Way Out West annual summer intensive takes place August 17-21 2015 @ MascallDance. More info HERE.
The intensive offers INTERDIZ WORKSHOP, an opportunity to work closely with Jennifer Mascall and director Steven Hill (Fight With A Stick, formerly Leaky Heaven Circus) on elements of interdisciplinary collaboration. To warm up, some conversation about collaboration and how a piece gets made.
Susan: I’ve been thinking about how the piece really begins when the image life of the team gets cooking without accustomed boundaries. I love this “quickening” in a work’s gestation.
Steven: I agree that the best part of collaboration are the moments when the work takes on its own life and the creators become kind of witness to the arising of a new entity.
Susan: Jennifer recently told me that in her experience, all collaborations are actually hierarchical.
Steven: I agree that hierarchy is one of the forms we play with. I’ve learned a lot about hierarchy from the clown/fool form. The fool begins as outcast and scapegoat- positions determined by hierarchy and power. The outcast has three choices- to submit and be a servant, resist and out dominate the dominant and become the new tyrant or play and become a fool. I wonder if that isn’t a condition of creation- being faced with some kind of tyrannical impossibility and choosing to play in the face of it. I’ve said in the past that in a devising practice it seems that the director is not the author of the piece but is the author of the room- and of course author and authority have a link…
Susan: Can you talk a bit more about the director as the author of the room?
Steven: In a devising situation you’re not working with a predetermined text or choreography,what you’re doing instead, I think is a kind of writing on our feet. So the director through invitation draws together the room and the inhabitants (performers, objects, sound, light etc.) of the room. The director authors the room through this invitation and sets into motion an encounter, but whatever follows can’t be claimed by the director- the rising phenomena is authored by all participants (including the non-human ones and the space itself.).
So in this process the director/author loses their author(ity) as the piece itself creates the path that you follow. I always get stalled and kind of obsessed about who and what should be in the room- one wants a collaborative atmosphere but also one requires an opposing tension to generate friction. So imagining the ingredients of the process and how the ingredients might interact with one another and the container they’re placed in is kind of the first draft of the process.
These days I’m quite interested in seeing the space/environment as an authority that has embedded rules we unconsciously follow. I like the idea coming up in the field Ontological Design which says we create the world and then the world creates us.I think that’s a good description of the devising process- both intimidating and liberating at the same time.
STEVEN HILL is the Artistic Director of Fight With a Stick formerly Leaky Heaven – an experimental theatre ensemble – and has directed each of the company’s productions since the formation in 1999. During this time the company has received numerous awards including the Jessie’s Critics Choice for Innovation Award in both 2010 and 2011. With a team of long-term collaborators from a variety of disciplines he has devised both new works and adaptations of classics and follows an interest in devised theatre through rule-based playmaking techniques. Steven is also a writer and performer, and a member of the faculty at Simon Fraser University’s School for Contemporary Arts.
SUSAN McKENZIE is the host of MascallDance’s blog TALK.