The Essence of Creativity

Karen and I were having a conversation a couple of days ago about the role of technique in art. It was kind of interesting. Karen is a dancer. She loves to dance, but knew early on that she couldn’t handle doing it professionally because she had seen so much emphasis on technical perfection, and so little emphasis placed on cretivity.

I direct a good deal of drama for my church, and when she slipped in the back while I was rehearsing one night, she expressed how amazed she was at how techinical a drama rehearsal could be (move here on this word, etc.).

So this sparked the debate: when are artists just vehicles for someone else’s creativity, and when are they really creative within themselves?

During my days a musician, I did a lot of classical music (I know, I know…out of character for me, but hey…I was in high school). I couldn’t express any creativity while playing in an orchestra. I was one of an army of people who were serving as vehicles for the creativity of the composer as interpreted by the conductor. Likewise, many dancers are expected to serve as vehicles for the creativity of the choreographer, and actors for the playwright, etc. Certainly, I think the most creative expression in a piece of music, or a play, or a dance, comes from the mind and heart which originate it. But I think we’re doing a severe dis-service in expecting musicians and actors and dancers to focus exlusively on techinique and to function as mindless drones in reproducing someone else’s vision.

When I direct someone else’s script, I refuse to give an actor a line reading. I give them the general parameters I think the character lies within, and the rest is up to their creativity. They should know their character better than I by the time the curtain rises, and so they know how their character would say a given line. That’s the actor’s creativity in this whole process.

Certainly, technique is essential to producing good art. I suppose the only time we really run into this type of debate is in the performing arts…certainly the writer or painter doesn’t seem to struggle with this, because they’re producing what is exlcusively their own. As a writer, though, when I write a play, I must allow for the actor’s creativity to come into play (no pun intended). I’ve never been disappointed in doing so when I’ve seen the finished product take life under the stage lights.

Could this be an indicator of other ways in which we inhibit the essence of creativity in art?

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