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Something Out Of Nothing

Hello! Katherine here! I play Kim in Everything In Between and I’m also the Artistic Director of Dandelion Theatre.

To me, ‘devised’ was always one of those mysterious, unquantifiable, artistic terms that surfaced around theatre that no one could quite explain. I met a woman once, a theatre practitioner who was quite accomplished, and she told me that she mostly worked on devised pieces. She assumed I didn’t know what that meant, and indeed she was right, I didn’t. When I asked her to explain she flatly replied that it wasn’t something she could explain and she wasn’t going to try. Well! That just added to the mystery. But I did have a sense that a devised piece drew upon a group of actors working together to create something out of nothing and that was very interesting to me. The idea of sharing ideas and building something together. Collaboration and using the best idea in the room and not being alone in front of a blank screen with a blinking cursor taunting you. So the idea of devised theatre stuck with me. And to be honest, devised theatre can be made in any way you want, so the reality is that there is no one definition for it. But it does start with a group of people who create something out of nothing.

Last summer I decided it was finally time to create Dandelion’s, and my, first devised work. There was space in the upcoming season to accommodate it and it just somehow seemed like the right moment. One of the first things I did was talk to one of Dandelion’s Associate Artists, Kristina McCloskey, about directing the piece. She said ‘Yes’ (great news!). So we began our discussions of how we would create something out of nothing. We talked about the structure of rehearsals and the process. I would serve as lead editor, taking charge of the story, and we would work towards a script. The final show wouldn’t be improvised. Kristina, as director, would lead the ensemble, build it into a cohesive group, and collaborate on the characters we developed. Then we talked about themes we were interested in exploring. We talked about a sense of awe, the passage of time, and reflections on what the current world feels like for people. I know the small stuff, right? But our idea was that we would come to the rehearsal room with as few preconceptions as possible and be open to what happened there.

We gathered our cast, a group of lovely, talented, and very committed individuals who brought their whole selves to the process for a whopping 6 months. We met less frequently at first and then more intensively as we developed the story and characters further. We played theatre games, we talked (a lot!), and we improvised. Rehearsals didn’t break into smaller groups until quite late in the process so when we improvised, for the most part, the whole cast was there. We saw the show grow together and we were the audience for each other. After each scene we would discuss it together. We’d talk about what we liked, what intrigued us, questions that the scene made us ask, and moments that made us laugh, broke our hearts, or filled us with awe. I never remember a moment in the process when I sensed anyone was feeling self-conscious. We were creating for each other and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

So we had lots of rehearsals and discussions and then we started transcribing scenes that we knew would be in the show. Lots of transcribing! We ended up with a huge script and we still didn’t have any endings. I’ve always felt that the ending of a story is the most important part. A bad ending can ruin the most magnificent beginning and middle. It’s just a fact. So I was scared to create endings for any of the stories. But I also think I was brave enough not to rush it. When it came time to put the final notes on each character’s melody we talked it through, and then we talked about it again, we tried different versions, and then we landed on the perfect harmony.

With endings in place, Kristina and I went to town on editing. We clarified each scene and each character. We included the actors in this process. We talked to them about their characters and they helped define what was important about them and filled in details. We’d read the newly edited scene and then refine it further. We all fought for the moments we loved, not all of which stayed, and we carved away the extraneous parts leaving us with the final script.

Clockwise from top left, the cast of Everything In Between: Martha Hansen, Joe Vargo, Reilly Willson, Nicole Tuthill, Amber Hugee, Cynthia Hines, Bryan Breau, Casey Freund, Katherine Lamb, and Morgan Crouch. Photo credit: Shirley Nannini

Everything In Between was created by a group of people out of nothing. But not nothing really. It was created by the people who have lived full lives and said yes to this project and showed up every day at rehearsal ready to be surprised, and find awe, and dream right alongside each other. I can’t thank each of them enough for going on this journey with me. It’s been a dream of mine to create a show like this by working with talented, kind people, and we did it. As for devised theatre, as one of our characters says, “Mystery solved.” But next time it will be a different mystery, a different group of people, a different story to be told. So I’m no closer to a comprehensive definition. All I can say is that, much like life, it’s what you make of it.



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