In one of our numerous sharing moments, a fellow director mentioned how easy it is for us to immediately take notes on what’s not perfect in a rehearsal, though it shall be equally important for us to acknowledge what has been achieved. Those who have a vision, an idea(l), for which they fight and make sure it gets realized, know the struggle between striving for perfection and getting caught in the pursuit of it. How do 13 directors, who obviously all have visions, which are very likely all varied, negotiate their different ideas of perfection in a process-oriented festival? How do we embrace and practice the idea of exploration and experiments while we are working towards the showcase and then a full-length production in a near future? I am sure I can make a lengthy list of notes on what hasn’t worked out for me yet in this very first year of ours and I will surely do so too for our all-day meeting on Sunday when we reflect on our three weeks together and make plans for our future year before we dive into different corners of the world again. However, in the night before our “opening” tomorrow, I want to remind myself how beyond unbelievably amazing it is that WorldWideLab is actually happening now here in New York where we first all met two years ago.
Some parts of me are still digesting how everything got started: In an Irish bar somewhere near Lincoln Center, at a table of 10 people, in the heat of the moment, I proposed to Jay Stern “Let’s do a lab festival together!” Jay: “Ok.” Me: “Really?” Jay: “Sure.” In the same night, a mail was sent out to 70 directors: “When saying ‘goodbye’ gets so hard, let’s talk German ‘Auf Wiedersehen!’” Tons of positive replies came back, a meeting was organized the next day before I left for Berlin, 4 people showed up, Jay’s notes of our meeting arrived as soon as I landed in Berlin and ever since then, thoughts of the lab festival flew around the globe. The reason why this scene keeps coming back to me is not because I want to take credit for the initiation – we all know how an idea could simply stay as an idea forever, but how I quite often still hear that “Really?” in the middle of our meetings, rehearsals, even after two years.
The start-up seemed so easy, spontaneous and fast. But to be able to get to where we are now has taken us two years. In these two years, we have not only skyped, emailed but 13 out of 70 people have managed to meet in person at our one-week residency at the Watermill. It was a wonderful horrible week, in which 13 different minds forced themselves to find ways to communicate with each other so that they could move forward with the idea of creating works together. The other day Evan Tsitsias and I were talking about how sometimes those challenging, intense and frustrating rehearsals bring out the best shows, which those rosy and harmonious ones don’t necessarily do. In a way, our Watermill experience has contributed a lot to where we are now: it brought us closer, made us more honest with ourselves and each other. It was not at all easy but we were able to still say YES to each other after that. As Evan Cummings and I concluded after our Irondale Night on Monday: Sometimes YES does open more doors than NO. Our YES to each other brought us Irondale and more.
I don’t think I am able to conclude what these incredibly intense and inspiring three weeks have been for me at this point of time. But I do know my YES is sticking.
Toi Toi Toi! 演出成功! Break a leg!
— Chang Nai Wen, Berlin, Germany / Taipei, Taiwan