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Since I'm an architect, someone in a conversation invariably says, "I can't draw." To which I reply, "Yes you can." Startled, the person initiating the conversation says, "No, really, I can't draw." To which I reply, "No. You can draw. But your perception of your ability has been socialized out of you. By that I mean that our society believes that only a few people are talented enough to draw, so we don't really even try."
Drawing is a creative endeavor that is all about perception. For instance, we all have come to believe that a school is drawn with a peak over the front of a door with steps and a flag flying in front. (This was on a test my kids had in grade school and they had no idea what it was.) However, most schools today don't even come close to looking like that. Why then do we teach our children that a school is an old iconic image from the western frontier? Because we are lazy about creativity and don't try to understand how those images create social barriers to perception and inventiveness. Thus most of us have to go back to the beginning to re-learn what it means to be creative. I've used creative techniques that turn perception on its heels from Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, The Zen Of Seeing, and other sources to prove that you can eventually overcome that socialization.
This concept of turning perception on its heels was made perfectly clear to me in a recent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare performed by an inter-generational group of professionals and students in the parking lot at the Main Street School Of Performing Arts this summer in Hopkins, Minnesota. This talented menagerie looked at the story, placed it in a post world war tent encampment that was also a drive-in movie theater. The changed setting forced the actors to re-imagine what the motivations really were behind the characters and made the audience push the bounds of its perception. Creativity and inventiveness were present in every aspect as they used video, costuming, staging, and puppetry to set the scenes. Several of the characters including Helena, Bottom and Puck became even more powerful and relevant giving the audience pause about the lessons from this play.
Some might say, "So what?" This is theater and they are suppose to be creative. Yet, aren't we all? Isn't our job to re-invent and improve? Perhaps the stagnation in our economy and society is about a lack of creativity. What if it really isn't about money, but it is about the way we've been socialized, educated, and manipulated to perceive. That creativity and inventiveness together have been thrown away for popularity, emotion, and vulgarity which drives a societal engine that never really helps people. Are we "painted blind" as Cupid is because we are not looking with our eyes? Perhaps we need a paint scraper and a magically different perspective. Sounds like a Shakespeare twist to me:
Get Thee To The Forest
Go outside and I'm not talking about mowing the lawn. Change your every day location in a big way. Get out of the house. Get out of your car. Get out of the office. Run away to a state park forest or a zoo filled with magic. Daydream. Lie in the grass and watch the clouds. Imagine mother nature using the rustling of the trees to speak to you in new ways. Shakespeare used this technique, why can't we?
Flip Disadvantage Into Advantage
Most people couldn't imagine working or playing in a cracked, sloping parking lot with dumpsters, parked cars, and weeds. But this theater team made it happen. They took a craggy looking space and turned it into an even craggier looking space with purpose. Find your biggest disadvantage and turn it on its head.
Change One Thing
In one scene Helena rides in on a very long bike. It sets the stage for a more humorous and realistic presentation of her character. The bike says she is unpretentious which is counter to being a desperate and jealous rich woman as many interpret her character to be. Of course the actress breathes new life into her throughout the play, but the bike was the one thing that first began the perception change for the audience.
Ask questions. Investigate. Imagine. Why can't a god be a monster in a garbage can? The play's controlling god, Oberon, was portrayed by many things: an over sized puppet, an under sized puppet, a cloaked human...even a puppet monster in a garbage can. Who would think that Sesame Street could be any kind of inspiration for A Midsummer Night's Dream? Yet, Oscar The Grouch would be proud (really, more grouchy) that he could be seen as a god; after all he did a lot of controlling on Sesame Street. Drawing that parallel to a post war pop culture and seeing the possibility meant that someone had to ask the question first.
Take Risks Together
This summer workshop production took a great deal of collaboration. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a complex play with numerous intertwined themes. It would make any business analyst graphing a flow chart get a migraine - long into the moonlit night. No one person can do it alone. A reinvention like this takes collaborative brainstorming and a willingness to open yourself to supportive vulnerability. The end product will be well worth the creative endeavor.
Throwing aside socialized perceptions and embracing creative endeavors can be daunting, but just as A Midsummer showed us something new and magical might just be created in the end. Perhaps a societal amend.
Todd Hanson - Theseus | Eryn Warne - Hippolyta | Rob Thompson - Egeus| Lily Lenarz-Hooyman - Philostrate | Danny Noyed - Fairy | Kelalani Jankowski - Fairy | Bailey Roth - Fairy | Robby Miller - Fairy | Carley Guthrie - Fairy | Lilly Lenarz-Hooyman - Fairy
Robert Thompson & Rachel Brady - Associate Directors | CC Keith - Production Stage Manager | Devin Hueffed - Puppet Design & Creation | Max Lazerine - Technical Operator | Cole Benson - Original Music | Will Dziuk - Up & Down Video | Sam Kenknight - Puck's Costume | CC Keith & Logan Bitz Daum - Graphic Design |