I took part in the Push LAB on Gender and sexual identity in works for young audiences in february 2017. I am a theatre-maker from Denmark, who have worked both as a director, performer and choreographer, doing work for both adults and young audiences.
I was really excited to take part in the LAB in Edinburgh and it truly was a life-changing experience.
The whole lab was organized very well by Imaginate/Fiona Ferguson, Pamela Walker and Eilidh MacAskill as lead artist, Geraldine Heaney. And I was very impressed with their level of expertise and ability and maybe most important: the flexibility in all areas of organizing the event.
Also everybody from Lyra theatre, Geraldine filming and taking part in a beautiful way, everybody at the Storytelling Center for the Scratch night etc. were really friendly, generous and made us all feel very welcome!
What is a “performing arts lab”? And how do you organise it?
The answer from these great organisers was a super intense one.
We did workshops with a group of local kids already on the second day. We did several 1,2,3, minute performances. Yvon Bonenfant gave us an amazing workshop on the Queer voice, we had excellent input from Eilidh as a lead artist, about different perspective on Queer politics and gender topics. We created short and small performances with kids, did a sharing night with everyone involved in the PUSH project and ended up creating a small performance for the Scratch Night.
And all through that we had long intense discussion that due to the theme became very intense and personal. Lots of opinions and perspectives found their way into the room and slowly started to flow into the work we did. Personal perspectives on gender and sexuality, Queer politics, positions in the arts and society in general were all topics that you can easily discuss for a week, and we did!
And for me it was very clear this week that the personal IS political.
Was this what I expected?
Yes to some degree. The LAB is entitled “PUSH” and I think we were exactly pushed into going deep with our questions and research. I could imagine a lot of other ways we could have worked, to research the personal areas that I have a specific interest in, maybe each artist could have brought in more of their techniques and ways of working.
But I did get to touch upon the issues I was interested in, perspectives on identity and to what degree they are a product of imagination and choice and to what degree they are biologically predetermined.
And I came home to Denmark with an open heart, a physical sense of exhaustion but also a satisfied feeling of having been pushed in a nice and gentle way to new revelations.
The room created for the workshop was one of great discussions, lots of energy and explorative ideas, but also a room for disagreeing respectfully. A very key element I think in real experimentation. So thank you for that!
I couldn’t have been happier with the group of artist we were, all different yet generous. And yes we did go down a few paths that were maybe not so fruitful, but I would have been surprised and a bit disappointed if we hadn’t.
We were encouraged to be personal and brave, and so we were.
In the weekend after the LAB we opened up to the outside world, and this was really important, at the same time though I think it did create some confusion and conflict. Because we had all been so happy in this “queer safe space” that was so beautifully created throughout the week. However the real world is out there, and in retrospect I think this weekend of sharing, showing and evaluating, including the public discussions, was very meaningful and did round off the experience in a good way.
The whole thing has left me with an almost bodily experience of having been on a journey that I would have never been without.
And some of the ideas and topics we touched upon keeps appearing in the busy schedule I went back to working here in Copenhagen.