As I look at the sonnets plastered on my wall, slowly filling with notes (very slowly filling with notes), I look back on 2011 with a certain grateful fondness. A sort of “that was supposed to be endured because I needed to know, but now it’s over. Phew”. I loved 2011. I loved it because it was a year for me to explore the arts industry – especially the independent scene that I have impossibly, hopelessly fallen in love with – a year to figure out what I wanted, what I enjoyed, and what I could make a living from, if I gained more experience and knowledge. It was a time for doing the learning I couldn’t have done as an amateur artist before acting school – I wrote, performed and sang then, too – and it was a time for doing the learning actors are actively persuaded from taking on, because it draws them away from their “true calling” on stage, TV or film. Well, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd purely because there is one. I’ve attempted to perform in every aspect in theatre this year, and this is what I have noticed:
Independent theatre is highly unnoticed in it’s beauty and daring.
Playwrights don’t receive enough help from the government or other artists (though Augusta Supple is working diligently to change this with Towards a Writers Theatre).
There aren’t enough younger producers.
The world is slow to change its beliefs regarding gender.
Artists are willing to work for a lot less than they should be.
Writing is as much a part of me as my right arm is a part of me (and possibly more useful)
Rumi is an incredible poet that should be a part of everyone’s lives.
Hybrid theatre is an untapped beauty.
Blow up dolls are surprisingly good actors.
This is not an exhaustive list.
I have, I think, performed every role in the theatre this year. Working through the not-at-all complete list, I aided the producers of three plays, managed the stage of two, wrote one, performed five, assisted the director on one, devised one, lit one, operated and called one, controlled the use of weaponry for one, used weaponry for one. I’ve been pushed, pulled, kissed, ignored, cried on, supported, raised, taught, broken and put back together, moulded and shaped into something I don’t even recognise as the actor I was at this time last year.
I’m pleased. I set out last year to learn everything I could about theatre. It’s a medium I love, a medium that thrills me and connects with me in a deep and fulfilling way.
I like to think I succeeded. Or began to succeed.
I know now that I love to stage manage, in fact I believe I have the mentality for it, but that it’s a thankless task that should only be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.
I know now that I am willing and able to learn to be a producer, because there are not enough producers because it’s a thankless task that should only be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid. (On that note, I shall be commencing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business double degree this year – the better to understand the business side of the industry)
I know now that light on a performance space as much as the space itself, is another character in the performance, and can either help or hinder what we wish to see. It can bring a piece to life, or destroy it completely. Again (you know it), technical work is a thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.
I know now that directors all have their methods, and while they may not know what the outcome will be, they always have an idea, and it’s the idea that sustains them through all the rehearsals they feel haven’t changed the piece, and all the meetings with the producer that remind them how little time and money they can really use. It’s a thankless task, and should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.
I know now that writers do not communicate with each other enough. I know that they hide their work because they fear something that is a part of them becoming destroyed by the world of commercialism (not really. They fear a part of them being destroyed by themselves). I know that I have not read enough new plays this year, but I have read enough to see that there is incredible potential that is untapped in the industry. I know now that writing is something you must yearn to do, and be fearless about, otherwise you lose the ideals you started with in the first place, like the gossamer strings of a web as a spider builds. The writer’s job is to build the world without anyone noticing that it has been built. It is a thankless task, and should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.
I know now that actors are intensely passionate about what they want, what they know and what they don’t. I know that they want to be involved with a process rather than told what to say and where to stand. I know that they have ideas too. I know that they are not puppets, they are living, feeling, breathing creatures that are as creative as all the above. I know that a good actor is a smart actor. I know that acting is a sport that needs training. I know that training comes in many forms and I know very very many incredible unknown actors. I know that I am an actor. But I also know that I am not an actor. I am an artist, and in this industry, I am aware that there are more artists than actors. It is a thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.
This is the industry I live in. And guess what? Very little (if any) of it is paid. But all these people come together to create something amazing. Day after day a writer, director, producer, designer, manager has ideas. They have ideas.
And I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this. Ideas, when shared, bring an incredible oneness to humanity. Sport is another way of seeing this oneness. Religion. Dance. Music. Love. This drawing together of people from so many different experiences that we can’t comprehend how many ways in which the same task could be done.
This is what I shall be taking into 2012. Ideas.
I will be sharing my writing, directing, performing skills, and giving as much as I can to producing. I will be producing and directing my own work, Inside/Out, because I would like to learn more about directing and producing work without destroying someone else’s writing. I will be rearranging sonnets and creating new work for as many people as I can. I will be offering my services as an opinion writer to other writers, to other performers, to as many people as may want them.
I’m not a master of anything. I can only give an opinion, a humble and rash and emotive opinion of what I see and how I see it. I read a piece of script and have a reaction to it. That is all. A performer, a writer can only do so much alone. So I want any writers that read this, and any friends of writers that read this to know that if you need someone that will cast no judgement on your work, simply offer an opinion: “You’re not alone. I’m here. And while I may not have the answers, sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone tell you what they think.”
I’ve said on many occasions that I love words. I love the way they sound, the way they taste and the way they smell. I touch them with my tongue, with body parts – when I’m signing, I touch them with my hands and eyes, when I’m blind, I touch them with my ears. Beyond touch, I love the way that a word order can be entirely new. I love that humans have developed this incredible way of taking random words and putting one after another after another to create something that only they could have imagined. Only they could have written those words in whatever state they were in at the time. Just as a thousand different actors would have a thousand different reactions to the same six words “to be or not to be”, a thousand writers with a common story would write it a thousand different ways.
It is a force to be reckoned with.
A thousand minds – a thousand thousand minds – and this is the one that creates.
It’s mind boggling. And stunningly beautiful.
Thank you 2011.