I love sitting in on rehearsals. Some people have their best thoughts while in the shower, I have mine in the last row of the theater. When I have the opportunity to observe performers in rehearsal, I'm there. Because the truth is, I've found there's no better way to get inside a production than seeing an artist at work. Isn't that what the arts field is all about, anyway? Creative ways of thinking, pitching and staging.
Performance artists live in rehearsal mode when preparing for a performance, but so does the entire creative team behind the show. It's just as vital. For me it ignites the brainstorming process and inspires, and I'm able to communicate details about a piece more clearly. Ahead of an upcoming premiere, especially a commission, I am in rehearsal mode, too. The team behind the curtain and off the stage benefits as much from the creative process as the artist. In fact, there are a lot of creative phases, and I try to experience as many of them as possible. Everyone has their own methods, and their own ways to communicate energetically about a performance, but here are some that top my list.
Ahead of the season, if an artist or ensemble is scheduled to perform at the Metropolitan Museum, I try to see them perform somewhere else first. Attending a show, even if the program is different, gives you an immediate sense of the artist's style and audience -- understanding the audience is essential. If a concert description fails you, or the marketing language is vague, get yourself a ticket and let the performance speak for itself.
Another relevant experience, if you can get yourself invited, is the artist walk-through. It is, admittedly, pretty unique. When an artist comes by the Met for a walk-through of the galleries, I like to be there when appropriate. This is a newer opportunity for me, and a rarer one, but it is a chance to see what resonates with an artist, like getting into the creative DNA of their work. A walk-through usually occurs in the very early stages of a collaboration, and sometimes even before the artist is commissioned for a piece. So the informality of it is actually its greatest strength. Since the Museum is such a singular place, these walk-throughs of the galleries are absolutely essential for the live arts series. This is often when the artist begins to craft the initial ideas for a new piece, or, at least, gets a feel for what will and won't work for his or her aesthetic. You can sit in an office and talk for days, but the energy of a space is the whole point. If or when that piece premieres, the experiences gathered while on that walk-through just might provide you with insight into the work that would go untapped, otherwise.
Studio visits, as a piece is still coming together, have become my favorite way to source information and inspiration, and discover the finer details of a production. After a studio visit I'm always able to engage more passionately and descriptively about a new work. When it comes to commissions and premieres, sometimes the facts about a performance can be fuzzy, so these studio visits always provide the clarification everyone is craving. Having been to formal studio showings as well as laid back demos, I always prefer the latter. You're able to observe more and get a sense of the authenticity of the work space.
Encourage yourself to experience more and think outside the desk. Experimentation is not just for the artists.