Let's get down to helping you and your creative team to spring clean your artist wellbeing practices and prepare for Edinburgh!
I've had the honour to be working with and supporting various companies in the run up to Edinburgh this year & have recently shared this advice with a company and thought others may benefit from it to, so here you go!
These thoughts are based upon my experiences working with companies and creative teams. It has been written holding in mind companies who are still making / rehearsing / previewing / preparing for Edinburgh, but I think there will be something in here for anyone about to go on tour.
You've been writing / devising / rehearsing / blood-sweat-and-tearing. You’re coming up to your first preview and are heading up to Edinburgh shortly. The pressure is on. I suggest that now is a good time to deeply check in with yourself and everyone else in your creative team and also prepare for the month up in Edinburgh. Here are some thoughts / suggestions that you may want to implement / play with.
Yourself, Others & the Show
Experience tells me that when working with psychological material, especially material that is based upon internal dynamics, there more often than not a time comes when the psychology of the show starts to bleed into the psychology of the company. This is often an unconscious happening.
“If it’s unconscious how would I know it’s happening?!” I hear you ask. Well, it could be recognised as the content (explicit and implicit) of the show “playing out” within the team / between each other / inside yourself. From my experience, it’s been quite incredible noticing this with other companies and has always been a moment of powerful recognition within the process when this has come to collective consciousness. And so, when you're all back in the rehearsal room, I invite you and your team to be playfully and deeply curious about what may possibly be playing out between you as a collective (especially those in the core team) that resonates / connects with the show. Here are some questions to help guide your reflective practice:
What connections do you notice / feel / experience?
Are their role similarities developing between the people in the room and the characters in the show?
Dominant themes and / or feelings in the show - are they finding a way into and out of the inter-relational dynamics of the company? Or intra-relationally within yourself?
Are you taking anything home with you that is not usually your way of being?
What role[s] are you personally taking on?
What roles / themes / dynamics do you see in others that are in the show?
All of these questions are to be held lightly and with an openness to notice without judgement and to be surprised. These questions should not be used to shame / blame / or encourage over-identification. These questions are offered to generate clarity.
I believe some of the power within the artistic process comes more readily when there is a clear separation between the self and the art. Clearer distinction and separation can then enable more artistic and creative freedoms. This freedom should then encourage greater creative risk taking too. If you notice something in someone else, offer that noticing as a wondering, not as a definite. Some people may be unconsciously holding roles / themes that are challenging (through no fault of their own) and so being curious about this needs to be done with courage and care.
I suggest to most companies (and it is often something I come in and do in person) that there is an extended check in or out to think about these potential issues.
Check In & Out Spring Clean
If you are nearing performance / tour dates stresses are inevitably going to be greater and so it's time to take greater care. Have you have been using Check Ins & Outs? If so it's probably a good time to have a bit of an evaluation and spring clean to make sure you're getting the most out of this practice. As time passes, sometimes the Check Ins & Outs can go one of two ways:
they become deeper and more vulnerability and honesty is shared, or
they become a bit habitual and focused upon practical elements.
If the former is happening, just check that everyone feels comfortable with what they are sharing and that its not becoming psycho-therapeutic. If the latter is happening, this may suggest that there is something in the collective that is blocking a process that may need to be more honest and up-front. Are there any patterns developing, like everyone is just saying “I’m tired”? If so, acknowledge this collective repetition and ask “What would I / we be saying if I couldn’t say I’m tired?” This also could be connected to the Yourself, Others and The Show (see above), meaning a dynamic from the show may be entering the Check Ins/Outs in an unhelpful/unprocessed way. It’s good to have a spring clean of these practices, otherwise they can become stale and unhelpful and possibly damaging for the process and personal spirit.
For guidance on using Check Ins & Outs see - https://www.artistwellbeing.com/single-post/2019/04/15/Check-Ins-Outs---Guidance-Best-Practice
Preparing for Edinburgh / Touring
EDINBURGH!! YEEEAAAH / AARRRRGHH (delete as appropriate). The company is about to enter the world of the Edinburgh Fringe. It can be a wonderful experience but it can also be, and often is, a BEAST! Here are some suggestions on how to prepare yourself and the company for the time up in Edinburgh. Some of these ideas may be practices that you have already integrated - if so, see them as an affirmation of your developing self-care!
Do you need / want to read reviews?
If you do read reviews, know exactly what it is you want to gain from looking. Check in with how robust you are feeling, and if you are feeling wobbly that day maybe stay away from the printed words of others. If you don’t want to read reviews, let your peers know so they don’t share one with you unknowingly.
Don’t just read “good reviews” as a way of avoiding negative feedback, as engaging in any review reading, when you’re not ready for criticism (because the show is new or you’re feeling vulnerable) then all reviews, I suggest, should be avoided.
Remember you can read reviews when you're back home and are ready to think constructively about the art you've created.
Think about what your relationship with alcohol (or other substances) is when at the Fringe. Pace yourself. Be mindful if drinking is covering up any wobbles or insecurities that may need a more sober and clear headed approach.
This is a big one. Touring can be hard because you are living cheek-by-jowl with other people who you know well on some level but not on others! You're in the world of the show with them and then share the down time space too. If you are sharing a house, then negotiate some house rules before you head up. Without clarity of your roles and living expectations, disagreements and frustrations may bubble up and you may fall trap into playing family with some people becoming parents and others children. Which is never fun! Be aware of and be respectful of differences - people will have different tolerances of tidiness or noise for example. Remember that the roles you have in the work-room, and any hierarchies there, shouldn’t be carried into the shared house or into personal time. I know this may sound obvious, but again, from experience, these things can and often happen and result in tensions that can ultimately be avoided.
Get out of Edinburgh when you can.
Go to Portobello and swim in the sea or go to the Public Turkish Baths. Climb Arthurs Seat. Sit in a park.
Find a Edinburgh Buddy
Is there someone else up there (who is not in your company) whom you trust? Arrange times to meet up with them for a cup of tea to check in with each other. Make sure you both have equal time to talk, share and listen.
Check in with your FOMO levels
Remind yourself that it’s okay not to be doing / socialising / seeing shows all the time.
Share meaningful gratitude with each other as much as you can. Keep each others spirits up!
Walk slowly if you are not in a rush
Take your time to move about the city so your body and spirit can have a chance to slow down, reflect, breathe and rest whilst negotiating the Edinburgh hub-bub.
I’m sure there are many other things you can do. Share your own wellbeing practices with others or add them to the comments below.
And, of course, in times of stress, stare at this Hamster eating a carrot for as long as you like / need. Bliss.