Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Hart’

Collective Brainstorming

In Author: Jim Hart on November 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

Just as the energy of moving water can propel a water wheel into motion, so can stimulus engage the imagination and our creative impulses. We need input, in order to output. We need gas in our mental engines, in order to move forward. Group brainstorming can provide such fuel.

Brainstorming. What a great word. For me, it conjures up a storm in the mind. Electricity. One of my favorite acts to engage in, in the creative process, is collective brainstorming. It is an act that can generate phenomenal inspiration and can generate ideas that would not have been possible, without this contribution of multiple minds.

In building my first school, TITAN Teaterskole (in Oslo, Norway), I created a course that was exclusively dedicated to the act of collective brainstorming. I called it Studio Lab.

Here are are some foundation rules that we found especially strong in stimulating constructive brainstorming:

o   Egos must be checked at the door. Each individual in the group needs to sacrifice their personal motivations and desires, in order to act in the service of the larger group/project/idea. We must let go of emotional connection to ideas we come up with or get excited about. In the words of legendary choreographer Martha Graham, “We must kill our children”. I believe she means that we must sometimes sacrifice those ideas that our personal treasures. It is very easy to become married to an idea. Sometimes, in order to create our larger work and to make it as strong as possible, we must kill or sacrifice ideas that we love the most.

o    There is no “right”. There is no “wrong”. There is only what we create. What we create today will be different from what we create tomorrow. Why put value on it so early in the process? One thing for sure…collaboration is a process of evolution. It is a process of change. Sometimes our creations are built upon seemingly non-connected ideas. Sometimes our best impulses are sitting on a foundation of others’ ideas. Ideas are born upon one another.

o    Don’t censor yourself. As long as we are judging and censoring our ideas, they will not see the light of day. Sometimes, we come up with an idea that we are reluctant to share. In such an environment, why would we be reluctant? Typically, it is because we fear the judgment of others. Here is one of my favorite Martha Graham Quotes:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

~Martha Graham to Agnes  de Mille

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and The Hart Technique.  http://www.harttechnique.com

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Overcoming Mediocrity

In Author: Jim Hart on November 4, 2009 at 1:08 am
Pic of sheep

Baaahhhh!

In Australia, it is called “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (the tallest poppies get cut). In Scandinavia, it is called Jante Loven (or Jante’s Law). Many countries weave a societal pressure into their cultural fabric, teaching youth to not stand out, to fit in, and to tow the community party line. The goal of such behavior is to promote a sense of “equality”, cultural identity and a feeling that everyone is equal.

However, what these phenomenon’s spell out to me, is a social goal of mediocrity. Shoot for the middle. If you are in the middle, you might feel that that you are gaining a sense of security.

Such social pressures are not only present down under and in the far north. It is found in Read the rest of this entry »

Find Happiness Through Risk.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

All entrepreneurs, by definition, must engage with risk.

What is your risk tolerance?image of dice

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you doing what you love for a living? If you aren’t already, would you like to?

What would you be willing to do to have the happiness that can come from doing what you love for a living?

Almost all businesses require money to begin. Thus begins our relationship with risk.

How much would you be willing to pay to potentially achieve your dream? How important are dreams to you?

Would you spend $1,000? How about $10,000?

Can you place a value on your career happiness and your feeling of work fulfillment?

How about $50,000? If you could make that investment, which would engage you in a process that may lead you to career fulfillment, would it not be worth $50,000? Is it worth more?

Many of us are forced into “survival jobs”, to do work that is not creatively fulfilling and is work we would not do in the first place, if we had another viable income.

If you were in such a place, what would it be worth to you to be able to leave that world behind and make a living from your creativity?

Would you be willing to risk your lifestyle?

If you like to eat out, would you be willing to sacrifice that part of your life? Would you be willing to eat in for almost all of your meals?

Would you be willing to eat less expensive food, if it might lead to your dreams?

