The first week of August I was very fortunate to go on the Freedom Art Retreat, an annual magic trick put together by Ilana Brownstein and the amazing folks at Playwrights’ Commons (which is really Ilana and her lovely assistant, Corianna Moffatt). We spent a week in North Conway, NH, in a lodge house near a pond, with 10 strangers (mostly strangers, all strange), spending every day making theatre, music, and amazing food. Not kidding: it was a magic trick. Except it wasn’t a trick.
I tried as hard as I could to know nothing about what I was in for, and I’m glad I did. Since I got back it’s been difficult to process what exactly happened and what I learned. I’m not sure I can put it into words, and I don’t think it’s an experience that translates at all to a blog. To try to recreate the journey feels wasteful and inappropriate for a blog.
So without trying to recapture the events, a few things I learned that are more than applicable to the world outside of North Conway, NH
1. Silence and Darkness = soul sorbet. They cleanse the palate. Necessary.
3. You can make an amazing piece of theatre from anything.
4. You can make an amazing piece of theatre with anyone.
[Aside: I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in my life wanting/trying to work with “the right people.” Dumb. The only time there are “right people” is when your idea is very rigid. Work with any people, in an open and loving way, and the “right” project for the group will naturally flower.]
5. Be Grateful (and express it) for your food and for the company you are lucky enough to be in. You won’t always have either.
6. An idea doesn’t have to come to fruition through my working alone in a room. Not exactly revolutionary but writers (this one anyway) can maybe get a little stuck in that idea. It’s not true. You can give your idea to someone else. It’s allowed. And amazing things will happen when you do.
7. How and Why are important questions that maybe don’t need to be answered concretely.
8. Music is more necessary to my life than I’ve ever given it credit for, and that will now change.
9. Every morning should begin with giggles, and every evening should end with a jam session. (And scotch. But maybe a little less scotch).
10. It’s incredibly freeing to approach a piece of theatre from the POV of a playwright, but never even consider picking up a pen and paper. You can write with actions, with bodies, with color, with dust, with sounds.
Much more interesting.
Those, and the 10 new Bitties in my life, are what I brought back with me from North Conway.
The one other thing I’d like to say is this is an amazing company who is making an impact in Boston theatre, and on individual artists. In two years, they’ve taken 20 + artists on these retreats, in addition to hosting monthly gatherings. This January they’re starting a new winter retreat, where even more writers will be served. This is all done out of pocket. I urge anyone who cares about theatre, theatre artists, playwrights, or play development, to consider a donation to Playwrights’ Commons. The investment will go incredibly far.