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DIY Quotes with DIY Folks: Sam Bianchini

Pictured above: Halie Robinson in rehearsal for My Name Is Rachel Corrie/Photo:Zeke Dolezalek

Each Tuesday, we ask a theater artist/performance artist questions about theater or performance. Welcome to DIY Quotes with DIY Folks.

Today we are highlighting Sam Bianchini, artistic director of Jacaranda Collective and director of their current show, My Name is Rachel Corrie.

How do you measure “good work” in the DIY theater and performance world? What metrics are used to distinguish “good” from “bad” work?

My measurement tool, so to speak, is “Does this serve the audience?” If we are creating or performing only for ourselves, art tends to stay very self-centric. The audience is our final cast member. We are giving THEM a gift. It’s an offering.

What book or reading material do you think every DIY theater/performing artist should read?”

The Fervent Years- Harold clurman

The Artist’s Way- Julia Cameron

How do you kick off a rehearsal?

As a director, I have everyone do the play cold on our first rehearsal from start to finish. I like to get a sense of how the artists impulsively bring to life this work, and then I build off of their initial impulses.

What’s the structure?

I like to do intensive table work of looking at beats, shifts, actions, so that we all collaborate on when those occur, and use it to inform us while we are on our feet. So for Rachel Corrie process, for example, we had essentially one, 90-minute long monologue, with no set scene breaks or even beat shifts, since it was all taken from Rachel’s journals and emails.

So we sat down for 3-4 hours and went through line by line, and found where we felt “Scenes” should be, and within them, smaller beats, and within those, smaller shifts. We then discovered Rachel’s superactions each scene, and more importantly, how she evolved as a person from one scene to the next.  It helped us not only look at the arc of the play, but really understand how to make this piece active, how to have Rachel grow before the audience’s eyes.

How does this process differ from major theater companies in Chicago (i.e. Goodman, Steppenwolf, etc.)

I like to get a sense of who everyone is, what their passions are, what their mission is as an artist and the work we are about to embark on. And then we come up with a collaborative mission on the specific project. So for Rachel Corrie, for example, we ultimately would always come back to “What Would Rachel Do”? That was our binding mission- to serve Rachel’s story.

What are you looking for in a successful, DIY collaboration?

Heart. Vulnerability. Communication. Bravery. Trust. Empathy.

Do you have a daily practice relating to theater/art? What is it?

Morning pages. They are a tool that was coined by Julia Cameron’s infamous book, The Artist’s Way. It is essentially 3 pages of “Brain Drain”, where you write streamofconscious and just allow whatever crud is in your brain to get on the page. Most of the time, it’s clearing out the “oh, i’m so tired. I have so much to do. Blahblahblah”, but some of the time… once you have cleansed out the noise… you touch your inner Muse, your intuition, your passion. And that voice is your guidance back to your Art Soul.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie ran at The Den Theater, 1331 N Milwaukee Ave. through April 6. More information on the show and collective can be found here. Are you a DIY theater/performance artist who likes to answer questions about the craft? Email with your interest to be featured on DIY Quotes/DIY Folks.

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