This story is from a participant in our Atlantis project in 2021.
Merging The Journeys
I got involved in Atlantis as part of the Creative Collective. We were given prompts for building characters, and scenarios. It was last year, and we were in the first or second phase of the pandemic. Further down the road, when we came to the first reading of the initial script on Zoom, I was in hospital, I had a major leg operation, and I joined in from hospital. It wasn’t a completed script at the time. So we didn’t know how that script would end or how all the bits and parts of the stories would tie in. During that time, there are a lot of transitions. Some of the other characters had to be developed, or new characters were put into place. I was pleasantly surprised, when I saw the final script, by the layers, the complexity of the story, the different social issues that came to light. It parallels in many ways where we are, in our real world, the adversity that has really transformed the way people live. Not in the form of floods, but in the form of the pandemic.
I had been involved in the previous Hidden Spire project as a Creative Contributor, and was unable to follow it through to casting because of my housing predicament. I was a member of Crisis at the time, and I was just getting on my feet again, to get myself back into housing. So it was a pleasant surprise, two and a half years down the road, to have another crack at the acting side. My initial interest, in the early version of the script, was in a character called Captain Mike. He was a seafaring man. And because of his journey, drifting from place to place, he wasn’t able to hold on to the love of his life. That character was developed from the ideas that I had put in as part of the Creative Collective. But when I look at the new script, Captain Mike’s not there anymore. Who could I connect with? There were wonderful characters, it’s just that I just didn’t find my myself in them, I didn’t find that merging between actor and character. Then a few weeks later, Sunny came up. Sunny was initially a female character. But I felt that the voice of Sunny spoke on many different levels. It was reaching out to me. So I asked the team if Sunny could be changed to a male character. And if so, I would be happy to consider Sunny.
In the play, people have been broken by this natural disaster. The government hasn’t been able to protect the people, who are in despair. Families torn apart, lives lost. Naturally, there was a spiritual dimension to this play, to understand how a community can come together, how people can understand where the hope is, in everything that has happened. We did some workshops on music. That was where the ‘House of Noah’, which you see in the play, that’s where it all came to life, within the music preparation. Noah is very much synonymous with our spiritual awareness of ourselves, our environment, a higher presence. We tried different voices that would reach out and call out to Noah. Some were voices of distress, some were voices of yearning, some were reaching out for hope, for some sense of purpose. Different creatives from different aspects of the project were coming in to build this atmosphere. It brought everyone together, there was a purpose to it, there was an enthusiasm.
When it came back to the point of the rehearsal days, the weeks, I felt nervous at the start. I have some difficulties I have to strategize around as an actor. I sometimes find it difficult to be in the present moment, because of the mental health issues that I have. I’m having to cope with raised stress levels, but also PTSD, and I find reading stressful. That impacts the work of the actor. When I’m going through the role, I have to be at ease with myself, but not overwork it either. So, I have to push myself extra hard as an actor. Although it was at times very daunting, it’s been part of my journey. Sometimes, when we know we have to do something, we accept all the adversity, all the difficulties that will come with it, because we know that there’s a purpose. As an actor, I find an opening of empowerment, I find an opening of expression, which I can’t access effectively all the time, in my real persona, as myself. So although it was hard and difficult, it was something that I had to do. It was about my purpose to evolve as an actor. And to really acknowledge my difficulties as well, the barriers that I face. I know that I have these barriers, but I still break through those barriers to connect with a creative story, to give something significant to it.
In the rehearsal room, I was getting to know the different people involved on the project. One of the things I’ve encountered through my own personal life is that I haven’t been able to connect as effectively as when I’m acting. I’m on the Autistic Spectrum, which makes that difficult. So the acting allows me to come out of that, and to really connect and be part of a community, building working relationships and friendships. And that was a nurturing process, a process of building a rapport, understanding, working together. That’s the adjustment, you can’t build relations without connecting, and without appreciating that everyone else is going on their journey and they have their difficulties – their needs, their enthusiasm is there, as well as yours.
At times, there would be creative differences, or difficulty knowing how to respond to the evolving process of the script. I learned from the character Sunny himself, how did he figure out his life? How is he responding to his adversities? And how is he connecting? How does his pain manifest? How does his heroism come out and manifest? How does his playfulness manifest? Although I was feeding into Sunny, Sunny was also feeding back to me. He was developing from my input as I was learning from him. So that’s one thing I took away from this particular project. How the character can really reach out to the actor, as the actor is building the character. That spoke to me a lot, because I perceive the power of creative work actually merges the theatrical performance journey with a personal journey.
There were points when I felt as if Sunny’s character was reaching out to me, there’s a line where he says, ‘You want to know how, how I survived? I didn’t kick. I didn’t fight. I didn’t panic. I lay back. I let go.’ Those words resonated to me, when I delivered those lines, but also, outside of the delivery of those lines in the play. It made me understand that sometimes you can give it your very best, everything you’ve got, within your abilities. But there has to be a point when you let go of how it will manifest from there onwards. One of the difficulties I faced personally is having to take a lot of responsibility at a very early age in my life. Sometimes a lot of responsibilities were thrust upon me, and I wasn’t able to let go. When you’re so used to taking that responsibility, day in and day out, you lose sight of when it’s injurious not to let go. We can only do so much in our own capabilities, as performers, as well as in individual life. You understand things about different aspects of life at different points in time, but it becomes more significant to as you go through different experiences. And Sunny really reached out to me at this point that this is something I have to look into more.
Hidden Spire has always been a collaborative process. It tells us that talent doesn’t have to be handed out to someone with a silver spoon. There’s a lot of expertise in people, and when there is a common cause to channel that expertise, that enthusiasm, that essence of belonging, that’s what creates something special. It is when we shut down expression, and we say, talent is so and so, to be able to tap into the creative arena, you’ve got to have X, Y and Z skills, or credits, or training, it closes the expression, it closes the self-belief that we can collaboratively make up a creative piece here and really reach the tip of the spire. The creative arts are such an important aspect, not just our professionalism, but of nurturing our individual selves. We cannot say that it is irrelevant. Because it doesn’t just fulfil the lives of the creative artists, it also fulfils the audience. It makes them believe in the creative process, but also in themselves.