Break: as in to rest or fall apart??

Posted: July 31, 2009 in Industry Thoughts
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I had a meeting with Angela from PANSA yesterday to talk about the industry (from my humble point of view) and what I think it means to have a sustainable industry.  And it was very interesting to hear what other people have answered to this same question.  What is a sustainable arts industry?  And what makes it sustainable?  Is it simply getting money every month?  Is it about securing your piece of the pie long-term?  Or is it about spreading your piece of the pie around in the belief that if we all did that, there’d be a lot more pie out there?  I’m not sure.  I found it particularly interesting because people have had such differing opinions in her discussions with them…but hey, I’m not going to go into that now because it’s a Friday afternoon and it’s almost time to celebrate the weekend, and because I think that post would be too long for your current attention span, dear Reader ;-)

Why did I mention it in the first place then?  Because, I guess, something that came up in the meeting with her was the realisation of what I would like to see more of in the industry: the establishment (and yes, the sustaining of) more full-time theatre companies.  Not companies as in CC’s.  But companies in the old sense of the word: theatre groups that stay together for years at a time, growing together, developing together, and breaking new ground in how we do this thing that we do – THEATRE.  Am I out of line to think that we really don’t have enough of it and that the industry is the worse for it?  I guess I only have our FTH:K experience to go on but I can say that we are seeing now, 4 years after we became official, that keeping a group together over time, training together, creating together, celebrating together, produces a depth of work and a cohesion that you don’t get working project-to-project.  As well as a mentality that is less self-involved, that is trained to have to consider other people before doing anything.  As you would in a family.  It’s not so much about what the individual can get out of it – although that’s pretty damn important, obviously – but it’s the understanding that it has to be the right thing for more than simply you.  A give and take.  A compromise when necessary.  A feeling of being a part of something that is bigger than an individual or a single artistic product.  I’m not saying that there is no room for the project-to-project work.  There is.  And it offers something totally different and equally valuable in the way of training and experience.  But there should be a balance of both.  And currently I don’t think there is.  But hey, that’s just me.

One of the down sides of being employed full-time is that you don’t get that 3-week break after a project has happened, the way you might get as a freelance performer.  You know, push to make the work happen, work it, perform it, tour it, and then the project ends and you take a bit of a breather.  Well, we do all of that and then still have to come to work the following week!  Ok, not always but still.  We are constantly challenged to work damn hard to keep the Company going (we employ 10 people, 7 of them full-time which makes for fair-sized overheads) and produce better and better theatrical and educational product, while still needing down time, thinking time, reflection time.  As it is, we get 6 weeks of holiday every year – that’s a lot more than many other Companies.  Three of those are what we call Refresher Breaks (stolen from the AFDA structure, thanks guys!) recognising that creative people need to have time to recharge or they won’t be very creative in what they do.  But how do you balance it?  How much down time to you give?  How do you make sure that people are “relaxing” when they take these breaks?  And maybe the thing that really relaxes me mentally exhausts me physically.  So I guess my question is, how do we as creative entities, lucky enough to be employed on a full-time basis, find the time and the discipline to make sure that we do what we need to at work while ensuring we don’t burn out?

We’re busy looking at this now in the Company…and it’s not an easy one to tackle!

Any ideas???

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