#285 – Emotional Bleed in theatre: a conversation with Siobhan Richardson & Nicole Winchester

Siobhan Richardson is an internationally-recognized Fight Director, an Intimacy Director (a pioneer voice in this specialty across Canada), and an award-winning actor/fighter/singer/dancer. Her teaching career has spanned Canada, USA and Europe, including international events such as the Paddy Crean International Art of the Sword Workshop, Fight Directors Canada’s National Workshops, and the Nordic Stage Fight Society’s Summer Workshops, and four separate teaching tours including Sweden, Norway, Estonia, England, Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Germany and France. She’s been both a student and a teacher online for over a decade. Siobhan’s work has been seen on some of Canada’s most well-recognized stages (The Canadian Opera Company, National Arts Centre, The Shaw Festival, The Stratford Festival, Factory Theatre and Soulpepper, to name a few), as well as around the world through online performance and education. In all her work, Siobhan is dedicated to the growth and development of the art form, the artists and our workplaces in order to support a vibrant and healthy artistic community. Passionately curious, Siobhan continues to pursue her own training, and is continually experimenting, drawing from arts and science for the betterment of our performances, rehearsal practices and the spaces we work in. Practices that foster joyful workspaces for vulnerable and creative work has been a particular focus of the last several years.

Instagram: @fighteractress
YouTube: www.youtube.com/actorsr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SiobhanRichardsonFighterActress/

Nicole Winchester is a storyteller, a narrative designer for live-action and tabletop roleplaying, and an ‘international larper of mystery.’ A co-founder of Fair Escape Studios where she produced two sold-out immersive evenings of vampire intrigue, she has written for Green Ronin Publishing, Pseudonym Productions, John Wick Presents, the Toronto Star, and more. Currently studying Social Work at York University, Nicole’s latest work is “Heather was right: The real curse in The Blair Witch Project is the mediocre white dude,” an essay in Transgressive Horror launching today, April 27th, on Kickstarter.

Twitter: @noizangel
Instagram: @noizangel
Fair Escape Studios: fairescapestudios.com
Transgressive Horror by Ghost Show Press

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Transcript is auto-generated

Phil: Welcome to episode 285 of Stageworthy. I’m your host, Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights, and more. Thank you for listening. If you wanna support stage worthy, consider dropping some change in the virtual tip jar.

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On this week’s show, I’m bringing you a conversation that I’ve wanted to have for a while now. You know, we’ve all seen this happen. The people playing romance in the show that we’re working on inevitably seem to grow romantic outside of the show. We’ve even given this phenomenon a cutesy little name. We call it the showmance.

This phenomenon comes from emotional bleed from the character into real life. I wanted to bring together two people who’ve thought about this quite a bit and talk through it. Siobhan Richardson is an intimacy director and has made talking about emotional bleed and how to deal with it, part of her teaching.

And Nicole Winchester is a narrative designer for live action and tabletop role playing. I hope you’ll enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me at phil@stageworthypodcast.com or find me on social media. You can find stage worthy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at stage worthy pod, and you can find the website with the archive of all 285 episodes stageworthypodcast.com.

And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby and my website is philrickaby.com.

So Siobhan, one of the reasons why I wanted to have this, this conversation with you about, um, the difficulty of dealing with emotional bleed in, in theatre and in acting. Mm-Hmm. I was having this conversation with, with my girlfriend, uh, a while ago, and we were talking about how, um, you know, she dated an actor in the past and she always felt like there was something.

Weird and forbidden going on, like something just weirdness. Yeah. Because if you’re doing like a, a romantic scene, there are these strange attachments that form and things like that. And I, I thought it would be interesting to sort of dig into that a little bit. Um,

Siobhan: yay.

Phil: Because, you know, we’ve all been involved in a show where, you know, we, we’ve even given an cutesy name, the showman,

Siobhan: the showmance.

It’s true, the

Phil: showmance as though it’s just a thing that just has to happen. Yeah. And it’s such an unhealthy thing when two actors that are professionals and are in a, like doing, uh, romantic work together cannot. Tell the difference between the, the acting and the reality, and it can blur things and make, you know, relationships outside of the acting world difficult as well.

Siobhan: Yeah. Like I’ve, I like to remind folks that as an actor, like you are an emotional gymnast. So there, there is a necessity to be, um, I guess more keenly aware of how our, how, how each of us work as it were. Like how, how our, how our, our whole selves operate with a different kind of like gradient, like a fineness of tone than folks who don’t work with their emotions as a job.

Mm-Hmm. And I also like to remind people that like, you are having real experiences, you’re having real experiences in an imaginary situation. And to me that’s, that’s the, um. The, the fineness of the definition that can really help us with that idea is that it’s the clarity of the imaginary situation. But what we haven’t really had in our workplace culture is really clear separation.

Mm-Hmm. Of those contexts.

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: So we, that’s when we do get that emotional bleed off. And when we have, like, when we have those instances of, uh, relationships starting within the, within the workplace, like within our show context that bleed off into our social spheres and not necessarily having a, like, like a culturally understood practice of it doesn’t have to be that way.

Yeah. If you don’t want to, and it’s not, it’s not inevitable. And if it does happen and you’re like, we’re consenting adults and we’re doing this thing, it doesn’t have to be then like. A dirty little shameful secret. Like it’s almost like there is, there is a delight in that forbidden fruit. Mm-Hmm. And I feel like that’s part of the angle that happens.

Phil: Yeah. I, I, I feel like it’s one of those things that, that, you know, we have that cutey name for it. We, we’ve, you know, the, the, the couple that’s romantic, you know, it’s sometimes they end up together and sometimes it. To people outside. And of course if you have relationships outside, you have partners and things like that, it can almost feel like an affair.

Um, oh, for sure. Oh yeah. And that gets really, really dangerous and dirty. And it can feel like, not dirty, but just like, it feels like it’s, it’s to the, to the, to the partner. It can feel like, like a betrayal.

Siobhan: It really can because there, there is that feeling of you are actually, you’re having these feelings for somebody who’s not me.

Mm-Hmm. And like what, because we have a culture of, well, these things just kind of happen. And for some folks it has a, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: Kind of a feeling. So there it creates this sort of. Uh, I guess I feel like we’ve already said it, that, that sense of inevitability.

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: Um, like it has to happen and like nobody has any say in it, so because there hasn’t been conversation around it, I feel like that’s part of what, what gives it that betrayal feeling.

Yeah. Because the partner doesn’t get to be part of that conversation at all.

Phil: No, and also because it’s, I think, you know, when you are involved in that situation, when you’re the actor, in some ways you know what’s happening and in some ways, you know that there’s this emotional thing that’s happening that’s not with your partner.

And so it can, it, it’s almost like. You’re having an affair and you deny it, like you’re going through those same motions and like your partner says there’s something going on, and you’re like, that’s stupid. You know, but there is something happening. Whether or not it turns into a relationship or it turns into an affair emotionally, it can seem like that to somebody on the outside.

Siobhan: Ah, that’s, yeah. I haven’t really heard it described that way before, but yeah, that, that totally makes sense that yes, there is something happening. Is it something that I wish to pursue outside of this show?

