According to Greek mythology, Chaos came first. A primeval void, unbounded space and formless matter, all the elements bounded up in one shapeless mass. As a creator, I’m drawn to the creative potential of Chaos. For me, that “shapeless mass” is a living, breathing thing, vibrating with the potential to become something. Something with shape and power and beauty.
For me, chaos must be present in order for inspiration (all those wonderful creative muses) to appear. This is why I collaborate. Why year after year I put myself into the frenzied pressure cooker of the World Wide Lab. Here, we bring together a huge number of unknowns—unfamiliar locale, unknown actors, new collaborative teams, fresh material, multiple languages—and we create the circumstances in which chaos can be transformed into something unexpected. No matter how much planning we do in advance of arriving here, it always takes on a new life once we enter the void.
Many people think of chaos as a state of complete disorder and confusion…and sometimes it does feel that way. But really, when you are faithfully and committedly working toward a common goal, it only seems like disorder. The beauty of chaos is its unpredictability. It’s a delicate process creating the proper conditions, a system, within which true collaboration can occur. There must be trust and laughter and risk and failure. But, when you are able to generate these ideal conditions—as I think we have this year—that unpredictability becomes your greatest creative asset. Within this system, nothing is random. Every moment, every mistake, every unknown is an opportunity.
Chang Nai Wen (Germany/Taiwan), Evan Tsitsias (Canada) and I started courting chaos months ago with the first inklings of what our project together might be. As we gathered research (so much research) and shared ideas (so many ideas), the project grew and shifted and transformed. What began as a vision of a movement piece exploring the role of the individual within the group, morphed into an exploration of the Greek crisis unfolding before our eyes over the spring and early summer (which I’ve come to view as a microcosm of emerging global crises, but that’s for another time), and finally mutated into a version of both of these things, but with much broader scope. The trajectory was perhaps an unlikely one, but also necessary. We had to enter the chaos in order to see the structure that might give our question shape and power and beauty.
In Greek, the word chaos means “yawning” or “gap.” Both of these words make me think of a chasm, an abyss that you must be willing to leap into if you want Chaos to appear. Five days ago, with newly minted (translated) scripts tucked under our arms, we leapt into the void. Three directors entered the room with ten actors. Ten days to make it a living, breathing thing.
We’re right in the middle of the chaos, and it’s pretty magnificent.
— Laura Tesman, New York City