Would you be willing to simplify almost all aspects of your life, to decrease your risk in pursuing your dream? Simple adjustments can have profound effects.

Almost all people feel a drive and need to work, to create, and do something productive. A lot of people feel very empowered and…dare I say…*happy* when they are doing the work they love. Then work is less work and more a joy.

If you had to sacrifice your lifestyle and finances for three years or longer, in order to achieve potential long term financial and career success, would you be willing to do that?

Here is the real crux…What if you invest all of that time, money and energy and do not succeed as you desire? What if you don’t fulfill your dream? That is a risk, too.

But what if you do?

Risking and sacrificing are, in some ways, like quitting smoking. For those who have smoked, you will know what I am talking about.

Those addicted to smoking, when they quit, will likely experience the following:

•    Your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you of why you REALLY NEED to smoke, why it is actually good for you.

•    You will profusely sweat and loose significant sleep

•    Your mind will fixate on cigarettes for nearly every thought of your day. One thought after another…hour after hour.

•    But, what one often finds too, is a feeling of empowerment.

These experiences are trying, exhausting and difficult to navigate.

For many ex smokers, 2 weeks was the magical point of gaining strength. If one can make it to the 2-week mark, without succumbing to withdrawal and all the temptation and mind games, they have a good chance of quitting successfully.

Engaged effort over a span of time, can give us a great sense momentum, of accomplishment and of purpose. Over time, we begin to see the fruit of our labors…or at least that the tree is in bloom and may fruit.

At this state, we gain perspective. We realize we would not have made it to even this point, had we not made the investments that were necessary. We are then that much closer to achieving our goal. The beginning risks, at this point, start to seem smaller and smaller, less and less significant.

Effort decreases entrepreneurial risk.

You can’t win the game, unless you play.

For greater happiness and creative fulfillment, what are you willing to risk?

Beginning a new endeavor, one, inevitably, has to sacrifice, has to risk. But, with time and continued effort, the enormity of the task, seems a little smaller.

For more information on Jim Hart and The Hart Technique, see http://www.harttechnique.com

Inspirado, My Sweet Muse

In Author: Jim Hart on October 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

A number of years ago, while at Yale, I had the good fortune to meet renowned playwright, Arthur Miller (author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons). This was, for me, a truly magical encounter, as he is one of my favorite writers. I asked him if he, in his creative process, met inspiration at the door OR if he consciously sought it out. He responded that it is different with every occasion, but that sometimes one must look for it.

inspired eyeVision Seeking. What a romantic coupling of words. For me, it brings to my mind the mythic vision quest, where a hero strikes out with the express intent to have adventure, to experience new stimuli and to find inspiration.

Not all of us are blessed with a regular muse. Sometimes, we must make a conscious, concerted effort to hunt down the often elusive Inspirado.

For many artists, inspiration is a seductive, but fleeting lover. We bask in this lover’s affection and reap the reward of their presence. But, this lover is rarely around long enough and leaves you longing for another encounter.

Inspiration can come in many forms and ways. Sometimes, I feel that I am holding a very fine silk thread and am gently following it, hand over hand, hoping it does not break. At other times, I feel that I have been hit by lightning and vision unrolls before my like a long Persian rug.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive is a waste of time and creative energy. Why? Because waiting for inspiration is another form of giving away one’s power and most entrepreneurs and independent artists crave autonomy. It is marvelous to have inspiration. But, when it is not present, we must find other ways of moving forward.

Here are some tools I have found useful in luring Inspirado. I hope some of these may help you.

  1. Give yourself time. Dedicate time to actively look. Books, for me, often inspire. My wife and I have a large collection of books that focus on various painters´ works. Also, my wife, having been a professional dancer, has many books on choreographers, companies and dancers. I pour through these pages, seeking stimulation. Inevitably, it comes.

  2. Gardening. In myth, it is a symbol of the soul. For me, gardening is a constantly evolving, living canvas. Structuring a garden is always a temporary act. Nature takes it back so fast. Being in nature and engaging in creation, stimulates me greatly.

