Developing the Performance Ensemble
I am 65 next April and beginning to look it and feel it. I’ll get my state pension and I’ve got my free bus pass and I am counting it all as income towards setting up my new company, The Performance Ensemble
I feel like I am an emerging artist again. Working on a limited income. Starting fresh on a new enterprise that I hope will keep me going until I can work no more. Maybe that’s in a year or 25 years – who knows.
I am considering myself an emerging artist again – writing applications – starting again. Finding new partners, developing new methodology and trying to establish myself again and maybe re-invent myself a little.
I don’t think the desire to create work and discover new things from that work ever goes away. So now I am developing a new company with a new way for me to create theatre.
I still want an Ensemble Company – working together over a long period of time, creating work and developing it over years, not months. I made a version of “Animal Farm” that stayed in the Northern Stage repertoire for 12 years. My adaptation of “1984” is still being produced across the world. That’s the way I like to work. With people I admire over long periods of time, growing the piece of work together. Creating work that never stays still. Always looking for more depth, more nuance, more clarity. Northern Stage was a great company to work for, but it was a long time ago, in what seems like another world, and now I’m moving on to something even more ambitious.
The Performance Ensemble is a company for older performers, most of whom will be over 60. I want to work with these performers, in what I call, the space between professional, amateur and community arts practice.
We start by working within a community setting, creating work, then develop that work with the introduction of professional performers and other artists. The community participants teach the professionals and, in turn, the professionals teach and help develop the skills of the community/amateur participants. The important thing is that we learn from each other.
We are an ‘Ensemble of Equals’.
When you are over 60 you have many experiences and knowledge to share and each of us will learn from the other.
So far we have created one beautiful little performance in Kirkcaldy, “Dancing Days” at The Pathhead Hall as part of Luminate Festival 2013. It was extremely well received and I am working with some great partners. We received funding from Creative Scotland and Fife Cultural Trust who are still supporting us in our desire to create more work. We plan to help organise a Festival of Creativity and create a large scale piece of site-specific work next October for Luminate Festival 2014 with a company of 100 performers.
We are also working in West Yorkshire currently developing relationships across the Calder Valley. A community theatre production will be created for the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival in June 2014. This work will then transfer to the West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP) in Leeds, where the Ensemble from Calder Valley will work with the Heydays Programme, a group of older people who meet regularly at WYP. They will be joined by a team of professional performers to work together to create a “Work in Progress” performance at The Quarry Theatre on July 23rd 2014.
Plans for 2015
Our hope is that The Performance Ensemble will create their first piece of work for a major stage in 2015 at West Yorkshire Playhouse. This performance piece will be created from material gathered in Fife and West Yorkshire and combined with a new adaptation of the short story about a rural dancehall, “The Ballroom of Romance” by Irish writer, William Trevor.
The piece will involve professional, amateur and community performers over the age of 60 working together as an ensemble of equals. Approximately 35 performers will be chosen from previous projects in Fife and Calder Valley and they will be joined by a professional team of theatre artists and performers.
An exhibition of the process will be shown as well as debates, workshops and post show discussion to illuminate the working methodology.
The performance is scheduled to open in September/October 2015 at West Yorkshire Playhouse and then hopefully will move to a theatre in Scotland as part of the Luminate Festival. This means that we would have been at Luminate Festival for three consecutive years.
Plans for Future Years
The hope is that we can attract interest from Festival Directors from around the world to see the work at West Yorkshire Playhouse and to work with us to devise specially constructed projects with performers over the age of 6o who come from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. The ensemble will continue to work in the space between professional, amateur and community arts practice to deliver unique theatre experiences for every generations
Today in Jerez de la Frontera
Today I am siting at home in my flat in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucía, Spain. I live here because I find the quality of life here easy. I can think, I can write. I can sit in the sun with a café con leche and watch the world go by and dream of what is possible. I write about The Performance Ensemble because I believe it all to be possible. I am an emerging artist and emerging artists need to dream and need to believe dreams come true. Creating performance work with a small community in Fife and taking it to, for example, the Sydney Festival having started to organise it in a city in the south of Spain – that’s my dream.
Now I have to make it a reality.
If you fancy getting involved – Helping out – Give me a call