I spent a few hours the other afternoon in the company of old friends and mostly new faces under the auspices of the Toronto Digital Dramaturgy Lab. Some interesting questions raised about privilege and choice. “We enter into the practice of theatre from different places. We all choose theatre, but it’s not the same choice for everyone.” Laine said that, or something to that effect, as far as my memory serves. This in response to some fairly broad assails on theatremakers who don’t craft work more thoughtfully. “Why don’t they find a more creative way of organizing the projects so they do have the means to engage a lighting designer early in the process?” Naturally this is possible and meaningful in the abstract but in practice there are many reasons why sometimes such seemingly simple intentions are not possible. There’s the question of money. It’s unethical to ask someone to work for nothing if everyone else is getting paid. It’s very difficult to ask everyone to get paid less so we can afford a lighting designer when people’s livelihoods (rent, food, heat, lights) depend on this pay cheque. There’s also the very real question of finding the right person and bringing them in at the right time(s). Momentum, movement, resonance. Sometimes the work has to start with the people it starts with; that may or may not include someone who wears the lighting designer hat.
I spoke up but I’m not sure I did a very good job. I wanted to point out that the criticisms raised weren’t really relevant. Straw man arguments. Of course we all agree that Mirvish spends a lot of money on its commercial productions and they aren’t artistically innovative. (I think they’d agree with us too.) Of course “technicians” like lighting designers and projection specialists should be engaged early in the process and not added as an afterthought. The real question is how to do the work we want to do. After you identify the people you want to work with, for me, it often boils down to communication and language. How to share a common vision with different collaborators who arrive with – are invited for – their distinct (thus separate) preoccupations, styles, aesthetics, views, ways of creating, ways of communicating, ways of organizing and contributing to processes, etc…. To some extent you need everyone to see the desired goals in a similar way but how do you do that when everyone comes from a different place, serve different masters, celebrate different notions of excellence? Creating alignment is a consistent theme throughout my arts and consulting practice.
In all fairness I think the group was reacting to some odd conversations they had in Berlin; I wasn’t there for those intercultural exchanges that resulted in the lingering frustrations/questions shared.
Anyhow, it was a brAInsTOrm. A nice change of scenery. Only the second one I’ve been to, I think. We talked above the above, and we briefly talked about the call for submissions for the upcoming Banff Centre Convergence conference on interdisciplinary arts & technology. Aside from that, we mostly heard some hilarious stories about some recent DDL expeditions to Berlin. Wish we could’ve seen more photos and videos; always inspiring to really see or pseudo experience work from other contexts. Unfortunately the sun was too beautiful, too bright, and the Videofag windows, I suppose, too clean. I suggested smearing sour cream over the glass but folks didn’t seem keen. (About the clean up, I think.) Antje made some excellent potato pancakes. And I made a critical discovery: I like sugar on my potatoes!