The Collabs

“The fun for me in collaboration is, one, working with other people just makes you smarter; that’s proven.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda

The Collabs

It is funny to me that when I look up Collaboration on a search engine, the dominant sites are about collaboration in business. Mostly they feel successful if one department will talk to another department. In my mind, collaboration is an artistic action.

Collaboration in the arts is one of the most fulfilling things that an artist can do. To find people with an interest to let the chemistry combust is great and the best can return to each other over and over again.

Collaboration is also a dirty word. It can be presented as method of working together with equal voices when it was all a lie, one person serving another’s ideas.

And, it might be one of the most misunderstood words in the Art World. James Patterson, when he got busted for hiring writers to do his work that got sold under his name, tried to call it a collaboration and therefore okay. It was a lie. He lied to his public and abused the word badly.

In the performance world, collaboration rarely happens even when the desire is there. Each artist must have a very wide range of skills and expertise so as to be able to respond to the other artists. A very narrow, “I only do this” does not make the product very malleable.

Collaboration is summed up as, “if you are going to do that, then I’ll do this to support it” back and forth across the table, and then back and forth again, each changing their offerings to adapt or account to another’s presentation.

What is not considered or very rarely, is the time line of the arrival of the work. Music composition or choreography or stage direction or scenery or costumes or scripts or video can all change until they can not. Effort, cost and labor are factors as well as artistic and emotional investment.

The last in the time line is always the lighting designer. This artist has the job of tying all of the parts together and is the last to sit down to do the work. When these final ideas of the lighting designer are finally seen, and I’ll say that it is impossible to imagine, the collaborators might shift their work to make an idea happen; like a choreographer or director willing to move their people into the light.

Or not, the input of the lighting designer can quickly be dropped almost as disposable for the greater good of making all of these other diverse parts fit and tie together. The LD is the only one who creates his work with all of the artists sitting around watching how their work will be presented to an audience.

So: when you consider the idea of collaboration; and I hope that you do, think on the time line as well. Not many do and that can be the greatest hurdle.

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