With the desire to ‘get creative’ burning in our collective chests, Mothers Artists Makers held a meeting in November to decide how best to harness our energies and talents, and to see if a MAM production might be a possibility in the near or distant future. With many of our members generously offering to hold workshops covering a wide range of skills, it was decided to begin with a ‘Rattlebag Week’. This was to be an exploration of ideas, forms, skills and a general flexing of our artistic muscles.
As a starting point we had decided on a broad theme, ‘Labour’. Each individual 2 hour session was given a sub-theme such as flirtation; sex; incubation; nesting; birth and post-birth. Our aim was to develop a way of working as an ensemble, to collect and ‘contain’ the ideas that could, and would emerge. There was a real desire to try it and see if we could work collectively while observing our family friendly practice. Our experience in producing a short piece for The Abbey (Observe the Mothers of Theatre Marching Towards the Stage) last September, had put fires in our bellies and shown us that working in intensive spurts often with our children in the room can (miraculously) result in a piece of theatre.
I was lucky enough to attend all of the workshops in ‘Rattlebag Week’. My children are all at primary school now, and I am mostly free in the mornings unless I have work on. I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying this phase! It has coincided beautifully with my involvement with MAM and these weeks of delicious creativity. I feel very lucky to be Dublin-based and to be able to avail of this amazing opportunity, made possible by Fringe Lab who provided MAM with the space.
I feel awake, alive and buzzing with a creative joy that I haven’t felt in years.
Our scheduling allows for school pick-ups, with workshops running from 10-12, and an ‘open space’ in which to write, develop or chill from 12-2pm. As with all MAM events, the group can change from day to day. All are welcome to attend when and if they can, and children are welcome. We had some beautiful scenes with babies in slings at Andrea’s Viewpoints workshop. In fact we had babies in arms or children present for nearly all of the first week of Playground. My 5 year old daughter joined me for the voice workshop with Marianne and loved it. I’ve really enjoyed the unpredictability of the changing, evolving group wondering who will be joining us on any given day. There’s a fresh energy in the comings and goings that keeps us on our toes in a great way. Certainly for this phase of exploration it has worked very well.
Each facilitator led us through a two hour workshop in their area of expertise. Sarah FitzGibbon kicked us off by leading us through some Process Drama techniques. We were up on our feet, creating characters, scenarios and improvising very quickly. No ‘feeling the fear’ in a MAM workshop, there simply isn’t time! Quick decision-making and thinking on your feet are necessary when you’ve only 2 hours to play with. I personally found this liberating, and it has prevented me from getting stuck in my head or fixating on one particular idea.
All in all a fantastic week for awakening the muse, stretching the creative muscles and seeing the possibilities.
Even though the workshops offered a diverse range of skills and processes, there was an real cohesion running throughout the work. Perhaps this is because of the common experience we share as mothers, and because we are collectively drawn to the themes that were real and unifying for us.
There is something about the lack of pressure that wove a little magic into the way we are working. The fact that you have shown up, even if late, is enough. You are accepted in with the understanding of a group that has been there, knows you are not just a ‘flake’ or ‘can’t get it together’. MAM know the struggle it takes to get to a rehearsal space with or without your children on any given morning. If you’ve made, fair dues to ya!
Having reached the end of ‘rattlebag’ week, we embarked on the devising process led by Tara Derrington and Michelle Read. I sense an eagerness, a sense of anticipation and awaking in us. There’s a real camaraderie and a sense of allowing which I believe is our hidden treasure and our greatest resource.
By allowing, I mean acceptance of our individual circumstances and needs; respect for each other as women, mothers and artists; a lack of judgement or placement within a perceived hierarchy; a lack of pretense and illusions of ‘doing it all perfectly’. The one up-womanship and the competition that is so often present in our younger careers, while scrambling for the next gig and picking over the pathetically few decent female roles, gone.
We joked one morning at the beginning of the devising session, “sure we’re already winners, we’re in the room!”
And with that we seized these precious two hours and played like the kids we still are at heart.
Fiona Browne Founding MAM