  3. Brainstorm. I love this word. A storm of the mind. Chat with a good brainstorming friend (someone with intelligence and their ego under some control). One idea can give birth to another (and often does). In this process, listen a lot, see the ideas in your mind and follow whatever impulse arises (without first judging it). You think it? Go with it. It does not matter whether you think it is a worthy impulse or not. Throw it out, as it may stimulate another person you are working with and may be a better idea than you initially thought. No self-censorship.

  4. Change your routine. We are all creatures of habit. Many of us have a structure to our lives that causes us to not see things around us. We take the typical for granted. Such eyesight can lead to a lack of “seeing”. Meditation can help. Bump up against stimuli you might not otherwise encounter. Walk around the block and go a way you do not normally go. Be open to conversations with others you do not typically communicate with. Go to the magazine rack and pick up a magazine that has nothing to do with your typical interests. Look for text that pops off of pages for you.

  5. Engage in dialog about what interests you with people of like interest. Such talk can serve to stimulate, inspire collaborations and cultivate energy.

  6. Be rested. An exhausted mind and body, often, do not yield inspiring results.

  7. Begin to make something. Create. Develop a sense of momentum. Doing so will help you to begin moving forward. Think of your own energy like that of rolling a stone down a hill. While the stone is fixed in space, it can be difficult to move it. But once it begins to roll, it develops more and more speed as it rolls down the hill.

  8. Find a sense of balance within your life. I have found that if I am not attending to all of my basic needs as a person, that inspiration is less likely to find me. Lack of attention to my needs, for me, creates a feeling of gap or lacking. I will then feel unsettled and unhealthy habits might begin. Such a feeling can slow my momentum and lead towards inertia. Sometimes, we are not able to fully attend to all of our needs. In such a case, try to find a “sense of balance”. Schedule time to commit some small energy towards the filling of your need gaps. In doing so, a greater sense of “wholeness” can arise and, consequently, happiness and better use of ones´ energy and mind.

  9. Go down a rabbit hole. My favorite rabbit hole is YouTube. I like to watch videos of something that fascinates me and then keep following the links.

  10. Play. Engaging in a playful state of mind will, invariably, get our imaginations firing. When I say, “play”, I truly mean just that. Engage in a ridiculous scenario or activity and play with as you did when you were a child. Don’t judge. Engage. Commit to your sense of play with wholly, with abandon and joy.

  11. Play with your imagination. Ask, “What if”? What if you had a million dollars? What if you were elected President. What would your first day of office look like? The more you use your imagination, the stronger it, as a muscle, becomes. The more you use it, the more you are able to use it. The imagination is one of the partners of the dance.
  12. Cultivate your emotional intelligence. Inspiration comes from the imagination (and emotions). When one is inspired, they are emotionally engaged. Emotional intelligence is one of the artists´ keystone tools. If you do not already have a good degree of sensitivity to your emotions, what you are regularly feeling, start. They are often not as scary as we believed they might be. Ride the wave of what you feel. Pay some attention to it. Name it. “I am feeling…excited or giddy”, for example. Name it to understand it. If you feel you are already too engaged with your emotions, try to channel them into activities or creations. Make something and let your emotion be the gasoline in the tank. Let your expression come out of that.

  13. Meditate. Willfully still your mind. Letting the constant clutter of our thoughts subside for a while, gives space to our imaginations. Present consciousness can enable us to see our world through a clearer lens.

Then…follow the silk thread, impulse after impulse. Keep following. Keep doing.

To learn more about author Jim Hart or The Hart Technique, see   http://www.harttechnique.com

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 19, 2009 at 10:51 pm

The first time I created an original work of theatre,  a production I wrote and directed at the Yale Cabaret called The 9th Annual World Weight Wrestling Blood Exxxtravaganza—a social commentary told through “professional wrestling”, I was given sage advice from renowned stage combat choreographer Rick Sordelet. “Keep it simple, stupid”, he often told me.

