Putting it Together – Collaboration
Putting it Together is my Monday “artist talking about art stuff blog”. The title comes from “Sunday in the Park with George,” the best (and possibly only) musical that is entirely dedicated to an artist talking about his art. Is that pretentious enough?
Collaboration is one of those words that theatre people throw around in the same way corporate America throws around the word “Paradigm.” We make it sound really important. Can you actually produce theatre without collaborating?
Can you produce business without a paradigm?
While I’m certain that you can do business without paradigms (or synergy), it’s pretty hard to produce theatre without collaboration. Even if you are writing a one person show and the person in question is you, you probably aren’t going to be running your own lights. You might want someone else to direct your show.
One of the things I enjoy about theatre is the way we all want everyone else to succeed. Sure, we want to sell tickets to our shows but not at the expense of anyone else. At some point, all of us might be working with each other. That mutual support system results in a atmosphere where nobody is hoping for someone else’s failure.
In my artistic career, I have almost never worked alone. The success of Vilification Tennis, for instance, relies on so many people doing their jobs well. I can have an off night and the show will still be successful if the other performers do their job.
Most of my full length shows have been collaborative works. There is something about writing alone that feels unnatural to me. In my darker times I view that attitude as a lack of confidence.
The reality is that I feel working with others makes me better. I think that “The Complete Works of William Shatner: Abridged” is one of the better written shows I’ve done and that is in no small way due to the fact I was co-writing the script with Bill Stiteler. He had ideas that didn’t occur to me and I had ideas that didn’t occur to him.
In the end, I feel like we put together a better show than either of us could have put together on our own.
Sometimes collaboration is of necessity. I’m a pretty good lyricist but I’m not a musician. That means I regularly work with Chad Dutton and Geoffrey Brown to write songs. They contribute something to the process that I can’t. Together, I think we come up with really funny songs (like our latest – Patchouli is Not a Substitute for a Bath).
When I came up with the idea for the Geeks Without God podcast I went to Nick and Molly Glover to be my co-hosts because I knew that I already enjoyed working with them. We have collaborated on a lot of projects because, I think, we support each other well.
All this doesn’t mean that collaborators agree all the time. In fact, the disagreements are what makes working with others so rewarding. Often, you come up with better ideas as you argue out those disagreements.
And while this may sound cheesy, I’m collaborating with people even when I’m writing alone. I show my wife my work before I post it on my blog or before I send it out to performers. I send scripts out to readers to give me feedback.
The reality of any kind of artistic endeavor is that the more good work there is, the more audience is created to appreciate it.
Most corporations spend all of their time trying to figure out how to beat their competition. Not theatre companies.
Everyone wants to be the best, sure. But they figure that they don’t have to be the best alone.
Also, we’re all trying to do theatre in the Twin Cities and by default, we’ve already lost to the Guthrie.
Next week, I’m going to write about writing all the time