2011: A thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

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.

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.

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Why I spend so much time on Facebook / Connection

I have a real penchant for connection and connectability (which the dictionary says isn’t a real word. The definition is in the word, so I don’t mind). I have been lightly mocked for always having a presence on Facebook as a result of this, and it has only just struck me how important it is to me to see little flares of connection happening between people. Because I spend so much time with words, I see their potential, I see all their subtleties and I see their sounds. And by seeing their sounds I mean the deliberate choice of each word that people associate with the information they are trying to convey, the assonance, alliteration and rhythm of the words they use and the way they bounce off the page almost exactly the way the writer may have spoken it. It’s almost a sensation of being able to hear the writers talk as they write. Everyone’s voice is so superbly different, and each voice rings in its own way, has its own timbre, accent, inflection. Incorrect usage of a word becomes an idiosyncrasy, then a new definition, and a new language unto itself.

How could an artist spend time away from social media? The way in which we communicate with the world seems so different to the way we communicate with each other on a personal level, and yet in the same breath we are all quite comfortable with having entirely private conversations in the public domain, and the rest of the world is quite happy to accept its privacy. It’s along the same lines as a couple forgetting there are people around them while they kiss each other goodbye at a train station. The world around them dissolves as they are simply in each other for a moment. The difference, the incredible and sharp difference is that all the information passed between the two people is still there. So every conversation you have with someone on Facebook will be a snapshot of your life at that time. For good or ill. I am of the perspective that it is neither good nor bad. At this point in our understanding of technology, and our development as a species, this is the only way to be. This may change. People have private conversations on the public domain. I’m having one now. Both literally on facebook, but also with you. This is our private conversation. The thing is, it’s written on a public domain, therefore it is readable by all. Shared. Like ants in a colony. Shared knowledge, shared mentality. The idea that humans’ brains are developing in such a way that we don’t remember information any more – we remember where to get the information –  is fascinating.

And that is why I spend so much time on Facebook.

This year. Boxed in and Vulnerable – As You Like it Feed’em Fighters, that Cunning Little Vixen had A Quiet Night in Rangoon with No Cold Feet, danced with Women, Power and Culture while learning How to Lose Sight and collapsed in Fiji at the end of it all.

It’s hard to believe that in January this year I performed my own work for the first time. It’s also hard to believe that just this year I learned how to stage manage, light, rig, bump in/out, edit, assistant direct (which I know isn’t necessarily a skill, but it feels like one), dance, sing, use words, throw words away and generally feel comfortable with making a fool of myself.

This is the first of probably quite a few posts as we head towards the end of the year. My mind is trying to formulate all the words that can really sum up the experiences I’ve had, and the what I’ve learned from them, but in reality, I’ve learnt too much to really express it satisfactorily in the amount of time I have. It could be only when I’m lying on a beach in Fiji will I truly have the time to go into the depth and philosophical grandeur of just how much my brain, heart and body have gained in this one year.

I’ll start now, though. I’ll try. Because the sun is shining, I’m developing puppets before a performance tonight for a rehearsal tomorrow and am just on the cusp of a nap, which is the perfect dream state to be in to write, I find.

Boxed In (and Vulnerable). Oh, I learnt so much from that. When I read the play now, I understand that it was my “practice play”. The characters are developed, and distinct, and the concept is good, but I would need to take it apart and re-write it to make it fit who I am now and the way I write now. That play was effortless to put on paper, but hell to edit, so I’m quite happy to let that go and keep exploring new themes. It was the first time I’ve attempted to produce and perform my own work, and I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. Perform my own work. Not unless I actually write a character for myself, but I doubt I will do that. There are more interesting people and characters out there, and I want to see them. The danger with speaking what you’ve written is that there’s only so far your creativity can go. You know what she’s thinking in the dark of night when she’s alone and no one can see her face. You know how it felt when she had sex for the first time. You know why she didn’t like that nickname, or why she hated men. You know the real reasons. Of course you do. You wrote it. The interesting thing is seeing what other people come up with.

I’ve started to put together a production team for my next piece “Inside/Out”. Corinne has agreed to play the game with me and take the piece to production. She’s read the script, and the ideas she’s coming up with as one of the characters are ideas I could never have imagined would come from the words I wrote. It’s not a case of a flaw in the writing. The chances are slim that I will change the script purely because of the thoughts she has, but the fact that she’s having those thoughts gives me an incredible thrill, because it reminds me that there are so many opportunities for creativity in a process, and the words are only one. Corinne isn’t me. That’s fantastic! It means we can have twice the thoughts, twice the arguments about lines, twice the questions with no real answers. She can have an objective that is the opposite of anything I would have come up with, but is perfect because that is the way she thinks. The character is still saying the same lines, the words haven’t changed, but the inflection, or the meaning have. And I think that’s beautiful.
So no, I don’t think I will perform my own work again, unless it’s a monologue or other such scene that is independent of everything else I write.
I do want to spend more time writing poetry. I had a mild poetic bent this year

light on the leaves sings with warmth and pleasure.
Treasure the moment before the sun sets and the aria ends.

of mostly two line observations. It’s really fun and relaxing and hits at entirely random moments.