Most great works of art are simple. Sometimes, we as artists, attempt to say too much at once. Consequently, we muddle our work. Simplicity allows for depth. Here are a few examples that come to my mind:

The Beatles Yesterday
Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Story of a Mother by H.C. Andersen
Any of the Brothers Grimm tales
The work of Ansel Adams
The Far Side comics by Gary Larson
Norman Rockwell’s paintings

I could go on and on, medium after medium.

Each of these works, it is interesting to note, has or will likely stand the test of time.

Keeping our created form simple allows for us focus on depth of expression. Advice for the day? Keep it simple, stupid.

Creating from Unconscious Thought

In Author: Jim Hart on September 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

Entrepreneurial Arts Training must have equal parts artistic and entrepreneurial techniques. We must invest deeply in each or one will suffer.

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

I want to discuss a phenomenon, which is one of the keys to artistic freedom and greatness. Though I give examples from theatre, it is a phenomenon that can be experienced in dance, in painting, writing or any other art form.

  • The Japanese call it Mushin.
  • Joseph Campbell refers to our brains being a secondary organ.
  • The Balinese Topeng dancer transcends present consciousness, becoming a conduit for the Gods.
  • Actors refer to this as “going up”.

This all points towards this phenomenon.

This state of mind, what the Japanese call “Mushin”, is where the gems of the creative process occur. What happens in this state is that our conscious mind ceases to attempt to control the creative process and “something else” takes over. We commit to risk. We free-fall, trusting that we will be safe, that there is a net, trusting that the words will come, that our bodies will kick in and that all of the rehearsing we have done, what the French call répétition (repeat) will enable us to let go and release.

We must learn our varied techniques to the degree that they become second nature. We must develop these skills to the point that we do not have to think about the mechanics of our technique. Ex. A master woodcarver does not think about how they are holding the chisel and hammer. They do so naturally, as a result of much practice. It is ingrained within them and no longer needs to be at the conscious level. If one is thinking about their technique, they will not be free and ultimately, their performance or creation will have a stifled quality and not be as dynamic as it can be.

Each of us understands what an impulse is and what it feels like. I like to refer to impulses as being the lighting-quick voice in our heads that says, “Do this. Do this”. In the words of my college theatre professor at SMU, Dale Moffitt, typically, there is a second voice that arises, which he calls, “The watcher at the gates of the mind”. This voice tells us, “Don’t do that. You aren’t doing that right. Everyone is judging you. You aren’t good enough”, etc. It is our job to push this voice down and listen to the constant stream of creative impulses—and here is the trick—to do so without first judging them or being fearful of them.

Often, when creating, we are “mind-full” of external and internal matters, which restricts our ability to create in a fluid, dynamic fashion. To arrive at this state of creating from a place of unconscious thought, we must focus deeply, in an outward fashion and allow ourselves to turn our “minds” off. Using theatre as an example, we cease to be mindful of the audience, of our lines, what action we are sending, the agent or casting director in the audience, etc. Instead, we focus so completely, that all of that fades out of consciousness and we begin to create from “another place”.

Typically, an actor who has “gone up”, only realizes that they have entered this state of consciousness, once they fall out of it. Typically too, one is not entirely aware of the minute choices they made within the moment of this state, as they are no longer observing and controlling, but have released and become a conduit.

It has been my personal experience that when a performer enters this state, the audience cannot help but be sucked in. People, after the show, will often talk about “that moment”, as being amazing. It is during this state, that one expresses “truth”–or so much as can be expressed in the creation of illusion.

The great irony is that if one tries to get to this state of consciousness, they are guaranteed to not get there. Why? Because they are controlling the process. This place is achieved when we free-fall, when we get out of the way of ourselves. We get there by trusting that all of our technique is there, that we are going to be safe, by accepting the inherent risks (which typically translate to mean potential embarrassment). The greatest way to get there is to invest completely in play. We must play as children do.

