Well, that was exciting and, for me at least, a little nervy.
This morning was the first meeting today with the whole ADA team all together for the first time. Most of the team hadn’t met each other before so it was a bit of a relief when everyone got on well together straight away. We met over breakfast at the local arts cinema and, after introductions, got on with the important business of chatting about ourselves and our work, asking each other questions and generally getting know each other a bit.
I explained what it was about Ada Lovelace that I found so interesting and some of the things I wanted us to explore during the R&D period and what it was about each artist that had made me ask them if they’d like to be involved.
The rest of the team talked about what they found interesting about the project and about what they hoped to achieve artistically by being involved. We then discussed a schedule for the project, working out how long each artists contribution should take and how to co-ordinate so each contribution feeds in to the other. We finished off by setting dates for our readings and workshops.
Walking home afterwards along the river on a beautiful bright and shiny January Sunday I thought about the meeting and experienced a strange mixture of emotions. Knowing that this group of terrifically creative people had been brought together because of my fascination ( we’re not using the word obsession okay) with a little known 19th-century mathematician was amazing and I felt what was becoming a familiar and thrilling mixture of excitement, exhilaration and trepidation. Added to that now was a growing sense of responsibility. These people had agreed to join me and dedicate their talents, skill and enthusiasm to making my idea come to life and I keenly felt an obligation placed upon me to make their experience a creatively rewarding and fun one, as well as paying them properly for their efforts too. What had been for the past two years my project was now theirs as well.
I remembered reading an interview some years ago with Emma Rice, then artistic director at Kneehigh where she described how she felt her role during the rehearsal process to be the lead artist, trying to emphasise the collaborative side of the position rather than the hierarchical element and I wanted to be guided by that principal. I’m not going to be the director of ADA at any point, I don’t have the skills required for that role, but I do want to create an environment within which the artists feel free to follow their creative impulses as I absolutely believe that is where the magic comes from. This seems obvious to me but I have worked on many productions where it has felt very clear that I am on board to perform technical tasks the director doesn’t know how to do and my creative input hasn’t been required. The director as auteur is romanticised, particularly so in film, but the theatre I am inspired by seems to come from a collaborative spirit, its power formed from the sum of its creative parts. Auteurs might be brilliant visionaries but they aren’t necessarily fun to work with (or work for as they might perhaps put it). Also I’d rather like people to remember the experience fondly and maybe even repeat it.
I got home with an even longer “to do” list than when I left but also, inspired by the team, felt enormously enthused about the next few months of experimentation, creation and decision.