Phil: Mm-Hmm. Like,

Siobhan: that’s, that’s part of the conversation that doesn’t, that all of this is part of a conversation.

We don’t really have. I I, I, I’m probably gonna, I’m gonna try to stop saying that for the, for the, the process of this, uh, of our conversation right now. Because that’s the whole reason we’re having this is we’re like identifying all those, all those bits and pieces that. Are the contributing factors to why it can feel excitingly secret or like a betrayal or, yeah, like something that, ah, I’m afraid of it.

It’s, it’s happening and I don’t know what to do about it.

Phil: In some ways, I, I, I feel like it, it can also be the, one of the reasons why, um. A lot of, a lot of actors end up in situations where they are not in, uh, solid, long lasting relationships because sometimes their relationships form in a show, the show ends and then, well, that was essentially the basis of our relationship.

And then after a little while that, that ends and then they’re in another show and the same thing happens again. And it’s this never ending cycle.

Siobhan: Oh yeah. There’s definitely anecdotes out there of, you know, leading person A has romantic, uh, scene with leading person B. Leading person B moves onto another show.

There’s another person in role B mm-Hmm. And oh my goodness, the previous couple broke up and my goodness, these new people are, are together now.

Phil: That is, that is so practically legendary in some ways of that that happening.

Siobhan: Yeah. Feel like, and like certain shows coming up where people are like, oh, I, I hope it happens.

Or, or, I look forward to when those feelings start to happen. Like there’s an inevitability of it.

Phil: Yeah. There’s, there’s this thing I, in terms of, of of, of all of this, I feel like it’s, it’s something that we should be talking about, like right from the beginning. Yes, we should be talking about this in theater school because it starts to happen in theater school.

People do romantic scenes, they pair off this sort of stuff. It’s just this thing where we’ve allowed it to be part of the culture of theater and of acting. Mm-Hmm. And it’s just accepted as just being part of it.

Siobhan: Yeah. I mean, I actually have started to teach this idea of like closure and bracketing in schools because I’ve, I’ve noticed it.

I’ve noticed in, in what I’ve discovered in my work, I have noticed these tools to be really beneficial to my mental health overall. Um. And I’ve noticed that there are actually a lot of actors who have some process or another, but it just, it hasn’t been part of the culture. Mm-Hmm. So I’ve, that’s, that’s like, has entirely motivated me to include this whenever I teach.

It started like 10 years ago with through a stage combat lens. Mm-Hmm. Um, so, but I hear what you’re saying with like, we’ve, it’s been kind of allowed to be part of it. Mm-Hmm. I think it has a bit to do with like, when people are in theater school for when people are, anybody’s in like college or university.

So often it’s that person’s first time, uh, away from home. They are becoming an adult. They’re discovering themselves in a different way because they’re with a, a different community. So there is, uh, I, I, I would think rightly a reluctance for staff and faculty to be involved. Mm-Hmm. In that part of one’s personal life.

And there is, I don’t know, kind of in some ways, a bit of a romanticized idea of, oh, people are discovering themselves. They are, uh, allowing themselves to really indulge in their emotional commitment.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: Like, it, it sort of gets, it gets seen through that lens and that carries over sometimes. Well,

Phil: that carries over into after theater school, where suddenly that’s just, ooh, that’s how we become this, this couple.

Now we’re, we’re in the rehearsal hall and, and we’re, we’re, we’re spooning, we’re massaging, we’re hugging. It is just like we’re, we’re acting like we’re in a relationship when we’re off stage in order to try to, you know, facilitate forming that, whatever. And then,

Siobhan: yeah, those

Phil: lines become so blurred.

Siobhan: Yeah, but because, and for anyone who’s listening to this and, and doesn’t know this, when we’re working in theater, we do have to form.

Those, uh, those new relationships really fast. We have to form the illusion of relationships within the story, but it is really important for us to trust each other really quickly in the rehearsal space because we need that trust. Mm-Hmm. In order to be able to do the work that we do, or at least it, uh, it, it goes a lot better when you do have that trust.

When you have navigated like, oh, I can sit this close to this person. Oh, this is how this person’s hand feels on me. If, if we have a, an intimate scene of some kind Yeah. Coming up. So be because until recently there wasn’t a culture of, or, or there wasn’t the development of a standardized practice of Mm-Hmm.

This is how we actually mindfully approach this work within the workspace. Mm-Hmm. A lot of folks took it upon themselves to create that sense of familiarity. Um, yeah. In their own fashion. So yeah, it sort of, it then becomes like, because we’re not doing it in the workspace, it almost becomes a responsibility in the, the social aspects of our workspace.

So I’m not even, I’m not saying that everyone like, hangs out when they’re not at rehearsal, but it’s, it’s during that social time in the rehearsal time.

Phil: Yes. Yeah. That some of

Siobhan: this stuff starts and you go, oh, I, I don’t wanna do that for the first time in front of everybody. Right. So let’s, let’s take it upon ourselves.

Yeah. Yeah. To do it privately because we want, we wanna feel confident and comfortable. I wanna know, I can trust my scene partner. Yeah. So it all comes out of a good place in a lot of, in a lot of, um, instances, the desire to create these bonds comes out of a place of wanting to feel safe and confident in the workplace and to be able to do the best kind of work you can possibly do.

But I’m, I am grateful to be part of some of the folks who are saying, here’s, here’s a different way to do it so that it’s all out in the open. Yeah. And then coming back to your original point of, um, like spouses and significant others and partners then see that there is a professional process involved.

It doesn’t mean that, that the significant others, uh, trepidations are all going to just magically disappear. Mm-Hmm. But it certainly gives a different basis for those conversations to happen so that the, the significant other can be, can have some, uh, insight. Into the professional process, and it doesn’t seem like, uh, varying dalliances,

Phil: it’s such a dirty little secret in the theater world that I think that if, if people who don’t, who have a partner that isn’t in the theater world, owe it to their partner to talk about this before there’s ever even a show,

Siobhan: it’s a delicate to themselves into the relationship for sure.

Yes. Yeah. It’s a

Phil: difficult, delicate conversation to have, but to discuss what happens when you’re acting and how. We really can’t differentiate between acting emotions and, and actual emotions. And so

Siobhan: obvious. Yeah. I, I say obviously, but it’s, uh, yeah, because you’re having real feelings in an imaginary situation.

It fe they feel the same in the body because they are the same.

Phil: Yes. Yeah. Well, when you’re imagining it, when you’re pretending it’s, it, it is the same. And so because of that, and because, you know, we fought, it can be, it can feel like an affair if it’s not dealt with carefully. You need to talk to your partner about it long before you even in a show.

Siobhan: Yeah. Or, and if you haven’t Mm-Hmm. When the show comes up, uh, start that conversation and I, and I, I wonder if sometimes it doesn’t happen. Because people are worried that it’s going to cause a fight or it’s gonna cause a breakup. Sure. One of those many conversations that maybe we don’t have, ’cause we’re actually, we’re worried about the process Sure.

And actually worried about the outcome. Um, yeah.