Words. I love words. I love eating them, vomiting them, chewing them, getting tongue tied over them, dancing with them, dancing through them, lying on them and they’re still on my wall.
Shakespeare’s sonnets. They’re still on my wall. In case you wondered.

I’m getting very sleepy now (naps are the best way to make sure you’re getting more than four hours of sleep a night. Ever.) so I’ll have to hiatus this until the next time I have a spare moment.

Boxed in and Vulnerable – As You Like it Feed’em Fighters, that Cunning Little Vixen had A Quiet Night in Rangoon with No Cold Feet, danced with Women, Power and Culture while learning How to Lose Sight and collapsed in Fiji at the end of it all.

Sonnets

Shakespeare and I have a very interesting relationship. I want to speak all his words from memory, and he’s okay with that. The problem is, I don’t want to speak them in order, necessarily.

I didn’t get to spend as much time with Shakespeare as I wanted during high school, or during acting school. There was too much ‘other stuff’ going on for me to get what I really wanted from the words. What did I want?

The sounds.

Look at his verse. Iambic pentameter. They say it flows easily and sounds so right to the ear because it matches the rhythm of our heartbeat. It also, in my mind, flows easily and sounds right because it matches the rhythm of our hearts and minds. I’ve felt the jealousy Hamlet feels because someone’s stealing his mother. I’ve felt the need to test a man’s love the way Cleopatra does out of insecurity. I’ve felt the joy of freedom that Rosalind experiences in Arden, and I’ve felt like mouse to the ‘black lady’s’ cat in the sonnets.

And that’s where my connecting stops, because I’ve reached the subject of my new project. The sonnets. Shakespeare wrote one hundred and fifty four pieces of poetry outside his plays that flowed as a story without necessarily meaning to. I’m not sure, I’d have to ask him. The way I see them, they’re a stream of consciousness. A perfect stream of consciousness.

I would like to state here and now that I’m not an academic. I haven’t done nearly enough research on Shakespeare beyond what I know from school. I’m intrigued NOW, so I’m going to say things that are probably point blank wrong.

Feel free to correct me, if this is the case.

What Shakespeare managed to do, or seems to have managed to do is write the equivalent to haiku about his life. I use haiku, because I believe it’s the purest form of poetry. To write a good haiku, you have to really examine the subject of interest and distill your thoughts into 17 syllables. Shakespeare’s poetry is more expanded, but every single word lives in its own right, and has to be understood in its fullest to even begin to see where his thoughts were when he wrote them.

Having just written that, I’ve just realized how big a project I’ve decided to undertake.

I want to understand the sonnets. I also want to redefine them into another story. The sonnets are a mixture of (almost entirely 14) iambic pentametric lines. If they can make one story, in theory, they should be able to make another.

Imagine, for instance, if rearranged line by line, they could show you the way ‘the young man’ and ‘the dark lady’ thought about Will himself? Or another story entirely?

I don’t know if anyone else has thought to do this. I don’t know if anyone else is crazy enough to consider it. Or is willing to devote the time to something that could yield nothing but an understanding of language.

But. It’s that but. Is it not worth devoting the time to these miniature masterpieces simply for the purpose of exploration? I have three months that I have no projects outside of my own control (i.e. performing in someone else’s media). Why not spend that time playing?
Maybe I’ll find a new Shakespearean work.

The Shakespeare Code.

Or some such.

It’s a chance to marry contemporary thought with elizabethan words that I will have much fun playing with.

Wish me luck.

You may not see or hear from me for three months.

The best words are the ones you haven’t invented yet.

Hello to the world out there. This is a very cheesy, very enthusiastic, and surprisingly sincere greeting to a little space on the interweb that I will be posting my thoughts on.

Definition of “thought” as on the free dictionary.com or some such:

Thought:
1. The act or process of thinking; cogitation.
2. A product of thinking.
3. The faculty of thinking or reasoning.
4. The intellectual activity or production of a particular time or group: ancient Greek thought; deconstructionist thought.
5. Consideration; attention: didn’t give much thought to what she said.
6. a. Intention; purpose: “There was no thought of coming home early.”

b. Expectation or conception: She had no thought that anything was wrong.
I am not happy with this as a definition of thought. I’m sure there is more to be said on the matter, and will endeavour to discover what the word means. It’s a noun. Therefore it is something that can technically be owned, or held, or touched in some way. You can hold a thought. You can reach for a thought, or grasp it, or throw it away. You can discard it, and it can find you, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing. Another word for a thought could be a dream.
And yes, I’m aware I’m not defining it. I’m describing it, which isn’t entirely the same thing. Or maybe it is. But that’s semantics, and I’m having fun playing now.
Define thought. Define…thought. It’s hard to define a physically intangible thing that you know exists. Like God. Define God. Or love. Or the way you feel when you watch a sunrise for the first time and realise that the world renews itself every day even if you don’t see it, or feel it every time.
Thought:
1. The spark that comes from empty synapses.
2. The spark that comes from full synapses.
3. The nothingness that arrives in a full space to pull you from other nothingness.
4. Everything you believe in.
5. The future – coming to meet you halfway.
This is enough. For now.