Broken Cookie

I was fortunate to attend the Arts & Business exchange in Toronto last week. Of course there were many highlights, but I want to discuss the Riser Project and the master class session with Ravi Jain.

Ravi spoke many times about breaking out of “cookie cutter” theatre practices. (Yes, many are in place as many of us know how and why they already work. Blah blah blah, I respect their history, blah blah blah.) He told us about an artist who asked to have a different lighting design each night of her performance, and sometimes the performance would need to take place in the lobby. It was fluid and necessary. Of course the first reaction internally is “What the fuck? That is so much work. The techs won’t do it. There’s no time. It makes no sense. No one will understand”. But externally they said YES. They worked through the vision, everyone involved made exceptions along the way, and worked hard for this artist to ensure her vision happened. Everyone was fine, the show went well, no one died, its all good! We’ve all been there. First reaction is NO simply because it breaks the mold which is scary usually because it means more work. Sometimes it feels like it insults the previous work and ground you have laid. I will now recite one and only lesson to come out of Improv theatre and say”Yes and”. Although more likely its a “yes but” but we’ll get there.

The Riser Project (simply put) took a big chunk of money from Toronto Arts Council and created a shared resource model or festival for productions. (Look up the longer more detailed explanation). So of course my first question is “How do you keep the artists from competing with each other?” Each group when accepted into the project signs a generosity contract, and a value contract. Seriously, all jobs need this. Maybe even life sometimes. We can’t just rely on the best interest, intent, or “the spirit of the contract” and assume this comes with generosity and values. The Riser Project has created a model in which the companies come together and SHARE. Ravi took the cookie and changed the mold. But they were able to still use existing practices and use them to everyone’s benefit.

So don’t be scared when new ideas come your way. Its nothing personal. Those ideas aren’t here to disregard your ground work or previous ideas. Those new ideas wouldn’t exist without the previous ones. But don’t stand in the way because of ego, lazy work ethic or fear of change. And stop using safety as an excuse without actually knowing the policy or law.  Just start next time by at least saying “yes but”, and we’ll get there.

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