Traditional theatre and ballets are based on stories in which the action progresses logically, each event giving rise to the next. It’s comforting to think that things develop according to a logic that we can understand. It gives us the impression that we can foresee how events will unfold and that we can think backwards from a desired outcome to determine the behaviour that will influence things in the way we want. The problem with narrative dramaturgy is that it focusses in on a story and leaves everything else out, as if creating experimental conditions, in which all other variables are kept constant. Life is not like this. Things are changing all the time and affecting each other all the time and it’s not easy to isolate the causes of an event. Thinking that, if I do this, that will happen is overlooking all the other factors that come into the equation. Knowing that the dramaturgy we live in is not linear takes away the idea that a certain outcome depends solely on what I do. We are not in control of what happens. We are not completely responsible for what happens.
It is a privilege to be given attention to express/communicate/show whatever one wants to. There are always constraints, of course, but that is basically what is happening. What do I do with this time and space that I’m given? What do I feel is worth addressing or what deserves attention? When we are free to choose, we are also automatically responsible for our choice. Even not choosing, when done freely, is a choice, and we are responsible for it. What is it that I’m contributing? What am I bringing into existence?
Andrew Morrish is a renowned improviser devoted to solo work. He uses movement, voice and speech to compose performances in real time. He prefers performing solo because “with solo we don’t have the complication of whose art it is”. When one performs a solo, there is nobody else on stage and one bears greater responsibility for whatever happens or doesn’t happen. By dedicating enough time to doing things alone in our life we can get a clearer view of what things that appear on our stage are our own making. When we are in contact with the rest of the world a lot more elements come into play and it can be more difficult to discern.
We are making choices every instant. We may be aware of it and choose consciously or merely choose by default and not use our creativity. Just like a performance is shaped by every single member of the team, every single thing one does contributes to what happens in life. You can act by default or you can take responsibility in your role as co-creator, you choose.