First Devising Reflection

I’m a 23 year old Theatre and History major at Northwestern University. That is my mantra when I wake up in the morning as I walk to class. It reminds me of who I am, where I’ve come from, and what is in my future. I come into this class after taking Adapting Narrative for Group Performance with Paul Edwards, Storytelling/Creative Drama with Rives Collins, and Telling Stories with Kevin Boyle. Together these courses form the backbone of my vision of myself as an artist. I believe that we exist in the flow of history, where ideas and forces swirl around us, and the only way to push ourselves forward is to explore Ranciere’s forest of signs, reflect on what we’ve seen, and then create. Creation is key because then we become part of the conversation for and with those that follow us into the forest.

With that being said, I have high hopes that studying devising will give me the tools I need to move forward as an artist. Already, from the Kerrigan reading, I was already feeling my brain switch to the on position. I’ve had many conversations with Greer Dubois, collaborator and friend, about feelings of failure, cultures of success, and how difficult it really is to just start. We live in a culture that shames failure, so I found Montanaro’s blue paint analogy to be particularly harrowing and eye opening. With projects, you need to just start. Try, fail, try, fail and find little bits within each failure that add up to a solution. My old theatre teacher, Chris Sheldon, has a sign over his door with the Beckett quote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Which is good up to a point. I’ve tried and failed so many times already in my relatively short life. But I think that Kerrigan pushes me beyond that. There isn’t really a better way to fail, but rather what we see is a failure is just part of the journey. I have a tattoo of a labyrinth on my chest. It reminds me that while the journey may be long, while at times it feels like you’re going backwards, if you just keep pushing through, it will lead you to the place that you need to be.

Kerrigan offers some particularly good methods of breaking down that initial fear of failure and tap into the ideas that are everywhere. Pick one, don’t judge it; explore it. The idea that the brain is kept from the edge of creation by fear is moving for me, and so I’ve already written down the prompts from the 22 that really felt like they would groove for me. The idea of Rounds as a way into the ideas of a piece got me, and the idea of Harangues is one that I stumbled across in my work directing Chasing Blue with Bea Cordelia. Especially important is the idea that you should always reflect is one that Rives makes really important Creative Drama. Activity is not how we learn, only through reflection. There’s a certain discipline to this. But in that is the craft of the creator.

Moving to the Heddon/Milling reading, I was happy to be back where I feel most comfortable, swimming in ideas and history. I approved of the nuanced way that they limited the scope of their book; work that begins with no script, collaborators, and created for an audience. I was somewhat surprised to see the emphasis that will be placed on hierarchy within a devising process, but I guess that such hierarchy has always been present (at least from what they argue). Specialization/professionalization is part of the game. I’m eager to explore how specialization can be used to subvert traditional hierarchies, but that’s just an aside.

I have lots more thought, but I guess I’ll take them to my journal. Thank you for teaching this class. It feels like we’re about to do important work.

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