The ideas that find us

Notebook entry from 31st May 2019 – Night walk through Vienna’s 18th District

We sit in the midst of a sea of ideas. They are floating between us. Above us. Beneath us, and through us. 

The many different sources of inspiration available to us at any given moment, are unfathomable. The sheer amount of brilliant ideas and possibilities that offer themselves to us is endless. But there’s a catch… our imaginations are limited to but a few big ideas at any given time, usually only one or two; and if we hold onto ideas for too long they can become trapped. Filling up the space in our thoughts and blocking new sources of inspiration from reaching us. They consume us, take over, and become that “thing” somebody stole, somebody blocked, somebody ruined.

We are the vessels of ideas… the instruments they use in order to transform from thought into existence. Our job is not to come up with or create them, our task is different.

When inspiration takes hold of us, true inspiration… it grows. It consumes our thoughts, fills our minds, and ignites our imaginations until an idea is formed. 

Forged, complete, ready. 

A work of art, a business plan, a journey to a foreign land. All ideas start in a moment of inspiration. 

This piece of writing began as a thought, then flowed through my hand, through the pen, and onto a page in my notebook. The thought found me, and found it’s existence. Whether it’s a good thought or not, is not the point. The point is: only by writing it down do I free up space for the next. It’s a process, a system, it is cyclical in nature.

Our raison d’être is to allow space for ideas to come to us, to allow time for them to grow, and to either take action… or to let them go. The moment an idea makes sense to us, is the moment we should make our choice.

Share your ideas, have courage, and trust that inspiration came to you for a purpose.

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I don’t like to make a fuss.

Social media has exploded over the past week with new content, live feeds, and more people than ever taking to the online stage. The Coronavirus, as devastating as it is, has also created an opportunity it seems for creativity to flourish. Shut away from each other, and being unable to meet face to face, coupled with the extra free time at home, has created … Read More I don’t like to make a fuss.

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What to do?

November 14th 2019 – Notebook entry – Sitting on a bench outside the flat, after having been for a walk.

I wonder if it’s possible to truly relax?

I find myself tense.

I feel tension in my neck, and my shoulders. I even feel that my face is tense. I don’t think this is because of the cold. And so I actively relax the muscles of my face. I try to relax my shoulders… but the tension remains.

I look up at a brilliant, almost full moon. The sky is clear, and only the brightest stars look down on me. The bright lights of the city, blocking out the rest.

I think of the fires raging in different parts of the world. I saw pictures on Facebook from Australia. I can’t shake the image of those monstrous smoky clouds filling the sky… the flames licking the heavens orange.

I think back to Brazil… California… and a map of the world I saw on social media, showing a blanket of flames covering Africa, and another stretching from India to Indonesia.

It looks like Armageddon. It looks as though the world is being consumed by fire. And yet, here I am, looking up at a picture perfect night sky. I seem to have some safety mechanism in my head, which prevents me from realising the true potential of what might be happening in the world.

It’s confusing. A string of disturbing thoughts pass through my mind.

Are we at the end? Will I survive what is happening in the world? Will my son survive? What about having a second child? Would it be unfair of me to bring another life into this world? Will we burn? Will we suffocate? Freeze maybe?

I stop… I breathe…

I wonder if it’s actually as bad as it all seams? I wonder if I have chosen to encapsulate myself in an online bubble which presents me with this view of the world, simply because these are the stories I have clicked on?

Am I myself being manipulated into thinking a certain way? Am I being fed a paradigm of the world, which is not of my own making?

I wonder if I can change the world I live in, simply by exposing myself to a different outlook. If I can alter the course of my own personal universe, simply by believing in a different one. One with a better outcome.

Perhaps on an individual level this may be possible… but I fear that the law of large numbers is against us as a species.

We all say we are doing our part to change. We all say that we are taking steps to slow down what is happening. To avert disaster. And yet disaster still seems to be on its way.

We leave lights on in rooms where we are not.

We drive when we could walk or take public transport.

