Monday, March 21, 2011

d. Theatre

Photo by Suttonhoo

Imagine for a moment if a theatre company put together a season like this:
It is not a static process, but an approach to creative problem solving. Each team and individual develops their own process as they work on a problem, adapting and adding to it as they go. The key element is being mindful of how you work, not just what your outcome is. Regardless of the steps you take, the elements underlying the process are the mindsets of empathy, an attitude of prototyping, collaboration, iteration and feedback.
This is the approach taught at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, or "d. School" for short.

Imagine not writing or directing, but ideating; not rehearsing, but prototyping.  Imagine audience engagement as the first consideration, not a happy by-product of the production process.

I have been listing in this sort of direction for a while now.  A chance discovery of the latest issue of STANFORD Magazine, featuring a cover story about d. School has left me spellbound.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Spiders

photo by jason kravitz on Flickr
I really hate spiders.  The spindley legs that keep the body eerily suspended in the air; pinchers and fangs; the way light reflects off the back of a black widow -- it makes me shiver.  "Necrosis" is one of the most frightening words I've ever encountered.  I fear spider bites to the point where I check my shoes before putting them on every morning.  My yard work gloves are folded so that nothing can crawl inside.  Hell, I check the oven mit before putting my hand inside.

And yet, I am endlessly fascinated by them.  When I find a particularly gruesome subject my first instinct is to capture it in a jar, not squish it.  I need to get as close as possible to really see the damn thing.  To figure it out.

When writing (or making theatre at all) I think it's important to find your spider.  What subject matter or idea scares the living shit out of you?  Go there.  Immerse yourself in the fear, in the revulsion.  Force yourself to confront the unconfrontable.  Pursue dark thoughts down dark alleys, and force them into the light of contemplation.  Even if it doesn't cure you of the fear (I'm still scared of spiders!) you are bound to learn something.  Learning and sharing what we've learned about our basic humanity is the point (I think) of storytelling.

If you're comfortable in the pursuit, you're doing it wrong.