Crossing Lines is an exhibition and performance that explores the connections between Māori and Somali of Wellington, New Zealand.

It will be presented 9th - 20th March 2011 at 70 Cable St, Wellington.

This is a blog about the creation of this performance

Crossing Lines is part of the ongoing Southern Corridor Project by Eko Theatre that began over two years ago.
Install Theme

Crossing Lines reflections

Well it’s been a few months now since the Crossing Lines project has wrapped up, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. Heather and I met last week and she suggested I write a final post which summed up some of my overall conclusions about the project - not the easiest task, but here goes!

I think the main thing I took away was I learnt a lot about creating a strong company with a similar shared purpose. This has really stayed with me throughout this year and I’m finding my own way of creating company in my own projects. 

  • Every member of the team was encouraged to have real buy in to the work being made - to think about the purpose of the work and their particular stake in it. I saw this really strongly in the cast and director relationship.
  • It was less strong in the production team, but still pretty strong. Production meetings were used to connect us back to the broad purpose, rather than just getting the job done. 
  • I saw first hand the really strong way of working that can be developed between a group of people. I’m feeling this really strongly in my Young and Hungry process at the moment. I have a question around how you develop this with a bigger group of people? I think you need a much longer period of time (and that means you need more resources). 
  • It really helps to start with a strong idea of process but you have to be flexible and that means listening. Constantly listening and staying alive to what is in the room. 
  • Space is really important - what goes up on the walls is symbolic and is a great way to hold where the work is at the moment and where it has come from. 
  • The beginning of the process is crucial - I loved the pepeha exercise that we did at the start of the process. What a wonderful way to bring people together and build relationship. 
  • The group always started and ended the day together - this build a strong feeling of team and unity. 
  • I loved seeing the actors being encouraged to take responsibility for seeing and looking at each other’s work - to see the potential, to see the tone and qualities. 

Alongside being in the room during the rehearsal process, I also did Front of House management during the season and this enabled me to connect to the audience. 

  • I’m so inspired by the way the audience really took time and space to reflect on the work - and the structures the team put in place to ensure this happened - such as having the hosts who had the specific job of talking to the audience after the show, having complimentary tea and coffee for the audience, a dedicated homely space for the audience to chill out in. This was all really a part of the show as opposed to being a seperate thing after the show.
  • This is something I’m thinking about a lot as The PlayGround Collective make our next show - The Tinderbox - and how we want to involve the audience into the making of the work. 


C’est fini!

Crossing Lines is finished…it feels very odd. Even though it’s only been part of my life this year, it’s been very consuming.

I meant to post throughout the season but it was a very busy time. I felt a bit sad I didn’t have any space to process my reactions to the work, but it was fascinating to see it grow over the ten night season and also to see the differing audience reactions to the work. 

I definitely want to incorporate such a strong feedback system into the work I make from now on. To be able to take away written audience comments (I collated two folders worth on Sunday night at packout) feels very special.

I think we are going to have some kind of session together where we catch up and debrief and ‘close’, and I’m looking forward to that. I need to clear some space to do some writing about the work, and figure out what format this would take…

C’est fini!

Crossing Lines is finished…it feels very odd. Even though it’s only been part of my life this year, it’s been very consuming.

I meant to post throughout the season but it was a very busy time. I felt a bit sad I didn’t have any space to process my reactions to the work, but it was fascinating to see it grow over the ten night season and also to see the differing audience reactions to the work. 

I definitely want to incorporate such a strong feedback system into the work I make from now on. To be able to take away written audience comments (I collated two folders worth on Sunday night at packout) feels very special.

I think we are going to have some kind of session together where we catch up and debrief and ‘close’, and I’m looking forward to that. I need to clear some space to do some writing about the work, and figure out what format this would take…

Previews

I’m so tired! I’m not really sure why I’m writing this, but its an important moment. We did our first public performances tonight. My mind is sitting between the practical tasks I have to achieve for tomorrow…printing tickets etc, and the creative thinking - the audience reactions to the work tonight.

It was so interesting watching the Somali reaction to the show, lots of laughter in the 8:30pm show as Umi’s friends understood what she was saying in Somali and found it very funny.

People responded really well to the invitation to share their responses to the work on the boards and with post-it notes. Lots of the comments I heard were about the striking presence of these performers, and some wonderful images.

Will write more soon, xx

Into the space

We have been rehearsing at Toi Whakaari and at The Pipe Band Hall in Newtown the last few days. Today we went back into Cable Street where the space has been blacked out, screens, projectors and lights have been rigged. Tape art has started to go up. It’s very exciting. 

I’m going away to a Civil Union in Blenheim over the weekend, so I’ll miss out on the process where the technical and design side meets the performances. I got to see a final run through in the Pipe Band Hall this morning and it was looking really good. But I’ll be back for the technical and dress rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, before opening on Wednesday!

There’s a game that’s been in the show from the start entitled ‘the line-up’. The characters are waiting in a queue for something and it’s about the way they react to each other and change positions in the line. It was really interesting to see that the game works best and is the most interesting when the tension never bubbles over into overt and direct conflict. 

It kinda makes me think about this as a metaphor for the entire show. No position is ever explictly stated, many different positions are represented, yet no singular one is pushed. 

