Director on directing: Dinner Tables

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.

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5x + Dinner Tables Interview Tonight!

This week’s list is pretty chill. I’ve been on holidays, so I’ve been trying to clear my head rather than fill it. Here is a snapshot of my trip to Calgary, but it also includes a bit of shameless self promotion for what I’m going to be obsessed with for the next month.

Enjoy

  1. Jared Beattie and I had breakfast with Kate Herriot this morning to discuss our upcoming project Dinner Tables for her show Mom I’m a Thespian: tune into CFCR 90.5 or listen online here tonight at 7:00 pm CST, or available as a podcast online sometime after that.
  2. Josiah and I are big fans of The Dudes, on the way up he asked if we would get to see them while in Calgary, and I said probably not because he isn’t old enought to get into bars but that I would have a beer with them for him, and by divine luck I did! This is our classic roadtrip track Do The Right Thing
  3. You may have noticed on Instagram that I am reading Savage Beauty the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and i highly reccomend you go pick up a copy, Nancy Milford does a stunning job. Meanwhile you can read Vincent’s poems Bluebeard, The Renascence, and this little gem First Fig.
  4. The Metric concert was fire in everyway. The first concert I haven’t had an anxiety attack at or need to drink to cope since October. Emily Haines is an inspiration. Relive the magic with this stunner The Shade
  5. I am planning a suprise performance in April that has me deeply considering Aldous Huxley on Sincerity, Our Fear of the Obvious, and the Two Types of Truth Artists Must Reconcile via Brain Pickings
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How far we’ve come

Today I am happy to announce our April sketchbook presentation. I could not be more proud of the work my team has put in over these last three months and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been cooking up with you.

Dinner Tables

We have been working hard since January incubating ideas, discovering stories, and exploring the bonds that connect us through good food, friends, and conversation. After three weekend devising intensives we have collaboratively created over 9 hours of recorded material and 28 pages of text so far exploring how we build community through the act of sharing a meal.

Some of it is silly and whimsical, some of it is heartbreaking and tender, all of it is brand new never before seen. We are selecting 30 minutes of the strongest material and concepts created to take for a test drive in a invite only sketch book presentation at 7:00 pm April 11th at the Two Twenty co-working space. You are invited to come take a peek behind the scenes and be part of the development process by joining the conversation, offering your impressions of the work, and sharing your stories.

Sketchbook…

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5x

I will be entering the studio this weekend for our third devising intensive with the Dinner Tables Theatre Collective. After a long week of illness and mental fatigue I need to recharge my creative juices, so I’ve gathered a few links to things that are currently inspiring me.

Enjoy

  1. Interview with Helen Rice and Joseph Nissenboim via The Great Discontent
  2. Almudena Toral: Focusing My Energy via She Does Podcast
  3. Why Metaphor Matters via the Banff Centre
  4. Station Wagon via Kay the Aquanaut and Maki
  5. A Classical Guitarist’s Assuring Account of Creative Homecoming and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome via Brain Pickings

 

 

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Support Dinner Tables Holiday Card Fundraiser

How do we build community through the act of sharing a meal?

In January I will be embarking on the initial creation lab for a new collectively devised theatre piece Dinner Tables a series of 13 vignettes that take place around various dinner tables. The finished piece will be staged in a local restaurant with the audience invited to join the ensemble and the food community (i.e. grocers, chefs, farmers, food bank workers, etc) for dinner following the performance.

We are selling Holiday Cards to support the development of the production for $6 each or 6 for $35. In addition to supporting the creation of new work we are donating a $1 from every card sold to the Friendship Inn. You can purchase a card from anyone in the ensemble or email us here to place your order.

Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity” – Louise Frensco

We are committed to creating this project with and for the community, and are looking for community organizations and businesses to partner with to be part of the creative process developing the piece. If you are interested in more information on getting involved in the project please check out our FAQ page here.We look forward to sharing more behind the scenes peaks with you on our blog, and there will be a work-in-progress presentation in the new year after our first lab so stay tuned for more details.

Happy Holidays xo

 

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November 

November is a solemn month. No longer the fiery autumn colours, the skies are steely grey, and the mornings black. It’s a quiet contemplative month as we strive to remember the sacrifices that were made to get here lest we forget. I am spending November in the studio working on my solo work.

the empty space

Solo work itself is a challenge for me. I usually prefer to work collaboratively to create a piece. I think there is a reason myths of old have so much power, they’ve been shaped by generations of story tellers mouths and hearts, and each retelling is immediately relevant to those receiving it as a special gift from a dear friend while also holding timeless presence of times gone by. It becomes part of the fabric of the community both giving support and being shaped by it like well worn leather: comfy and sturdy.

Collaborative work can also allow me to hide within the work. To blur my artistic perspective with that of the group, and to rest from time to time when all eyes are not on me. Even when I make bold offerings in a collaborative context I have the ensemble to reign me in, to soften my rough edges, to enhance the work in ways I couldn’t imagine. To make the same bold offering in a solo setting I have no filter, every offering is bald and brash in it’s solitary openness with no escape.

It’s a bit like trying to recreate a Monet water lily, nothing makes sense up close, but the reveal comes when you are able to distance yourself from the work. It is challenging as the sole creator and performer to construct a context for the audience to understand the story from my position in the eye of the storm. How does one fathom the force and magnitude of the piece in the wider world in the solitude of the studio?

“Human relationships trumps story, you know the connection you have with your subjects is even more important than the story itself. Because you may have an idea of what the story should be, but that’s never actually the story. The story is actually what unfolds you know in front of the camera, what unfolds with your connection with the subject, and what unfolds in the moment, and you can never plan that.” – Kalyanee Mam

Listening to She Does yesterday I stumbled across this great piece of inspiration and it has been helping to inform my solo process. It’s important to remember that I chose to create this piece as a solo work to create space for my specific connection to the source material to unfold. It’s easy to feel like as the only person in the room I must have all the answers, but all those grey areas rather than black holes sucking out my work are fertile invitations for the moment to unfold with my audience.

It’s a scary, exciting, introspective beginning to the month as the nights grow longer and the air colder. I am looking forward to spending more time in the studio to better prepare myself for a new project beginning in January. Hopefully I come away with new insights into my individual process and some seeds I can continue to tend for future explorations. Stay tuned for some more concrete announcements later in the month.

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The beginning: Dinner Tables

I am writing a play called Dinner Tables.
Tonight.
I have one shot to hash out a rough draft in 24 hours, and by golly I am gonna do it.
The play will be a series of vignettes (12 or so) that feature different scenes that take place over dinner.
Sharing a meal forms such a central part of so many aspects of our lives it is the perfect window into family life, power dynamics, social norms, politics, faith, culture, it all happens around a dinner table.
The final play will take place in a restaurant with the audience seated at their own dinner tables. Together they will watch the show then afterwards break bread together to discuss.
I’ve been sitting on this idea for over six months and I thought it was bloody well time to hash something out.
Thus enters the 24 hour playwriting competition. The perfect event to kick my ass into gear.
Follow my Instagram for lots of deranged writing posts over the weekend, and come out to the underground cafe Sunday for the final reveal of the winning plays.

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