Phil: Because it’s, it’s one of those things where you’re essentially, you’re essentially saying to your partner, I, on the regular, have an emotional affair with someone that I meet just a couple of days before that.

Siobhan: Yeah. And I guess, like, I appreciate what you’re saying in that, that’s, that’s certainly a perspective of it and how it can feel.

But I’d, I’d, I’d like to offer that this, like, this conversation that we’re having right now is an opportunity to like, to reframe that. Yes. To say like, my job involves having real feelings. Mm-Hmm. Just because I’m playing a murderer doesn’t mean I’m gonna go out and murder people. Right. It’s, the intent is not infidelity.

In as, as, uh, and, um, I’m gonna say because an affairs that it is intended to be infidelity, that’s also not true. Right. Um, so lemme rephrase that. Um, but so I think part of that conversation includes I am doing this for the, for the intent of storytelling.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: And I don’t want it to feel like a betrayal for you.

Right? Yes. So what are your fears?

Phil: Yes.

Siobhan: Uh, what are, what are my fears? I’ve never talked about it with you because I’m afraid that you’re going to be scared that you’re gonna be mad at me, that you’re gonna tell me not to pursue my passion. Right. I love my work. Yeah. And I love you. Mm-Hmm. And I wanna find a universe in which those can coexist because they can.

Just because I’m feeling these feelings at work doesn’t mean that I’m now going to. Diminish my partnership.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: And that I’m going to move out

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: Because of that. And I, I think that’s there, there, because for a lot of people that is such a live and present possibility when these conversations come up.

I think that’s why people, one of the reasons why people don’t have them, and actors are rightly protective of their process. Sure. They found a version that, that allows them to do the difficult emotional work that they need to do.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: And sometimes when you, when you bring a partner into that conversation, it, I think part of the worry is that now I’ve gotta change my process somehow.

And I don’t know how to do that. Yeah. Because we don’t, we haven’t had a vocabulary for how do I approach being in love with somebody professionally?

Phil: Yeah. I mean, all of that is, is essentially the reason I wanted to have this conversation. Yeah. And this seems like a, a, a good time to bring Nicole Winchester into the conversation now.

Nicole is from the world and, and, and among other things, um, I, I first met Nicole, Nicole, uh, while I was involved with live action role playing games. Mm-Hmm. Um, and one of the things that I’ve, that has, that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while is the fact that the conversation about emotional bleed has been happening in the live action role playing world.

For a little longer than it has been in the theater world.

Siobhan: I’m so excited about this. I really am.

Phil: And, and so I wanted to to, to bring Nicole into the conversation because as somebody who has both created live action role playing games and facilitated live action role playing games, she’s thought a lot about, about Bleed and talked a lot about it.

So Nicole, uh, welcome to the conversation.

Nicole: Thank you very much. And, uh, I, I, uh, one of the things I, I, I actually liked the most, uh, about the conversation so far is that it’s real emotions about an imaginary situation. Mm-Hmm. And you’re having real experiences about imaginary situations, and that’s always what I say about Mm-Hmm.

Bleed. About, um, any sort of, uh, situation in gaming or in LRP, uh, even if you’re just upset with people about something that happened, that’s, that’s what we call, we call it bleed in and bleed out basically.

Phil: Yes. Yeah.

Nicole: And, uh, bleed in. Uh, it was, I should say initially the coin, uh, the term was coined at, uh, Roe Khan, which is a convention in Finland, uh, in 2007 by a role playing designer called Emily Care Boss.

She’s pretty awesome. And basically bleed in is when the player’s emotional state affects the character. Right. And bleed out is the other direction. The character interstate, uh, plays the player. So it would be the same for actors basically. Yeah. And, uh, you know, I, I was thinking it was funny because, uh, Phil and I actually both come from an acting background as well, so it’s, it’s an interesting conversation to have.


Phil: Well, I thought of interesting for myself because, you know, when, I mean people who might be listening to this since it’s theater based, they might not know that, that, you know, they may have heard of Dungeons and Dragons and games like that, but live action, role playing, you’re playing a role playing game.

You’re essentially acting out everything, feeling the things. It’s the same as acting in a scene just improvisationally, which in some ways makes it like more immediate. Um, yeah. Yes,

Nicole: yes. And, um, it depends on the game. Mm-Hmm. Like, you could be playing something that’s like vampires in a castle in Poland, which was incredibly emotionally, um.

You know, uh, fraught for me. Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. In a lot of ways. And, and, but you know, it was vampires and a castle in the end. Um, or you could be playing a game that, uh, some people I know in England put together, which was basically, uh, a post Brexit Britain where people were trying to, uh, flee to Wales.

Mm-Hmm. Uh, a New Republic of Wales. And they were all in refugee situations. Hmm. Uh, leaving their family and friends behind and everything they knew to travel into a new situation. And they did this in a, uh, decommissioned prison.

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: In Britain. And they did it for a weekend. Wow. Yeah. And it’s intense.

Yeah, it’s very intense. It’s actually something that I’m working with them to bring to Canada. We were doing it pre pandemic. We were looking at a prison in, uh, thunder Bay among other places to work on it. But yeah, it, it’s really something. They worked on it with the refugee council in the uk, uh, because they really wanted people to, um, understand that situation and do it in a respectful way.

Mm-Hmm. And,

Phil: no, sorry, go ahead, Phil. Oh, so I was just saying the, the, one of the, the fascinating things about, about these, about L Rrp is that, um, you end up in a situation where you, you go into something that lasts, essentially a weekend and throw yourself into it, into, oh, we have been assigned to be lovers.

Okay. You know, now we are Mm-Hmm. We are doing that. And, and it lasts a weekend and then it’s over. And so you, you, it’s a very, very intense experience to be a part of.

Nicole: And it’s very similar to having to build that relationship, uh, like you were talking about Shavon in a very quick, uh, period of time.

Mm-Hmm. And, uh, you, you do have to manage that too because you end up, uh, having messenger conversations or, uh, writing huge Google docs or letters together. And so spending months and months and months, I spent probably a year building up a, a relationship with someone before a game that, that involved a huge history and, and family relationship and everything.

And so, yeah, yeah, you can do these things, but it comes with a certain cost as well. Uh, the more you put into it when people play, also, when people play campaigns that last years and years and years, the more emotional investment. Mm-Hmm. Much like I think with an acting role, the more emotionally, the more, uh, intellectually the more you put into the text, uh, the more.

You are invested, and the more it takes to pull yourself out of that Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: And I, and especially as a show develops like Mm-Hmm. If you’re, if you’re in a longer run, I mean, the difference between doing a four day run and even, even, even the difference between doing a four day run and a four week run

Nicole: Exactly.


Siobhan: a whole lot of emotional engagement. Like if you’re doing something that is an open-ended run, like it’s, there’s so much and it, it feels to me really somewhat similar. Mm-Hmm. To Nicole, what you’re describing with this like a year’s buildup of this relationship, which you then spend an entire weekend immersed in, like that is, that is extraordinary amounts of emotional commitment.

