- Creativity and the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre
Dell'Arte is a very idealistic school and organization. The idealism gets downplayed a lot, even made fun of. But it persists. There is a constant belief here that it's possible to create great works of theatre, to work productively as an ensemble, and to be an integral part of and make a difference in the community in which we live. These are very idealistic beliefs.
There are two concepts central to Dell'Arte's work. One is Theatre of Place, a philosophy of theatre making that states that the region in which theatre artists live and the people, places, history, and issues of that region can and should fuel the creation of the work. Dell'Arte has consistently used inspiration from its home region of Humboldt County, California, combined with the company's own unique physical theatre style, to create plays that address universal themes. The universal is approached through a focus on the particular.
The company's three KORBEL plays, for instance, use a broad comic soap-opera style to focus on a small community undergoing big changes as one way of life gives way to another. The focus is local—the town of Korbel is located just about a mile from the Dell'Arte building in Blue Lake. The theme, however, is universal—the desire for family and stability in the face of overwhelming change.
In addition to the work onstage, Theatre of Place encompasses an approach to work that includes a focus on the health of the community as a whole: economic development; the education of our children; and the partnerships necessary for growth and progress. Each member of Dell'Arte is actively involved in continuously defining the artist's role in the community.
The other central concept, and the focus of this document, is the philosophy of the Actor/Creator. In theatrical terms, this concept places the actor in a central role in the creative process—that of a creator as opposed to an interpreter of someone else's creativity. This concept can be and has been wildly misunderstood. Some have taken it to mean moving from a theatre in which the director or the playwright is God to one in which the actor is God. In actuality, it is neither and both. What the concept of Actor/Creator truly calls for is theatre artists with the courage to continuously define the creative process and to accept full responsibility for their work. It is a way of working and of living that goes beyond the rehearsal hall, the studio, and the stage.
What follows is a step-by-step distillation of six years of work and study on the role of the Actor/Creator, as it applies first to the work of Dell'Arte, and second, to that of the individual. The concept of the Actor/Creator is not mine— [End Page 41] it fueled Dell'Arte's work for many years before I joined the organization. But I do want to offer a summation at this point of the practical applications of the concept that have been developed here, and of my personal philosophical take on it. It's my hope that this summation will provide a well-laid-out foundation for the continued development of Dell'Arte's work.
With all of that said, onward.
The Approach to the Work
Step One: Defining the Parameters
The first step in any creative process, which students are required to make at the Dell'Arte School, is defining the parameters. Simply put, this means making all the given circumstances clear. What are the facts that you know about what is going on? Even when they seem obvious, list them anyway.
A typical example would be a Performance Lab assignment. The designated instructor for Performance Lab gives an assignment to the class on a Monday afternoon, to be prepared for presentation the following Friday. So the first "given" is the timeframe; you're sitting there on Monday and you know that you will be presenting the work on Friday at some point after 2:00 P.M.
The next given is the assignment...