A Resilient Conversation

Artist Alana Bridgewater and Necessary Angel's Artistic Director, Alan Dilworth

Dahlia Katz

Joe Szekeres

A resilience project, you say.

Both artist Alana Bridgewater and Necessary Angel Theatre’s Artistic Director Alan Dilworth believe the time is perfect for one right now.

For long time meditation practitioner Dilworth, ‘The Resilience Project’ seed came from a growing and mounting perception of cultural anxiety that pre-dated the Covid crisis and the pandemic. Once the pandemic hit, so much change was happening and the experience of loss hitting home for many people, at the very moment where we could no longer gather.

Alan recognized that many of the lives of his artist friends and colleagues had tremendously changed and shifted. He kept asking, “Where can I help?” as there is so much uncertainty and anxiety in our lives right now.

Alan wanted to create some space and connection in the uncertainty and anxiety.

“The opposite of anxiety is space and connection.”, he said.

“When I look at the people around me, the artists, many of whom I love and admire, I’m trying to make some space for these individuals, and to create opportunities for them to make connection possible in their work despite the many obstacles at this time.”

Alana calls the Resilience Project “amazing”. When Alan reached out to her to see how she was doing and offered her this project, Alana reiterated, '“It is resilience. It is about standing through all of this, facing it, dealing with it, experiencing it and living it.”

As a female black artist in this volatile time, she was dealing with Covid personally and the many emotions and fears of isolation in not allowing her to be able to hug her immediate family members nor to see people. Like all of us, what appears to be a claustrophobic time in our homes was heightened even further as we couldn’t turn away from the news cycle that we were all watching. For Alana, it became overwhelming when, on the news cycle, many people were finally seeing what others have been experiencing for so long in their lives - and a feeling of perpetually wondering if there was ever a way out.

I had to let this latter part of Ms. Bridgewater’s statement sit with me. These last four months have been stressful for all of us, but for the most vulnerable it has been extraordinarily painful.

Part One of The Resilience Project is called “The Stillness Room” created by Alan in 2016 as a pilot at Soulpepper before the company went to New York during a really stressful time. Alan knew how he could help theatre workers recognize what stillness and silence can do for the human being in a room collectively together while under intense pressure in the lead up to the Big Apple. This process successfully ran for two years at Soulpepper.

When Alan then went to Ontario’s Stratford Festival to direct the second of Kate Hennig’s trilogy (The Virgin Trial), actors were experiencing the mid season anxiety crunch. Would they be hired again at the Festival next year? Alan piloted The Stillness Room at Stratford where it got a real draw once again, and the coaching staff utilized The Stillness Room with The Conservatory Training.

Thus, the creation of a virtual Stillness Room. To re-iterate from a release I had received, “The Stillness Room is a coming together to experience the calming and quietly transformative qualities of stillness, silence, and connection. It is fifteen minutes of stillness together.” You don’t necessarily have to be of or from the theatre to participate. There is no teaching involved as people just come together to sit in stillness.

Part Two of this project is the “Resilience Project Shorts”. It was in a Zoom meeting with Michael Wheeler of ‘Spider Web’ show where Alan experienced that proverbial ‘aha’ moment. As artists, we respond artistically and creatively to the world whether it is digital or non-digital. Alan’s body of work lies in and is all about ‘the live moment’ and the artist encountering the tools to create this live moment: the audience, the moment, the space, other artists.

The question then became “How do we, as artists, respond to this moment since we love the theatre so much? Over the past few months, Necessary Angel has commissioned a series of digital shorts to capture how artists are experiencing and interpreting their reality and meaning in the moment of commission. The series, which will be ongoing, will premiere with work from Marie Farsi, Sina Gilani and Azad Imanirad, Tehseen and Aasim Jaafri, Erin Brandenburg, Alana Bridgewater, and Meegwun Fairbrother.

There is a third plan (or Part Three) that Alan affectionately called ‘Who Knows’. According to him, Necessary Angel is waiting, listening and will respond as more changes unfold.

To access the Resilience Project link, click https://www.necessaryangel.com/the-resilience-project.

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