I rise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
I came across this quote from Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White last week. I’ve been spending a lot of time developing new work lately and it seemed to capture exactly how I feel about the artistic process. When making art we are creating something that has never existed before. Art, by definition, exists in the unknown. So where do we start? And how do we choose where to put our energy as artists? And why can it be so hard to decide?
Part of the answer lies in the root of the word itself. To make a decision is to cut off all the other possible decisions. The root word in decide is cide, which originates in the Latin word caedere meaning “to kill”. Regicide is the killing of a king. Suicide is the killing of oneself. And to decide is to kill off the other choices we may have made. So deciding something is an act of violence. It’s a big deal.
So I thought I’d try to articulate how we we make the big choices at Barking Gecko. The act of writing about it makes it seem more systematic than it really is. In fact, it’s never a neat and perfect process. But these are the big principles that help us choose where to put our energy.
We listen to children. We spend time with children and listen to what drives them and excites them. Because we’re dedicated to young people, this is built into the DNA of all of our decision-making and informs everything we do. And it’s always illuminating. Children usually have a keener sense of justice than we do as adults – they know when something just isn’t fair or right. They’re often quicker to see the funny side of things. And they are almost always less inhibited and more willing to try new things.
We take time. When making new work, we make sure we take time to try stuff out. We invest time in creatively developing the best ideas. Then we spend time away from the rehearsal room thinking. This means there’s actually a really long period of time when we are developing work when we don’t talk about it with the wider public. But this means that when we are ready to talk about it, the work has had the time to grow into something worth sharing.
We get advice. Before taking anything to production we need input from artists and colleagues. Theatre is the ultimate collaborative form so having trusted advisors is invaluable to any artistic director. There is a small group of wise humans that have made up my National Artistic Advisory Group in recent times (and a couple of unofficial theatre boffins not on the list). Each of these brilliant individuals have offered timely and welcome advice about all things creative at Barking Gecko. Choices of play, feedback on creative developments and late night chats bouncing around ideas about theatre.
We trust our gut. More than anything, an artist needs to trust their intuition. No worthwhile artistic decisions can be made based on logic or a business plan. And no great artistic decision ever came out of fear. Creative decisions need to be made based on passion and conviction. And that may result in work that attempts to savour the world or to save it, or both.