Sunday, June 7, 2009

on SITI summer-part three OR collaborative revelations

in the past year, i have worked almost exclusively with female-bodied people. all the stamp lab productions i've been in were female save for one gay man. and working at alma de mujer meant very little interactions with men regularly except for talking with contractors. so when i found myself standing with four men when we decided groups during compositions class, i was both apprehensive and excited. "this will be good for you," said a couple folks, including myself.

it's been fascinating. not only are they all men, they are all white men. two american college boys, one canadian and one from portugal. save for the one time when i firmly confronted one of them when he ran out of rehearsal to talk with someone in the hallway ("you drive me crazy! i feel really disrespected when you do that!"-- "oh, i am so sorry!"), most of my fighting has been within myself.

because working with men has brought many of my personal insecurities to the fore. partly because i've been battling those insecurities all along (i keep thinking, why did they accept ME?), but also because men (at least these men) don't really work to make sure everyone is okay, because they think that everyone SHOULD be okay. and i know that if i were to show specifically that i'm not okay, as i did for one discussion, they would meet it head on. i also have been working against an insecurity that what i have to say is fundamentally insignificant, but everything i've said has been met with openness and attention.

there are many reasons why i tend to work with female-bodied people. sometimes it's that our politics are aligned. or that, as a dyke, i tend to favor the company of other dykes and work out of that. but a lot of it is about degrees of comfort. and there is a certain shorthand that i can rely upon when working with female-bodied folks, especially female-bodied people of color.

but as productive as that comfort can be, it can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings and all-out conflict, just like anywhere else. sometimes the initial closeness makes the eventual conflict that much more painful.

what i'm learning on a very fundamental level is that really i can collaborate with anyone. and that anyone can collaborate with anyone. but what insures the collaboration actually happening is when the group decides to commit to the work and commit to each other. i've loved stamp lab because of that dual commitment. when we decide a narrative arch, casting, or aesthetic details, everyone thinks about "the work." when someone has an idea or a problem, we commit to believing that she does it for "the work" and to seeing her approach, even if we don't agree.

and even though the looks and shapes of the work i'm doing here is radically different, at the core, i still feel that commitment to the work and commitment to each other, and so i'm warmed and inspired--as slow-going and frustrating as it can be.

since i decided i wanted to be in performance for the remainder of my life, i have endeavored to pursue the frightening, the awkward, the uncomfortable. and this intensive is just pushing me to even more extreme levels of fear, awkwardness and discomfort than i had imagined. it is impossible to remain unchanged.

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