In case you didn’t catch the social media posts, the lovely Citizens along with a guest artist performed an excerpt of new music theatre work, Mara KORPER (written by me, music composed by Anthony Lyons) at Small and Loud a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to share some reflections on that experience because it was THAT GOOD. Anyone interested in new work, read on…
Firstly, to anyone who is making work – apply to Small and Loud! Even if it’s not finished, even if you think it’s crap or good or ‘basically finished’ or whatever – apply! Because if you get picked, then not only do you have a deadline to get your shit together (deadlines are the most wonderful thing because they force you to do something). You also get to hear your work with an audience, which helps you figure out whether the idea is worth pursuing and what it really is that you’re dealing with. You also get to see a bunch of other brave and talented artists sharing their work, testing out all kinds of ideas and content. Plus you get fantastic, incredibly well facilitated feedback. But most of all, you get to share your work – as terrifying as that might be – in a wonderfully warm, supportive environment that screams unconditional positive regard.
I tend to do a lot of dramaturgical work for other people’s writing, but it’s hard to find opportunities to have that outside perspective on my own work. I really believe even the best writers can learn something and benefit hugely from an outside eye, but if feedback isn’t given in a constructive way it can also be a damaging thing. Thankfully the legends at Small and Loud have got this down and I finally got to have some truly useful feedback for a piece that has been many years in the works. This was facilitated by long time Small and Loud-er Christian Taylor.
Christian was sensitive and so positive in steering a feedback circle and I really got so much out of it. The greatest gift in the feedback process was being guided to truly listen and take in everything that was being offered. Often as creators we feel we must defend our work, or explain the process [“I already tried that and it didn’t work so I did this instead”] and I realised how useless that is (no one cares except you) and how much more important it is to listen and sit with the questions and discomfort of it not being ‘finished’.
Though organisers Liv & Georgia are soon to pass on the leadership of Small and Loud to new people, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for creating a safe and supportive space for new voices. Experimental music theatre is not common fare at S&L so it was special to have them believe in our piece and provide us the opportunity to try out the new material.
On that, I think it’s really important that music theatre makers and performers make an effort to get to know other spaces and communities – our ‘straight’ theatre friends are struggling with many of the same issues and dreams as the rest of us and the more we can reach out, the more we all have to gain. In that space I was able to get a totally different perspective on my work. I also got lots of ideas about how to approach some of my work from seeing the work of others. There is sometimes a stigma around being involved in ‘music theatre’ – some think it low brow or overly commercialised, which it sometimes is. But by engaging with artists in different forms, we can start to shift some of that perspective ourselves. By seeing ourselves as storytellers first and foremost and becoming involved with other storytellers whether they sing, dance, play instruments or speak or whatever it is, we can not only learn from them, but they can also learn from us. In this way everyone’s work gets to benefit.
So, in conclusion, get down to Small and Loud, support new work, submit your own work or encourage someone who is writing to do so and you are guaranteed a worthwhile learning experience and awesome night out. Especially when they have free wine.
Thanks to the performers: Citizens Jenni Little, Willow Sizer, Jordan Barr, Jessica Vellucci and guest artist Andy Johnston.
Thanks to Stu Brown for capturing the evening (@hellostubrown)