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Fin Townsend and Balisha Karra lead an Arts Gym workshop

Pineapples and Partnerships - The Art of Co-Directing

Posted on 29 January 2020

With the new year comes a new term for our community theatre groups, and for our Arts Gymnasium members, it’s been a great opportunity to learn and try out something a little different.

This week, Arts Gym blogger Margaret Emerton writes about the first of a series of workshops led by visiting practitioners that the group will have the chance to participate in over the coming year.

A new year and a new term for Arts Gymnasium. It promises to be an exciting time as we look forward to Coventry being UK City of Culture 2021. In preparation, we are experiencing several workshops led by visiting theatre practitioners over this year and I will be writing a blog about each to share the experience with you.

The workshop today was led by Balisha Karra, one of three Co-Artistic Directors (with Corey Campbell and Justine Themen ) who will oversee the Belgrade Theatre’s producing programme for 2021; and director Fin Townsend, who often co-directs shows with Balisha. As co-directors they have worked towards a shared vision and joint responsibility for the outcome, an experience they were able to share with us in the workshop.

Their friendship and shared confidence in each other was outstanding, their words ebbed and flowed creating a rhythm to the session.
Their top tip was to “leave your ego at the door”, closely followed by “get to know yourself and those around you”.

Fin Townsend and Balisha Karra lead an Arts Gym workshop

The directors also told us about their unique “time-out word” which was “pineapple”. Like the skin of this fruit, things can sometimes get tough and spiky during busy periods, and taking the time to cut through that produces the sweet, nourishing food beneath.

So after taking time out to reflect, we can come back to our work with a renewed energy and clarity. We were encouraged to use that word at any time if we felt it necessary. Balisha and Fin had created a safe space for us to undertake the tasks that lay ahead.

With these tips in mind, we experienced the feelings of building a trust in others as we were guided, eyes closed, around the room, exploring how it felt being led by another or taking the responsibility for that person.

We then moved on quickly to working in small groups, sharing the roles of both co-directors and actors. Even in the short time we had we were already learning to listen and share.

The session went so quickly and as we took a moment to reflect at the end, the words that came to our minds to describe our experience were: “brilliant”, “amazing”, “stimulating” and “challenging”.

Our final question to the directors was, “What is the most important characteristic that an actor can bring to an audition?” Their answer was “enthusiasm”.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of that in the Arts Gymnasium group, as we continue to learn, grow in confidence and have fun.