WE WERE ARTISTS FIRST (The need for creative team building)

When I was six someone came up to me, someone who I knew for sure was as important as Alexander the Great. He said to me, “so, what do you want to be when you grow up little boy?”

Fool that I was, I told him. It just came right out of my mouth. “I want to open an employment agency”. Then there was the longest pause and blank stare ever. Endless.

Long enough for me to forget how you put a real sentence together. I was red in the face and could barely breath. The stare had that kind of effect. I stammered in order to fill the gap and stop that stare, “well I think that people adults spend so much time at work. I just thought it would be good to find them the best jobs in the world.” Still nothing but blank stare. Obviously my explanation was just making it worse. He didn’t get it and now neither did I. So I walked away and hid my shining face. I never saw him again but I remember his disbelief. I thought later, “why didn’t I just say fireman or policeman and be done with it? Some dreams are better left unspoken until you are old enough to hire an armed guard.”

With some definite weaving up and down the mountain called life I have pretty much stayed on course. That man would not approve. I have run a number of studios and schools in the area of Physical Theatre training, have worked in treatment centres with emotionally challenged teenagers and designed and renovated apartments and houses with small teams of people. The money aspect was always problematic in the area of theatre performance training, but they were environments that sparkled with creative input and output. They were healthy places to work and to be in. They attracted very good people, people who enjoyed other people and were inspired to do their own research in their fields and to honestly support the research and performance of others. These schools and studios attracted fine students, other professional artists and therapists both in and around them.

The strength and power of the ‘ensemble ,the healthy ensemble, was revealed to all of us, regardless of the creative project we were taking on, and perhaps because of the level of risk and difficulty we were up against.

Training schools that spend almost all of their time and energy on performance readiness have little time nor money to put on great productions and yet there is an expectation to do just that. The value of a safe, creative and inspiring ensemble to do your work within, despite the risks, becomes all important for personal growth and gradually, we learned, for performance excellence as well.

In architecture school which slowly turned into theatre training in Europe, the first thing I ‘built’ when we were asked to “stay with a large circle of earth in the forest all day long to see if and what we would build on it”, was a playground for children. Alexander would not be pleased. But I thought, ‘gee, kids spend all of their time playing, they need a creative environment that does more than amuse them, a place that has building materials, some tools, a chance to get some real work done.’

Creative ability is our legacy, our inheritance. It just needs a context to blossom. We were all artists first, before we were people of power, of influence, of wealth. We might not have been trained artists or recognized artists but we sang when we needed to sing, danced when we needed to dance and spoke when we needed to speak. Except when Alexander was in the room. As adults, we can dare to BE ARTISTS WHEN ALEXANDER IS IN THE ROOM. Alexander, after all, might be the Michelangelo of his age. He just hasn’t yet found his way inside all that. The world we live in is a feather duster, exploding in every direction imaginable. People have real needs to relax, become themselves and gain access to their creative gold mines. My work is focused on all the ways we become a creative individual in the company of and with the support of other people.

dean fogal

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