We buy out of season fruits and vegetables from other countries.

We waste… we consume… and we point the finger in every which way but home.

As individuals we are informed, educated, and proactive. At large, we are more akin to 7,744,104,788 lemmings, confidently following the biggest and brightest, over the cliff. Our appointed leaders.

And still… I seem to have some inbuilt mechanism which prevents me from understanding the possibility of our spices going extinct. Why is that?

Are we ingenious enough to save our planet? Or at least save ourselves? Or is this hubris? A piece of genetic code maybe? Put in place to make sure that we continue to spread our seed no matter what… and blind us from the truth.

I have no idea.

We blame presidents, prime ministers, supreme leaders, and corporations. Yet, these people are just as clueless as the rest of us. They too look at the world through confused eyes. Baffled by those around them. Perplexed in themselves. Not knowing what to do or where to run to.

And so, like everyone else, they continue to walk the line they have chosen. Fearing to turn back incase they get it wrong again. Digging their heels in and making a stand for something… anything… rather than nothing.

I think I need to push back more. I think I need to fight harder to live the life I want. Focus more on what is within my control, and less on what is outwith.

In todays world, it’s almost impossible to relax. Cyber persuasion is out to get all of us. Every time we look at our screens, we make ourselves vulnerable to social engineering.

I do however, think the world is in trouble… I do believe that we all need to curb our consumption… But I also believe we are being bombarded by messages from governments and corporations, designed to instil confusion, fear, and panic.

I have been met with a LOT of information recently telling me just how bad everything is. And I realise that the more information I consume in this regard, the more I lose the will to truly live. The more I lose the will to pursue my true potential… the easier I am to control perhaps?

Divide and conquer.

We need to think more for ourselves, and follow our own instincts. We need to stay together, and ignore those who would drive us apart. We need to understand that anger, fear, and hate, can be impressed upon us by others… and we are all susceptible!

I look up at the moon again. There is so much delicate beauty in our world… and so much strength and power in the universe.

Audio

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The secret to a good story.

3rd June 2019 – Notebook entry – Sitting on a bench at night, in Vienna’s 18th district.

I think the secret to a great story, is to model it on something well known, and not tell anyone! 

To produce something fresh, exciting, and new… is something we are all striving for. We are caught in a perpetual search for novelty, yet it’s familiarity that connects us. 

There are only a handful of stories which make up the human narrative, and like it or not, these familiar scenarios are what we seek. We crave familiarity. We need it. It gives us a sense of belonging. A modicum of purpose in a world where we often feel lost and out of place.

Stories offer us a glimpse of ourselves. A window into our very being and existence.

Rather than come up with something new, our task is to pass on something old in a new way. From a point of view not yet seen, or not seen for a while.

It is through the many different ways we view stories that brings freshness to them. The age old stories that have stood the test of time have been passed down through the ages for a reason. They have been told and retold, because there is something inherently truthful in them. Something visceral.

Pyramus and Thisbe, became Romeo and Juliet, Became West Side Story… and that’s okay!

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The Amelia Project goes “Live”

For those of you who don’t already know, I have the great privilege of playing the main character in a brilliant podcast called The Amelia Project, written and directed by Philip Thorne & Øystein Ulsberg Brager.

With the season 2 finale coming out TOMORROW!! We have an announcement to make…

“We will be performing a one hour LIVE CROSSOVER SHOW with We Fix Space Junk at Kings Place at 4pm on 30th Nov 🚀☕️🍫
It will be part of a special one day LondonPodFest presents Audio Drama event.”

Philip and Øystein have developed a habit of throwing bigger and bigger challenges at me over the past couple of years, and I’m happy to say, the live event in London won’t be any different!

From tongue twisters, to rapid-fire monologues jacked up on cocoa, to languages previously unfamiliar to me… I’ve had it all.

In the words of The Interviewer himself however, “I do like a challenge”.

