I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my role as director, and my process for creating this piece now that our first lab is wrapped up, but the more I reflect on my role the more I reflect on the gifts everyone brought to the table to make Dinner Tables lab one a success.
Working with a fantastic group of people has been the greatest gift to this project by far. There have been a lot of different people through the ensemble touching it with their hands and hearts, and like a stone soup it is that much richer for it. My role as director of the process has been to gather the right people and ask interesting questions, offer inspiring jumping off points, and to really step back and receive what my team is offering.
We worked on the “what would I steal” creative principle, stolen from Eric & David at Ghost River Theatre, which means that we cherry picked moments, lines, images, characters, from a variety of sources within and without the ensemble. We stitched the best of them together into a thirty minute sketchbook presentation (another stolen concept) that we then offered to the community to see what they would steal and expand upon.
It is important to me in my work, but particularly in this piece to bring the community into the work and bring the work into the community. The two can not exist on polar extremes, and discovering what that key is to let them into the work is vital to the only kind of sustainability that matters as an artist– the sustainability of creative practice and the work.
The second greatest gift to the project was the funds and support from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to be able to pay this team a small amount to create the work. The work will never pay handsomely (or let’s be real even modestly most of the time) so it has to be enriching in other ways, but the only way we will be able to continue to be able to enrich our communities in this way is if we are also able to put bread on the table. This catch 22 is eased by the support of artist centered funders like The Saskatchewan Arts Board that see the value in investing in the development of new Saskatchewan works, and emerging Saskatchewan artists. Their support on this project also transcends dollars to be able to indicate a clear marker of support from our community of peers, and has allowed us the breathing room of time to be able to give back to our work and our community.
I was reminded so very much of Kat Cizek in this process that as a director “all the great stuff that happens isn’t really because of you” on your project, those happy accidents can’t be predicted and couldn’t be recreated through force if you tried. My only response can be the watchful eye, full of cares looking out for my brood, to steer them away from the things that might crush their spirit, and clear the path of obstructions so that they can offer their best work. As Steve Jobs put it: we don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, we hire them so they can tell us what to do. All I can do is clean my ears out and pray for the stillness of heart to receive what they have to show me about the work. In the end when the work gets chaotic and the best offerings stand to get lost in the noise Kat says it best again “if something doesn’t feel right don’t let it slip through the cracks, even if other people are saying “it’s fine, it’s fine” you have to be the one to say “no it’s not”” a lesson in yin that I have been practicing more of since January. In the absence of things that are “good enough” all the things that really matter and fulfill me have had room to flood in– on this project and beyond.
I am so thankful for all of the support I have received on this creative journey and I look forward to sharing the discoveries from the second lab in the fall. Big thank you again to the team: Charlie Peters, Jennifer Dawn Bishop, Jared Beattie, Kathy Allen, Rob Roy, and Ingrid Gomez.