Rigour vs Gut

Posted on Apr 17, 2011

There is a question I have been struggling with for a while now.  It is the question of rigour vs. gut.  I am a very instinctual and intuitive person.  I do what feels right to me. Ever since I was very young I have made plays.  When I was a child if you were at my house playing with me we were making a play.  My parents sat through hundreds of hours of basement plays.  This demonstrates that I am drawn to create theatre – to bring people together with the goal of making something for an audience. I can’t help it.  I have to.  I am more fascinated and excited by this than anything else and it has always been that way for me.

Seb and Colby are the same way.  They are people who really excel at theatre.  Who they are fits perfectly with what they do.  All three of us have no desire to do anything else. This is where we fit and it’s what we have to do.

All of this to say that ITSAZOO is a company built on guts.  From a young age we found each other, knew what we wanted to do and just fucking did it.  We didn’t wait for permission, we didn’t wait for money, we didn’t wait for time – we just made it happen.  And we still do.  What this means is that we often haven’t had the liberty of a long development process or a lot of time to really pay the greatest attention to every little detail.  This hasn’t been that important to us.  What has been important and exciting is creating a lot of shows that interest us, asking big questions, and entertaining an audience. We create shows that we feel compelled to do.  Our instincts guide us.

This has worked well for us. We’re very prolific.  We take risks and we create unique theatre.   Our shows also have a real sense of being alive.  ITSAZOO’s productions have genuine energy and risk in them.  This is because we haven’t struggled too hard with intellectualizing every detail  – we’ve let the show, the cast and the environment tell us what to do.

Here’s the problem – saying ‘it just feels right’ doesn’t work when you are writing a grant. It also doesn’t work when you are pitching your show to a presenter or a festival.  These are things we are doing more and more these days as they are the gateway to our future.  This is where RIGOUR comes in to play.

After many years of struggling to get money from the Canada Council I finally had an officer tell me that what we lack is an ability to demonstrate rigour in our work.  Rigour was defined as a real ability to explain every artistic decision and to demonstrate that nothing is by accident, that every detail is a conscious artistic choice.  That often just hasn’t been the case with us.

Since this conversation rigour has been the focus.  For about a year now it has been all about rigour.  And now, possibly because of this, we have more money and more outside interest in our work. But, to be honest, it normally goes backwards. My gut tells me something and then I struggle to define why my gut’s right. I know it’s right because I feel it but more importantly I need to be able to explain why.  It’s frustrating. It asks that we do fewer productions and pay a whole lot more attention to every one.

I’m going to be attending UBC in the fall to do a masters in directing and my hope is that this helps me to better understand and breakdown what I do naturally.   I know that once I come to peace with the idea of rigour and learn to reconcile my gut and rigour  that they will work together to make me a stronger artist than I could have imagined.  I think that gut and rigour can and should be best friends.  I’ll let you know once we’ve found a balance. Or maybe you’ll just see it in our art.

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