It All Starts With A Spark: A Masterclass with Isobel McArthur
On any given day, a company member’s base schedule includes two to three hours of class and around six hours of rehearsal. On top of this, we somehow also must find time for the daily responsibilities of homework, socializing, experiencing the incredible city of Glasgow, and eating three meals a day. At the start of this experience, I distinctly remember my fellow company member Julia Donlon commenting, “Sleep now!”, and boy was she right. The idea of going through an intense rehearsal process on top of academic classes is one that seems nearly impossible at first glance. However, our masterclass led by Isobel McArthur this week was three of the best hours of my week. Isobel is a self-titled “theatre maker”, notably an actor and writer working in and around Glasgow, Scotland. As she was finishing up her master’s degree a few years ago, Isobel started on a journey to creating and producing a solo show entitled, “How To Sing It”, which is shown in the picture below. Isobel began the class by telling us a bit about her background and her road to success, outlining a two-year process that brought about the show that started as an idea in her mind. She then quickly opened it up to us, allowing us to begin exploring our own stories. Now, imagine sitting in a classroom, tired and stiff, and being asked the following question:
“What story do you have to tell?”
Quite the question, right? I had a whole train of thoughts in response to this question within a matter of seconds. We all have a story to tell, of course, but which stories are worth telling? Are any of them? Which ones are interesting enough to warrant the attention of others? Luckily I sat through the class, so I can answer the questions now without the anticipation of having to wait. The short answer is simple: Every story is worth telling. Does your story have a beginning but no end? Tell away. Does your story largely revolve around a toothbrush? It could be just what the world needs at this moment. Even if it is not, if you care about it, then it is absolutely worth telling. Of all the things that Isobel spoke to us about, the thing that stuck most was that if you are excited about something, it is something that others will be excited about. She was especially keen to stress the beauty of “the spark”. Let me define:
The Spark: otherwise known as the feeling you get when you think about the thing you could talk about forever.
The spark can come from any combination of ideas, feelings, or dreams. The idea may be simple, but the beauty that comes from the simplicity allows us to revel in the extraordinary nature of ordinary lives. On the flip side, it might be the most exciting story known to man. For some of us in the class, it was stories from our past or stories about our families. For others, it was stories that simply sprung from our imagination in the moment, materializing in real time. In the three hours that we spent with Isobel on Wednesday morning, we were encouraged to find our spark and begin to nurture it into something that will exist out in the world. This work was specifically prescribed to assist in the creation of solo shows for a class assignment, but the work can apply to each and every facet of theatre, and frankly of life. There are so many beautiful things and people in the world that hold value, but if the spark that comes from them is ignored, it may go out. So while the Pepperdine Scotland students foster our sparks in the creation of our solo shows, I encourage you to foster yours. Love them and grow them, even if you are the only person who gets to see them.
Photo by Michaela Bodlovic