There is this period of forming, of pregnancy, of things going within and searching for form, that shuts you up… Silence seems the only appropriate response to creation finding new pathways.
At work there is always the awareness of this stage in the process. The point at which nothing has yet been grounded. Nothing yet expressed. Everything floats in the no man’s land between concept and expectation. An excruciating state to inhabit. And very difficult to share.
And yet, we do share this experience with our colleagues. For better or worse, they become, must become (!), our trusted allies.
I have reflected a lot lately on the key parts of my process which challenge most my choice of confidantes. (I say that, as if I always have a choice of these people, which of course isn’t so!!) I think all artists have certain parts of their work within which they feel particularly vulnerable, and for me they are the first time I put my voice to a new role in the presence of another human being – i.e., my musical coach and/or voice teacher; and the second, is the moment of taking a conversation about a character and the basics of the director’s blocking/staging and trying to breathe actual life into her.
These three people – my coach, my teacher, and my director – are the witnesses to my existence as an artist. They are mid-wives in my repeated re-birth. There is nothing scarier, or more humbling, than attempting to take the step from private person to public artist. As an artist you are by definition saying, “I am willing, I am needing, to put on display for public consumption, the most intimate aspects of life that my senses can register”…
The people in my life who support my getting to that point are individuals I simply love and revere more than I could ever express.
A great coach, teacher or director isn’t just someone with fantastic skills and good ideas. If they ever end up actually impacting the quality of an artist’s work in a positive way, it is because they are able to “hold” the space into which an artist must move in order to interact intuitively and fearlessly with the aspects and energies that have been prepared.
The opposite of a great witness is a person who stands in the position of mid-wife, who claims to be one, who gets paid to fill that purpose… but who lacks the self-control to stay out of the artist’s space; someone who always thinks they know better, and who has not made peace with their role as “preparer”. Naturally, any great teacher or director also inhabits their own creative space – brilliantly and successfully – otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten to the position they’re in. But the truly great ones have developed the humility to sense the moment when silence needs to be observed; the invisible line where preparation is transcended, and we release into the alchemy of performance.
I could name names, but you know who you are…
Consider this your standing ovation!