Surely each of us has engaged in some creation, where we are so engrossed in the process that we lose track of time and find that hours have flown. This is the land of Mushin.

Play is the reason we do what we do, as artists, yes? We can convince ourselves, and others, about all of the higher ideals and purposes we have, being the real reasons we create (social change, to enable others to have catharsis, etc), but the real reason, at its base level, is because it is fun. It gives us bliss. That is why we artists do what we do.

We have fun playing King Lear and tearing at the heavens. We have fun playing Hamlet and experiencing a range of emotion in a few hours that few people experience in a year.

Play, bliss, joy is the way. Controlling, intellectualizing, playing technique, being too mindful is the problem.

Let yourself free-fall. Believe me—there is a net. Once you experience Mushin, if you have not already, you might, as I have, make this state of consciousness, freedom of expression and release the goal and the measure to which you strive in all creative processes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. — Carl Jung.

This is such a wonderful quote and is one of the keys towards finding ones voice as an artist.

Many artists fall into the trap of either imitating their favorite artists (attempting to serve as a cheap imitation of greatness) or by sticking too fast to their technique training they received in school. Remember that programs (meaning institutions educational offerings) do what they are called. They “program” students. It is very easy for artists to take the technique their teachers offer and become dogmatic about it, as though they have “found the answer”. Artists need to be careful that they do not fall into the trap of being “cookie cutter”.

When I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I could easily tell which actors graduated from Yale, which from Juilliard and which from NYU. This is because the actors were products of their learning…of their programming and often behaved in relatively typical fashions. To the trained eye, it was easy to see.

Prior to going to graduate school, I was told by a friend and respected actor to be careful. He said, “Do not let them iron out what makes you unique”. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but view that advice now as sage.

Finding ones voice means finding ones own technique and aesthetic. An artist’s job is to experience technique as one would a buffet. Try everything. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it is not right for you, spit it out. What is ultimately your technique should be what works for you, personally. If you are like most artists of innovation, this technique will be a patchwork of many influences–not just one approach of one or two institutions.

Technique is just a means to and end. Technique is simply a series of tools that generate a result. Certainly, technique liberates art and the more talent one has, the more technique one needs. But, technique is meant to be learned and then forgotten. The function of technique is to give an artist a starting point and then a sense of freedom. It can also serve as a fallback measure when all efforts seem to be failing in the creative process.

I have no regrets about my educational choices and would likely repeat them, if the opportunity arose in another lifetime. But, it has taken me years to get away from my “programming” and to find my unique voice.

Encouraging artists to find their voice and making such practice a key element of training needs to become standard offering in arts education. Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts will do this.

How does one find their unique voice? Well, one won’t find it in most educational environments. It requires experimentation, personal meditation and assessment and can only be discovered by the artist themselves.

Here are some tips I have found useful in discovering my own voice, which I would like to share.

  1. What do YOU love? As Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. Don’t approach answering this question, based on what you think you SHOULD love. What do you, personally, love? Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, would call this your “bliss” and he would encourage you to “Follow your bliss”. What do you most like to think about? What gives you joy? What ideas do you like to play with? What thoughts cause you to lose track of time?

  2. Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?

  3. Make Choices. The blank canvas and the sheer number of choices available overwhelm many artists. Just make choices. You can always change them later. Make a choice and then make another and then another, etc.

  4. Know your history. Unless you know what has been done in the past, you are likely ignorantly imitating forms of past and present. If you know what has been done, you know if you are doing something new.

  5. Surrender a need to be “right” and “good”. Ibsen was not “Ibsen”, prior to years and years of personal development. Greatness comes with time. Give yourself time. Remember:  There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only what you create. What you create today will likely be different from what you create tomorrow. So, forgive yourself if you appear to be an ugly duckling at first. Most first efforts are not products of genius.

