Reflections on our call for applicants

The process of selecting members for the Devised Yukon Project is over. It came with many lessons learned on my side. This was my first chance to go through a process of selection where I wasn't the one being selected. Being on the other side has been exciting and terrifying. From first worrying about the number of people we might get to rescheduling to accommodate more applications; it has been a ride. We will be announcing very soon the collective for DYP, but for now I'll run through our process and what I felt worked and of course didn't work.

The call

In my mind our call was fairly straight forward. The main tactic was to provide enough information, so that the people who got it would apply right away and the people who didn't had a clear way of asking questions. We received many phone calls and emails asking us to clarify what it was we were doing exactly. It is hard to describe a project that is as open as DYP. It is a project which requires the participants to shape. In a collective, without a defined hierarchy, the decisions need to be made as a group. We were trying to hire the group to make the decisions, so it was difficult to provide detailed information. Still, we answered what we could and our commitment to honesty and openness helped guide us.

We decided that in order to really consider an applicant we had to see them. That is why we made the application simple. Everyone who applied would be given an opportunity to take part in a workshop audition or video audition. We called the auditions interviews because, besides there being an interview component, we thought the word audition might scare some people off.

ArtsNet: the bugle of the north

ArtsNet was our primary method of distribution for our call. We looked at doing newspaper ads, but the costs didn't seem to match the benefits. We weren't trying to advertise to the general public; we wanted to get the attention of artists. The internet, to my mind, has replaced the newspaper when it comes to classified ad information types. Craigslist and Kijiji along with local email groups have replaced the community and individual newspaper advertisement. In the Yukon, ArtsNet has become the easiest and most effective method of distributing arts-related information.

My friend Ruth at Nakai posted that the best time to post information was at 10:00 am. At 10, people have settled into their work, have a coffee and are ready to be briefly distracted. This is the point where they might check their hotmail account, or visit facebook. The other busy time period, according to my traffic statistics, is after 5:00 pm, or after people have finished their work day. That being said, we released our call to ArtsNet at 12:22 pm on Monday, May 9.

In addition to ArtsNet, we created a facebook event and sent out some personal emails to people we thought might be interested. Most of the people saw it on ArtsNet. There is no statistics regarding how many people read the call via ArtsNet, but traffic to this site increased tremendously immediately after an ArtsNet post. We decided to release more ArtsNet posts in the following week. The continued posting was meant to keep the project in people's minds, drive more traffic to the website and provide answers to common questions we were receiving.

The other interesting thing about the ArtsNet listing is that it travelled. People would read it and forward it on to someone they though might be interested. Because ArtsNet acts the same as an email it is very easy to pass along. Mothers would read the post and encourage their sons to apply. Husbands told wives and people from inside the territory told people on the Outside.

The call was a great success. I was hoping 10 people would apply and we received nearly 25 applications.

Scheduling

The job of scheduling the workshop and interviews fell onto me. This was where a lot of learning happened for me. Scheduling was the behind-the-scenes work I hadn't experienced while on the other side of the selection process. I made a lot of great mistakes and would like to share them.

I needed to take my time. Our call was put out two weeks before our interviews. This was done mainly because we had some scheduling conflicts (Jessica was leaving town) and wanted to do the process and selection while we were in the same place. Unfortunately, this gave little time for people to submit applications, receive the appropriate information and be prepared. The deadline for applicants was only two days before the interviews. In retrospect, it would have been better to give a greater buffer between all these events. There should be three weeks for someone to apply and a week of buffer before the interviews.

I needed to collect and then organise. Once we knew our interview date (May 28) and had our space secured I started scheduling people for the group workshop and interviews. This became a problem later when we had more people apply than expected. It would have been better to collect all the applications and then schedule interview and group workshop times. The bulk of applications came closer to the deadline, which makes sense considering human nature, and we had to do a bit of rescheduling. In the end we only had to move two interviews, but we also had no defined break and were doing two group workshops instead of one. This mismanagement of time didn't affect the workshop and interviews tremendously, but now I know for next time.

Mentors and questions

This community is awesome. Growing up, they supported my development as an actor and they continue to support my development as a creator. There are people within the theatre community who act as my formal, or informal mentors. Open Pit believes in asking for help; this belongs within our core belief of openness and honesty in our work. Jessica and I have no qualms about asking questions when we are uncertain and the theatre community has been very willing to provide guidance, support and answers. I would like to thank Brian Fidler, David Skelton, and Eric Epstein for their help and guidance during the application process. Some helpful advice they provided:

  • Be "double jazzed". You're jazzed about them and they're jazzed about you.
  • Respect our own vision of the project.
  • Look at individual relationship to the group.
  • You will make decisions very quickly in the workshop.
  • Place people into specific groups to see how they work together.
  • In a large group only 1 leader emerges when there might be 2 or 3.
  • Who do you enjoy hanging out with?

