Flux Core Work 2019, Day One: A Spell for Art-Making

The above spell created by Jason Tseng as part of Emily Hartford’s devising process.
Post by Corinna Schulenburg.

Day One of Flux’s 2019 Core Work began with the Creative Partners arriving at the Little Pond Arts Retreat and setting to work. As Emily Hartford, Rachael Hip-Flores, and I (Corinna Schulenburg) swept out the old horse stalls in the Barn that have been converted to rooms to (try to) sleep. Kia Rogers and Isaiah Tanenbaum went shopping. We had guests to prepare for!

Requisite ‘we made it to Little Pond and now we’re cleaning stuff’ selfie with Corinna and Emily.

Preparations included setting up the space with ways to engage with each other and Little Pond throughout the week. Emily created a Flux Bingo that Rachael dubbed “Flingo”:

Make sure to check out the Day Four report to see all those cards filled in with names!

Corinna, Salma, Kia, Emily, and Rachael in the Great Room, loving on each other.
Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum.

Then our first round of guests arrived! We were thrilled to welcome Neo Cihi, Jason Tseng, and Salma Sohdi, and tried to not be too thirsty in our desires to show them all the things at once. After a breath and orientation, we went for a walk on the Little Pond grounds.

Photos by Alisha Spielmann.

Yes, it really is that beautiful. Along our way, we saw a tree with fruit that Jason thought might be a Paw Paw tree. Neo and I managed to jump and knock a fruit down. The smell of the fruit was this weirdly soothing citrus cinnamon, and we took turns sniffing it the rest of the day. Later we would dub it the Flux Plum, or as Rachael (who was clearly on a roll) named it, the Flum (the Flum will be important later).

Later on the walk, we saw two monarch butterflies and their beauty made us all quiet. We watched them in silence for several minutes without deciding out loud to do it. And then, again in silence, we started walking back. It was #ensemble, our choral monarch moment.

After we returned, Emily led us in the first of our multi-day devising exercises. We were each asked to choose a list that spoke to us, and we had 7 minutes to complete as much of it as we could.

Periodic table of my art
My work will…
“You must enter the theatre through the world.”
A list of the magic powers possessed by the people in this room
I need…
Walking directions to an undiscovered place
Recipe for collaboration
The transformation I’m seeking
A spell for art-making
The ghosts on my journey
What I can give to you, here, in this room
What I need from you, here, in this room
I want to tell you…
A spell for shared power

We then went around the circle and shared the lists, lifting up the moments that most resonated with us.


Photo by Corinna of the list review. Actually, this was a day later, but time is fluid and not unidirectional at Little Pond, so.

Read all the evocative list brilliance here.

Then it was time for dinner. We clapped for Chef Kia and ate in the Barn as the sun set. Then we gathered in Paradise Lounge, named for Flux co-founder Jason Paradine, and we had a values-based discussion on values and programming.

Flux’s Core Values were developed by the Creative Partners way back in 2010 at our fifth annual Flux Retreat. You can learn about them here: https://www.fluxtheatre.org/2010/09/core-values/.

Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Corinna, Will Lowry, Rachael, Anna Rahn. Again, not strictly timeline accurate (taken a day later), but a good pic of the Paradise Lounge convos and also I like cute and I’m the one writing this wrap-up, so take that, linearity. 

They were an are meaningful to us, but we’ve grown, and the ‘who’ in the ‘we’ has changed, and so we’re evolving them to meet us where we are and where we hope to go. We focused this conversation on two of them:

Rigor and Release (evolves from Excellence):
Flux brings rigor (Heather’s awesome word suggestions!) to all our creative and producing processes. Rigor is the attention we pay to the craft of theatre, a care for both the details and the whole, the commitment to going deeper than our first impulses, and a welcoming of healthy idea conflict that leads to richer work. Yet we also know rigor can easily slip into the damaging dynamics of perfectionism. We also believe in the necessity of letting go, of going fallow, of slowing our thinking down, of moving back and stepping away. When there is a healthy tension between rigor and release, the artistic strength of rigor doesn’t come at the cost of our health, or our commitments to joy and collective care.

Aesthetic of Liberation (evolves from Transformative Theatre): Flux’s transformational aesthetic has never been separate from thematic content that wrestles with systems of oppression and imagines new ways of being. The joy of our recent epiphany is that they may be inseparable. We have always been practicing–failing, sometimes flailing, and sometimes, wildly succeeding–an aesthetic of liberation. The design, the staging, the acting, the words, and the bodies doing the work, all together. The processes, the practice, and the thing itself, as one. As Neo added in the discussion: “what would it mean if we asked how each creative choice we make helped free someone?”

We then shared an idea for a play development program that is temporarily titled Core Work, or (here it is again) Flux Flumdays. We’ll share more about that program shortly. Rachael led us in a closing moment, and we broke to play games, welcome Anna Rahn and Sylvio the Dog who’d just arrived, and finished dishes and cleaning.

It was a beautiful day and night, and it was just the beginning.For such a Little Pond, it sure has a lot frogs. Photo by Corinna.

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