Lessons learned from past work – SURVIVE!

jamie ball

In a similar vein to this post I want to return to another piece and look back at some of the things in my process that changed because of doing that work.

SURVIVE! was a milestone piece. It was a show that launched me into a different kind of professional orbit. It was a work that forced me to think outside of my comfort zone at a level that was totally new. It was a research based project. It brought me back to my science roots. It was one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done. It was a piece that at one point or another broke almost every single participant in the process.

Here’s the blurb:

Part performance, part installation, part wandering through a maze, and part choose-your-own-adventure story, SURVIVE! takes on themes of science and humanity’s existence in the universe. Audience members wander through the show’s 20,000 square feet, guided by “a tenth dimensional narrator” named AMA and her four “fractals” who translate the universe for us through their unique perspectives. Surround yourself in a “walkway to space,” visit a Gentle Scientist who will patiently explain the universe for you or tap dance your way across dimensions through this experiential journey into the space that surrounds us.

Here’s the video.

And here’s a few things I learned:

– There is nothing like having everyone in a project feel like they are partly responsible for the larger vision.

– You are a writer.

– Ask for what you actually want and not what you think you can get.

– The craziest experiments are the ones that teach the most. Embrace being in a dirty basement with no idea what you’re doing. Someday you’ll miss it.

– When you have a design crush on a collaborator, you better hold onto that person.

– Don’t believe it’s not possible. That’s for suckers.

– It is work to expand your capacity to imagine. Put in the time.

– Failure is useful. Seek it whenever you can.

– Fear is understandable. Even if it seems like you cannot move through it, do. You have to.

– Hire a production manager.

– Bring people into a process that don’t make theater.

– Devoted people will work under some of the most insane conditions, but should they?

– You’ll always want more money. Don’t believe the part of you that says this thing could be “real” if only you had the cash. That’s a loser’s attitude.

– Sometimes your peers don’t see what they’re doing wrong, no matter how obvious it might be to you. Tell them. Don’t avoid giving them an opportunity to grow because you’re afraid of conflict.

– When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing you probably don’t. That’s when the best stuff happens.

– Exploration is the best part of a process. Don’t be in a rush to force it into a shape.

– Bring designers in at the start. They’ll teach you to see your work differently.

– Intuition is undervalued. Resist the impulse to make it all make sense. Logic is only one way to evaluate the world. Keep throwing things at the wall and let yourself see which ones stick.

– Let it go. Even if it changes everything you said you’d do. Even if it invalidates the title. Even if it’s written into a grant. Especially if it’s written into a grant.


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