Entrepreneurial challenges in theatre higher education curricula (ECTHEC) - What have i learned?

My journey through this project, and in particular this specific event that we lived in San Miniato, has been intimately connected with my institutional roles in it: researcher, teacher, coordinator. 

The first, thing I want to stress is that, even though these roles are part of your professional biography, are your asset and you are responsible for them, implying the performance of specific tasks, you have to be prepared or available for letting yourself go. As I see it, ‘letting yourself go’ is not equivalent to loosing ground or going with the flow, without purpose, meaning or intention. It is though connected to a feeling of trust founded in the conviction that what a group of people accomplished and is accomplishing is strong enough and evolved enough to become relatively autonomous, independent and organic. I am not saying that we created an organism that is alive, though it could be a good metaphorical description of it, what I am saying is that the most important element of this thing is that it is made of PEOPLE. Of course it is made of People, you might say, but I am just considering the specificity of something made of people by the same people that is made of, it seems a very difficult thing to do because ultimately you are working and researching on you, without falling in psychodramatic plot. 

You are working in what you need, in what drives you on, in the leap of faith implied in experimenting or doing something that you normally not do, in proposing something whose goal is not clear enough but demands a ‘massage’, to become more clear, in perceiving the proper time an idea has, in making choices, in trying answers that you know that could be better, in having the patience for things that will come after, maybe long after. 

Movements, actions and emotions are constrained, and therefore oriented, by physical structures - streets, bridges, a corridor, a very large room, a smaller room, cloisters, doorways, a timetable, a person in front of you, etc. 

These are so effective that we don’t even notice them. Sometimes we do and we just have a sudden desire for the open, unrestrained and solitary space, but imagine what happens when you have also to build the path that orients and constrains your actions, that supports your freedom? How can you be sure? Well, I think you can’t if you only see it as a path, not considering the possibility of its value, added value, by itself. Putting it other way, I am convinced that what I mean is that all the doubts, dilemmas, questions, problems, opinions, emotions, etc. you may found in dealing with this system, say the ones that you could answer by just calling out for your role in it, being a teacher or a student, and so on, don’t have essentially the answer or the solution outside the system but inside of it. This means not only that the system is generating knowledge – rethinking roles, contents, pedagogical end methodological positions -, and problem solving strategies and care, but it is also a self-generating system with a specific ecology, an ecosystem, we could call it ‘Santa Chiara artistic entrepreneurship ecosystem’. 

Ecosystems are beautiful things because their strength and weakness are very often related to the same aspects or causes, one of the most important is the level of adaptability facing new circumstances and other agents or contexts. In this case, adaptation seems to me a question of will, communication and translation dealing with all the problems that come out of these elements. We dealt with these problems individually and, mainly, collectively around the topic ‘artistic entrepreneurship’ or ‘entrepreneurial challenges to theater higher education curricula’. The simple nature of action - you did what you did - tells me that it couldn’t be done otherwise, meaning, that it had to be artistically oriented and challenging, and challenging starting by ourselves. Are we prepared or available for it? Are we prepared to change our practices or at least experiment to inhabit and form other communities of practice? Are we available for at least argument on their impact on us in terms of education, artistic growing and personal discovery? Are we able to make an effort to describe this chaotic organized way of working to other people? I only can answer for myself, saying yes, because biography tends to be selective and I am pretty sure that this project is an important part of my actual personal and research biography. It scares me sometimes (all the time) to give up of my solutions and knowledge or at least to suspend them for a while, but the promise of the unexpected, if you build space for it, is so tempting, appealing and enlightening. This was the main thing I’ve learned here and it was particularly impressive the amount of things students want to do, want to say and dare to propose. Trying to be as clearer as I can, I would say that this was my biggest personal challenge during this time and it was clear to me that once again the students, not exactly the students but the one that is in the process of studying or researching, are always the solution. 
Now, one of the questions might be: how do we start this all over from scratch? But are we really starting from scratch? Of course not, autonomy and independence come with a strong will to build relations and communities, to become friends with. Friendship happens when we know that we preserved or respected other’s autonomy (other’s otherness) and nevertheless our personal being is forever formed and supported by that other even if he/she is far away. 

By now, you should be asking: yes, but what did you learn or what did we learn? It is clear for me that we can for sure make a mosaic of a few basic topics:

- Art related activities or actions in order to unblock / unlock one’s awareness, intuition and artistic growth or drives; 
- Building trust and empowerment;
- Space and politics of space; 
- Roles, pedagogical roles and relations; 
- Cultural differences and community building issues; 
- Professional ethics and personal values; 
- Project generating ideas, project funding strategies, collective project building, project massaging; 
- Collective planning and negotiation; 
- Political awareness and Europe;
- Mission of the schools, of an international school; 
- Techniques for producing, recording and collecting knowledge; 
- Group dynamics and positions; 
- The school as a good environment for learning (including its surroundings) opposed to an efficient contained space; 
- Marketing and entrepreneurial strategies for arts; 
- Money – art – values; 
- World awareness and intervention in and with the space; 
- Awkward, unexpected, problematic, surprising things. 
- … 

For sure, one can still continue to ask about what artistic entrepreneurship means or implies (I do), but, for me, it is plain clear that the research process that we putted in motion has been entrepreneurial and courageous in its choices, strategies, debates and actions and affirms unequivocally our identity as artists. So maybe we are doing the right thing even without noticing it. 

San Miniato, 22. 07. 2019