On Saturday night, I had this odd feeling of being ready with more than 24 hours to go. The paperwork for candidates and panel was printed and organised in folders, the little balls of yarn were prepared and in a nice bag (not the Brazilian pharmacy poly bag with little sanitary pads depicted that I inadvertently used at the RCS Learning and Teaching week), everyone had been emailed contact details for me and Kris and the address of the studio. Therefore, the only thing that was left to happen on Sunday was to be hit by audition nerves. This was an odd experience, because in theory, I would hold the power in the room. It would be my decision, I would do the judging. So why was I getting nervous? I think that somewhere in my mind, because I am a student, I feel like I should be assessed. My supervisor would join us at the audition to help interview and select the candidates, not to evaluate my performance as a director, but it somehow felt like that is what should be happening. I can’t think of anyone else to blame for these random bouts of insecurity than the Directing tutor I had when I was an undergrad at a different institution. Perhaps calling it trauma is a tad exaggerated and discussing that relationship isn’t the aim of my research, but I couldn’t help but wonder. Granted, I sort of blame the Home Office/Arts Council of England too. Please don’t get me wrong, this is not impostor syndrome as I ended up discussing with my fellow PhD students in the pub later on, but again, that’s a story for my personal blog.
I didn’t sleep much the night before the audition, between being worried that I would forget something and being excited about finally starting the meaty part of my research. We got to Glasgow early and I have to say that walking from Renfrew Street to the Wallace Studios carrying two cameras and tripods and my laptop on icy streets was NOT my favourite part of the day. I was terrified of falling and breaking the equipment and was actually shaking when I made it to the door, and my state wasn’t made any better by a miscommunication between our room booking system and the reception (the room was booked OK, but there was an issue signing in external people). Once all that was smoothed out, we entered our beautiful allocated space and got on with it.
The workshop was excellent. The group of candidates was incredibly generous with the work and with each other. Some of them knew each other, some were completely new, but they worked so well together that I really wished I could afford to keep them all. We had a couple of external observers in the room that were watching just out of curiosity, one actor that had worked with me before and asked to join the workshop for a refresher, and my friend and collaborator Kristofor Bate, who I’d invited to join the selection panel. It seems to be more common in continental Europe, but I enjoy having observers in the room for many reasons. I think it’s useful to have a couple of extra pairs of eyes that are not directly involved with the making of the work, for instance. In my view, this is where solid dramaturgy lives (I spoke about it to Andy Edwards for his blog/zine if you’re interested in reading more). It’s also productive for people who have an interest in the work but are not comfortable performing – I am one of those people. I am much more a visual/auditory learner than a kinesthetic one. As a director, I’m pretty good at translating between those styles and helping actors respond kinesthetically to visual and auditory stimuli. This is why I tend to get annoyed every time I ask to observe workshops in the UK and get told that it’s a perform or nothing situation. Throughout the Syncretic Theatre Lab, there will be opportunities for observers to come into the room and feed into the research as well, so if that’s something you are interested in, please subscribe to my newsletter to find out about dates and how to sign up for observer slots. Reading performance-making is as much training as making performance.
I’m halfway through my third year of full-time study and I feel like my PhD only started for real yesterday. Very excited about the work ahead of us.