I don’t know about you but if you’ve ever contacted local professional theatre companies in your area, just for a bit advice or to get some information about their work, the reception can sometimes be a little frosty! For some reason, in the theatre world, to share ideas, practice and learning is as though we are giving away too much of ourselves, that we will somehow give them the idea that will make them flourish while we get left behind wondering what happened… so what do we do? We become insular, seeing everybody else as the competition. I wonder what life would look like if we didn’t.
In a previous life I was a nurse and an educator, before I retrained and started my own theatre company. One of the principles we always taught was the notion of life-long learning. Not a new concept, I grant you but one often forgotten. As a medical educator we explored theories of ‘communities of practice’. This notion was offered by Jean Lave (a social anthropologist) and Etienne Wenger (a teacher) who suggested that,
“Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope. In a nutshell: Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” (Wenger circa 2007)
It occurs to me that there is strength in numbers, yet all too often we isolate ourselves from our peers and colleagues. So what would life look like if we engaged in a community of practice? Well, I for one think it would be a huge advantage. We are social creatures – particularly those working in the creative industries. I thrive when I am able to learn from others and bounce ideas around with other creative people. There are plenty of theatre companies in and around Beds, Herts and Bucks. Why not put them in a room together where there will undoubtedly be a collective period of decades of experience to be shared. So why not share it?
They say ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ so, with that in mind, I am proposing to start a community of practice for theatre companies, whether you’re new, old, children’s theatre, adult theatre, a lone actor, writer, director or producer (list not exhaustive), then let’s get together. Let’s share what we know, what we’ve learned and let’s learn from each others’ mistakes. What have we got to lose? If you’re interested, please click on here to drop me a line or use the contact page and I will make sure you get an invite. We will aim to meet together for the first time in the New Year. My thoughts are that we would meet, perhaps once a quarter and we would select a theme for each meeting. For example, we might put funding on the agenda, casting or whatever – in fact I hope you will all come up with ideas for things to share. I anticipate we would have a speaker who might talk for a short while but the real aim is to share our experiences and learn from each other so, over coffee, cake/breakfast/lunch there will be plenty of time allocated for discussion.
This is a real adventure and journey for me… I hope you’ll join me on it.