Thought Residency: Alan Dilworth

Thought Residency: Alan Dilworth

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My name is Alan Dilworth and this is thought number eleven.

Approbation – who receives it? From whom? For what? It is an important human experience to receive approbation. It is very healthy, arguably even necessary, especially at key moments in one’s life. In terms of giving, I do think it is common or perhaps easy to give approbation to those one identifies with. Today I am thinking about the giving of approbation to those one does not identify with. Perhaps obvious, but maybe not.

My name is Alan Dilworth and this is thought number ten.

I am thinking about the balance between stillness/silence and action. Earlier I was thinking about stillness and silence, more specifically about silence and stillness less as an escape or getaway from life, more a letting go, an opening of the gates for something to move forward- for the release of something. Now the question… what is that something? And what was getting in its way in the first place?

My name is Alan Dilworth and this is thought number nine

The encounters I have witnessed on the street have become more casual. Children seem to be getting closer together. There is sunshine. Did I wash my hands properly when I came inside? Halifax is bubbling.

My name is Alan Dilworth, and this is thought number eight.

I am thinking about minds and hearts. In particular during this time of crisis when there is so much uncertainty and anxiety. I wonder how peoples’ minds and hearts are doing. I sit on a cushion everyday, in the morning, and am still and quiet. But inside are storms. Calms. Outside the sun is shining. I cut an apple. Children are social distance playing. Two neighbours fought last night, no punches but yelling. With their children beside them. Real conflict. Different ways of seeing things, some shared and unique anxieties. I stood between them. My daughter witnessed it all and couldn’t get to sleep, later waking in the night. Fireworks in the sky, fireworks in hearts and minds.

My name is Alan Dilworth, and this is thought number seven.

With the opening of some isolation restrictions around the world it is hard not to default to the hope of a return to the way things were. Hmmm. How have things changed? For one, our house is beginning to enter a new chapter. I can’t help but think that somehow we have incorporated some more eclectic approaches to how we arrange objects and use space that reflects both more recent years, and an earlier period in our lives together. To me, it’s like we are time travelling as we move forward moment by moment. Three of us now. I think this time has invited us to take stock and thread together – not too neatly, mind you- many experiences that, before lockdown seemed harder to hold, or remember as one continuum with many chapters. Now it seems less a series of books on shelf, and more a book of many stories.

My name is Alan Dilworth, and this is thought number six.

This morning I am thinking about the joy of two way radios, or walkie talkies. My daughter asked for a pair so she can chat with one of her best friends who lives in a townhouse across from us. They have a date at 11am this morning to walkie talkie talk. This morning her friend shared her handle- Matilda. My daughter’s handle is Madonna. After a short chat about airwave stranger danger, my daughter and I talked about some of the joys of two way radio life. I flashbacked to the late 70’s, I was a little kid, and we were on a road trip to a wedding in North Carolina. My sister’s boyfriend had a CB radio- he did some sideline truck driving. We spent hours listening to and talking with trucker drivers. I can’t remember what my handle was on that trip, but today my handle would be Lockdown Busy Schedule Dad. Over.

My name is Alan Dilworth, this is thought number five.

I am always curious about how ideas and experiences are shaped by the containers we use to contain them. Some containers are conceptual, some spatial, intellectual, metaphorical, spiritual, financial, and in our moment most certainly digital. So many of us are experiencing Zoom as a container for our professional and personal communication. Zoomunication. When it comes to containers, I am always thrilled when I experience the experimenting with the use of the container, with its opportunities and its limitations- its boundaries, and in the process stretching and developing the ideas contained by the container. I like determining whether the container and the idea or purpose are a good fit. Sometimes this work with a container results in a breakthrough in the possibilities of what the container itself could be, and/or sometimes a breakthrough in the nature of the idea contained. I love these breakthroughs. I love these transformation-moments. Small t, medium t or BIG T moments. I love them.

My name is Alan Dilworth, this is thought number four.

This curtain is the curtain that I sit in front of every morning. This morning it struck me how much an object, like this curtain, can sum up part of this experience of staying at home. We are spending so much time confined in our spaces. We are encountering the same objects over and over again. This morning sitting in front of the curtain, I was struck by the curtain’s curtainness. It moves in a gentle, lazy way when blown by a breeze, it diffuses and softens sunlight, and the fabric is textured but soft. And for a moment I am completely insignificant to myself. What a relief! Just this curtain. Extraordinary ordinary. And then off I go.

My name is Alan Dilworth, this is thought number three.

This is my daughter two days ago riding one of two bikes that she was regifted. This bike was given to her almost three years ago. It’s too small for her, but she is riding it anyways because she is motivated to master this bike thing, and anyways the other bike was not yet in Toronto. This image is her rocking it during homeschool recess. She was buzzing up and down our street wowing me with her new going-downhill-pedal-break-technique. A middle aged man walked by us, smiled, and said. “Riding a bike… it’s great… it makes the young feel old and the old feel young.” Ten minutes later, a young couple driving by rolled down the window -yelled “Yay!”, and applauded her fresh success. Exhilarating. Time to get out my Masi Uno and pump up the tires.

My name is Alan Dilworth, this is thought number two.

I am thinking about the rhythm and experience of change today, about being raw, the knife’s edge, glowing coals stepping out from behind what is the known into the… unknown. I am thinking about uncertainty, about texts and words and ideas and experiences that rob one of the ground under one’s feet. I am thinking about Erin Shields and Jose Saramago and Edward Bond and Spike Lee. I am thinking about writers and directors and choreographers and actors and designers and artistic directors. I am thinking about art. That’s today.

My name is Alan Dilworth, and this is thought number one.

I’m in the process of translating something I created called The Stillness Room to a live digital platform. The Stillness Room is the coming together in a room, most often with a group of theater-makers, to experience silence and stillness but with a simple but clear container. The Stillness Room has been about making time and space, literally and figuratively, through stillness and silence and buildings where people are making theater, with unique challenges, pressures, and rhythms that we might recognize as of the theater. Those rhythms have been disrupted. What is The Stillness Room now? As I wrestle with translation from room to digital room, I am reminded of how centrally people who work in theater have figured into the vision of the whole thing. What does it mean to be a theater worker in this moment? I’m curious about what will be lost and what will be gained in translation.

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About the Author

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Alan is an award-winning director, playwright, performer, teacher and is the Artistic Director of Necessary Angel Theatre Company. His work explores personal, social and political transformation and is rooted in questions of 'self' and ‘other’ inspired by theatrical forms, philosophy and Zen Buddhism. He has directed across Canada and internationally. As a director and theatre maker Alan has brought over twenty new Canadian plays to the stage including acclaimed productions of the Greek-language premiere of This Is War (Porta Theatre, Athens); The Last Wife, The Virgin Trial and Mother’s Daughter (The Stratford Festival / Soulpepper Theatre Company), Crash (Theatre Passe Muraille / Necessary Angel Theatre Company); The Middle Place (Project: Humanity / Canadian Stage / Theatre Passe Muraille); If We Were Birds (Tarragon Theatre / Groundwater Productions) and his own play The Unforgetting (Belltower Theatre). Alan is the founder of The Stillness Room a program that brings people together to experience stillness and silence, as well as co-founding Belltower Theatre and Sheep No Wool, and he served as the Acting Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company in 2018 during a time of crisis. At Soulpepper he had directed acclaimed productions of Idomeneus; The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?; Incident At Vichy; Eurydice; Twelve Angry Men; and others. He is married to actor Maev Beaty, and they have a young daughter.