How to lose sight – November/December – Seeing out of the back of your head

This year, as stated in my previous entry, has been full of business. And busyness. I’ve been rushed off my feet for pretty much the whole thing, which I don’t necessarily find to be a bad thing. Now all my projects have ended and I’ve settled down to finish this last, beautiful piece before Christmas.

Who knows what 2012 has in store for me? I really don’t. Kinda wish I did. But if it has even one rehearsal period like the one I’m experiencing now, I think it’ll be great.

The thing about theatre – the amazing, wonderful thing about theatre, is that when you have time to just experience it, it’s incredible. This year has been a bit frantic, I think, leaping from project to project like the world’s going to end. That has its appeal because I love to be busy. I love to be in it and learning as fast as I possibly can.

This rehearsal period is about putting into practise everything I’ve learned, and just being creative. And that’s amazing.

The piece was created by Michal Imielski and is the second part of a trilogy of works. The piece is devised, which makes me very happy, because the fun involved in just throwing ideas up in the air coupled with the refining of those ideas into a piece that will challenge, excite and entertain an audience is almost a lost medium of theatrical creation. One that is often dismissed because of the time and intensity needed to work on a piece to strengthen it.

The piece is based, as the title suggests, on people that have, through one method or another, lost their sight. Some characters were blind from birth, others were brutalised. What we’re telling in this house (yes, it’s a site specific piece performed in a house) is based on true stories and using actual technologies.

I went to Melbourne over the weekend. My first time on an airplane in four years (far too long for a seasoned traveller). Since I was going on holiday, and my character at the moment seems to have an invested interest in travelling, I put on my sound recorder at times and just sat with my eyes closed, describing what I thought I could hear, touch, smell, taste in the air. Some things frustrated me, like drills blocking the sound of a crossing, or people talking too closely. Personal space, as someone that is visually impaired, works in many ways. You have to accept that people will expect it to be reduced because you “need help”. What if you’re incredibly independent?

My character has been blind from birth. She’s had no other way of living, so of course she knows how to take care of herself. She has to. She doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she doesn’t need to. So when people want to help her, what does she say, or do? It depends on the circumstance. If she’s with people that she can be honest with, she’ll say she’s fine. If she’s with people that are honestly trying to help, she’ll let them. If someone is forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to, she’ll fight back. It makes sense.

So my character went to Melbourne with me. She heard tram noises, and pressed the button at the stop that would read the timetable and due times to her. She touched beautiful fabrics and heard great street music (better than sydney). She felt the hot, dry sun on her arms during the day, the suddenly chill air on her skin at night while she sat at a bar and had a drink. She saw things she’d never seen before. And yes, she SAW things she’d never seen before. And when she returned to her hotel late at night, she slept like a baby.

The incredible thing about devising is that as a writer, you have to learn to let go of the idea that your text will be perfect, or near perfect, and grasp the idea that whatever you say will be the absolute truth at that point in time. Prior to refining and setting the text, every thought you have, every word you say or sound you make is a part of how the character, or the group, feels, and is precious in its own right.

The three devisors I’m primarily working with are all writers as well. I’m not sure how they’re finding the process of not writing, but I remember in the beginning especially, I found it hard not to try to censor myself, or edit as I spoke. The problem is that if you hesitate and don’t say exactly what you’re thinking, you’re missing an opportunity for someone else to pick up the idea and turn it into something else that could be perfect for the finished product.

And I think this piece will be incredible. Which is quite a wonderful way to finish a year.