2010 was the year when I started off my never-ending film project , “Home is…”, documenting people’s ideas of home in Germany, India, USA, Austria, Italy and Taiwan. It was also the year when I met the directors with whom I co-founded the international directors group „World Wide Lab“ (WWL) to share our directorial process by co-directing once a year. With all the challenges in abundance, from New York, Rome, Syros, Taipei to Toronto, WWL has grown into a kind of artistic home for me. It is probably no coincidence that this year we came together to co-direct as a collective of five, exploring what home means to our 8 diverse ensemble members who call Thunder Bay their home. As five of us were checking in with each other on our first day together, it felt like a miracle, considering how crazy each of our other life outside of the WWL is, that we somehow managed to come together again for this strange little home we all feel drawn to. We are about to enter our last week of the three-week creative process as I am writing this post. For the first time in the history of the WWL and in my own never-ending search for home, I feel a shift: Home IS.
For our ensemble, home is here in Thunder Bay. Some of them were born and raised here, some came from somewhere else to make their home here, others have once left but decided to come back and another is thinking of leaving though having her home here. For us 5 out of 11 WWL members, who left Berlin, Houston, New York City, Taipei, Toronto and Tuscaloosa to make Thunder Bay our temporary artistic haven for three weeks, home is here where we choose to come together to create. Some of us just finished new shows, some just sent students to their summer break and still some are in the middle of other projects. Even though we haven’t seen each other for one or even two years, we’ve come together at our communal kitchen table every day in the past two weeks, planning our rehearsal, writing our script, sipping our coffee, making our silly jokes… as if this were the most natural thing to do in the world. What our ensemble and we have in common is that there is no doubt about what we choose our home to be at this very moment. And this alone is an incredible achievement. Even as the instigator of the WWL, it has taken me eight long years to arrive here. Questions and doubts I’ve often had in the past years about essence and values of the WWL as an artistic collective have not taken any brain space this year. There is a concensus among us five that we’ve come together for a collective vision, which we trust whole-heartedly even though, as usual, we don’t know what it is to begin with and how we will get there. We just know we will. Over the past 8 years, there has been conversations within the WWL about the possibility of going beyond our duo or trio models of co-directing. Our communal creative process on the Greek Island Syros in 2015 has strengthened our bond, our multilayered site-specific piece in New Taipei City in Taiwan in 2016 has prepared us to tell a diverse yet unified story and our digestive and reflective residency at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in 2017 has helped us substantiate our vision with our experiences of growth. It feels like we are no longer chasing after a vision for home. We know it is there in us and among us. The question is how can we each be present for ourselves and for each other so that we can live it?
Our other life in other parts of the world continues to catch up with us here in Thunder Bay. We would catch ourselves trailing off from our present, from each other. Our egos also get in our way sometimes, preventing us from listening to each other. We would disagree, argue, shut down and wish we could just go back to our individual islands. But somehow, our committed decision to live that collective artistic home has sofar always brought us back to look each other in the eyes and speak our minds as truely as we could – even though it sometimes feels like it’s the hardest thing to do in the world. Convictions are never convenient. As always with the WWL, we are in constant negotiation – artistically, personally and culturally. But what I have certainly learnt from our eight years together is that no single voice alone can represent the World Wide Lab and owning one’s voice is as important as giving space to someone else’s voice. In fact, the more I travel with the WWL to work with different theater communities in the world, the more I realize how our voice is not just our voice alone. As we are getting closer to open our show in Thunder Bay and individual stories of our ensemble are weaving into one, their stories about finding, fixing or owning their “home” in Thunder Bay have not only echoed with our WWL experience but my own struggle about “owning my voice” and “claiming my space” as an immigrant and artist of Color in Germany, as a woman brought up in a partriarchal environment in Taiwan. Voices of inner committee from our ensemble such as “Why do I have to be the crack”, “I’m losing my myth”, “Is it my responsibility”, “Why didn’t I say something”, “It’s not your fault” vibrate strongly with mine. When our 15-year-old ensemble member shared her story with us, we all wish we had been as brave as she. And I realize one more time, no, our voice is not ours alone. Somewhere out there, there is someone who is aching to hear my story, your story, our stories to feel less alone.
„Between Two Breaths“ is opening this Friday. I still don’t know how we will get there. But we will. As Steve Jobs put it, „You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.“
Chang Nai Wen (Taipei/Berlin)