I’m currently working on a show with a great group of people. Positive people, people who know each other intimately and can have a good time whilst being intensely creative.
In the room – yes it is.
However outside the room, we’re constantly being blocked by a thick wall of ‘no’. In these cases, the reasons given for not doing something could be easily solved. We’ve all heard it before.
‘It would take too many people to lift an item that big’ – when there’s plenty of people on call to lift it.
‘We can’t afford that item’ – when the director or designer is happy to do without something else.
These are just excuses to not do things that are difficult, time consuming, or require effort.
Sometimes a request from a director or designer feels so difficult that it is easier to say ‘no, it can’t be done’. Over the years, I’ve watched what happens when people are constantly told ‘no’. The more you say no, the more people push for unreasonable requests. Saying ‘yes’ demonstrates your commitment to trying ideas that initially appear crazy – but may turn out to be the highlight of a show. As a tutor once said to me once ‘Say ‘yes’ for as long as you can, so when you have to say ’no’, people know that you mean it.’
Consider this: some of the most creative and highly regarded theatre, music and art only exist because people said ‘yes’. Imagine if someone told Wagner that he couldn’t write such a long opera because the crew would need a break. Imagine if someone told Matthew Warchus (Director of Matilda the Musical) that he couldn’t have kids on swings because of the WHS risk. Imagine if someone told Shakespeare he couldn’t have a ghost in Hamlet because it wasn’t possible to make someone or something look like a ghost.
Come to think of it, I’m sure those people heard plenty of ‘no’s throughout their careers. But their ideas only got across the line because enough people were willing to give it a try.
Directors and their creative teams want to know that you’re going to try everything you can to make their idea work. Blocking ideas too early loses respect (rightfully so) and creates a culture of having to push against each other.
I’m not saying we need to ignore constraints. It’s important to stick to budget and make sure you have the resources to make things happen. What is important is exploring all options in a positive way before we turn and say ‘it can’t be done’.
Creativity often pushes boundaries. It should push boundaries. And that might push the boundaries of what we believe to be possible. We need to be ready to go on that journey by saying ‘yes’.