Thursday, 19 July 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Carly Chamberlain

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Carly Chamberlain trained in artistic direction with Franco Boni at The Theatre Centre in Toronto

The Importance of Yielding

Carly with Jennifer Tarver's dog
(July 1, 2018) When Franco and I began our mentoring relationship, I was just coming out of a rough few months. I was burnt out, a little disillusioned, and really searching for meaning and my place. In one of our first meetings he asked me, “Okay, how do you want to do this?”—and I took a long pause and said the words all perfectionist over-achievers dread: “I don't know.”

What Franco said in response has shaped the last many months. He said he once heard choreographer Lee Su-Feh talk about the importance of yielding to her process. That yielding is important. That it was okay for me to take this time to reflect, absorb, listen, rather than drive. English is a funny language. What a perfect contradiction that the “to yield” can mean “to surrender” and also “to produce or provide”—or maybe that’s not a contradiction at all.

This has been an indescribably important value shift. It’s a lesson I’ve learned before...but I think living is mostly the process of learning the same important lesson over and over.

I came to the mentorship valuing advocacy, community and wanting to think critically about a different kind of leadership. But I had gotten stalled in the mode of the opposite: driving, controlling, selling. What I’ve discovered in taking this shift to heart (and witnessing it in action), is that it’s much easier to be present, to listen (really listen) and be responsive, to lead in a meaningful way, when space is made for yielding. 

At the Festival TransAmérique
It’s entirely contrary to the work culture of our community, I know. We’re all on deadlines, have short rehearsal periods, small budgets, trying to get that next contract, on and on and on. It feels counter-intuitive to slow down. But I’m starting to believe it’s healthier. Healthier personally, and also healthier for artistic practice and leadership. And I’m starting to have this crazy idea that, hey, maybe health (spiritual, physical, artistic) should be more important than achieving.

Originally I had planned a project during this period that would involve banding indie companies together to make a think tank: to problem-solve shared models. But over time I decided that my energy would be better spent elsewhere. 

So now I’m in the early stages of planning an event (or hopefully series of events) for artists and artists-at-heart that acknowledges we are more than what we make. An event that encouraging yielding. My vision is that it will offer workshops, quiet time, play time, resources, and more to nudge some tiny shift in our work culture. 

Because it’s actually better for the art when we take care of ourselves and each other. And more importantly it’s undeniably better for our hearts.

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The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2018.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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