The workshop

I was most nervous about delivering the group workshop. I was afraid that people of higher calibre than I was would be attending. I was afraid that people would think the exercises we decided to do were stupid. These fears were generally lifted after we had played our first game. By the second workshop round I felt I could be myself more. The pressure I had felt to deliver was lifting. There was a feeling of individual control, but also group control. To emulate a collective we did a lot of exercises as a group. I could feel myself moving between the individual who had to select people for a job and the group mind. It was, I think, the balance you look for in a collective. When working, I want to be able to intuitively and immediately react to my collaborators. I also want that intuition to come from the unique perspective that is my individuality. Developing these two perspectives takes time and a lot of collective work, but I saw glimpses of it during the workshops. For those interested in what we specifically did during the workshop there is a basic breakdown below. It is our original document with notes; some of the material we couldn't cover as the time period was so short.

Group Workshop Plan

Introduction (20 min)

  • Who are you? What is your medium (field of practice)?
  • Who are we?
  • What is the Devised Yukon Project?
    • 6 weeks of exploration
    • 2 week workshop with Ker Wells
    • Public presentations
    • Future development
  • What are we doing today?
  • Editing the work in case of injury/disability
  • Questions?

Group Warmup (5 min)

  • Energetic

Game #1 (Sam) (5 min)

  • Take it

Game #2 (Jessica) (5 min)

  • Name Game (should maybe be the first game to be played as it will allow us all to learn each others names)

Song Exercise (10 min)

  • Everybody in a circle
  • Learn the the song: “Well well well night is a-fallin. Well well well hold my hand. Well well well night is a-callin. The spirit is moving all over this land”
  • Improvise with the song as a group changes in
    • pitch
    • tempo
    • rhythm
    • intention
  • One person improvises a solo in the centre while the outside people adjust based on what they are doing
    • parallel adjustment
    • opposite adjustment

Movement w/ text (15-20 min)

  • Introduce a line of text
  • Isolate words that we can create still images for
  • Teach the movements that I have chosen for the text - we all learn it together

Physical Theatre action sequence (15 min)

  • Take the night story and create a physical action sequence.
  • Embody the story don’t explain it.
  • Don’t think of mime.
  • Actions vs. Dance
  • Think About: rhythm, tempo, flow, atmosphere, pauses.
  • Sequence should be no longer than 1 minute.

Show & Clean (15 min)

  • Watch and give feedback for each sequence.
  • Ask group for feedback as well.

Final presentation (20 min)

  • Combining the previous three exercises the group will come up with a short presentation.
  • There are no limits in terms of structure as long as the elements are used.
  • Additional material can be created if necessary.

Debrief

  • How was the presentation successful?
  • How was it unsuccessful?
  • What was it like navigating a group of people you don’t really know?
  • Anything else?

If you have any questions about our workshop process leave a comment below. The workshops were very fast, another result of poor scheduling, but also very fun. A lot of really cool work was done.

The interviews

We decided to keep the interviews short and sweet. While giving out information about the workshop, we also provided applicants with a list of questions we would be asking:

  • If you were given studio space for a day, to explore whatever you wanted, what would you explore and how you would explore it?
  • How do you feel about sharing aspects of your process with the public?
  • Where do you see yourself within a group? What role do you play?
  • What do you think your artistic aesthetic is?

In addition to this we asked them to bring in a schedule of availability. We were using the interview to generally gauge how we could relate to the applicant. There are no real right answers to questions above; I personally wanted to hear clear specific answers that inspired me creatively. I then had to view the answer in the context of the project and see if it jived with our original intentions. I know these questions can be hard to answer, especially if you don't know what the interviewer wants, but I was hoping some people could jump outside of the box.

We also got better at asking the questions as we went. The final question, for example, grew from a general question about artistic aesthetic to a more specific question about creative scale (inspired by Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit). I wanted to not only give some guidelines for the questions, but I also wanted to see if people could take their original answer and apply it to the new information I had given them.

There were many good answers to the questions. Again, they were looked at in regards to energy, specificity, creativity and the project vision.

The selection process

It didn't take long for us to come to our decision. We knew that certain factors would rule some people out right away. We looked at applicant availability, what they wanted to bring to the project and experience level in order to make a decision. It was still a difficult process. Some people I had been looking forward to working with weren't selected simply because of scheduling issues. It was tough trying to decide between people I considered friends and colleagues.

Once we had our short list, Jessica and I had conversations about each applicant. Jessica and I work well together because we tend to agree on most everything (or at least she always seems to agree with me and I always seem to agree with her). Having Jessica as a partner in this process made it easier and more fun.

Conclusion

Wow! What a massive posting. I hope sections of it will be of interest to people. I hope it gives a clear outline on how we selected the collective for the Devised Yukon Project and what criteria we used to make our selections. If you have questions, or comments please leave them below (as a comment), or contact me via email.

There will be a lot more posts coming, so bookmark our site and send the link to your freinds. Thanks for the support!