ArtsLab Shopfront's artists in residence

Transition time

So it’s been a few weeks since I paid a visit to this blog. I blame it on myself (there isn’t really anyone else to blame) and a slight feeling of inertia that crept in while I was trying to work on my piece, and on a less poetic front, a nasty cold. But here I am, back on board and glad to report the cold is finally subsiding and so too is the inertia. I am at the point now of trying to create a performance, of sorts. And it is just that, a show made out of the big idea sort that has gone on in the past few weeks. I must express it is a showing rather than a show, but either way I must present something to people who’s opinion matters to me, and that is enough to make it equal part exciting and scary.

So, in the last few weeks I have been trying to piece together the loose threads of ideas I have generated over the past six weeks and attempt to weave them into some sort of structure. Some ideas have fallen through the weave unable to help hold the whole together. It’s funny, this process of putting things together, in the way that it changes the things themselves- the ideas elongate or condense or because their context changes so does their entire meaning. I have settled, after some battles with myself, on a narrative navigated by two characters; one is a man, the other is a clown. There is a third character called Alice who comes on for a cameo.

One note I have on process from the last few weeks is to never underestimate the role of the editor in creating a story. I’m not saying this to be wise- it is fairly common wisdom, but it has been my little discovery. Trying to piece together the disparate, but thematically linked (through objects) ideas has been much harder than I thought it perhaps might be. I hoped, optimistically, my show would come together a little like my nanna’s chocolate cake recipe that involves putting all the ingredients into one bowl, stirring, and baking. It would seem no such luck with theatre I’m afraid. I tried that method and ended up with a mash of ideas that didn’t ‘sit’ anywhere specific- they hung loosely and therefore weren’t engaging- there was no entry point to them. And it dawned on me in a way that hadn’t done before, that it takes more than just good ideas to make good theatre; good ideas must also be placed somewhere they can be seen to their full effect to the audience. And this is a tricky job. That all said it was good to start with a mash up- to see what all the threads still were- had they lost their appeal, their allure over the previous weeks? Which ones stood up to the other ones and still felt ok? It was a scary few nights rehearsal discovering many things that, over the course of time, now didn’t stack up so well- at times it felt like what I had been doing for the last 6 weeks was slipping between my fingers and soon I would be left with almost nothing at all.

Fortunately I did have a few things left, and the two characters, a man and clown, that have been popping up at most weekly presentations, seemed to find some place to sit (even if I still wasn’t sure exactly where) and indeed these two helped other ideas find their own gravity. So armed with a few, and just a few, ideas up my sleeve I then left my Artslab brain for a few days and went to Melbourne. It sounds like a silly thing to do just a few weeks out from our first presentation, but it was exactly what was needed- a few days with friends where I wasn’t worried about my next artistic move. I came back mentally refreshed and physically ill (a cold), and fortunately something had shifted. I came to shopfront on Tuesday with an idea for an opening scene. That evening I made a rough map of the show. I left feeling quite good- like I was getting somewhere. But it wasn’t long before this feeling faded again- the next night, still fighting this silly cold, I arrived and began to try and move beyond the first scene, to work on some of the transitions from object to object, character to character. No love. I felt deflated- a little like the Brigit Jones’ Diary moment where she imagines herself dying in her apartment and being eaten by Alsatians. All I can say is in times like these it sure is handy to have a mentor. Michael and I sat down and went through my show scene-by-scene, transition-by-transition to create a running order. And voila, by the end of that evening I appeared to have a show, on paper atleast- now all I had to do is make it!

Since this eureka moment of holding a running order in my slightly sweaty palms, I have gone through it just once completely and am now working on the individual scenes, transitions and reappraising the essence of the ideas expressed- in sum helping my show sit up off the page. The presentation is a week away, so I still have time, but it will be no doubt a very busy week.

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