Fresh Milk shares the fourth blog post by Barbadian actor & director Levi King, the current participant in the Emerging Director Residency Programme held in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). Levi’s fourth week was all about facing challenges, and learning to adapt in order to overcome these. It was also a reminder that, in any project or production, clearing these hurdles is a group effort, and it is important to have a support network (both personal & professional) to call on and collaborate with to reach your goals. Read more below:
Weaknesses, Challenges & Adaptability
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin
I had plans. Like, nuff nuff plans (nuff means a lot, to whomever may be reading this blog but is unaware of the particulars of Bajan syntax). I had plans for how I was going to approach this residency. I had plans for how I was going to arrange the time, and even gave some thought to how I was going to handle any contingencies… I was still not fully prepared. One thing that makes a difference in any situation, is one’s ability to adapt to challenges.
In light of the plans I had for myself and this residency, circumstances had different plans for me. As is usual with anything requiring more than one person, where one or more of the people already have daily commitments, scheduling was hard. Admittedly, this is one weakness I have; I can organise my own time, but not other people’s. Still, I had to make it work. I had to recast an actor two weeks before we were supposed to show. Another had a situation with work that made their participation seem unlikely at the time if I wasn’t able to work out a different date. At the time that occurred, I was already too close to the date to recast as the character played by this actor is central. I had just one rehearsal, and halfway through my mentor arrived and gave me copious amounts of notes and things to think about and change. Needless to say, anxiety grabbed me from behind and put me in a full nelson hold *arms flail helplessly*. There were other challenges as well, but we don’t have enough time this episode to cover them all.
“In the face of challenges, you are met first by your weaknesses.”- Levi King
So I saw just my weaknesses, focusing on planning in the wrong areas, needing a different approach to my rehearsal process ( I was doing what I knew instead of challenging myself to really experiment because I was afraid of not having enough time). I froze for a bit when the challenges with time and recasting came. I actually thought for a minute that I may have had to cancel the showing because it would not have been ready. I had, for a few days, a crippling fear of failing. I felt overwhelmed a bit by the challenges, but challenges come with every endeavour in life (life, we gotta talk bout this, can it not be easy sometimes? Everything does gotta find a point to stress ya out at?). Many of my concerns were handled after meeting with Katherine Kennedy (Fresh Milk) and Janelle Mitchell (NCF) and discussing the challenges that I had. We came to arrangements.
Most crises averted, I still have work to do though.
“In the face of challenges, you are next met by opportunity.”- Levi King
Fortunately for me, I was able to call on people I know to assist (that’s all I did for the whole process lol). With the actor that had to leave the project, I was able to call on another actor I know to come fill in the position. My mentor Sonia has this way of working, where she makes you confront yourself and overcome the issue facing you in an encouraging atmosphere. This was instrumental, since all she had to do was mention what she was concerned about, for me to look at it differently. My S/O, Luci, also a professional theatre practitioner, was able to offer invaluable observations when she was at the first rehearsal.
I had to look at each challenge as an opportunity. The recasting, an opportunity for new collaboration. The rescheduling of performance, an opportunity to explore handling challenges with corporate bodies. The scheduling issues with actors, an opportunity to collaborate with the cast in solving the problems we were facing together, instead of dealing with it alone. Lil depression, an opportunity to instill some of the discipline required to succeed in life.
With each opportunity, you strengthen your adaptability. In theatre, as much as the responsibility for how the show works is on the director, it is still a team effort. As much as the director has to adapt, so do cast and crew (and they really did cause my next rehearsal was hype). The NCF and Fresh Milk adapted to the challenges and worked with the team to make everything easier. It feels like the team and I may yet make it through. So I look to the next week, which is my last in the residency, with determination. I have shaken off most of the feeling of being overwhelmed, but I am still keeping some because you know what people say about growth happening when you’re uncomfortable. I remain grateful for the challenges, because they make me stronger. In a world of corn flakes, I am still learning to be porridge when I feel like warmed over tap water.
“Mi will move mountains with less than faith
Mi nuh frighten fi food, make the restaurant wait
Porridge badder than cornflakes…”- Hold It, Vybz Kartel
This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados