A simple, yet sophisticated vocabulary is - I think - one of the keys to creating "theatre with meaning." As I discovered and wrote during my thesis work at Syracuse University, truly transformative collaboration between artists is necessary for the creation of theatre or art with any lasting or widespread significance. The key to that transformation is to build (or borrow) a simple, yet sophisticated vocabulary of creation, which allows for mutation and permutation of the ideas that vocabulary communicates, but also the people who are communicating.
For our piece yesterday, in less than 6 minutes, the dancers and I quickly created a 15-minute long performance by basically assembling movements, exercises, and ideas which we've been working on over the past two months as part of The Ume Group's Training Ensemble program. For every minute of simple movement or stillness in our performance yesterday, I would guess that we have spent at least 30 minutes in the training room, filling that movement or stillness with richness and resonance.
The end result is a remarkably efficiently devised piece which moves people. (See the woman at time marker 12:45 / 15:80 who appears to have been moved to prayer!?)
If you aren't convinced about the efficiency, check out this short clip from our rehearsal, literally minutes prior to the performance:
(Can't see this video in your e-mail client or RSS reader? Click here to watch it online.)
In conclusion, if you are a collaborative artist on a similar mission to move people or to "make meaning", I recommend starting here, with the construction of a shared vocabulary from which all kinds of creative possibilities can arise. Know, however that a shared vocabulary (not unlike "a sense of ensemble") takes time, patience, and care to develop, along with a certain openness and resistance to results-oriented thinking on the part of all involved.
What are you waiting for? Start a conversation with someone around you and see what happens when you intentionally make your shared vocabulary simpler. Does it become more sophisticated or nuanced? What new and interesting ways are you transformed? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!