After 10.5 hours of sleep last night I was refreshed and started off today feeling like I could take over the world. I’m even becoming more comfortable with our morning warm ups.
In our conversation about what we saw last night, the idea of being seen came up again. When we talk about being seen in a performance, we are talking about the idea that our presence in the room was felt by the performers and changes the show – that our presence is a necessary component of the show. There are certainly some shows where the proscenium curtain could be in the whole time and the performance could happen just as it has every other time, and nothing would change. I don’t mean “does the performer talk directly to the audience?” because I have also seen shows where the performer is talking to the audience without ever seeing them, while some shows that have no direct address feel very seen.
The comment that resonated this morning as we talked about this topic for the fourth or fifth time was this: “How much is the work a reflection pool for the audience?” or to put it another way, “Is this play asking questions which the audience must answer for themselves or showing them a piece of their own soul?” Have you ever been at a performance where you felt seen? Or where you wished you’d been seen? I was at a site-specific piece recently where I desperately wanted to feel like the performers were seeing me, that my presence (and the presence of my fellow audience members) was informing the show.
This morning we were joined by Mani Soleymanlou, creator and performer of One/Un to talk about his piece, process, and my take away from our converstaion with him was three-fold.
One: Always make sure your collaborators are artists. Be prepared to tell them that their ideas are better than yours. Be prepared to throw their ideas away.
Two: Know when to stop rehearsing. Be precise on stage, but not “rehearsed.”
Three: If we all decided to stop working with people who worked unethically or who are assholes in the room, change would happen and it wouldn’t “have to be that way.”
After lunch, our focus was on fundraising. Jacob Zimmer, Julie Tepperman and Alexis Da Silva-Powell joined us and we began with the question “Why do people donate to the arts?” We talked about types of fundraising, tools for fundraising, and previous successful strategies. Then we did a group exercise – my favourite part of each day. Today we were divided into groups and given a ridiculous show concept (a burlesque Charlie & The Chocolate factory, a new musical about Louis Riel, a 3-hander farce written by an established playwright in collaboration with a grade 6 class, etc) and then asked to create the foundation for an online fundraising campaign, target some corporations, and list some people you would make personal asks to and why. It was a great exercise and it was interesting to hear the feedback about everyone’s proposals.
It was a three show night, seeing Breath in Between, When it Rains, and Petrichor. What are the chances of seeing two shows in one night that feature people killed by being struck by lightning? Odd. I’ve seen a lot of shows at SummerWorks that feel kind of half-finished, which is not what I expected coming in, but I suppose that I simply didn’t have a good sense of what SummerWorks existed for. I now see SummerWorks as a type of “work in progress” festival – a middle step between the Fringe and a full production.