The session was called by Cora Bissett and was asking how do directors ( or people who are in creative leadership roles refresh their process when they don’t get the chance to watch other Directors in action. Especially mid career artists, who are no longer ‘emerging’ but wants to just shake up their own process and see how others work.

There was a shared sense of this.One group member spoke of a very good initiative n Scotland ‘Authentic Artist’ workshop, where you bring an intention or feeling, if you are feeling somewhat stuck and wan to work with anew toolbox.

The company Magnetic North do ‘Rough Mix’ : an ensemble of collaborating artists , where there is permission to ‘fuck up’ and a 2 week session so removing that tyrannical dread of the Friday sharing.

People are gagging for peer to peer support.

We reflected that as the Director/ Leader you have to be ‘strong and decisive’ but to be genuinely fresh and original there needs to also e unknowns. The pressure can be lonely.

Phelim directed shows through his Open Space process, all curious about that.

Three phases to creating:
The Initiating idea
The Developing Stage
The Polishing Stage.
Different people are good at different aspects and one practitioner reflected that he works with colleagues who come in at different stages to help in the stages he feels less strong in.
WE brainstormed that this could be something we all utilise more…spoke around crediting…could they be ‘creative friends’ to the show or ‘Show Doctors.’
It felt important to get the ground rules right at the start of that process; a generous offer to come and give a small amount of your time on the lead artist’s idea.

Important to build in the ‘time to fail’ in your timeline.

We spoke about ‘observing ‘ each other’s work and how that in itself can be a vulnerable thing to open up to.
Someone shared the story of a type of fish which when put in a tank with other fish causes them all to die.
No one wanted a ‘death fish’ in the room…a person who sucks the energy and trust and fearlessness out of a space, so the energy that observer comes in with is very important.
That we might learn as much from younger practitioners as those we deem ‘at the top of their game’…new methods, new approaches. General agreement that it would be good to be allowed to watch each other at work, with no judgement and genuine open spiritedness in the room.

An actor in the group said they would really appreciate to be asked for feedback on the process after the production finishes.
Could they be paid a little to take some time to reflect and speak about it. Constructive feedback which Directors can learn from.
Directors agreed this wood be very useful. They often have no way of gauging how well the process has been received.
It was pointed out that Stage Mangers are a hugely untapped source of knowledge since they are speaking directly with actors ‘off record’ and have also been in many many rehearsal rooms, so asking their feedback on what worked well, what might be done differently, and how other people might have ways to get around the areas a particular Director struggles with is a really useful person and source of knowledge.
Could SM’s be paid for that reflection and feedback time also?

Check ins at the end of the day.
It was shared that the term ‘Highs and lows’ was preferred, so that it kept the end of day comments focused on the work rather than getting too personal. ( the danger being that some actors may share Emotional/ psychological information which the room are not actually equipped to look after.)

Another term was ‘ wins and niggles ’ : wins, however small in the room could be celebrated, and niggles steered it away from being negative but acknowledged there were unresolved things to come back to.

Could ask the entire team; cast, SM and crew to fill in feedback forms anonymously.

Birmingham Rep have a feedback process which is anonymous and that is done within your contract period.

‘ Less Preparation, More Presence’ was a quote we discussed a lot, and ow much prep was good prep, ad how to maintain flexibility in te space and go with the ideas as they happen in teh room.

Comment from someone who noticed there is a post pandemic tendency to just ‘get it on its feet and ditch the table work.’

Many felt ‘ table work’ was non conducive to a process, it felt restrictive and outdated when trying to make new exciting work. Most people prefer just getting up and finding out the questions whilst on your feet.

A theme popping up; Try it differently once, one time, and see what happens.Like persuading a 4 year old to try fish.

The tyranny of the 10-6 working hours: lots of conversation around WHY are we beholden to that? Stop earlier, people have more mental energy and can go work on lines, moves, music, and come in next day really ready to consolidate ad move on.

Phelim often stops a session when it feels the energy has dipped and the fizz has gone. Best to leave it there and come back refreshed.

The Goat Island pattern of Working: two days a week over a year.

So we discussed te best way of building a network of like minded theatre makers who wanted to learn from other theatre makers and refresh their process:

Suggestions were; A Broad Call out? On socials/ FB/ The Stage/ other theatre networks?
Create. A’ speed dating event’ like the Envelope room in Scotland which connects Directors with Designers.
You could meet lots of other directors, share a bit about your work, see if there is someone you would like to be matched with.

We could hold a big National convention, where people can congregate and share some footage of their work, talk about their process, offer up their timetable; create a timetable database, and if another artist has a gap which fits with their rehearsal period, they can sign up to be there to observe.

Could we get funding to facilitate that (travel/ accommodation)?

It was commented that it would be good to be paired with practitioners from different parts of the UK, since with your ‘local peers’ it’s hard to avoid the feeling that you are somewhat in competition for work/ funding etc. Whereas an artist from Scotland observing someone in Leeds/ Nottingham whatever are in completely different camps and can learn from each other.

Freedom Studios: a partcipant shared how they have a non-human Board member which was a Bonsai tree. And when they are considering big decisions in the company they give space to consider what the Bonsai tree would feel.
We discussed how creating that space, although humorous, forces the team to think beyond our immediate human concerns.

We came back to thinking again about ‘Show Doctors;’ great enthusiasm for that. A trusted confidante who has an area of expertise whom you can call on in that tricky phase ( whenever that is for you) when you see can’t see the wood for the trees, or how to solve a problem.

A really invigorating session which produced some really ‘actionable’ results.