J: I’ve collaborated with people who are very talented technically and enthusiastic but the missing link is that if I’m not meeting people on a deep personal level, if they’re not sharing their whole selves with me, if I’m not feeling their vulnerability, their humanity, their uniqueness then there’s a huge void because that’s really at the core of what Art means to me – connecting deeply with people even in the sticky, vulnerable, uncomfortable places – sometimes especially those. So I wanted to put together a group of people who were prepared to dare to do that and make art that arose from that, the courage of that and the juicy excitement of being in that kind of a raw space with people.
So I went about trying to create a group of people that were artists but were also willing to meet me at that place, so that we could get together in groups and as we were working on our Art or sharing with each other – Art would arise from our deep vulnerability that I was missing in other collaborations.
R: What were you planning to do with these people? Just to get together? Was is kind of like a hanging out meet-up group?
J: I felt vulnerable because I didn’t actually have what we were going to do when we got together planned, so that was a big risk, even though I knew what I wanted in the sense that I knew I wanted to be in a group creating Art and sharing deeply with ourselves, I didn’t actually know, Day 1: what we would do, would we all stand in a circle and play a game? So that was a very big learning curve and a very intense vulnerability – terror and excitement all at once too.
The way I work is spontaneous, is to follow the most exciting, the most potential-filled elements that I’m presented with in the moment. So it’s like working with a piece of clay, and as the piece of clay is randomly becoming different shapes, when it presents itself as something like a horse, and I think suddenly oh I’d love to make that into a horse, then that’s what it starts becoming.
I feel that everybody in the Collective, even though I have the last word, it’s collaborative not democratic, but I feel that everybody there has a source of genius to be tapped, everyone has creativity, imagination and skill that I want brought to the table.
R: Sounds like you have different artistic disciplines within this collective, how did you decide to do that and what was your reason?
J: For me, I wanted to create a pool of the things that inspire me most. I’m not only inspired by acting, I’m inspired by great writing, I’m inspired by great physical theatre, I’m inspired by the visual arts, and it goes beyond even the arts, I’m inspired by scientists, I’m inspired by how the Universe works, biology, healing, meditation, spiritual things. I have a hope that when we’re further along we will one week bring in a meditation teacher or a body worker and he’ll take the group through some experiences and exercises which aren’t directly artistic but will feed into our Art – or bring in a scientist that’ll tell us certain ways that planets move or certain things about molecules that’ll inform us, anything that’s really inspiring and juicy and exciting about how the World works, I want to bring it in. I want a broad spread of different personalities, different practices, different inspirations to go into the collaborative pot.
What’s really juicy is to see people who aren’t used to this rawness and vulnerability how they respond, because just on the first session when I requested that each member bring in a list of ‘I wants’ – even being asked to write a list about ‘what do i want’, one of the members refused to write the list and I chose to be quite firm with him and said “if you don’t even want to do the first thing I’ve asked for the group then don’t bother coming” and it ended up with a phone-call where he realised that his resistance to writing the list went much much deeper than the list and this collective, it went into who he was as an artist and who he was as a man and how he felt treated by the world and where he fitted in and it was a massive inroad into him that cracked him wide open and on the first long phone-call about this he ended up sobbing on the other end of the line and then showed up to the session with a very profound and deep list that he read out to the group. Another member didn’t tell me that she didn’t want to write a list but when she arrived she hadn’t written one and gave the group a whole speech about why she was sick of lists and was actually quite angry about it and was challenged during the session and never showed up again. There was another member who asked whether we could delay one of the later sessions and she texted to say could we move the session later – I didn’t feel to do that, I didn’t want to move it around again and help her out. It triggered her into a massive sense of unwelcomeness and being rejected and not being valued or cared about and she found it very difficult to stand in the vulnerability within the group of saying how she felt. Instead, her version of what had happened was that it was a reflection on that ‘we weren’t really a collective’. She decided to blame the group and blame the way we were working for how she felt instead of stand vulnerably in really how she felt and dare to be seen by everybody as being scared to be rejected as she felt that made her too small – so she decided to leave the group rather than dare to stand in the vulnerability.
So it’s been very powerful to see who has the kind of staying power to stand in the vulnerability I’m looking for and who has the courage to go deeper into the dark parts of the forest where the deep magic is – because in all our mythology, in all our fairytales, it’s when the hero or heroine dares to go into the deep, dark part of the forest in the story that the magician or witch appears and gives them a magic sword or magic shield. It’s when the hero decides to be courageous and go into that darker scarier place that all the magic of the Universe comes to their aid and wonderful Art gets made. I don’t want to work with people that aren’t prepared to go into that deep dark part of the forest – no great Art comes from finding the safe path through the forest. The artists I admire, the great Art that I have witnessed on the stage is the times when people have taken risks. The reason we all look up to them so much is that we aspire to be that brave and be that raw and vulnerable and those are the people that really turn me on. Those are the people I want to work with in my collective so when people can’t take the heat of the kitchen I’m very happy for them to leave.
R: You make it as though everybody’s discomfort is what you’re looking for – how does that serve everybody else? What do we get from it?
J: I’m just not interested in the known. I’m interested in the unknown, in the original, in the surprising, the fascinating, and all those things happen in the unknown – and those are often uncomfortable places. The times we feel uncomfortable are the times when we don’t want to go to the places that are unknown. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable as in cringy or embarrassing or painful, it’s just unknown, it’s uncharted territory and that’s where we’re going to find the most original and exciting stuff. I don’t want actors that are particularly good at crying or particularly good at rage or particularly good at English Shakespearian acting just to give me the rote, give me the thing that they’re good at, give me their best talent that they’ve done before that worked. That’s not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in finding the magic that happens in the place where we jump off the edge into stuff we don’t know if it’s going to work – that’s where the really original fascinating stuff that breaks the boundaries of what we’re used to and amazes audiences is to be found – not in ‘I’m just very good at this so I’m going to do it again’. It’s the unknown that I’m looking for and that is often for a lot of people uncomfortable.
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