Reflections from an artist

by Mhairi MacInnes | 19 August 2019

I don’t remember getting paid 50 quid a festival, as Ian Pike does… in fact I don’t remember money ever being a part of the conversation around being asked to be an ISTA artist.

The word ‘artist’ stuck in my head first. I was a bit of a musician, conductor, teacher, composer. No one had ever referred to me as an artist. I thought I was a fake, not a real theatre pro, but I knew that I could make students feel comfortable in a classroom with me, mainly because I realised that I was more terrified than they were and so I had to fake it to make them feel more at ease.

I do remember sharing a room in the barracks in Terezin (yes before the days of the hotel) and working 12 hour days on a festival. There was never any feeling of down time. Mind you, on a good festival day when the creativity is really flowing and the students are in charge of the process and no one knows quite what is going to develop, you don’t need down time.

Full group felt like an examination, ‘the ISTA acceptance or not moment’. Terrifying. Could I do something in the full group? For an artist with no experience of other artists at work this was probably the most terrifying moment ever. I remember diving in without saying a word, hoping that I could capture the attention of 120 young people and (more critically for me) the adults in the room. I had a profound need to feel accepted, to have ‘done it right’. It felt competitive at times – who can do the most in the shortest amount of time and raise (or lower) the energy of the group?

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