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Credits: Tua Helve. From left to right: Rachel Mcintosh, Timo Fredriksson, Juhani Räisänen, Annika Tudeer, Olivia Moss.

Notes on working with Oblivia

#guestwriter #musictheater #obsessions

A couple of years ago I trained with a director who encouraged the group to play every day we were together; we played games, we built characters and stories, we ran about, we laughed – I had not experienced such ‘free play’ since childhood and it was invigorating artistically. Since then, despite the immense value I found in it, it was not long before my schedule, my deadlines, my old practice habits began to fall back into routine.

This month I was able to experience free play again in working with Oblivia and I was invigorated by it again. The improvisatory activities with very open stimuli provoke creativity and artistic freedom. This freedom brings with it an immersion, a mindfulness that I found both moving and energising. My voice was freed through this as well; it is easy to get stuck as singers in technical work and seeking the perfect sound and performance, despite the value that flexibility and fluidity in the voice and in our performances brings. This experience was vocally relaxing and my voice felt both free and secure. The energy between us was impulsive and intuitive. My connection to time was lost in this process – an hour passed in what felt like ten minutes. I was mindful in the sense that my thoughts were nowhere else, they were completely in the room, immersed in the activity. This gave me a kind of peace and satisfaction after a day’s work (a feeling of ‘happy tired’ as another performer described!).

During this very difficult time, people are sadly growing apart. We have been physically separated from others for a long time now and I think everyone has suffered a loss of human connection during this period, a distance to others and a lack of opportunity to meet new people and to build new relationships. To be able to spend time with a new group of creatives, to be so welcomed and to feel so connected to other artists during this intensive period together I found to be moving. I felt quickly bonded with the group. In our practices together I felt a strong sense of non-verbal communication between us all, a kind of group thinking. It reminds me how, when all of this madness is over, there is so much connection to grow and nurture with others and how invigorated this could make us feel.

Coming into Oblivia’s work at this point, there was a foundation of themes and subsets of concepts/ideas for each theme already established. I found it very interesting to see what responses came from each of these themes in our improvisations together. For myself, the themes ‘social’ and ‘silence’ provoked thoughts of our current times; thoughts about government, society, loss of social activity, family, friendships, isolation, social media, music. But did these thoughts transfer into my improvised activity? Presumably yes on some level, but not consciously – actually I felt like the work we did helped me to detach from thoughts of our time, in the sense that my thoughts and actions became more abstract, my responses more instinctive. I enjoyed experimenting with what the subset ideas could be; some were very open, some very wacky – it was interesting and amusing at times to see how we interpreted and represented some of these ideas. Mostly we communicated intuitively, we all contributed to the sphere of ideas, we responded to each other, our ideas grew collectively, there was an evolution of the themes between us all. This was an unusual process for me to be a part of, because of the free improvisation and the organic way ideas developed from that – I very much enjoyed seeing it grow.

I felt a range of emotions coming out of this project; very happy and stimulated at the end of each day, moved by the feeling of connection to new people and the creativity we shared together. I acknowledge that I also felt some social discomfort at times as working closely with others has become rare (something we will all have to navigate as we phase out of these socially distanced times). I felt joy and freedom and had a lot of fun in experiencing the free play, free improvisation, free expression through this work – we can often forget the value of these things as adults.

Thank you for the fun, the energy and the connections. Very excited to hear how this project grows from here…