A threat of a conversation that David and I were having being tweeted by Jen made us start talking about the openess of organisations and then moved on to openess of rehearsal rooms.

This got me thinking. 

If you're a theatre maker how open are you willing to let your rehearsal process be or get? Blogging, whilst great, perhaps doesn't go deep enough.  Chris Goode & Co's Open House invites the audience into the heart of the making process - with the audience invited to come to rehearsals and shape the piece. Work-in-progress events often ask an audience to feedback - shaping and melding the process as it develops.

In the recent WalesLab summercamp, we had a diary room where the participants could talk about what they were up to and share their problems. Some videos were poignant, some silly, some dull but all of them were watched by strangers. 

It wasn't till the last day, that one of the ladies who'd cooked our meals said how nice it had been to be able to watch the videos we'd been making, as she understood a bit more about what we were up to that we knew they were working as a way of communicating what we were doing. 

But there's another side to this - quite often people are terrified of the sanctity of the rehearsal room being breached and that it will cease to be a safe space where people can experiment & play freely. I experienced this myself a few years ago; I was directing a show and started a rehearsal blog, which all the team were encouraged to contribute to, but by the end of the first week the level of discomfort about what might be revealed resulted in me scrapping it. I privileged the safety of the rehearsal room over the dialogue with an audience, or a potential one.

Writing this made me think of the preface to Charles Ladbeater's We think, where he discusses publishing the draft of the manuscript online. Of course there's the fear of being ridiculed, of revealing too much, losing competitive advantage - but at the end of the day sharing and collaboration make us stronger - don't they? Isn't that the point of a community like this?

Which leads me to what I was really writing about. As plan our next year of productions, and they get rehearsed, built, tech'd and performed - how much insight do you want. Do you want to know what will happen in the pieces, the difficulties of making a piece of work, or follow the putting together of a marketing campaign? Do you want streamed rehearsals, weekly online Q&A's, or to see the model-box in advance? Or would you rather not know anything until you arrive at the performance space (which may or may not be a theatre) - and be completely taken by surprise?

Let us know what you want and we'll try and make it happen. 

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Comment by Tim Price on October 6, 2012 at 20:08

Exactly Matt.

Comment by Marc Heatley on October 4, 2012 at 19:40

I've recently been working on a website for Battersea Arts Centre which encourages artists to share the first inkling of an idea, to invite collaboration and comment which may help an idea grow. 

In speaking to artists about their feelings around this sort of sharing I have had two main reactions.

  1. How scared they are to share an idea ahead of time in case it is stolen.
  2. How exciting the idea of real, open collaboration is. How dizzying the possibilities are.

Personally, I don't feel no.1 is a risk at all. Not that people wouldn't be inspired by someone elses concept; that's all of art after all. More that the end result will never be the same. The heart of an idea is one thing, but the execution is where you can identify the DNA of the creator, director and performers. Which, to me at least, means that reaction no.2 is infinitely more compelling.

This may be a generational thing, as @TimPrice points out, society has shifted. I have heard horror stories of people pitching ideas to the BBC seeing their project realised without them. This may be urban myth, but the fear is nonetheless very real.

@MichaelSalmon is right that it shouldn't be the new default. Theatre makers should consider opening the process, to what degree, to whom and in what way on a piece by piece basis. It should suit the work, and maybe even more so, the team. There's nothing less engaging than watching someone being friendly against their will...

Comment by Matt Ball on October 4, 2012 at 9:07

Is it kimono opening or the Wizard of Oz's curtain?

Comment by Tim Price on October 3, 2012 at 15:15

I think because we've moved from a mass consumption society, to a mass collaboration society, we sometimes think that any kind of increase in collaboration is progressive.

I think some shows lend themselves to a degree of open-ness such as the Bradley play in the local community. But then 'The Passion' needed a lot of secrecy. There's a risk NTW will blunt our interest rather than pique it with too much kimono-opening. 

Comment by Jen Thornton on October 3, 2012 at 15:12

I should probably have expanded with some thoughts there... 

I think it's great to open up the rehearsal process, just as I (personally) think it's great to open up governments, big organisations, orchestras, writers and anything that people may be interested in knowing more about. I can understand the fear and the risks involved for people 'inside' when they open up their world, but there is so much value in sharing information, collaborating and bring different groups together that openness is hopefully the way we will go in the future. 

In theatre particularly there are people who don't want to know about the process, and it's up to them to watch or not watch. There are also people who do want to know about the process, and find that understanding the pathways and decisions of the creative and production teams can deepen their understanding and enjoyment of the final piece of work. I think for the benefit of those people, as it's no detriment to any others, it's worth opening up and sharing our process as much as possible. 

Comment by Jen Thornton on October 3, 2012 at 15:08

I've just read this article, about an author who is using Google Drive to open up her novel-writing process to anyone who's interested. 

Comment by Guy O'Donnell on October 1, 2012 at 18:45

Hi Matt I think the YC have enjoyed learning about the wider production areas and the process involved with the creation of the work,they have said it gives them a greater sense of context when reviewing productions.

Personally I am also really interested in the design areas so anything on that would be great.

Comment by carmen medway-stephens on October 1, 2012 at 18:23

That all sounds good Matt. Practitioners can dip and out to what they want or do not what to know. But sharing good practice will hopefully help us all with our own work and getting stuff out there.

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