  6. Steal from greatness. Nobody creates on an island. We are each products of experience and external influence. There is nothing truly original and all ideas are a mixture of other people’s ideas, whether we consciously realize it or not. So, if you see your heroes doing something stunningly effective and you would like to play with that idea, choice or medium, do it. Who are your heroes? What about them inspires you? If you are into a particular artist, what about that artist makes your heart race? Be specific. Make note.

  7. Have courage. Most peoples social programming (what they have been taught is right and wrong, their social values and what they are told to do and think they “should” be doing) gets in the way of freedom of expression. We need to access our stream of creative impulses (as crazy, dark, weird or foreign as they may be) and to follow those without fear or judgment. Don’t judge your choices, as this is a form of self-censorship and does not lead to artistic freedom.

  8. Synthesize your interests. Do you have numerous interests and talents? Do you find you struggle to dedicate your energies in just one area, which causes you to neglect your other interests or passions? Find ways to synthesize those varied interests. In doing so, you will feel more whole as an artist and person.

  9. Play with your ideas, as a child plays with a new toy. Experiment. Jump off the cliff and see what your ideas generate. But, if you are truly experimenting, know what the experiment is and use a scientific-type structure. Otherwise, you are just “playing experiment”.

  10. Allow your freak flag to fly. New ideas are typically, at least at first, rejected by the general populace. The more innovative and different the idea, the more rejection the creator will likely receive…until it is proven successful. Then the idea will be embraced by all as common sense.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. —  Arthur Schopenhauer

Finding your unique expression, form, medium or aesthetic as an artist will lead towards greater originality, potential innovation, potential happiness and artistic satisfaction. More importantly, you just might contribute towards your culture and cultural forms in profound ways.

Summary: Cast off the cookie cutter programming and embrace the Freaky Flag.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway.  www.harttechnique.com

To contact Hart, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

Empty your Cup

In Author: Jim Hart, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on August 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

Empty your Cup.

This is one of my favorite zen stories. The story goes that Nan-in, a
zen master, was being interviewed by a philosophy professor.

Upon their meeting the professor began to tell the zen master all that
he know about zen. He talked and talked and talked. After some time,
Nan-in said, “Let’s have some tea”.

They sat for a traditional tea ceremony. The professor kept on about
all that he knew. Nan-in began pouring tea into the prof´s cup. It
became more and more full. The tea began cascading over the side of
the teacup and the Professor said, “Stop. Enough. It is full. It
cannot take anymore”.

Nan-in then said something like, “You are like this cup. You are
overfull. No more can fit. Empty your cup”.

This is the mind-frame we need to allow ourselves to cultivate.
Regardless of what we think we know, we must empty our cup. We need to
cast out our pre-conceptions and listen to information, as though it
were the first time we ever heard it. In listening with this open
mindedness, information we have known for years can resonate in new
ways and we can take on a new, deeper understanding of the material
being offered, as if it were the first time we heard it.

When I was a boy, I was extremely active in martial arts. It was my
passion for about a decade. I had five different instructors I
regularly trained with. I would hear, more or less, the same
information from each of my teachers and would marvel, at times, when
I would suddenly have a mental breakthrough, as to understanding what
each had been saying. I thought I understood, prior to this moment.
But in some cases, it was only after I had heard the information from
the fifth instructor, that I actually understood it with some level of
depth.

Emptying our cup allows for new breakthrough discovery and deeper
awareness and understanding.

We should each know that we do not really know much of anything, in
relation to what is possible to know. If we are truly open to knowing
more, and actively seek to know more, then we have the potential to be
in a state of constant self-learning. We then become our own teachers.
This state of mind is an optimal place to be as an artist (and human),
as we are then in a constant (and often rapid) state of growth.

An emptied cup perspective is one that allows for possibility. When we
think we know something, sometimes we close our minds off. We dismiss
this information as, “Yea, yea. Got it. What’s next”? That is a form
of closed-mind-ed-ness. Keep your mind open.

