Denise Clarke will be the first to admit that, on the surface, there is a bit of irony in her creating a guide for performance theatre.
The dancer, choreographer, actress and teacher uses her experiences as a longtime associate artist of theatre group One Yellow Rabbit to give context to The Big Secret Book: An Intense Guide for Creating Performance Theatre.
But anyone familiar with the wild creativity found in the history and ranks of the Rabbits knows that it has not really been the sort of organization that plays by a set rulebook.
“I found myself extremely conscious of that, of never trying to sound like: ‘This is the definitive way to approach this,’ ” says Clarke, adopting a mock serious tone. “But almost always using the framing device of ‘This might provide an advantage.’ That’s all it is. It’s not a rule, but an advantage for when you’re flailing. Because all of these ideas are about when it’s not going well. It’s so common to have people say to me ‘I just don’t know where to start.’ ”
So The Big Secret Book distils years of knowledge and practise into a practical guide for artists of all stripes, offering a roadmap that shows where to go so you are not solely reliant on the fickle whims of inspiration. Clarke calls upon her 35 years of experience creating and performing in work for One Yellow Rabbit, but largely focuses on the practices established at the Rabbits’ Summer Lab Intensive. Clarke has been overseeing that since 1997, guiding artists through a three-week master class that emphasizes exercises in creativity which has guided the Rabbits for more than 30 years.
So the book offers tips that are both physical in nature — such as breathing and relaxation techniques or exploring “your posture and personal space” — to more philosophical guidelines such as “give yourself permission” and “stop judging.”