Advice for a 24-year-old theatre maker

YC6en

It was hard not to feel like the London part of this trip, and indeed the entire trip, had been orchestrated just so we could see our most excellent mentor Tassos from Coney. It was lovely to catch up, and get run through the wonderful game The Green Gold Conspiracy, but Tassos also gave us some solid advice going forward into this new process.

One of the things he said was to consider what advice present-day us would give trusting, naïve back-in-2012 us, before we started Best Festival Ever at the Environment Institute. I hadn’t thought about that Nathan for a while. Fresh from a what-the-hell-were-we-thinking run at Edinburgh. Keen on the idea of “science-theatre,” but not too sure what that might mean. To say he knew what he was getting into would be to lie. What would I tell him, if I could appear to him, maybe over his bed like in Back To The Future? (To update his references?) Anyway, it’s been a couple of weeks since we hung out with Tassos but as we’ve worked through the first week in Flaten that question has been kicking around in my head.

Here’s what I’ve got.

Don’t forget to zoom out. I certainly have a habit in a creative process of getting stuck on details and not looking at the whole picture. And sometimes it felt like (and still feels like) Best Festival Ever missed some things we wanted to put in. We never made a game that specifically shows how actions can have unpredictable consequences. Or that models show the biases of those who make them. But time and again, post show chats have showed that the show as a whole communicates these things very well. Our process is informed by a set of principles and ideas, and the work we make reflects this.

Listen. You’re going to be working with and getting input from a whole lot of people who have a skill and knowledge set that you don’t. This isn’t like working alongside other theatre people, these are people whose expertise is a unique and valuable resource to the work you’re making. For the most part they are really excited to share their work and stories with you, and it’s going to enrich the whole process.

Make, throw out, repeat. This is going to be one of the most intensely generative processes you’ve been a part of. You are literally going to make dozens of games that no one will ever play. It’s going to be a lot of work but when you perform the show for the thirty-somethingth time and you recognise a tiny detail – the saving grace from one of the worst games you can possibly imagine (and did imagine), it’s going to be real nice.

You are going to get super sick pretty much every stage of this multi-year process. You all are. Impossible to say why (winter goblin???). You are going to learn things about medicines and medical services in a variety of countries. And it is going to take you all a few years to learn to not try to be a hero, and take the day off as soon as you need it.

And finally,
You got this. You’re going to come across a bunch of really difficult material, and be working on something the likes of which you haven’t seen before. It’s going to be daunting, difficult to get a handle on, and easy to feel lost in. But you’re working with some really great people and as a group your instincts are on point. You got this.

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