Empty your cup.

Jim Hart is the President of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts
(ACPA), a new conservatory, opening in Austin, TX in the autumn of
2010. For more information on Jim Hart, The Hart Technique or Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), see:   www.harttechnique.com

Austin, TX: New Arts Entrepreneurial Finishing School- Opening 2010

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, Money, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on July 23, 2009 at 12:55 am

When it comes to insisting that all artists becoming more entrepreneurial, James Hart and I are kindred spirits. I cannot agree more with James statement that “We need to teach our students how to have vision. Imagine the cultural implications.”

I met Jim last weekend at Columbia College’s Creative Entrepreneurship Conference. James Hart is living my dream! He and his family just returned to the United States this past year, after founding, building and finally selling a professional finishing school focused on entrepreneurship training for theater students in Norway called TITAN Teaterskole.

The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), is truly one of a kind and its creation was, for Jim, a true labor of love. The school is now in its fifth year of operation and in the very capable hands of Brendan McCall, who left his teaching position in the acting program at the Yale School of Drama masters program to head, run and own TITAN.

Now, with that incredible experience under his belt, Jim plans on opening, in the fall of 2010, in Austin Texas The Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, just like the one he built in Norway. It will be founded in Jim’s educational programming and philosophy which he calls The Hart Technique.

What is the Hart Technique?
The Hart Technique is a two-pronged approach to theatrical training. It is equal part Artistic technique and Entrepreneurship. Artists studying the Hart Technique have a foundation of artistic thinking. They know how to think, as artists. They are sensitive to the impulses that move them and have vast imaginations. They also have a practical viewpoint which stems from market realities. This later viewpoint, which is unique in American theatre training, enables graduates to aide their communities, to be necessary as artists, to fill gaps in community cultural offerings. They are fiercely determined and committed to overcoming career obstacles and know how to both lead and follow. Because of this entrepreneurship skill set, graduates are more able to make a living via their creativity. IMAGINE THAT!!!

The best way to learn about The Hart Technique is to experience it and practice it yourself. Workshops are offered in a wide range of venues–in theatre companies, colleges, universities and privately.

What makes the Hart Technique different from other theatre training?
The majority of theatre training programs in America are offering all arts technique and no business skills. This typical path is usually comprised of a version of the Stanislavski technique and its normal support classes. However, we, as educators, know that this path leads to widespread unemployment. Each reader should ask themselves, if we know that this technique leads to under and unemployment, why is American theatre training still following this standard path? I believe the reason lies in the fact that schools must be marketable. They have found a system that generates student numbers, but not students with a number of jobs.

How is the Hart Technique of service to society?
One of the facets of The Hart Techniques is that students are guided to discover their “voice” or unique perspective or way of expression. Graduates have this unique expression, coupled with entrepreneurial skills. As entrepreneurs, they know how to study their markets and communities and find gaps. They can then fill these gaps, eventually creating niches.

Graduates who know how to create opportunities for themselves, inevitably create opportunities for others. As these entrepreneur artists create original enterprises for profit, they inevitably create jobs.

What skills do graduates of The Hart Technique have?
Graduates have entrepreneurial skills. They have a knowledge of creating and adhering to a budget, how to create a mission statement, how to lead themselves and others, how to market themselves (and generate press as they do), and a wide range of other business related skills. Artistically, they know how to have vision and build that vision into a concrete reality. They are masters of brainstorming and can follow their creative impulses without fear or judgement. They understand text analysis and how to effectively play a role. Not only can they play a role, but they can direct others in the playing of roles. Often times, our graduates direct others in roles they have personally written. In brief, our graduates have the skills to compete for existing work, but have the ability to create their own.

What jobs can a graduate expect to have?
Graduates of The Hart Technique have created artistic companies (theatre and production), have sponsored gallery showings, done standup, acted in and directed films and professional theatre. Many do go on to compete for commercial opportunities of a standard nature. Still more go on to create their own opportunities, profiting as they do.

