A Chat with Emerging Artists

Cast members: John Tulloch, Heather MacDonald and Alina Ben Larbi sit in a semi-circle with scripts and puppet parts surrounding them. Alina, the farthest away, narrates with the owl puppet. Heather, in the middle narrates with the thistle puppet. John, with his back slightly to the camera, listens. At the far end of the room is a large window which lets in a lot of light and through which trees are visible. Picture frames and a chalk board hang on the wall to the right.

Last week I had a wee chat with the emerging artists involved with The Owl and the Imp production at our Work-In-Progress (#WIP1) event; John Tulloch, Alina Ben-Larbi and Heather MacDonald. All are at various stages in their career so it was refreshing getting to catch up with them all.

We started off with some discussion around our personal goals and interests. This highlighted that while these artists are either still in education, aiming for drama school or are just out of education, ambitions are high with motivation wavering ever so slightly, between Heather’s personal statement, John signing with an agency (fingers crossed) and Alina’s assignment due! We discovered that John has a passion for storytelling, and wants to use theatre as an educational tool by bringing theatre into schools, using the learning by doing approach as this is what helped him the most during his studies. Alina, all whilst doing an MA in Arts & Social practice, aims to use performance as a catalyst for social change in the hopes of creating a more positive future and fulfilling a need for hope! And finally, Heather is focusing on getting into drama school with a great interest in acting and directing.

We moved on to some more industry specific discussion, we talked about what fuels us as artists and how we are trying to navigate our way into this industry. We learned that all of us (including myself) are mainly finding our path into this business through education, through learning, teaching and just giving anything a go! The more you learn the more things you have to offer. We also addressed that it is a struggle to balance time for both your career and for taking care of yourself, it’s a slow but steady process. Each artist has a plethora of motivations to keep creative, from; using performing as a comfort and as an escape; to using theatre and performance as a gateway to create hope within a fairly negative world; to using writing and acting as a source of therapy, to deal with personal issues and events.

We all know that within this business funding and finances is one of the most difficult of the trials and tribulations there is to conquer, so just for fun I asked our artists: If funding was not an issue what would you do? I must say it took some warming up for our artists to truly have fun with this question but we got there. We had the classic answers; of collaborate with other artists on projects and practice based research, hire physical space for artists to use as and when they need; but my personal favourite: to create a sustainable and eco-friendly theatre – which would also be known as an Earth Ship! It would be good to see more theatre’s head in a more sustainable direction. Personally, I would use the money to fund a theatre for Vivid Roots Collective.

Our final point of discussion was targeted around being an emerging artist in the Highlands. There was lots of interesting things that came up here. Besides the general lack of opportunities specifically in relation to fees and expenses, we did find a positive. The landscape of the Highlands provides much inspiration due to the physical openness of space; from nature to a connection with water and land, it provides a unique richness to the culture here. In addition to this, there is also much to be said about the historical and socio-political tales and myths that are centred around the Highlands. Creatively speaking there are so many things to be energised and inspired by. I think that, having lived here for over four years now, it is something that is easily taken for granted – I am absolutely guilty in that respect.

It seems the Highlands play a significant creative role for our artists, hopefully going forward we can imbed this cultural richness within our practice.

Sophie x

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