I’m FASCINATED to see what audiences make of this. But watching the run today, I tried to put myself into the position of an audience member coming into the show knowing nothing. Would it all go over my head or would I be able to draw my own conclusions…? The latter I’m reckoning. 

On a completely side note, I’m now involved in a different role in this production in that I’m going to be the Front of House Manager. I can confirm that the completely amazing Juakali cafe (next door to 70 Cable Street) will be providing 50 cents off coffees for those coming to the show. This African cafe does truly great coffee and they give you the cutest little gingerbread men with them which always makes me smile. 

Language

I’ve been thinking a lot about language. 

There’s a section in the show that’s a verbatim comment about Somalia and nationhood. Originally said in English, we’ve translated it into Somali which is spoken by Umi, and then it’s translated live on stage into English by Mo. 

We were discussing why it’s important that the Somali language be represented on stage. And also the implications of a ‘translation’. The translation that will occur in the show isn’t a transliteration - i.e. it isn’t a literal, exact, word for word translation, but it conveys the sense of what was said. 

I’m trying to articulate why language is so important. I think often we’re scared of using language in a performance that not everyone in the audience will understand. I think particularly in NZ where so so so much theatre is so heavily text-based, and often people come to the theatre looking to ‘get it’, looking to ‘understand’, to be handed a message. Whereas, theatre also has a poetic, metaphorical power that moves beyond rationality, into moving, feeling, senses and experiences. 

I know from my experiences watching theatre overseas, and seeing productions in German, French and Mandarin that watching theatre freed from the restraints of language can be a wonderful thing. It allows you to interpret, to sit back and experience. 

But anyway I’m thinking, it’s for that reason -we as a Western society hold so much stock in language - that, Crossing Lines - if it is to use language, must also use Somali and Maori in the way that English is used. 

Also I guess politically, for a Pakeha audience, hearing language that isn’t English can create a feeling of outsider-ness that they don’t often feel. 

And on the question of translation - there are parts of the show that aren’t translated, and I think that’s cool. But for the important parts where you want everyone to understand, then translation is good. And it’s pretty theatrical to watch.

Saturday rehearsal at Toi Whaakaari

Apologies for the obvious and unpoetic title of this post! Life has been rather busy of late and it feels like every time I go to a Crossing Lines rehearsal or get time to sit down and write, is a real luxury.

We rehearsed on Saturday at Toi Whaakari working our way through the new structure of movement 5, as Cable Street was being turned into a construction site for set building and lighting rigging (more complicated tasks in a warehouse than in a theatre). The vibe coming into Saturday felt good. The group felt positive if a little aprehensive about how much is still to be achieved by next week. But speaking to the performers they felt good that the show had shifted.

I was reflecting on my own experiences devising shows, and also guiding others devising shows, and it always seems to reach a similar point. You go as far as you can down one track and then you hit a wall. Tempers flare and people panic. I question, does it always have to be this hard? What are the structures and processes you can put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen? Or will it always happen? Is it about lack of time? Can you start ‘finishing’ things earlier so there’s time to change? Just questions here for now.

Anyway, Saturday’s rehearsal. There are fewer characters now, and the ones that have stayed are the ones the performer’s have real ownership over. I’m interested in this mode of performance where a character can perform a function in relationship with an audience. For example, a character can acknowledge the audience and open the space for performance. For some reason, my mind’s been thinking at two extremes of this - characters exist within the fourth wall and they do their business and pretend the audience isn’t there. Performers can perform functions and acknowledge the audience but they do it as themselves. I don’t know maybe I’ve been too influenced by Binge Culture and Forced Entertainment where everyone always uses their own names. But it’s very limiting I think, because you can still work a character the way you can do within realism, but they can do more things. But you can work it and say, what does she want, how does she behave? Which seems to lift responsibility and fear from the performer, because it isn’t YOU do this, YOU feel this yes? It’s removed to the third person. The character becomes a character in its own right.

Characters have been given verbatim to say, and it works because all the characters have been developed from people involved within the process (seems obvious to write that), but these performers are taking these verbatim statements and making them their own (the character’s own). This seems like something I haven’t seen before.

I’m most pleased to see a stronger relationship to the audience coming through on Saturday. This feels really important as we’ve constantly been talking about how the work is a conversation. All the time on Saturday we were thinking about relationship to the audience at every point.

Heading into production week

I’ve been a bit absent from Crossing Lines rehearsals for the last few weeks. Week 3 of rehearsals saw me at Jury Duty (!!). It’s been hard coming into week 4 (last week) as I felt really disconnected from the project. A lot had been developed in the previous week. Wednesday I got to see the characters that had been bought out in week 1 distilled and put on the floor in a sequence of action that really mirrored the title - Crossing Lines. The characters would cross, interact and move back to their own seperate worlds. There were threads of narrative coming through and each performer was playing three roles each.

I missed the showing last Thursday but I understand the team weren’t happy with it. Tough times ensued, and on Saturday afternoon Heather took us through a revised structure. I’m pleased to see more of the work of the Southern Corridor being explored in the earlier parts of the show, and the way to hold them as being quite a literal showing of the work undertaken so far feels like it will be simple and yet the most truthful.

The goal is to hold the material in a more poetic way than narrative way in the second half of the show. We aiming to leave the audience with questions, to provoke questions and discussion afterwords. These are the two things I’ll be reflecting on as we move into production week.