So after many years of working on my own, 2013 has shaped up to be the year of the collaboration. More than any other year, and more than my other projects, it seems what I have been doing lately calls for proper shared ownership – not just working as a team, but sharing the concepts, structures and outcomes – then holding my breath as it is taken away from me in new directions by the director or performer(s).
Do You Nomi (January) was a case in point – having created the text I watched as other people got involved in interpreting what I had written. And there were many people – director, choreographer, dancers, actors, designers – all with their own take on it. I know it’s not like a major deal to have all these people working on something but in the past I had called all the shots – not because of megalomania but because that’s how it was: everything was done on a shoestring but now I find myself in positions where my role is fixed and acknowledged and separate from the others.
The forthcoming Wilful Forgetting (Tron Theatre 6th-9th November 8pm) is another good case in point. It is a piece that I have co-written with Donna Rutherford which she is directing and also performing. And making the films. And overseeing the music. And designing. I’m happy with the text we have created (which is made up of rewritten and re-appropriated text from literature dealing with a mother/son relationship), but again I have to allow the interpretation to move and change from my original intentions. I have also been hugely influenced by Donna, her work and process. I’m sure the final piece will not be instantly recognisable as an O’Connor Production™ but I know that I should allow myself to work in new ways.
I’ve still to see what Scottish Opera have made of my children’s opera Platypus in Boots (music by Rachel Drury) and Pop Up Theatre Royal (music by Karen MacIver) – both being directed by other people. The Power of Collaboration is also the title of a section from a talk I’m giving this week at a palliative care conference about a recent project at a children’s hospice. I’ll be talking a bout the risk involved ofbringing together artists, families, hospice staff, schools and community groups to make a piece of work. And when I say risk I mean ‘positive risk.’
All of this is good by the way and I am in no way saying that any of this should not be the case. I have spoken to writers who love watching their texts grow and be shaped into entities that they had never expected, and of course writers who are relieved that elements were interpreted ‘correctly.’ I suppose I have always seen a piece through from beginning to end – and have a clear idea about direction and delivery from the outset. But this year’s projects have all been worthwhile, and of course it is always a pleasure and a privilege to witness your words being lived through by another. In any case interpretation has always occurred every time my work has faced an audience.
But still my question remains as to what extent the writer has power in their projects. This will no doubt continue perhaps until I find solid working relationships with people whose work I know well, who I trust and who I enjoy collaborating with.
And so to Team Effort. The whole idea of people working together lies at the heart of this brilliant collective. Last week I had a meeting with fellow group member Kim Moore. We spoke about music and words; about honesty and integrity; about singing and underscoring. Could this be another collaboration in the making? How would I feel if Kim were to take my words and perform them?
When is it going to stop being all about me?
Wait a minute – is someone else going to get the applause??
Thinking I’m pretty au fait with technology (having a soundcloud, twitter/fb, website, dropbox, skydrive, instagram and flickr account) it’s taken me this long to get this blog up because I couldn’t work out how to do it. I do, however, have a blog section of my website. During a residency at the Tron Theatre I thought I would use it to tell my adoring fans of what I was doing each day. The reality? I made three entries – two on the first two days and one at the end. Just because I felt guilty.
Having just got off the phone from Gilly (producer and chief Whip Cracker of Team Effort) who provided a tutorial here it is. My first blog for Team Effort! So what am I going to write about?
Normally all the accounts listed above contain mostly work-related publicity or pictures of my dinner. Mostly the latter as I tend to eat more than work. However this is not the intention of this blog.
So in deciding what I’m going to write about in this blog, having been prompted by Gilly, I’m going to write about two things: writing blogs and being prompted by Gilly.
The first I feel pretty funny about. I like to talk. I like to write. I like the idea of people being interested in what I have to say. I update my facebook status regularly (again, food mostly) however after an unpleasant incident I created involving a kind of inflammatory comment on the Church I have tended not to shout my mouth off in more recent times. Food is much less inflammatory. So in this world of instant fame from status updates and instant backlash, the whole ‘putting myself out there’ is quite an unappealing concept. I also feel a bit weird about our relationships with blogs. Becoming more supported by funders and arts councils I realise the weight they put on the idea of making your process public – indeed it’s in a few conditions in contracts. I’m totally fine with that in theory, however do I really want to tell the world my ideas, my process, my thoughts, my hopes, my fears? Does anyone find it useful and interesting? Am I excited when I see someone blog about their work or do I skim over it whilst rolling my eyes at their shame-faced publicity hunting?
However I am in a different place now. With Team Effort! I am being encouraged to take all sorts of risks. To think long and hard about what I want form a year’s development and work within a frame of my own making. So perhaps these blogs will be based around the idea of blogging a process. Perhaps I’ll give insight into elements of my work while remaining mysterious. Maybe it’ll be whatever is in my mind when reminded to blog again please Martin.
Which brings me to the next thing I want to talk about. Being prompted. I’m sure she won’t appreciate being labelled a whip cracker, but having a producer, mentor and other people on the team means that I can’t idly put stuff out there on social media whenever I get round to it (normally in the little rehearsal videos between dances on Strictly) but now I have things like ‘deadlines.’ Gilly has asked for a few things like availability, video diaries, contracts as well as these regular blogs. And while I do that teenage huffing thing I know deep down it’s exactly what I need. I never have anyone telling me what to do. For so long I’ve been my own boss and because I share a lot of characteristics with my boss I let myself off with not doing anything while letting my boss off for being a bad boss. Now there is a new boss in town and a whole lot of new people to take into account.
If I take this year seriously and commit to making something new, something that has a rigorous investigation and is a true exploration of my work, then these blogs will serve as an important document that I can use for reflection. If however I cock this up and make nothing by the end of it, my blog may be nothing more than a series of descriptions about failed attempts to do something worthwhile which nobody will read or find interesting.
I think I prefer working towards the first thing.
Okay I’m going to get up now. I’ll watch Strictly later.