September 14th, 2011 | by JULIE POTTER Arts & Books | Posted In: Theater

TBA Diary: Rude Mechs Don’t Pass the Talking Stick

rude mechs panelPhoto by Madeline Blount Courtesy of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

In conjunction with Rude Mechs’ run of The Method Gun at PICA’s Time-Based Arts festival, Austin’s Fusebox Festival director, Ron Berry, discussed process and group dynamics with two of the company directors, Lana Lesley and Thomas Graves. During the installment of the TBA Institute Tuesday afternoon at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, one thing became clear—consensus rules in this company led by six co-artistic directors and roughly 30 artists.

“We don’t pass the talking stick,” commended Graves as he described a highly malleable process with some tough love dynamics. The consensus requires participants to make their ideas known and remain open to having everything edited and shaped by a variety of factors. In creating their devised work, everyone is in the room together, navigating sometimes colliding and sometimes combined visions. Additionally, the Rude Mechs are ruthless about editing and abandoning material, employing long research and development processes. The directors acknowledge that the months of development don’t always fit grant cycles as ideas can shift in the time between application and execution.

Lesley identified the “Type-A” tendencies of the company’s members as the cause for the Rude Mechs keeping administrative duties within the group of artists, thereby maintaining continuity and integrity. The company is also grateful to have their own space allowing them to use all of the production tools needed to realize the work. Regarding a home base rehearsal venue, Graves noted the importance of asking “How much are you in service of your space versus how much is your space in service of you?”
 
“We can field a football team with the amount of babies the company has had.” Lesley offered, a nod to artists moving through life stages and performing with the company. With so many shared responsibilities from the studio to the stage to the administrative office, the Rude Mechs adds up to more than a theater company; it’s a lifestyle and perhaps a family as well. 

SEE IT: PICA's Time-Based Art Festival continues through Sept. 18.

Julie Potter is a dance artist, writer, arts manager and yoga teacher based in San Francisco’s Mission District.

 
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