I’ve written here before about making work in Open Space, both written work (as a novelist) and group work (as a theatre-maker).
These are the five principles of Open Space :
Whoever comes are the right people
Whenever it starts is the right time
Wherever it happens is the right place
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
When it’s over, it’s over
Point 6 here has a longer explanation of each.
I believe in them all, happily work with them all, and admit to sometimes finding them a challenge. Because sometimes, working in Open Space can feel a little like tempting fate. Sometimes the principle “whatever happens is the only thing that could have’” sounds a little like Bring It On!
And sometimes it is the only thing possible.
Right now it is the only thing possible.
Some time ago my friend Sarah Robertson asked me if I’d direct her play. I like her work, both as a playwright and a poet, and I said yes, even though I hadn’t yet read this play. She worked with me on the script this year and I’ve been really impressed by how willing she is to share her writing, to give it over to the company. (see previous blog.)
Sarah is a company member of Shaky Isles and in Shaky Isles we have chosen to make our work in Open Space. We are so Open Space about our work that we have welcomed actors into the company without auditioning them, without seeing their work, but because they turned up and expressed interested and liked what we did and wanted to stay – whoever comes.
Last year two new people came to us in this way and they are now in Sarah’s (scripted, text-based) play we’re working on.
People often assume it must be difficult to work on a script (or a non-script) in OS, I think it does take a lot more holding, but it’s also far more engaging for all present, and while I – as director – might have to do more holding, be more present ALL the time, I do also have the huge bonus of not having to be clairvoyant, not having to do any game-playing. I never have to second-guess what the actors or the designers need, because they say it out loud when we call sessions every day.
We’ve been going well, working part time for four weeks to accommodate actors’ other theatre and film (and some less-fun money-needed) work, and now full time for the past two weeks.
We already knew that Emma, our company producer would be away on a theatre tour of her own, but figured we could make it work at long-distance and she’d be around for the knottiest bits, and anyway, wherever it happens, right?
And one of our actors has had a very poorly little baby, and spent many nights in the hospital until 4am, and then come to work all day with us. And our production manager has been very ill and largely out of action. Whoever comes.
And then the rehearsal space we had been using over summer for another show wasn’t available, but MakeBelieve Arts (who we love both for their own work and their brilliant rehearsal spaces) came through for us at last minute, and we had some great support from Arch 468 too. Wherever it happens.
And so with various illnesses, other commitments, other jobs, other traumas (just as with any company of people) we’ve been getting through, aided by the Five Principles of Open Space and choosing to believe, to behave as if, to work as if, we are making the right work, in the right place, with the right people, even if things do sometimes go a bit awry.
And then, last week, there was a fire in the theatre.
(see also, Be prepared to be surprised!)
So our get-in and tech that was scheduled for Sunday and Monday has now moved to Tuesday and Wednesday (with the preview on Wednesday night, press night on Thursday). Whenever it starts.
And this move has meant that our original lighting designer now can’t work with us as he’s not available for the new dates. So we have a lovely replacement lighting designer jumping in with both feet and going for it in record time. Whoever comes.
And our set designer is also out of town on another job she had scheduled after ours, so she’s leaving us full instructions for rigging and placing and we’ll do it for her, grateful we can send texts and emails with pictures for her approval. Whoever comes.
And our costume designer is moving other jobs so she can be with us and hold the fort for the set designer (they work together). Whoever comes.
And the theatre (poor things, they have had an awful time of it, and are working like hell to make it viable asap) are still saying definitely-maybe to Tuesday. Whatever happens.
There are faith (buddhist, christian) and non-faith people in the company, all with a massive will and desire to do justice to Sarah’s play and to show the work we believe in and so it will happen. Because it is the only thing that can happen. We believe we have a great show to show, and we bloody well will show it.
If you’d like to see where this catalogue of disasters and determination to overcome any and all obstacles has led us, you can use your two feet to join us at the Hen and Chickens from Wednesday 14th November to Saturday 1st December.
And as for when it’s over? Well, that’s another story …
It will all be the right and only way. Right, and in fact, only. For me, that’s the most awesome part of OST: having right-and-only as your ultimate achievement, every single time. And I love the being surprised. Being surprised that the stuff you were expecting was not, in fact, right and only at all. Awesome.
What a treat! And for all the twists and turns, near misses and quick saves — it sounds pretty much like Life as Usual. Albeit related with a certain theatrical flair! But I am a little curious. The Five Principles are not something I believe in, have faith in. Quite the contrary, I can’t get away from them, and whether I want it or not, they always apply. Just Life. Or something. Fun Story!!
hah, yes, I didn’t mean to imply that they’re an article of faith! just that they’re … there. And it’s so useful to notice them when everything seems to be going wrong/mad/bad. That is, to notice it is, simply, what it is.
thanks so much for documenting ur OST (THIS T stands for theater) experience. reading it opened *heart* space…
What a wonderful exploration of the creative process (and the crisis process) of theatremaking. Hang on in there and have a great week.
thanks Chris xx