Conscientious Disagreement in the Riotous Rehearsal Room

Marcello Magni, Kathryn Hunter, Mia Theil Have, Photo Dan Fearon

‘In the theatre, we often presume that collaboration means agreement. I believe that too much agreement creates productions with no vitality, no dialectic, no truth,’ argues Anne Bogart, American theatre director, in her book, A Director Prepares, ‘unreflected agreement deadens the energy in a rehearsal. I do not believe that collaboration means mechanically doing what the director dictates. Without resistance there is no fire.’

Last week, the first Out of Blixen rehearsal blog post focused on Riotous Company’s technique of creating theatre through collaboration. This process may have sounded idealised: flawless and easy. Admittedly, however, collaborative theatre is an imperfect practise: complicated and challenging. Perhaps this is why many practitioners in the theatre industry still follow the traditional hierarchy of the director in charge and the actors following their directions. It is an efficient process that quickly moves along with little friction.

Bogart advocates for a feistier system, adding, ‘This does not mean, “No, I don’t like your approach, or your ideas.” It does not mean, “No, I won’t do what you are asking me to do.” It means, “Yes, I will include your suggestion, but I will come at it from another angle and add these new notions.”’ It is a scary, vulnerable process, full of collisions and pushing one another, and yet, it is fruitful in vibrancy and vitality.

Throughout the past week and a half of Out of Blixen rehearsals, Riotous Company has been pursuing this conscientious disagreement. Everyone is responsible and active in contributing to the possibilities of the production by openly and honestly advocating for their own ideas while listening and experimenting with others’ interpretations. It is through exploring these variant contexts that Blixen’s nuanced stories will be truthfully represented.

Karen Blixen was a complicated and somewhat controversial figure. Her views of gender, race and class were indicative of the time in which she lived, and yet, she wrote beautiful, complex stories (often under various pseudonyms – Isak Dinesen, Osceola and Pierre Andrezel, among others.) Although underrated, her works were revered as her several nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature attest. She was a multifaceted being and her writing reflects her range of perspectives.

Therefore, it makes sense that the various company members tend to see her work from different points of view and diversely interpret her themes and characters. There are disagreements inherent in this work. There are many sides to one story and this dissent in the collaborative journey provides verve and vigor for the play. It is Riotous Company’s questioning process that will reasonably and scrupulously do Karen Blixen’s stories justice.

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