The Birth of Create...
Director Law Ballard talks of the birth of Create: a new writing initiative at The Actors Temple.
‘The Create Project started out of a deep yearning to create pieces of writing or performance either in theatre or film, through improvisation; not just any improvisation but the improvisation that comes from the Meisner Technique as taught to me at The Actors Temple and developed as a skill with fellow actors who also had the same keenness. The key difference that has driven this passion is to make a distinction between writing that has come from a writer alone and uses actors to bear out their script and a writer who comes with an idea or a script that is a starting point from which to actively use actors as guides for conversation and behaviour to envisage the piece that may culminate in a script or a piece that is unscripted, the latter is less popular in our ever ‘nailing down’ culture but still relevant and needs to be revered in my opinion.
It became clear early on that the culture of the writer being the sole creator was so prevalent that I found myself repeating and trying to articulate what this process was and the value that needed to be put on leaving actors to fulfil their role and nature within this process. By that I mean, actors at the Temple are trained to watch, listen, hear and respond, they are taught to converse through what their instinct tells them not what their head drills into them, this makes for an intrinsically beautiful language of the heart and gut if they are allowed to follow. It takes trust and following the sniff of a terrier. It also leaves space for that moment of absolute magic where something unintentional and miraculous happens, that would not have happened without the collaboration, experience and tentative whispering of that voice that seems to come from nowhere through the actor saying ‘this is the moment to do it!’ and that ‘do it’ forces the actor to listen and behave and let serendipity have its way with them, unplanned, unwritten and unexpected for the actor. That isn’t to say that Improvisation isn’t planned meticulously before the start, it has to be, it has to be set up, questions asked about what the writer wants to explore from a scene or piece, what are the relationships, how can the actor ‘get inside’ a character if he is not like them or has no human understanding of them, what are the circumstances under which they find themselves, what is the message of the piece and if there isn’t one, what are the themes or ideas that the writer wants to look at and dive into. This takes generosity, the ability to let go of an idea, let go of the ego and give equality to all those in the room. When I was at art school I stood for hours making a meticulous pencil drawing of a nude model, every nuance of what I saw etched onto the page, shading, hatching and line, I was proud of the drawing. My teacher, would sit at the edge of the class, rolling his cigarette (you could do that in those days) and then randomly walk around looking over the rim of his glasses at our pieces, he was serious, always, he would sometimes give the odd gruff, but little else. He came over and stood behind me, lowered his head, reached over and ripped my drawing up, right in front of me. My jaw dropped two feet and my heart fell out of my chest. He muttered something like ‘ never get attached and always be free to start again’, at that moment I could not enjoy his sentiment or style and certainly didn’t feel any joy, however, the lesson I learned was possibly the greatest I have received when it comes to an artistic practice, and was echoed by my teacher as well as the ethos at the Temple, which is that end gaming will only serve to stop the creative flow and put us in our heads, thus ensues self-consciousness and doubt. Of course when I say ‘in our heads’ I don’t mean that the mind doesn’t have a place, it does, it is the articulator but it’s about not getting stuck thinking, its allowing the instinct to flow and the mind to communicate when it needs to not because there is the presence of fear or belief that the answer sits in the mind.
So back to Create Project and its birth, it is still in the early stages from an evolution point of view, and much has been learned about what expectations we bring as creatives that either drive us on or halt us in our stride. What’s been interesting from this journey is how when we start creative endeavours our mind needs an ‘end’, it gets concerned with ‘ends’ and if it doesn’t get one it proves tricky and traumatic for those involved. I need an ‘end’ to get involved, to know I will not be wasting my time but I cannot work freely and follow the flow if I am constricted by the ‘end’, as this may result in a forced ‘end’. I know we need boundaries with a time frame as a guideline and a message to the universal law of beginning, middle and end, to the me that wants to be seen for and know that I finished and feel satisfied that a great job was done by all. Of course, perfection as an end isn’t the goal, as my teacher constantly reminds me in my head, when I start to get attached to the perfect picture, I tend to tear it up.’
Where is it all at now? Awaken, the play being written by Cheryl Prince is in the later stages of development, a wonderful Act One is finished and set in London 1815 using the original pre cockney language ‘canting’, it features around a woman who finds her voice and her wiccan nature only to be destroyed by the people she trusted. Act Two has just been improvised at the Temple though an R&D and is set in modern day London amidst a group of actors and a play about witches…
Scooter the next one up is being written by Paula Connolly, another Temple actor alumni and looks at the themes of disability and care within a lesbian relationship, Scooter is about to undergo an intensive period of development bringing the piece together and going deeper into the core issues being explored by the wonderful and heartfelt play.
Both these pieces have such depth and aliveness that it is completely inspiring to have enabled such forces to come through the training at the Temple into fruition as works in their own right and that actors have the creative spirit and gifts to write in this way.'
By Law Ballard.