It is lovely to return to the studio after completing my second 2 month retreat in one of the largest Buddhist Centres in Europe. This time in the rolling hills of Tuscany. I have to admit, every time I would line up for lunch (silently), I would thank God I was in Italy. There was not an overcooked piece of tofu or limp looking vegetable in sight -I love Italians! Whether meditating or not, for them, good food is non-negotiable.
However as far as the retreat goes, this was a different kind of experience than I was used to. We started and ended each day together as a group, with our wonderful teacher, but the rest of the day was up to us to structure. Some people got up early at 3.30AM, others went to bed late. I knew this because I was ferreting around comparing what I was doing to what others were doing, trying to discern, “was I doing enough”?! But luckily that phase didn’t last long. Before long I found the rhythm that was right for me.
I do not take my good fortune for granted. To have the time to be utterly quiet, (language is a wonderful tool if used well, but so often is the cause of our confusion and suffering) to be reflective, to contemplate and to look within is one of the underestimated and extraordinary ‘perks’ of being a human being. I went from kindergarten to a ‘PHD’ level in Buddhist philosophy on this retreat and therefore, was totally out of my depth. But it was thrilling, and illuminated for me in a way that I had never before felt, the mind-blowing potential that lies within us all.
I learnt about stillness in motion and couldn’t help but draw parallels between what I was learning and what actors do to create a healthy sense of true wellbeing. They do this by having a healthy approach to their work. It seems to me that the less we identify and fuse with our own thoughts and feelings, believing they define us, the easier it is to inhabit the thoughts and feelings of characters. Because that space and awareness makes play possible. We can be anything, and identity can be fluid, because nothing in reality is solid or fixed. We just have a pesky habit of believing it to be.
Here we have just completed a wonderful Masterclass with British Director, Ian Rickson. It was extremely touching to be back in Studio A with its solid brick walls and wooden floors, where over the years I have witnessed so much heart, spirit and insight revealed and no less in this Masterclass. It was the last Masterclass that Emily O’Brien-Brown will organise at the Studio, so it was a particularly moving experience for me.
But as I told Emily yesterday, in this newsletter I was set to trump the ace that she played with so much heart in her address to us all last month.
Emily’s love of theatre has been the heartbeat of this studio for several years and as we move into the next phase of 16th Street’s growth it is only fitting that she should play a significant role in that.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I announce Emily will be heading up Company 16, in a Part-Time capacity, alongside our valued colleagues Iain Sinclair and our resident playwright Ben Ellis. This will be a Company for actors, writers and directors to develop their work, to collaborate and create together – and for 16th Street to do its part in keeping the artistic landscape in Australia vital and meaningful.
We at 16th Street would like to thank Emily O’Brien Brown and Christian Biko for the considerable contribution that they have made in making 16th Street the Studio it is today. They are set to kick needed and important goals for our industry. I believe they will be trailblazers in the next phase of their artistic journey.
With love and gratitude always,