"A starting point is a spring board you take off from to land on a platform of possibilities"
Often, we are in search of the Big Idea that will give us the significant edge. Let us for a minute think about the combined power of multiple ideas and what that means.
In devising new work, starting points are critical. Not that they necessarily dictate how your work shapes up, but they give you an interesting direction by which new content may be generated. A starting point can be just about anything. It can be a word, an image, an event, a person or simply what's in front of you or outside the window. If your starting point is intangible or of the past, think about it, deeply. If it is tangible and of the present and available with you or near you,observe it, keenly.
In the process of observation or thought, it is important to be able to document in detail what you are going through. Once documented, make informed choices about priorities within the set of documented ideas, events and thoughts. An important aspect hereon is the conversion of thought to action. A series of such constructed actions by multiple members will open up a variety of ideas. The complementing or contrasting themes that emerge between team members can be explored to create interesting narratives or sketches.
In a recent workshop with Head of a Woman, a London based international theatre collective, my starting point was established as a date. I had to detail out the events of a certain 21st of October in 2002. Coincidentally, it was the year I started pursuing theatre and in all probability, I would have been rehearsing my one line part in Twelfth Night. Detailing out this day set the base for my work. The performance at the end of the week long workshop had nothing to do with 21st October, but the starting point defined and directed the work in a particular direction. We ended up devising a promenade theatre piece that was a game in which the actors alone knew the rules.
A different starting point every week and content generated in this direction will essentially leave you with a pile of material to choose from and play around with. Once you get started, you will need to couple your working methods along with certain performance directives. These are tools that will enhance your work and enable you to look at your work differently. A directive can be anything from tossing a coin to make decisions or to look at news paper images and relate your work to that.
Devising is interesting because it lets performers think about themselves, their lives and their actions. People on stage are no more merely giving away lines from a script they recently got familiar with, but living a moment that they created with a certain objective. This raises the stakes, for all those involved, be it the audience or the performer.Devised work ends up being more precious for the performers, since they made every bit of it, from scratch - from that very word - 'starting point'.