Greetings from Thunder Bay, Ontario. The World Wide Lab (WWL), an international collective of directors who create cross cultural work through experimenting with different methods of co-director, is at work again. For our seventh residency, the WWL will spend three weeks in Thunder Bay (a small city in Northwestern Ontario that sits right on Lake Superior, underneath the fabled “Sleeping Giant,” pictured above) working with local actors on a new piece, already titled, “Between Two Breaths.”
There are a lot of firsts tied up in this post.
The first blog post documenting the journey of our newest collaboration.
The first time the WWL has been invited by a festival (The Superior Theatre Festival) to make new work.
The first time our ensemble will be made up entirely of actors who are new to us and new to the WWL process.
And the first time that I arrived before the rest the WWL directors in order to start working, on my own, with the actors.
For the past week, I have been working with our eight member ensemble to prepare them for the process of devising new work under the guidance of multiple directors. Directors who each come from a different cultural background and use a unique set of theatre making tools.
Another first: This year, the World Wide Lab will approach making this new work in full on listening mode.
We are not coming to Thunder Bay with a specific story to tell. Rather, we are here to explore the stories of Thunder Bay, to pose the questions that we as a collective often return to each time we make work together: Questions about cross-cultural narrative, about the universality of story, about what it mean to be from somewhere, about what it mean to be “the other.”
However, we also arrive in Thunder Bay with the work we did in Taipei (back in 2016) still alive in our consciousness. And we arrive with the desire to take the questions we created through our work in Taipei to this new ensemble, working on the other side of the world. Specifically, the role that trauma plays in the stories that we tell.
As I wrote while working in Taipei: Scientific breakthroughs already suggest that trauma itself can be passed down to future generation — so something might trigger a reaction as if you were aware of the intimate details of the event that triggered the trauma, but you are not aware of those detail. In one sense, it is not your trauma. In another sense, it is. The idea is that it (whatever it is) lives in us, but we don’t know to look at it, let alone name it.
Different cultures have different ways of dealing with this and the effect of this, both in healthy and unhealthy ways. But it remains difficult. It is easier to not look back.
Thunder Bay is comprised of many different cultures. We are curious to learn how each of these cultures is a thread in the fabric of Thunder Bay
This week, the actors were lead through some of the WWL’s go-to tools for creating work. I watched the group take steps towards becoming an ensemble. I attempted to explain and prepare them for what it will be like to have multiple directors in the room. I asked them questions about their home, Thunder Bay. They painted a picture of a small city that is both divided, isolated and struggling as it is healing, breathing and hopeful. As one actor put it: “Thunder Bay is a small town with new hopes and an old soul.”
My hope is that together we will create something that is both intimate and universal, about Thunder Bay specifically and all the communities that are grappling with the same questions.
Today, the bulk of the WWL directors who will collaborate on this project will arrive. Tomorrow, the work will continue.
July 8th, 2018
Thunder Bay, ON