Summer times are different than before. They are now a mixture of devastation and joy. They are far more dramatic than they used to be. We are changed by this. Yet, as we head back into the proverbial school year, the time when everything starts churning at full tilt, when we pass through Labour Day and start anew; there is much worth celebrating. We’re here. We made it. Now let’s learn more so we can help one another through it all!
But before we hit the refresh button, a brief moment of reflection. I have had the most incredible time working with the National Creation Fund. One of the secret – not so secret things – about the Fund is that our year-end happens at the end of August. So not only are we back to school with the rest of you, but it also means that VERY SOON, we will share a few more incredible pieces of creation work that we have been able to invest in. So exciting!
With the closing of the year, comes the reality of my leave-taking. Time has sped by and I will miss the work of the Fund and the people I was privileged and blessed to work with. Getting to spend these past months thinking deeply about what makes powerful works of creation, and diving deep to help strengthen its power, and to really engage with questions about who creation is for. Is it for artists? Is it for communities? Is it for a mixture of things? For some reason I always think about Handel’s Messiah when I think about these things. What was there before that creation? Where did it come from? How did it get there? And at what point was it so fully formed that it was able to be passed from generation to generation as a completed work that’s only challenge was that of doing it well, not whether it and of itself is worthy of doing.
Because before creation there is nothing. And it is observable the world over that it doesn't always work out the way we hoped. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. But when it does(!), not only is it glorious and a potent reminder of what we can do, it also fully enters into existence. Into a material and traceable world.
When sitting in the audience of Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata I was struck by just how much this show had to teach me about the art of the possible. And this got me thinking about how often new work is understood as training ground work. That this is the place where artists go to learn. And while it is incontestable that we all start somewhere and – therefore – we have to learn somewhere, it does not, to my mind, align that all new work is made by people just starting out. If this were true then where would we gather skills in the first place?
The interest in “new” makes sense: it's shiny and unique, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that there hasn’t been a ton of experience gathered before the “new kid on the block” pops up. I started my first theatre when I was 21. But I always remember thinking that I had spent 21 years working towards what appeared like an eruption of talent or new-ness. Most of us have heard some version of the 10,000 hours towards mastery idea put forward by Malcolm Gladwell. Apparently it has been somewhat debunked to show that some people require far less, some more. Regardless, we all need hours of practice. New Creation is not about practice, it is about creation. I had many opportunities to think about this with the many incredible works we invested in this year. Some I sat and watched, some I walked around to take in, and some I tapped on an app to enjoy. It truly was an astonishing year of creation coming to fruition.
The film Oppenheimer is a masterpiece. Just an opinion. But one I feel strongly about. Part of its genius is how well it depicts the slow/not slow, straight/not straight path towards creating something absolutely new. The moral quandary that Oppenheimer and his collaborators lived is likely incredibly different than what Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes confront in their creation of Mahabharata. And yet, I wanted to find a way to express the mountain that is creation, regardless of how delicate, small or large the project is. If it truly is a work of creation, then in advance of it being “born” it won’t be viewable to anyone outside the creation lab, it can’t exist until the hard work of creation brings forth the new. And none of this can happen without dedicating hours and hours of practice towards the possibility of creation and practice meeting in a kind of mastery. And this is what I felt sitting in the theatre during Mahabharata. That I was sitting in the room of something undeniably new, that was only possible because of the labour of learning in the months and years and decades that preceded this creation. And when I look back on this year I know I felt something similarly when sitting in performances of ROME, of Un. Deux. Trois. and Treemonisha. These shows, like all our Creation Fund shows, remind me that to get to creation you have to have lived a few lives. And this has little to do with chronological age and more, much more, to do with a sharpening and resharpening of the knives that will be used to carve the stone, to let what is hiding come out.
Here’s me signing off for the last time. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us and I can’t wait to see and support what the Fund does in the upcoming school year.
We are so excited to announce a new investment: Sarah Conn as the Acting Artistic Producer. She’s awesome (as so many of you already know). Look for her September newsletter with lots of exciting announcements. I know I will!