Director’s Notes: Finding Inspiration

Not very long ago, I became acquainted with the monumental time-sink that is Pinterest. I’d heard of it for years, but – and this will tell you everything about my own worldview slant – I could not for the life of me understand why friends were going on about recipes on a webpage clearly named for a playwright (Harold Pinter for the uninitiated). A personal aversion to websites that make you sign up kept me off it for years. But looking at images of medieval demons for Mankind, that website just kept popping up. Curiosity got the better of me, and down the rabbit hole I went.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I started with searches that were in some way linked to the play we were working on. My initial thought was that it could be a sort of appendix to writing and talking about what we were doing. Want to know how medieval peasants appear in artwork, or what kind of chair Jenny Hill might have for The Vital Spark? Head on over. Even if I have no intention of staging a play in its original historical period and trappings, I always use them as a jumping off point for research. The idea that you have to know where a play began before you can start intelligently departing for that place is very central to HIDden in general; it’s the informed part of “historically informed drama”.

Informed, however, is not enough. I started seeing lots of other images that just seemed intriguing, apropos of nothing. Maybe it was a texture (something literally missing in virtual boards, which I regret), or a slant of lighting, or a type of lettering. I started filing those away, without having any intentions for them at all. Very possibly they’ll never find a use. But in the aggregate, they already have. Finding them was a reminder that you can’t just look for what you want to find. Sometimes you have to just… look. Wander. Without an agenda, intention, or map, you might find something that sends you down a different path. That’s the very definition of inspiration.

The challenge, in any artistic field, is making yourself find inspiration. We’re accustomed to thinking of it as a bolt of lightning, something miraculous from out of the blue, and very often it is. But when your work relies on its presence being something of a constant, you have to find ways to trigger that lighting off in the first place. Maybe you can’t always guarantee it to strike right when you need it, but you can create conditions under which it’s more likely to happen. There’s no universal recipe; for me it’s a constant and conscious exercise in trying to notice little, unusual details, casting the net wide in terms of reading and experience, and then making sure that I surround myself with people who keep me on my toes. Around the right people, mundane conversations can be catalytic, and that dynamic is something I always try to cultivate at HIDden, with actors and production teams alike.

When I’m feeling more introverted, I can sit down at the computer and explore some of the world from the seclusion of my office, complete with a cup of tea, and try to create a little bit of electronic brain-lightning. Then I can turn around and share at least a pale snapshot of that moment with you, so that if you are at one of our productions, you can imagine the connections between that initial idea and what ends up on stage. It’s not always a direct path, but from information to inspiration to creation, getting there is half the fun.

Why not stop by and visit these behind-the-scenes idea-gatherings on our Pinterest page?

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