Getting to Yes, And

Ensemble-Made Chicago


Chloe Johnston & Coya Paz Brownrigg

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Ensemble created work does feel different than plays written by a sole playwright. Why?

“Because it doesn't operate on the scarcity model or this idea that there can only be one person who is the leader or is going to be outstanding in this. If everybody turns out to be excellent and vibrant in the scene, then the audience can see that there's room for people to play to their strengths, to pop in the ways that really showcase what they're great at. And I think that’s one of the reasons I don't like working with traditional scripted work, because I want to make a world where I'm welcoming the best of what everybody has to offer and sharing that with the audience.”

So what does leadership look like in an ensemble?

“I think that maybe when you're working in and committed to an ensemble process, your idea of leadership is making sure that it all works, not necessarily that it goes the way you wanted it to. So I know at Free Street we renegotiate on every project: what it's gonna look like, how we want it to work, what we want the flow to be - and it's always open for revision and change even in process because ultimately we want to make something beautiful for an audience. But we also want the people making it to feel like it was a fair and generative and exciting experience.”

Ensemble work isn’t easy, but when it works - it really is the best, right?

“Theater people can take up a lot of space and sometimes we are not always paying attention to who is not being heard or whose voices are being silenced just because someone else is talking. And I think that when ensembles work really well, it's understood how to make room for each other as all of us are. I mean the reality is some people talk in order to think, other people need to think before they talk. So we have to make space for everyone to function well. And we can, I mean that's entirely possible.”

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