And I, like, I’m also just thinking of the, the crash afterwards when suddenly that’s not there.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. And, and, and we do have a certain amount of, uh, debriefing kind of mechanisms involved in LARP for that. Um, and there was some work done in that. Kind of area for a period of time. Mm-Hmm. However, I, I, I think there could be a lot more work done in that area because as you say, you spend a whole weekend in there and a lot of times it’s done with outbreak.

Some, uh, LARPs will have a. Calibration breaks, which I think are a very good idea because like you said, you spend a whole weekend immersed emotionally in these situations. And some of them are very intense. Even if you’re just playing wizards in a castle, there’s still, you know, intense friendships, uh, relationships, pamal relationships, uh, and you know, and just

Siobhan: the stakes of the moment.

Like, you’re still, you’re still there trying to achieve something. Like what a what an emotional pull that must have on you. Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Yeah. And I’m, I was going to say like, I would not larp if I could not play romance. Um, I would not larp if I could not have intense relationships. Mm-Hmm. And so hearing, uh, the conversation about having to have these conversations with, uh, significant others about, you know, I love my job and, and it’s not just so I can have, you know, an emotional affair with someone, well, partially I am doing it so I can have emotional affairs with people and, you know, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because sometimes, um, these like little.

Romances in character can just give you a little something that you’re not getting, I to say, in your relationship or give you a little bit of excitement and then you go home. Yeah. And, and you’re happy with the person you’re at home with.

Siobhan: I like to say like, I love to go to Louv. I don’t have to take a Mona Lisa home like I am.

And I say that right now to say that I don’t if, if someone. Chooses to engage in their work relationship to that depth. Like to me, I’m, I, I always say consenting adults, uh mm-Hmm. Do what you will. As long as it’s not for, I mean, from the perspective that I talk about it, as long as it’s not creating a toxic work environment.

Nicole: Yes. Mm-Hmm. Yeah.

Siobhan: If you’re bringing that into the workplace and you’re actually getting in the way of making art together, then I’m like, I, I think it needs some rebalancing, but yeah. Nicole, I, I know. No shame on anybody who’s like, and I recognize that this is also part of what I’m feeling. I think it’s, it’s far more constructive for us all to be really clear about these are the benefits I get out of this.

This is exactly what’s happening, and I’m gonna be open about that. So there’s no, there’s no secret. So I’m not hiding something from somebody and I’m not doing this so as to hurt anybody.

Nicole: Yeah. Mm-Hmm. I think, or, or my

Siobhan: actions don’t inadvertently hurt somebody. Yeah.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. And I think what Bleed does is it gives us the language.

And that was one note I wrote down. The, the concept of Bleed gives us the language to talk to each other about it and to talk to significant others about it. Mm-Hmm. And say this is bleed from my character. I. Don’t actually, I’m not a stalker,

Phil: you know, that’s my,

Nicole: that’s always my joke. I’m not a stalker. I just really liked you because of my character.

That’s why I’m messaging you all the time. Or you know, um, this is bleed from my character. I just have a bit of alarm crush right now. Or you know, it’s bleed from my character. I’m gonna be pissed off at you for a little while ’cause, ’cause you murdered me, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And, and I think that can happen in, you know, a, a show as well if you have to play enemies Mm-Hmm.

With someone for four weeks, that is going to affect your relationship, I think. Mm-Hmm.

Phil: And I think, you know, talking about, about the, just the phrasing of talking about Bleed, giving you a language to talk about it, that does sort of allow, it allows the conversation in a way that, that like, like we’ve been saying in theater, we, we don’t.

Haven’t talked about. Um, we, people have just sort of like in, in many ways, you know, fallen into the showman or fallen into their crush, not discussed it, and just sort of like, either pretended that it doesn’t exist or, or, you know, different ways of handling it. Being able to say to somebody, I’m experiencing bleed right now, please, you know, forgive me, or, or whatever that is, that allows you, that sort of frees up to, to not feel the shame about it or, or whatever you might be feeling about it.

Siobhan: Right. ’cause the hiding it intensifies it one way or the other. Yes. It’s like skating on a sprained ankle. Sure you can, you can still do it, but you’re, you’re still, you’re affecting the situation and being affected by it because you’re, the state that you’re in is not, is not your usual neutral state.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: I would, I’m curious, can I ask a question?

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: Nicole, I would love to hear more about, um, what your, uh, what your debriefing practices are. You said that there’s kind of a, a vocabulary in what you do. I, what’s, tell us about that.

Nicole: Uh, well, there’s, there’s a different sort of, uh, people have different processes, but one thing, uh, that is very common is at the end of A LRP often, uh, there will be either, um, there’s a lot of discussion about whether it should be mandatory or not.

Usually it’s optional or mandatory. Uh, if it’s mandatory, it’s not mandatory that you have to talk because people have different opinions about safety. Mm-Hmm. And whether debriefing should be part of the safety process because, you know, bleed. It, it, a lot of the LARPs have a lot of bleed because it’s a very intense process and doing a debriefing immediately after kind of helps you come back into yourself.

Mm-Hmm. Uh, as along with the parties and stuff. But, um, parties are always more focused on, uh, positives and I really enjoyed playing with you and not so focused on coming back into yourself.

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: So, if it’s a group process, often, uh, people will either do it as group or break into groups and discuss something like, um, what is one thing that you want to take with you from your character or from the larp ah, uh, into your personal life.

Um, if I was playing a really badass character, I might wanna say, I wanna take this character’s sense of confidence. Right. Mm-Hmm. Um, something, another thing you could say is what is one thing that I want to leave behind, um, that I don’t want to take with me? Uh, if you were someone that was a, I wanna leave this character’s anger.

Um, I wanna leave this character’s resentment. Things like that. That’s so cool. Yeah. Yeah. There are different questions that you can come up with or, um, what is something that I learned about myself, uh, through this process? Just, there’s a number of things. If, uh, I could have one day more, what would I want to do with this character?

Um, just, just various questions to kind of like bring yourself. Into a process where you’re not talking about me anymore, because we always have that issue where you refer to your character as I’m, I’m my, you know, not Nicole, but me. And, uh, yeah. But get into the point where you’re referring to your character as a separate entity from yourself and, uh, your thinking as yourself again, uh, actually

Phil: having, having done at least one larp with, with you Nicole.

Um, I, I found that period of separation after the, when the game finished, super helpful. Mm-Hmm. Um, and I think about all the times that I didn’t do that in the past when, when LARPing Mm-Hmm. Um, just sort of like gay mens go home and carrying everything. With me from the game still, and, and, and finding that situation where you’re referring to the character as me rather than they, rather than in the third person, not separating from the character.

I found, I found those steps, I found those debrief questions super helpful.

Nicole: It it is nice to kind of have that decompression space to go. Okay. Especially when it’s an intense experience. Because just to explain, uh, what Phil’s talking about, like in the, in the nineties, um, in the olden days of vampire games and laughing, what we used to do just to date ourselves a little bit, what we used to do is, is it would go like right up till the last minute and they would yell.

