Declaring Ourselves

For a long time at Whistler, we have had a very strong tradition of collaborative, ensemble-driven discovery in the rehearsal hall. And since our inception we have been of the belief that this work must continue through opening and to the end of the run of a show – because theatre’s alchemy is activated by the presence of an audience, and the discoveries pile up once we are working not just with ourselves by with our audience as well.

Recently, we decided that it was time declare ourselves – to find a way to articulate both what we believe and how we want to work. We have come up with the following. These are both descriptions of our current process and also what we aspire to.

A MANIFESTO

“An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

“Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” ~ Adrienne Rich
(from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978)

We believe in an honorable theatre.

We believe that theatre is necessary to the soul.

We believe that collaboration is hard, uncomfortable and vital. We believe that the discomfort generates friction which can generate pearls.

We believe that the act of sharing a play enriches both the actors and the audience. But we believe that act must not be too easy – it is through the act of wrestling with a play that we come to understand it best.

We believe when we create theatre, we must start from a place of love. We believe that love is a state of anarchy, where ideas and beliefs can ricochet through the space and be met by “yes.” We believe that “yes” cannot always be the answer, but that to assume that it will not be shuts down the collaborative art.

We believe that our audience is smarter than we think they are – and hungry for us to ask them to use their minds as well as their hearts. We believe it is, as Howard Barker writes, both an honor and an obligation to challenge the audience.

We believe that it is also an honor and an obligation to challenge ourselves – we are capable of more than we would think.

We believe that theatre can go after the heart and the brain through the whole body – that finding the most beautiful stage picture for a moment, whether it makes coherent intellectual sense or not can be as satisfying to an audience as the most beautifully delivered soliloquy. We believe that finding those moments that make emotional rather than rational sense is critical to the creation of a moving piece of theatre.

We believe that there will never be enough money and that no matter how much time we allow, we will always feel that we could have used more. We believe that the very feeling of scarcity created by those truths leads up to more ingenious creations. Therefore, we believe that we should never excuse our work by saying “if only we’d had more time, more money, more ___”.

We believe that our work can continue to grow after it has seen its first, tenth, hundredth audience – we believe if we are not constantly trying to explore and explode the work, we should not be involved in live performance. we believe in the alchemy between the audience and the performers and we believe that this alchemy can transform a play.

“… all law is bad because every law acknowledges that there is a breakdown of love…. The ideal state is anarchy with love, but as we do not live in a complete state of love … we introduce laws….

“What I have learnt in that theatre is that … when it’s going very well [it] needs very few laws. You don’t need to tell them where to stand, you need to make sure that they know what’s happening in the scene, and then wonderful things will happen out of that scene because none of us have overburdened it with laws. If there’s a good atmosphere of love between them, and by love I don’t mean anything that’s romantic, I mean a professional love that’s based on respect, then you need to impose very few laws on it.”

Declan Donnellan, Cheek by Jowl

Delgado, Maria M, and Paul Heritage. In Contact with the Gods?: Directors Talk Theatre. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996. Print.

A COLLABORATORS’ STATEMENT

  • We agree that we respect each other as artists and as people. We agree to show that respect in word and action.
  • We agree to respect the safety of the artists and the audience. We agree to take care of each other.
  • We agree to create a unique theatrical experience for each show we produce – in doing so, we will push our own limits to keep exploring the unknown.
  • We agree that the work begins once we can free ourselves from the page. To that end, we agree to enter each rehearsal process as off-book as possible.
  • We agree not to say “no”. Or, to put it another way, we agree to consider anything. Not only do we agree to consider anything, we agree to fully invest in the choices we consider.
  • We agree that the exploration of each project continues through and beyond closing night. To that end, we agree to continue working collaboratively on each project throughout the performance run.
  • We agree to honor the audience by asking them to work along with us.
  • We agree to discuss our differences directly with each other in private. To that end, we agree to speak up when something is wrong.
  • We agree that we cannot do it alone. We agree that we need each other.
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