If you’re not in London on November 30th, if you’ve never heard of The Amelia Project, or if you don’t know what a podcast is… Then I strongly recommend that you check us out. But please, please, please… start from the beginning: Season 1, Episode 1. As Jumping in midway through may get a little confusing.

If all that doesn’t tempt you, how about some fun facts!

The Amelia Project is fast approaching 800,000 all time downloads!

● If you had searched the iTunes podcast database this past August, for comedy fiction… you would have seen us in the number 1 position in Norway, and number 7 in the USA (currently the biggest market for podcasts)!

● NOMINEE: British Podcast Awards 2019 – Best Fiction

● WINNER: Audio Verse Awards 2018 – Best Original Composition for a New Comedic Production / Best New Comedic Production

● FINALIST: Parsec Awards 2018 – Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team

● FINALIST: Austin Film Festival 2017 – Fiction Podcast

● And as well as all this, we have also been invited to do a guest performance at next years PodUK convention in Birmingham on February 1st 2020.

The live show in London next month is going to be a lot of fun, as well as being something much different to anything we have done with the series so far. So if your in London, why not come along and see us?

You can get tickets here.

I get so…

I had a bit of time on my hands this week, so I spent a lot of time with my guitar.

Here is the third and final song that I will be taking into the studio next week to start working on properly.

Looking forward to doing more of this in the coming months! 😉

Tell me

So… one more for today…

This one is kind of brand new.

All I Can See

I thought I’d share some music this time.

It’s been a while since I’ve really played, but I’ve been writing again over the past few months. So I decided to do some raw recording in our back room. There is a bit of reverb from the room itself, but other than that, I have not done any sound editing… just wanted to play a little.

So, in the spirit of “getting it out there”, here it is…

More to come!

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Magic without insecurity

There is real magic in this world, and it happens in the theatre. It can happen in an instant, and if you blink you might miss it. Its effect however, will still resonate with you. It is something that we actors – most, if not all of us – are searching for our whole lives. It is  captivating to an audience, and has the power to make time stand still for the briefest of moments. As actors, we find it, and lose it, and begin the search again. It has been described many times, but it’s hard to define in words for it is difficult to understand. Also, like most things which are difficult to understand, it brings with it its own stigmas and naysayers, making it harder to come by. It is however, a thing of great importance.

The point at which an actor crosses the threshold between the self conscious and the unconscious mind, something rare and powerful takes place. By giving into the moment, and releasing all sense of ego and insecurity, the actor offers the audience a glimpse of true magic. The effects of which can be validated by the shiver that wraps itself around your spine, the hairs that stir on the back of your neck, or the squeeze of a hand indicating “yes, I felt it too!”. The actor plays a vital role in our society, for it is the actor (and I use the term to describe both male and female actors) who is endowed with this awe-inspiring  ability to create these shared moments in time. By relinquishing insecurity, and allowing the character to truly be, an actor invites the audience to witness something pure and honest. We actors, if we do our job right, are capable of showing an audience glimpses of themselves. This ability is not easy to come by. It is something that drama schools across the world try and teach to their students; drama schools that is, that teach the core principles as laid down by Konstantin Stanislavski. And yet, Stanislavski’s writings are difficult to absorb. Even in the classroom, it can be hard for a student to understand what exactly is meant by “the ego” for it is a difficult thing to pin down. How can you understand what is meant by your conscious ego, when the word ego itself can mean so many things: self-esteem, self-importance, self-worth, self-respect, self-conceit, self-image, self-confidence. For me, based on my upbringing and cultural background, my interpretation of the word ego, was someone who displays an outward appearance of arrogance. So when my teachers referred to the ego, or when I read about it, I knew that I had to “let go”, but I wasn’t sure how, or of exactly what. The more I focused on my ego, the more I became self-conscious about it.

If the idea of the ego works for you as an actor, wonderful! Keep it! If not however, then perhaps like me, it’s not so much your ego that is standing in your way, but rather your self-consciousness, and your insecurities.