Game is called. And at midnight or something like that. And then it would be like, well, everybody time to go home or, Mm-Hmm. Or go go to Coffee Hut and chat with people over coffee and then go home and if something horrible happened, well, uh, too bad you had to deal with it. Yes. Yeah. And, and you were just like slammed back into your life and, uh.

Yeah, it’s, it’s nice to have that buffer and I, I do feel like it’s a safety thing as well. It’s something for people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Mm-hmm. To kind of have that moment. Yeah. Well,

Siobhan: it’s like from an acting perspective, it’s important too, and it’s certainly discovered this in some of the training that I have.

Facilitated for the people. It’s important to have that moment where you trans uh, you transform the way you are being present. Like when we are doing things, like, when we’re acting, it’s my job in that moment to take everything personally to react to everything that happens because within the bubble of that time and space, that is my universe.


Phil: Right. Whereas if I

Siobhan: keep that openness and I like walk out on city streets,

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: It, there is a literal safety issue with that. There’s potential physical safety Mm-Hmm. Issues with that. And there’s definitely, uh, emotional, psychological safety aspects with that. Mm-Hmm. So what you’ve just said resonates with me so much in that it’s so important to have that mindful transition from I’m present and reacting to everything, back to this is what I’ve learned being a human being in the social situation I’m in.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And, and I, I think in some ways why we need to have these languages, why we’ve, we’ve developed this or we, why Nordic LARP developed it, and then we’ve kind of adopted it to some extent is because, um, in theater, I was thinking a bit about this, um, everyone’s job is very specialized. Um, the actors are there to, you know, take direction and see their part of the text and be that person.

The director is there to have an artistic vision and direct the whole process. And, you know, uh, your job schon is to help with that intimacy part of the equation at this point, right? Mm-Hmm. And so, uh, everyone’s job is very compartmentalized and a. We are all our own director. We are our own actor. We are our own intimacy coordinator.

We are our own safety coordinator. We have to do all those things for ourselves. Um, because, you know, if you’re a LRP facilitator or a lrp, right? Uh, lrp, dramaturg, whatever you want to call it. Mm-Hmm. You only have a certain amount of control over the story until you leave it in the player’s hands. Mm-Hmm.

And then you can only do so much. You can make it as safe an environment as you can, as interesting. An environment as you can. But in the end, it’s. All up to them.

Phil: Yeah. Once it

Nicole: starts.

Phil: Yeah. And one of the reasons why I think in, in the LRP world, this conversation became so important. Um, Nicole, I’m sure you remember watching lots of unhealthy relationships form through LARPs.

Um, and lots of, lots of conflicts happening, lots of drama outside of the game because we didn’t acknowledge at the time what was happening, that the emotions were, were running high, that, that this was, that this was bleed. ’cause we didn’t have a language for it at the time. And we’re improvising. We’re making this, we’re making the scenes up, we’re making the drama up on the spot.

So of course it’s really immediate. Whereas for a, a theater show, for the most part, there are some exceptions for a theater show. There’s a script and you’re following through that, which sort of keeps it a little bit more on track. Mm-Hmm. But the emotions are no less the same in, in both situations.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly.

I think that’s, that’s part of the part that I forgot too. If you have a script, you know where you’re going with it, right? Mm-Hmm. Um, if you are surprised suddenly, um, which happens a lot in lrp, but that’s, that’s part of the wonderful part of it. That’s, that’s the magic of it. But at the same time, it, it, it does make emotions very, very intense.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Uh, and, and I think, ah, I had a point and it went away. That’s okay. Uh, that’s, that’s okay. The, I think the language, the, the, we didn’t have the language for so much of it in, uh, the early days, and I think it did cause a lot of problems and it still causes problems. Mm-Hmm. Like, it hasn’t stopped the people who.

You know, the people who are in one show, in one relationship. Mm-Hmm. And the next show and the next relationship that happens in LRPs too. Yes. Yes. I was laughing thinking about that because I have seen that happen. Um, I’ve seen divorces come up out of LRPs. Mm-Hmm. As often as you’ve probably seen them come up out of, uh, out of various theater shows.

Um, so I mean. It doesn’t stop the problem to have the language, to have the discussions, but it makes people much more aware of it, I think. Which, which is important to have, to have the conversations. I think. Uh, I think we could do a lot more with it though. Mm-Hmm, absolutely. Yeah.

Siobhan: I don’t think it stop. It certainly doesn’t stop them, but I think it, I doesn’t stop all of them, but I think it certainly stops some.

Hmm. I think for those who have an increased awareness, they can, there’s a different sensitivity to like, oh, right. That’s, that’s my chemical response. I don’t have to feel compelled. Mm-hmm. To follow it. This isn’t a unique thing that’s never gonna happen again and act so that, and that’s something about the acting side of it, that when we have that, when we have a vocabulary around it, there is a sense of, right, this will happen again.

I think sometimes when people hang onto them, there is a sense of this is, this is unique and. Uh, I’ll never have this experience. Mm-Hmm. I have to take this one. Hmm. Yes. It’s unique, but it’s not like it’s the only kind of this kind of experience you’ll ever have.

Nicole: Yeah. Right. And I think I was gonna say, sorry.

I think there’s also, um, with, because within the LARP community, there’s so much sharing of stuff that’s, um, uh, just ephemeral, uh, creation stuff from LRPs that, uh, people sort of share their own debriefing techniques and uh, de connecting techniques just because they’re sharing stuff that’s like, oh, um.

One thing I do is I, I take a picture of all of the kind of ephemera from my weekend in kind of a collage, and so it has my character name tag and all of this stuff that I wore in different, like notes and stuff. And that’s one way that I kind of, uh, say goodbye to the character. And that’s something I learned from other LARPers.

Other people write stories and they share them so, uh, people can kind of share techniques and find out what works for them, uh, through other people sharing what they do just for fun.

Phil: Hmm. Hmm. I would like to, to talk a little bit about, um, just preparing for bleed, dealing with it. Um, Shavonne, you’ve mentioned a couple of times that, that you have things that you do when you’re, when you’re teaching.

Can you share a couple of, a couple of things, uh, with us that, that you do, uh, in your practice?

Siobhan: Sure. Um, so one of the ones that I brought in from my stage combat practice is this idea of tagging in and tagging out. Sometimes you’ll hear it called bracketing as well. The idea that we put some kind of bracket around the actual acting, uh, so that it’s clear for the, for the brain, it’s as much for the subconscious as it is for the conscious mind of, uh, tag in.

Now we’re doing the vulnerable thing. Tag out, we can leave it behind. So we start creating this really active framing around it. I suggest that people do it in their own practice, like around working on the scenes so that they’re in their, in their minds and in their, in their cells. They create this awareness of this is when I’m investing this emotional energy, and then this is now closed.

I can sort of close the box and put it away. It’s a little bit of what we’re discovering through the pandemic, where folks are like, wow, I, I have been benefiting from my commute.

Phil: Hmm. Because

Siobhan: there’s a real separation between work and home. Mm-Hmm. And so people who are now working from home for the first time are, are finding ways to create that separation.

