We shall never cease from exploration and the end of our exploring will be to arrive at the beginning and know the place for the first time. T.S. Elliot
All performance-making projects have a starting point. I call it the “germinal idea.” It’s the animating idea that activates artful investigation. It’s represents the beginning of the journey. The launching of a paperboat!
Warning Alert!!! The germinal idea is not a framework established to exert control; rather it is an invitation to open out and see what possibilities, experiences, ideas and happy accidents come from the seed. We know the seed looks nothing like the plant it gives rise to and so the performance that results from a germinal idea rarely looks much like its beginnings. The idea itself is not nearly as important as the content it generates.
A question. If the Big Bang was the beginning of time what went before it? Yes - even though the germinal idea is the beginning that prompts investigation, there is a process involved in getting to the germinal idea to prompt those beginnings. So where does the germinal idea come from?
If you’re going to make a performance, you have to convince others to be part of it - funders, partners, collaborators, makers, administrators, producers. There needs to be some kind of vision or dream … some kind of intent. More often than not, the divining of the germinal idea is the responsibility of a key person in the creative process.
You could turn up on the day, with a bunch of artistic associates and collectively start from scratch on a performance-making process. I’ve seen wonderful outcomes arise in this way but that sort of process requires a “collective” of artists committed to performance-making usually without any guarantee of payment. I figure this sort of process happens with university ensembles, new graduate ensembles, small committed collectives or funded organisations with an established reputation for theatre-making.
I’ve always been the instigator in performance-making processes and so, by and large, it has been my responsibility to come up with a germinal idea.
For me, this conceptualising process is usually a solitary affair. I could include paid collaborators in the process as associate director/theatre-makers, but because it’s a time intensive process, I’d rather spend my budget using artists in the “making process” and generate the germinal idea on my own. Once it’s generated, I’m not in the least bit precious about what happens to it. It is intended to be a stimulating and open invitation that is easily morphed into other things, as it finds where it wants to go.
My hunt for a germinal idea begins with a hunger. It’s a creative tension that builds up in me when I realise that I need a new project. There’s a creative void that I need to fill. Many artists feel this yearning - and I guess that’s where it all begins.
Ultimately, I like to be able to capture the essence of a work in concise statement, which I call the governing premise. Most of the time, I can only do that after the show is made! Novelists will often say, they only know what their book is about until after it is written. That view resonates with me.
For me, a performance-making process begins with the divining of a germinal idea and proceeds through the long journey of discovering the governing premise of the performance outcome.
In my next blog, we look at the divining of a germinal idea.
is developed by an artist as a starting point
lures collaborators, partners, funders and facilitators into the venture
is a shape-shifting, flexible and open invitation to explore
leads us to discover the governing premise of a performance