The very nature of our work (as actors) forces us to show sides of ourselves that most people keep buried beneath the surface. We find ourselves in situations where we have to come face to face with our own insecurities. During Stanislavski’s lifetime, personal issues and taboos were even more clandestine than they are today. Society kept most things of a personal nature under lock and key. However, the dawn of the internet and the rise of social media, has given people the freedom to shed more and more of their insecurities, and to talk more openly and freely about their thoughts and feelings. Theatre by its very nature, moves with society, and so if society is evolving… so too should our methods of training and rehearsing actors for the stage. In a world full of egos, how do you let go of yours? Is it even possible? Is that really what we should be focusing on?

We all battle with insecurity, every day. For me, this is no more true than when I am completely alone with my own thoughts. In these moments, I am my own worst enemy. Something takes hold, a glimpse from the past when someone fired a disapproving look in my direction, and suddenly the whole event plays over again in my head. The positive remembrances of the situation are lost, swallowed up in a fleeting moment in which one person’s disapproval is adopted by another. A pact is made about you, both behind your back and in full view, that what you are doing is ridiculous. What’s worse moreover, is that we are all guilty of it. Every single one of us. You, me, our friends and family. At one point or another we have all been guilty of putting someone down, because they have done something –  perhaps wonderful – which confronted us with certain insecurities we have about ourselves. This can be devastating enough when it happens in our day to day lives, but in the theatre, this is a cancer!

The moment one actor shows a glimpse of disapproval or contempt towards another, insecurity sets in, which is then difficult to overcome. One instance of harsh or unwarranted critique can ruin relationships, and I have witnessed how one reaction gone unchecked, can lead to a breakdown of the whole rehearsal process. Bad enough is when the cast unknowingly sabotage each other, much worse however, is when this kind of atmosphere is triggered by the director. When the director is the saboteur of trust within a group (whether they are aware of it or not) it leads to one thing and one thing only; a half-hearted recital of a learned text, by a troupe of actors who want nothing more than to get to the bar after the performance, and a director who has lost the respect of their actors.

The role of the director is still something I am trying to figure out, for it seems to change from one production to the next; the same I suppose could be said of the actor. One thing however remains constant, and that is the responsibility to get the very best out of your actors. A director who is battling too much with their own insecurities, and takes those insecurities out on the cast, will have a very hard time of it. That is not to say that they are are not allowed to feel insecure, for I have already established that we all have insecurities. Yet the director who wishes to get the very best performances from their actors, has to be both aware of their own personal insecurities, and be able to take action when they arise, in order to minimise their effect on the group. Better still, is to be aware of your actors’ insecurities, so as to avoid unwittingly pushing the wrong buttons.

Our insecurities are inherent within us, there is no real getting away from them. They are a part of us. They contribute to the very nature of our existence. They help make us who we are. It is therefore the job of those around us, to offer support and encouragement. The job of everyone in theatre should be, to make those around them as comfortable as possible, so as to nurture an environment of trust and acceptance. If we can establish this kind of atmosphere in the rehearsal room, then we cultivate an environment in which magic can happen!

Unfortunately however, this is all too often not the case. The theatre is a place where hearts are worn on sleeves, and individuals open themselves up to criticism. It is our job not to criticise, or at least not to engage in negative criticism. In other words, critique should first adopt a nature of trying to understand what we don’t see, and then to offer guidance and advice.

As practitioners of theatre, we have a choice. It is not always easy, but a choice it is none the less. We can either lay aside our own insecurities, and push ourselves to be accepting of everything that we are not… or we can criticise our friends and colleagues for being different, and thus, lay waste to everything it is we are trying to accomplish with our art.

Regardless of your role in the theatre, whether you are the executive producer or the usher standing at the front door, you all have a vital part to play in the nurturing of these moments in which we can all come together at one moment in time, to share in something truly marvellous. We need the theatre, and we need it to be collaborative. Social media is showing the whole world that collaboration opens the door to truly wonderful possibilities, and theatre is no different.

I have heard it said on many an occasion that theatre is not a democracy… why? Mine is!

Alan Burgon