All In a Shoelace

Recently I have been working with a younger member of class for an audition to drama school. After several sessions of assessing the material and working on the chosen pieces, she was inspired and prepared to take on the opportunity of auditioning, but last night (a couple of days before the audition) she found out she was not allowed to use any props or any costumes. As I had suggested she use a dressing gown for one of the characters – hardly a full costume change – to give some context to the character who is actually dying of cancer within a hospital, she was clearly confused, if not a little upset about what to do.

When she let me know, I pretty instantaneously came up with an answer. I told to undo her shoelaces, because clearly she’ll be allowed to wear shoes, and then to start doing them up within the logic of the character and to start the lines when she felt centered in her preparation. i.e., to take the time completing the shoelaces, as the character is sick, and then to carry on into the speech.

You see that creativity is blocked when you perceive a given as an obstacle. However if you’re thinking imaginatively, if not a little defiantly, then you can translate it to some other domestic given that quite clearly you will have at your disposal. Creativity is about seeing the opportunity – not the obstacle. This is central to what we do in class where we evolve a relationship with the unconscious and see it as our greatest opportunity — whereas most people struggle with the unconscious as it brings a lot of complicated information, which they consider predominantly as obstacles.

The fact that we feel and cannot control the deeper complex process of our unconscious we find threatening and overwhelming, so we try to dominate it by conscious and cognitive instruction. This treats the unconscious as a dangerous animal that needs to be contained. But with a little practice and process, the actor can begin to unlock an extremely fruitful relationship with the strongest muscle of any human being. You see, the imagination, intuition, and instinct are the cornerstones of creativity and come from the unconscious. But just like a large river, you cannot control or dictate its flow, and you certainly can’t select proportions of it. The skill is in how you learn to channel it creatively because the it is you and the greater potential of your creativity. How you turn what you perceive as your deficit into an asset.

Clearly just tying shoelaces is not the be all and end all of this actor’s work. The fact that she has come to class and developed her understanding of technique has become the foundation of her creative choice. But it is understandable how change distracts us (if not overwhelms) if we purely just want good results. However if we want to play, create, explore and risk, I don’t mean conceptually but experientially, then anything, if we are willing, that pops up could possibly be the very essence of genius.

Fundamentally, it is easy to know what you shouldn’t do, but creativity lies in what could you do.

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