So tagging in and tagging out might be, uh, like the one I offer in rehearsal with folks is eye contact, high 10. Uh, make sure that you are breathing. And because we feel, uh, we feel that percussion, the percussion of hands, meeting each other, we feel that in our bodies, we hear the sound of, of that little tap sound.

And so it cues the system in a few different ways. Um, other ways you can do it, and again, sort of this nine to five idea as well is like changing your clothes. Uh, mindfully stepping into the space. Um, when I am in rehearsal, when I’m actually in the taped area that denotes the stage, I mindfully consider myself being in the workspace or being in that world, and then mindfully step off it whenever I can.

Uh, especially during breaks or, or during a time when it’s like, we’re not doing that thing right now. Mm-Hmm. So part of it is creating a, a common in and out so that I create that, that bubble of the imaginary world. Um, other parts of it too are taking a look at how, what happens in my body and how do I leave that behind?

So, um. Reading about completing the stress cycle. So we make sure that the, the physical body has what it needs to, to lower the heart rate, to refocus, to come back out of, uh, any kind of fight, flight, or freeze response that’s happened as a result of just being a bit stressed. And stress can be good stress or bad stress, but, um, stepping out of that slightly stressed, uh, situation, state of being and come back into whatever neutral is for you and continue then to like fill the, well, to fill the imagination so that not only are we putting a bracket around the workspace, but we’re also teaching the body that the, the energy expended during that time will be replenished so that there will be rest afterwards so that the effect on the body’s a little less, uh, depleting.

Phil: Hmm. Wow, that’s really interesting. Yeah. There, there’s, ’cause there’s so much of what you’re talking about the, the, the entering the space. I can’t, I can’t even talk about the number of times that I’ve just casually walked on into the stage space. Yeah. You know, oh, it’s my turn. Okay. It’s just gonna get up.

I’m gonna go without actually really being mindful of the fact that No, no, I’m going from, from the non play space into the play space. Like this is, this is sort of an important thing for me psychologically to acknowledge that this is the space I’m moving into.

Siobhan: And I just, I find it helpful for just getting in and out of character really quickly.

Like on camera, it’s. Easier in a way because we have action, we have cut. Mm-Hmm. Like there’s a set sequence that we all abide by. Mm-Hmm. But in theater, there’s a lot more in the way of like kind of drifting in and out of character. Mm-Hmm. And drifting in and out of the work. Um, we have the obvious thing of like getting into the rehearsal hall, but Yeah, there’s a lot of like, oh, we’re kind of chatting about it.

Oh, let’s kind of do it. Mm-Hmm. Um, and I just by if I’m a tangent for a moment, I just please, I found it so helpful in my stage combat practice because. Spending an hour and a half choreographing and like, and acting in a scene of violence is like, is really taxing on the system. In some ways. It’s easier when you’re doing intimacy because there is, there’s um, and you’re, and you have a good partnership and you’re enjoying the scene.

Mm-Hmm. So under the assumption that I’m enjoying the scene, it’s easier ’cause it’s a joyful spending of energy. But when that, that spending of energy is stressed or the story is one of, uh, of, um, of stress or negativity or challenge or, uh, anger, that’s so much harder on the system. And so when I was introduced to this, it, it did so much like for my fatigue levels.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: Um, as well as, yeah, being able to get in and out of character more easily. ’cause. It helped me to recognize the parts of the work that are simply, oh, this part’s just movement. Like this is my body expending physical energy, but I don’t have to have an emotional state behind it every time I do it.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: And then recognizing and connecting with your partner saying, I’m going to act now so I’m gonna make all the owieowie sounds.

Phil: Mm-hmm.

Siobhan: And then I’m not surprising my partner, when they do something, I make an ow sound. They think they’ve hurt me. I’m like, no, no, no. I was just acting. I’m an amazing actor.

’cause you thought, you thought

Phil: you

Siobhan: hurt. I thought you thought I was dying, but I wasn’t. But, but you can see how quickly though, if like you’re doing this usual choreography and the focus of repeating the choreography is making sure that we can repeat it ad nauseum. Mm-Hmm. And suddenly my partner is making, sounds like I’ve hurt them.

Like the background app is always running if you don’t wanna hurt your partner. Yes. So here’s this thing happened of like, oh no, what have I done? Uh, which is just, it’s, it’s hard on, it’s hard on the person. It’s so hard. Mm-Hmm. Uh, emotionally speaking. Mm-Hmm. So, just in my own work, I found having clarity of that to be.

So supportive of being able to make it through a long rehearsal process. And so when I brought it into my work and I wasn’t necessarily fighting when, when really just the, the content was, was more emotionally challenging, I was, I was really quite surprised to be able to have that vocabulary and to have an eye and to, to see how that vocabulary made my, my work easier to access and my, my life that much, that much easier.

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: Yeah. I, I think, I think even just from knowing, uh, going through, uh, an extremely emotional weekend of, of being immersed in something that, uh, we severely underestimate how, uh, draining and how much energy and how difficult it is on each of us to go through. That, that kind of intensity all the time without a break, without talking to someone about it, without taking time to kind of check in with our partners, um, about it and see how things are going.

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: Um, because it, it, it, it, it is a lot. And especially if you are, like you were saying, really angry with someone.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Um. It, it can be difficult and I don’t think, uh, we spend enough time sort of, uh, taking a break and, and, uh, taking that sort of calibration or, or checking in, in the middle of it, so to speak.

Uh, especially in lrp. Yeah, I think, I don’t know about theater, but, um, probably not as well,

Phil: but that’s, that’s a, that’s a very safe assumption. Probably not. Uh, Nicole, a couple of questions for you now. You mentioned, uh, uh, calibration breaks while the LARP is going on. Um, if you’re taking a calibration break, what kind of things are you, are you doing there?

As far as, as far as checking in and trying to make sure that everybody’s, you know, okay. Do you need a break? Like what, what does a calibration break look like?

Nicole: I. Well, in a Arp like, uh, say inside Hamlet, they specifically had calibration breaks. So, uh, this will be interesting to your audience specifically, I think, uh, inside Hamlet is a a RP that is basically Hamlet.

Um, people play the main, uh, characters of Hamlet and they do have to do several of the soliloquy, the, the people who are cast as the main characters, but people are cast as families as well. Um, some of which are made up and some of which are part of sort of, uh, part of the original play. And, uh, everyone dies at the end.

Of course, uh, because everyone dies at the end of Hamlet, like that is known to, to be the thing that’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of how you die and who kills you. Um, and so the calibration breaks for Hamlet are specifically set up through that because it’s a bunch of horrible people being horrible.

They are set up to check in on all these. The players of the horrible people being horrible to go. How are you doing? Mm. Are you angry at me for being horrible to you? Mm. Um, also, would you like me to kill you next round? If you would like, if you would like me to kill you, how would you like to die? You would like me to poison you?

Okay, sure. Let’s, how would you like this to happen? Um, so that’s why those are set the, that’s that sort of calibration break.

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: Um, a more informal one might be ones you set up with your friends, where you’re like, okay, I know we’re playing this intense relationship. Let’s check in with each other every like, um, half a day

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: At lunch and make sure that we’re cool. So how are you doing? Is this still working for you? Do you wanna change the relationship? So on and so forth. If it’s not, let’s do something different. If it is cool, what do you wanna do next?

