In the last couple of years, I acquired a mantra – Life is a collective creative process. Breath, emotions, thoughts, words, actions, relationship, dynamics, systems, structures, institutions, communities, societies. These are all products of creativity – the act of bringing into being.
Shakespeare observed – all the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players (from As you like it).
You, me, everyone – we are all performing together. Our play is unscripted. We improvise together. As it is in theater, particularly improvisational theater, our collective creative process could be about working with what have in a way that bring out the best of each of us and our resources.
Our creating together could be about nurturing deeper heart and mind connection.
Our creating together could be about drawing out beauty from the most unlikely of places.
The other day, I was with some fellow red noses from a Wise Fool New Mexico clowning workshop. We got together for two hours to create a skit we are planning to perform in a couple of weeks.
We created from scratch.
The process went something like this:
One person says let’s perform together.
Two other people say yes.
We meet up.
One person has three ideas that had popped into her head that she thinks might give us the basis for a skit. She presents them (I’d love to share them with you, but I’ve already forgotten what they were!).
The two other red noses say ‘yes, and…’ throwing out different ideas.
Ideas are taken and grown. Ideas are taken, handled and then tossed off to the side. New ideas are constantly generated.
We land on a basic premise and then hop to our feet to perform it.
We have no idea how it ends. We don’t even really know how the details of most of it. Doesn’t matter, we anticipate that the act of bringing ideas to life will take us to the next stage of creativity.
We perform the skit once and identify a few elements that don’t seem to work. We identify elements that seem worth nurturing and expanding.
We perform again. Again, we throw out some elements, grow some elements, bring in new elements.
Two hours we were together. We probably consciously worked on creating the skit for ninety minutes or less.
We disbanded – still without an ending that felt strong. None of us minded.
We all repeated at different times “Ahh, the ending will work itself out.”
At the heart of this creative process is whole-body listening, observation, risk-taking (and thus, vulnerability), playfulness, and non-attachment.
The last element is important. If we cling to our ideas, we can end up blocking the collective process. As John Flax, Director of Theater Grottesco, said to me the other day – performers are seeking to create a wonderful performance above all else. If individuals start getting attached to their ideas, contributions and ways of doing things they block opportunities to expand and grow collective creative possibility.
Another element in the heart is the art of nurturing. When we play-perform together, we strive to offer each other gifts and to build each other up. I use my strength to support others to find and use their strength and vis-versa.
In the way, we arrive at giving our best and creating our best.
I’ve taken a leap into becoming a performer who creates performances with others on the stage. The experience so far has me wondering: What if I were to go about my day-to-day life as though it were improvisational theater that I’m creating with those around me?
The goal wouldn’t be to be clever or funny. It would be to create an engaging story and behave in ways with that draw out the best from my self and fellow players.
How would behave differently than I do now?
What might the benefits be?
What if an entire community of people – say, a neighborhood, did this?
What if an organization did this?
What do you think – what might happen?