Through my work with Proto-type and with many of the other companies/artists I’ve worked with, I often encounter venues, producers, project managers, curators and other key holders who make our work happen. Partnering with these people/institutions is part of what makes doing work in the arts interesting. Sometimes, I find myself saying that x person or x venue really ‘gets it’, meaning that they understand what it is that we or I am trying to do with a piece. This is usually in opposition to other people or venues who don’t ‘get it’. This same thing can go for collaborators: performers we’ve hired to work with my company, designers, composers – you name it.
After a recent incident of discovering that someone didn’t ‘get it’ when I thought they did, I started to wonder what it means to ‘get it’, what makes it possible for someone to ‘get it’ and how we know it when we’re working with someone who ‘gets it’. As with most things, I suspect it is a two-way proposition: something about how I (or we) communicate what it is that we’re doing in relation to how the partner/collaborator listens, asks questions and engages. It also might be something to do with an instinctual connection.
My sense of what it means to ‘get it’ has changed over time as well. Almost three years ago, Proto-type were lucky enough to become one of the companies funded under the Theatre Sandbox scheme. When we got the funding, we were partnered with Kate Yedigaroff (who at the time was a producer at the Bristol Old Vic). When we started working with Kate, our whole sense of what it could be like working with a producer or venue radically changed. Kate so clearly ‘got it’ with us. She made us feel supported and listened to (which in retrospect we realized was not at all a given), and she also challenged us. She pushed us to ask harder questions, to take more risks and to be bolder. And she supported these risks. Clare Reddington, the brilliant director of the PM Studio, was similarly a shining star in that process who made us feel similarly supported. Clare and Kate are really different in terms of their personalities and their approaches to work, but they both ‘got it’.
So, in thinking about this I’m starting to pick up more on the signs that someone will get it or won’t through they way they ask questions about what I’m/we’re doing. If someone just nods along and repeats what I’ve said, I become suspicious that they aren’t going to be a good partner. If they ask questions that challenge me or that show that they are really listening and thinking about the project, I become hopeful. There is no winning formula, of course, but I guess I know that someone ‘gets it’ when they demonstrate, over time, that they are able to listen, engage with some of the details of the project, and challenge me. I think some organisations/people think that you should be invisible as a partner. I, for one, do not want any invisible partners. I want someone to walk by my side and point out the potholes along the way.
This isn’t a complete set of thoughts about this, and I know I’m missing some big things out, but I’d love to hear what others have to say about this.