Phil: Hmm.

Nicole: Um, at a LARP like convention of thorns, uh, that was the big vampire larp played in a castle in Poland.

Uh. Most of it was played at night. So most of the meals, uh, acted as calibration breaks because they were during the daytime. And so it was very easy to, uh, sit with people that you were arguing with all night and kind of chat with them as people.

Phil: Hmm. And

Nicole: I arranged at, at one meal, uh, I was sitting with, uh, one of my other clan mates and he was like, I think you should beat me up tonight.

And I’m like, okay. Uh, when do you think that should happen? I, but at this point, all right, cool. Let’s do that. And, uh, later on, I, I. We had a big, big fight and I beat him up and he was quite happy with that. So these are the things you do. You can arrange scenes, uh, you can check in with each other emotionally.

Uh, you can rearrange stuff if it’s not working. Um, you can have conversations if you’re having problems with one another on a larger scale, you can make plots happen, so on and so forth.

Siobhan: So I have a, I have another question is, are these like calibration breaks and such? Is this enough embedded in the culture that someone coming to it new someone would know to introduce them to these ideas?

Or is it something that most people have just kind of stumbled upon?

Nicole: Um, in inside Hamlet, they are part of the game.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: So you would have to do them, you would come across them as part of the game, so you would be introduced to them as part of that.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Um. In general, not necessarily. That’s something you might learn from others, you might hear of in the discourse.

Um, if you’re part of sort of the more academic conversations, you might hear other people mention it. Um, if it’s not something that’s, that’s built into the game, it might not be something that you come across now.

Phil: Um, just as a moment. Just one of the other things that, that, that, that you did then at the game that I played last year, um, was the day when we played at night.

During the day you had basically a seminar where everybody sort of got together and we sort of like eased into the game by going through a number of exercises. Right,

Nicole: right. And talked

Phil: about what we were looking for and, and, and, and, and, you know, where do we want conflict? Like what kind of, there were all kinds of exercises that we went through that I think was a great way to, to, to prepare us for the emotional atten intensity of the.

The game itself. Mm-Hmm. Um, when we’re working on a play, we al we often have like, you know, we have a day or longer of, of table work and we talk really academically about the play. We might talk about the costumes, we might talk about the, the, uh, the. The, the, the setting. We’ll talk about the what’s happening, what was happening in the world at the time of the play, things like that.

But we rarely talk about the emotional stakes and where we are, and we don’t ease in emotionally to, to the, to, to the play in many ways. Right. I wonder if, if that’s sort of something that, that, that, that could be introduced in terms of preparing to begin the emotional intensity of, of the rehearsal process rather than just talking about the academic stuff and then jumping into it.

Siobhan: I, yeah, I think there’s, there is, there, depends on who you talk to. There’s kind of a, a movement towards. The, um, like the workplace gathering. I mean, Phil, you make a really good point that we talk about, like what’s the play going to be like? But we don’t really come together as workmates

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: To discuss like, what is that rehearsal room agreement of supporting each other into that And the Mm-Hmm.

The ramping up of intensity. You’re just sort of expected to show up for the first day, do a read, and then the next day start, start blocking it. Like, it’s so rare to have that opportunity where we actually say, oh, and you’re all professionals. We all know this. This is going to be hard. Um, and then whatever that bridging process is, um, I’m so glad you asked that ’cause it’s, I’ve been thinking a lot about, um, and, and working on some processes for how do we, how do we improve the workplace?

How do we help the workplace be something somewhere that we can trust and take risk and, uh. Be confident so that we can take the challenges and do the vulnerable, um, exhausting things we need to do in a way that we’re supported.

Phil: Mm-Hmm

Nicole: mm-Hmm. I mean, even, um, what we have the opportunity for people to ask, say is what they’re looking for in terms of an experience, and that could be really valuable.

I’m look in terms of what someone’s looking for in terms artistically Mm-Hmm. Um, where, what, how they’re looking to grow artistically, uh, what they want out of playing a part, or directing the play or, or, uh, designing the costumes for a specific show. Those are hugely important things to know, I think, uh, for someone you’re working with, especially when you’re an actor working in an ensemble or working with, you know, in a close relationship with someone, what they want artistically out of the role.

Is important to know.

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. And I

Siobhan: think also there’s, we never talk about Oh really? Wow. Totally. No. Like I think we all show up at work ready to do the job.

Phil: Yeah. But also, you know, what’s interesting is, is sometimes we come, we come into work and we’re, we’re expecting to do the, we’re, you know, we’re ready to do the job, we think, but maybe there are themes in the play that we come up against that we weren’t expecting that that Mm-hmm.

You know, are, that are aligned with, with difficult experiences that we’ve had. We don’t talk about that stuff upfront. And so somebody is, is hitting this difficult spot in the play and they feel completely unsupported because nobody knew about this going in. And to have the freedom and the opportunity to say, um, last year I lost my mom, or whatever it is.

And this played deals with the loss of a parent. It may be that in the course of this, I might have some moments. I just wanna let you know, and if you can support me in that. Thank you.

Nicole: Oh yeah, that’d be huge. Mm-Hmm. If you could just say that or, you know, this, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to do this play, but this play has some difficult things.

It may trigger me. Yeah. But I want to get through it. Yeah. You know?

Siobhan: Yeah. And I think part of the reason why that these conversations haven’t come up if, and I think some people are having that, but it’s certainly not like an industry norm. Um, I think part of the reason it hasn’t come up before is because as a society we haven’t had a lot of common language around how do you support someone in a, in a moment of difficulty.

Like what is mental health first aid?

Phil: Mm-Hmm. And

Siobhan: I know for some people, I think the fear of starting that conversation Mm-hmm. Is that it’s going to, uh, hold up the work, um, that somehow it will open the floodgates for our workplace to become, uh, a group therapy session of some kind. Mm-Hmm. Which is like, not what we’re doing.

We all know that that’s not what we’re doing. But I think there’s a bit of a fear of. Of, um, yeah. Derailing the work process or, or Sure. Opening the floodgates to something that no one in the room has, has clinical experience doing.

Phil: Yeah. There is sort of the opportunity though to, I mean, I think we mentioned earlier the, the, the, the possibility of setting the ground rules.

What are the ground rules for our rehearsal process? Mm-Hmm. As actors, we can get together and we can all discuss, like, here’s, I don’t know, the safe word is, I don’t know, something, but whatever it is, like, you know, we, we put together our, our what, what does, what does our ensemble look like and what are the ground rules?

And maybe we agree that somebody hits a difficult moment and we can’t really address it in the room. But if you can tell me what you need now, I can provide that for you after rehearsal. You know, something like that.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Like, uh, that, that’s all, that’s all we did, that’s all we said. Uh, if someone was having difficulty, just ask them what they need.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Not, not anything other than that. What do you need right now? And, uh, help get that for the person. Yeah. And, and go from there. And, and don’t worry about getting it wrong, because Yeah. You can’t get. You know, you can’t get it wrong if you give someone what they need.