Is The Hart Technique applicable ONLY for theatre artists?
Absolutely not. The Hart Technique is applicable towards any medium of artistry AND enables artists to hop from one medium to another.

What if I am not interested in starting my own business or being a leader?
None of us knows what five years down the road brings us, much less tomorrow. One constant in life is change. Why limit oneself? Leadership skill enables one to lead oneself in the most effective manner possible (in addition to others). The Hart Technique helps artists develop discipline–the sort of discipline of a marathon runner. That is a skill set that will serve one throughout their life.

Why are more schools NOT offering similar training?
Most theatre training programs in America copy what the big, successful graduate training programs are doing (There is some exception to this, of course). Knowing that this typical system (all arts and no business) leads towards widespread unemployment, one must ask, “is it ethical to continue teaching this typical curriculum”?

In time, more schools will begin to offer such entrepreneurial training in their curriculums, as it is a system that generates employment. American theatre training NEEDS to go in this direction. This sort of training stimulates new voices with perspective. These individuals have the tehcnique to build their ideas and the business technique to make a living.

Some schools believe changing their curriculums to be too risky, if they are generating enough student interest now. However, to those institutions and individuals, I say, “Post your graduate career success record. Make public how successful your curriculums are (or are not).

Curriculums such as The Hart Technique serve students and institutions alike. Graduates have a higher likelihood of working and schools can boast of all of the graduates who work almost immediately out of their programs.

Interested in enrolling in the new school? Questions about the program, tuition, referring a student?
Contact Jim at:jim@harttechnique.com
Phone: 512.410.9335
Fax: 512.380.0155

About Jim Hart
Jim Hart is an award-winning actor, director and producer. His work has been seen in America, Russia, Norway and Taiwan.

As a director, he has directed numerous Tony Award-winning and Hollywood actors, including Marian Seldes, Roger Rees, Dylan Baker, Kerry Butler, and others. He has directed classics of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Marivaux, Gogol, Miller and more, including a large number of world-premiere productions. He is currently directing “The Story of a Mother”, an animated tale, and “On Death and Dying”, a documentary on our culture’s many perspectives on death and dying. He serves as Producer and Artistic Director of Sleeping Hero Productions.

Hart is the founder and former Dean of TITAN Teaterskole (The International Theatre Academy Norway) in Oslo, Norway and former artistic director of TITAN Teatergruppe, a professional theatre company—both of which are located in Oslo, Norway.

As an actor, Hart has performed in a number of venues including Williamstown Theatre Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Dallas Theatre Center, Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, (where he received the Judy Award for his performance of Puck), Theatre Alliance in D.C., and Internationally in St. Petersburg, Russia and Taichung, Taiwan.

Hart is a Fox Fellow, having received a grant to study ritualistic mask dancing in Bali and India. He spent nearly a year in Asia, studying ritualistic theatre in Nepal, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and is one of the founders of The World-wide Art Collective, the largest theatre festival in the history of Taiwan.

He served as founder and Artistic Director of the New York-based theatre company Etudes Workshops (2001 to 2003). Etudes explored multi-cultural theatre forms of the Fantastic (focusing on rhythm, physical aesthetics, and masks and puppets). This venue, drawing teachers from a multitude of disciplines and mediums within New York, exposed artists to varied artistic aesthetics and provided ground for new collaborations to occur.

Hart’s teaching credits include The International Theatre Academy Norway, Yale School of Drama (Graduate school), New York University, Yale University (undergraduate program), the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Tufts University, Univ. of Alaska at Anchorage, Fu Ren Univ. in Taipei, Taiwan, Harlem School of the Arts, Capital Hill Arts Workshop in D.C, Classical Theatre of Harlem, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Utah State University, Rowan University, Peridance in NYC, Kirkenaer Ballettskole (Oslo), and others.