"We decided to come here a couple of years ago," says Louie Jenkins, a solo artist and Chichester faculty member who led the summer intensive in partnership with Mark Jackson. (Jackson has detailed the evolution of his involvement with, and his firsthand experience at, Chichester in an editorial promoting the intensive in Theatre Bay Area magazine.) "[We were] trying to understand what was happening here and whether what we did fit in with the ethos here. So we met with these different people. And the sense we had was that this was a fertile place."
The summer intensive involved 16 artists, including several Chichester masters students mixed in with the disparate group of local theater, dance, and performance practitioners. It also came with a public component, designed to further introduce this type of work to local audiences. This included a showing of MA student work and a shrewd little piece by Box Tracy Theatre Dance Company (Nixx Strapp-Freeman and Valerie Watkinson) at CounterPULSE.
It also included last Saturday's completely sold-out showing at ZBelow of work generated during the intensive — four pieces by four groupings of British and local artists. No director, no playwright, no set designers — the artists did everything, being responsible for the whole experience. The title of the evening was "Unfinished Business," and yet it felt startlingly complete as an evening of performance. Still, the title is both apt and promising. At the same time, it was arguably one of the more exciting things to happen in a local theater for a long time.
"We often talk about accidents," says Jenkins, whose own history as an artist and resident of San Francisco in the 1990s inspired Chichester's initial foray into the Bay Area. "Out of this process of trying to make work, an accident will happen, and that becomes what the piece is about. I know it's a luxury to have time and space to be able to look at the processes, but in [the usual mode of theatrical production] there is very little flexibility for mistakes to happen, for accidents to happen. I think that is when the excitement comes into theater."
For information on the MFA program as it emerges and for details on the formal launch in October 2013: www.chi.ac.uk/theatremaking