodies. minds and souls. And in that testing is the possibility that we break the very tools we rely on to achieve our dreams. Sometimes we experience a little ‘crack’ and it is as if we have lost our place in the universe.

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