Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Separateness and Otherness

A scholar sitting in on a run through of a one-woman show I directed entitled Room, based upon the writings of Virginia Woolf, was overcome with emotion at a particular point in the play. Later he interviewed the actress Ellen Lauren and asked her what she was thinking about during this specific section of the play. Ellen responded, “I was counting.” Due to the intricate choreography and precise musical cues in the scene, Ellen found it necessary to count. The scholar was appalled. He could not believe that what swept him away so thoroughly was a section in which the actor was counting.
From Anne Bogart's blog: April 2010

Magical session in the theatre workshop this morning. I guided the participants through creating  narratives for the characters and scenario's we'd been exploring earlier in the week. As part of this I asked the performers to break the narrative down into about five beats, that they could represent with a few words, and then to create an action with their body for each beat. Something that could be repeated. In this way we created not only a mime that could be run from beginning to end, but a series of building blocks for the performance.

As part of the mornings work these actions were transmitted to the other actors, first as pure motion, and then with some narrative. Some words filling out the imaginative world.

Speaking with one of the actors afterwards we talked about how he had made a connection with one action, copied from another performer, but that once he heard the words, the context of the original performers imagination, he couldn't make the action fit the narrative.

What we receive from encountering an event is deeply personal and connected to our own karma. The two actors performing that very simple action had quite different experiences of it. To one of them it was hanging a photograph, perhaps of some significance, to the other the action was of construction, of rebuilding the town.

As humans, in a shared society there are broadly some symbols and actions we understand in a shared way. But even these most obvious symbols are received by each of us slightly differently. And sometimes we can have quite different responses to the same event. Part of creating a society, a community or a relationship is the creation of shared symbols. As we spend time with our loved ones, our views of the world, our responses to the world, the language with which we talk about our experiences begins to overlap.

But there is always a gap.

In theatre this gap is where the creativity springs from, and in life too. In relationships, it's difference that makes life interesting and rich. And it's why to love someone we need to trust them. I can never know the whole of you, I will never see the world through your eyes, parts of you will remain hidden from me. I have to learn to trust that those parts are lovable and valuable even when they challenge me. I have to trust the gap, the spaces between knowing.  This is where real life happens.


  1. It's interesting to think about the gap as a possible positive. I suppose the alternative would be that we were all the same person, and it's impossible to have a relationship with someone who's not 'other'. But it's where a lot of the fear springs from too, I suppose.

  2. Thanks Fiona. That's absolutely right - I guess I was thinking about this when I wrote about being 'off-script'