Some advice for my students right now as they move towards making
- Start informally interviewing people during your fieldwork now. Next week we will look at techniques for doing a good interview, but right now ask open ended questions and listen with curiosity and interest. “Tell me how you got started here…what do you love about your job…what is the hardest thing about this job…” You can ask those kinds of questions often more than once.
- Notice what really sparks your curiosity about the PEOPLE. What story do you want to hear more about? Get interested in the people in front of you and why they ended up working here at the Water Dept. WRITE IT DOWN. Start to get a sense of who people are and what part of themselves they bring to their work. Ask people about themselves and you will be amazed at what you hear.
- Get curious about the mundane, everyday tasks. What does it take to do the lab testing just right? What does a great valve replacement really mean? Ask questions about the daily work. Pretend you need to become an expert in that job in one week. Ask how to do that.
- Make a list of these mundane tasks. You need to look for what people are already experts at. They are experts at many things. I am sure. For the May performance, we are not trying to turn the community members into dancers/actors/performers. Instead, we are wanting to set up an opportunity for people to show themselves and be fully themselves. So you need to notice how they are showing themselves already. You have to make it EASY on folks to be successful. Notice what they are already doing with ease, grace, skill, confidence, and elegance.
- Look also for the virtuosity. What do these employees do really well that few other folks do just like that? I know it is there. A window washer who has been washing windows for 10+ years has a virtuosic skill. Most of these employees have been at their jobs for longer than that. They have developed real virtuosity that I know is expressed through their bodies in some way (through moving, speaking, writing, etc.)
In some, keep researching. Keep asking questions. Stay in the not knowing. And look for clues to the choreography of these people and their place that is already happening. Know each of them has wisdom in their own bodies and practice of their work.
Photo above by Artist in the City Student Julian Johnson. His photos taken during his fieldwork with Middletown Water & Sewer employees are featured throughout the blog and as the blog cover photo. Thank you Julian!