Questions

a photo of the pool, empty

So a really important part of any piece of what I have decided to call ‘nu-community theatre’ (I haven’t. Never call it that. It’s just a better description of my emerging practice  I think, than ‘digital theatre’) is learning which are the right questions to ask when talking to people; to provoke stories. For that project, and those people. Questions which are open enough to allow people to fill the space, but closed enough that they know where to start. Crafted in a way that allows for themes to emerge, but not leading in a way that has themes in mind in the first place. Each day I do Talking To People I have a new set of questions, some carried over, some refined, some entirely new. And it’s interesting to follow these questions as they emerge, respond to the people they’re asked of, and the answers they give. I thought you might find it interesting too. In the end, (or at the end of the story-collection section of Northern Big Board; I’m now into MAKING) the questions for this project ended up more like provocations. And each is reflected in one of the final installation pieces I will make. These are those:

  • Talk to me about escaping
  • Tell me about a time when you were the best of yourself
  • Tell me about a time you trusted someone
  • Tell me about what it feels like to fet older
  • Tell me what your friends mean to you
  • Talk to me about waiting

Obviously these are scattered about less threatening things like ‘how are you feeling today’ or ‘where did you learn to swim’ and things.

My favourite answer so far was to the second. ‘Tell me about a time when you were the best of yourself’ – a Duty Manager and lifeguard called Gee, a gentle smiling man, very tall, and perpetually active. He looked straight ahead and thought solemnly when I asked the question. After a while he told me about a moment when he was delivering CPR to a swimmer who had had a heart attack in the pool, and when he looked up to see a line of staff – the people he oversees and trains – lined up, at least 12 of them, all ready to take over in intervals so that the CPR could be consistent and go on for longer. That was the answer he gave to the question ‘tell me about a time when you were the best of yourself’. The best of him was his team. I love that.

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