Phil: Yeah. And the answer to the question is sometimes I is sometimes nothing.

Sometimes it’s a just need a moment. Sometimes it’s, I need a glass of water. Mm-Hmm. You know, it can be so many things. But that, that question of what do you need right now is such an important one in those situations.

Siobhan: It’s funny, I’ve been having chats with a, uh, with a colleague who has a, a really similar career path to mine in some ways, and we’ve, we’ve talked about being actors with specialties in both fight direction and intimacy.

We both have had that experience of being the actor in the room in that moment, knowing what the tools are for a challenging conversation as a, for example. As an example. But in the moment, like being unable to articulate it. So with what you folks are saying about someone asking, what do you need? Like that one step can be so huge.

Mm-Hmm. Rather than expecting the actor to say, hang on, time out. I need this. That is a really different thing than someone else noticing something has shifted in the room.

Phil: Mm-Hmm.

Siobhan: Asking for like a five second pause and saying, what do you need? Or Do you know what you need? Yep. Do you need anything?

Phil: It’s such a powerful question.

Like the question, what do you need is such a powerful one because sometimes if you’re expecting somebody to speak up and say what they need, they’re, they can’t do it. Yeah. But if you ask them, what do you need right now, they can usually tell you.

Nicole: And it could be, it could be I need five minutes.

Phil: Yes.

Nicole: Yeah.

You know? Yeah. And, and we, you know, I think we can give anybody having a hard time. Five minutes, you know? I

Siobhan: think there’s in Yeah, absolutely. I think there is so much reticence in our Canadian theater process where we so often it’s, it’s almost a badge of honor where we’re like, we just, we’re so short of time.

Mm-Hmm. We just don’t have time. Like, time. I think we can all agree time is like the ultimate unrenewable resource.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. And

Siobhan: I think we feel it keenly in our theater rehearsal spaces. And I think that’s a part of the fear of stopping and saying, uh, I I need a minute.

Phil: Sure.

Siobhan: Because we’re like, oh no, I’m wasting that.

That minute of resource, whereas ask anybody else in the room and most people are gonna say, we can totally take one minute. Yeah, we can totally take 30 seconds. I mean, even like, I have to go pee for some folks taking, taking that two minutes to run down the hallway, go to the bathroom and come back feels like some kind of, feels like some kind of trespass.

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: It’s like reframing our, our idea of like. And I don’t think anyone, yeah.

Nicole: And I don’t think anyone got into theater to be on the clock or, you know Yeah. At an office desk or being surveilled about, you know, what they’re doing with their time. Right. Yeah. So it’s, it seems so ridiculous, but, but it’s understandable given, you know, short, short, short rehearsal time, short, short, short production time.

I mean, it’s understandable, but at the same time, I mean, you know, you’re actors, it’s okay, take five minutes. Um,

Siobhan: you know, there’s that,

Nicole: yeah. Sorry, go ahead.

Siobhan: No, I just, having this, this brainstorm of like, oh my goodness. It’s part of it. I think sometimes like at the end of the day when we’re like, oh, we’ve gotta end the day here.

It’s because we’re in this, like, creative flow together. Mm-Hmm. And it’s in this moment right now that I’m going, I wonder if, as a, as a room. There would be a different sense of how the day’s going if we had these like shared practices of like, this is what I need to really feel like I’m getting going in my day.

Mm. Because if we could spend more of our day in flow and less of our day getting into flow.

Phil: Yes.

Siobhan: By the time the day is done, at the end we’d be like, oh, great. Like I’ve totally had those rehearsals where we feel ready to end. Mm-Hmm. Half an hour, an hour earlier in the day, and some rehearsal, some, some directors are like, yep, we’re done for the day.

Yeah. That’s what we’re going to achieve today. Mm-Hmm. It’s healthy for us to stop now. Whereas you get into other rooms and you’re like, how is it this time? I feel like we just got started.

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: Yeah. I, I’m so curious. I would love to anecdotally hear what people have to say about. About that. Like

Phil: yeah, absolutely.

How did we start?

Siobhan: And so therefore, how did our day go?

Phil: Yeah. No, and that’s, that’s sort of like a, a, an interesting idea to, to maybe start the rehearsal process with a conversation about what I need. And do we all have permission to stop for a second and ask somebody, what do you need right now if somebody’s, you know, stalker in an emotional moment, but then to like, take five minutes at the end of the rehearsal process to check in and have a debrief for the end of the day?

Nicole: Oh yeah, what, what went well? What didn’t work? I. What, what did you love? What did you hate? Mm-Hmm. What can we take away from this? What should we leave behind? I’ve been Oh, amazing.

Siobhan: Yeah. I’ve been in some rehearsal processes where the directors have absolutely put that in. Sometimes it’s like, and this is part of those, like those closure practices we were talking about earlier.

Uh, sometimes it’s, uh, five minute dance break or like the length of a single song, and each person is responsible for the, for the fun song for d on different days. Uh, I know one group who. Made time for journaling.

Phil: Mm. So that you could

Siobhan: like, have a daily debrief. Uh, another group, they were doing some particularly challenging material and they had so adorable.

Um, an enormous like, torso sized heart pillow, arms on it. Aww. So that each person took a turn hugging the pillow and, and saying those things. You were talking about Nicole. Mm-Hmm. Like what worked, what didn’t, what, what struck you that day? Like what do you feel needs to be kind of left in the space? Um,

Nicole: that’s amazing.

Siobhan: Yeah. And I’ve, I’ve, I’ve found for myself and what I suggest for other people is like, yeah, take that walk to do that if it’s not happening in the room. Mm-Hmm. I, although I, I, I personally, I do those two extremes where I’m like, great bye. And I feel like totally at a loss for the rest of the day. Yes. Or when I like.

I linger too long. And before I had this idea of like, no, it’s, it can feel incomplete as you’re leaving the room as long as you give yourself that time, that transitioning time in between.

Phil: Hmm.

Siobhan: Somehow. But I totally notice the days when I’m like, I haven’t done this mindfully. And I end up like scrolling

Phil: Yeah.

Siobhan: For, for 20 minutes. And then I catch myself going, what? I know I know better than this. Yeah. Don’t do

Phil: that. Yeah. I wanna, I wanna thank you both for this conversation. I feel like the, like in some ways the conversation about emotional bleed and also like some of the bigger themes around that Mm-Hmm. Are like, this is just the start of a conversation.

And I hope that, that, that other people hear this and they have those conversations and I, I, I’d love to hear, uh, what people think about, about the process and, and everything else. So thank you both for this conversation. This has been, this has been really great.

Siobhan: Thank you, Phil. Oh, thank you. Lovely to like chat with you, Nicole.

This is great.

Nicole: Oh yeah, it was, it was wonderful to hear all of this. It was, uh, super, super interesting and I just want, uh, people to remember that bleed isn’t bad. Mm. It’s uh, just how you deal it with it that, uh, makes it the issue.

Phil: That’s like, that’s like I think of, of anything. That’s the sentence that, that, that, that is the most, one of the more important from this whole thing.

Siobhan: Yeah, absolutely.