An Evening at the Centre for Creative Practices

21 Dec

naked branches. group photo.

by Rhea H. Boyden

Last week I was sitting in bed at 8pm snuggled up and ready for sleep when I saw an enticing description on a Facebook invite to a performance at the Centre for Creative Practices co-hosted by a childhood friend of mine Greg Felton. The performance description read: ‘A very special one off show about love, loss, HIBERNATION and transformation. Using anonymous harvested regrets and dreams and the myth of all myths, a powerful cast of spoken word, vocalists and musicians will weave a stunning, achingly life-filled spell of story and sound that will capture and invite you into experiencing the entire gorgeous mess of life.’

It was the word hibernation that caught my attention first. My flatmate and I had just been discussing the merits of the long winter’s nap and not to feel guilty about it at this time of year especially as this is how dark it is when I arrive at work at 7.43am in Sandyford, Dublin. A darkness that is thankfully punctuated by a crescent moon:

sandyford moon

I decided to pull myself out of my state of hibernation last week to discover the other ideas the perfomance promised to explore: love, loss and transformation. After work I went with a few colleagues of mine to the Centre for Creative Practices on Pembroke Street in Dublin.

The venue, which promotes cultural diversity and artistic entrepreneurship is a cozy and very inviting space. I walked in and greeted my old friend Greg Felton who I had not seen in 15 years. Felton is a talented pianist who has been praised by The Irish Times as being one of Ireland’s most talented composers and players and an exceptional young pianist.

Greg Promo pictures 033 (1)

Greg Felton

The show commenced with Dave Rock, who is a spoken word artist, pacing back and forth across the room, with Felton on keyboards, Jake Quinn on percussion and Aine Ni Heidhn and Ciara Ryan on vocals. Dave then began his story about the people of ancient Ireland and how happy they were and how they sang and laughed and made love to nature. Until one day, creatures came out of the ocean with tongues and eyes as black as oil and the war began and all the trees were cut down and the people forgot how to sing and make love. The entire show was a brilliant example of improv music and spoken word. They had only rehearsed for a few hours the same afternoon, and it was powerful as Dave engaged the audience and asked us questions about what we love in nature and how we feel when we are disconnected.

Dave, who is a talented story teller, spoken word artist, and gifted teacher told me afterwards that the ‘creatures with tongues and eyes as black as oil’ were the Fomorians who in Irish mytholgy were a semi-divine race said to have inhabited Ireland in ancient times. They were the gods of chaos and wild nature. I couldn’t help but focus on the word oil and how oil is driving our insane economy and how on the Thursday before Christmas a wonderful performance like this only draws a dozen audience members because people are too busy Christmas shopping and caught up in pre-Christmas hysteria. This made me even happier that I had made the effort to come to the show and, indeed how wonderful and important improv theatre and music is for bringing people together and celebrating listening and communicating.

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Dave Rock

My interest in the importance of improv now piqued, I decided to google a bit about it and I immediately stumbled upon a TED Talk hosted by a woman named Jen Oleniczak, a teacher who believes fully in the importance of improvisation to make you a better communicator and, above all, a better listener. ‘In improv’ she says ‘you are responsible for everyone and everyone is responsible for you.’ She says that listening is so crucial because every tiny piece of information is important to creating a scene and also that you are vulnerable and you could fail so you have to be fully in the zone and in harmony with the people you are interacting with. She said doing an improv class makes you self aware of how bad a listener you are and how you can take steps to remedy that.

Oleniczak told a story of a woman who had worked in a bank for 8 years who took one of her improv classes and then came up to her after and told her that she had never felt so supported in her life than she had in the improv class. This comes as little surprise that a woman working in a bank does not feel supported by her bosses. Being in the lovely space of the Centre for Creative Practices made me think a lot about how so many of us have our priorities wrong at Christmas. The banks, shops and advertisers have managed to turn Christmas into the biggest money-maker of the year and when I read some of the stories behind this consumerism I can’t help but get a little depressed. Just a few days ago I read an article in The Guardian entitled ‘Santa’s Real Workshop- The town in China that makes the World’s Christmas Decorations.’ The article talks about the ‘Christmas Village’ of Yiwu thousands of miles from the North Pole where workers who have little idea of what Christmas is, slave for more than 12 hours a day making 60 per cent of the world’s Christmas decorations. They get covered in red powder whilst covering polystyrene snowflakes and stars and have to change their face masks multiple times a day. They only earn 200-300 pounds a month making the stars that we can buy for 99 pence at the check out.

At one point during the show Dave asked the audience what feeling you have when you are not connected to the earth and your community. I offered him the most obvious answer: ‘Alienation’. He looked at me and said ‘Yes, alienation’ and then went on to eloquently talk about alienation for the next minute or so. Why did I say alienation? Because I have, to a certain degree, been feeling a bit of alienation since arriving back in Ireland. But I now feel, after attending this lovely improv show at the Centre for Creative Practices that a bit of that alienation that comes with my repatriation is slipping away and I am slowly becoming part of the community again. After the show I also spoke to Nina Panagopoulou who is a Greek artist who works at the Centre for Creative Practices and whose wonderful artwork is currently on display there. I will definitely be returning to this lovely place to attend its shows and exhibits in the future, for the inspiring evening has set the mood and tone that I like for Christmas: focussing on being together, listening, interacting and not forgeting what it is that makes us sing in tune with nature and with our fellow human beings.

Feature image photo credit: Nina Panagopoulou

Check out Nina’s artwork here: http://www.nina-panagopoulou.com/bio.html

A special thanks to Greg Felton and Dave Rock for providing me with their photos and the time to speak to me on the Sunday before Christmas.

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