Our Artistic Director, Kristina Pakhomova, directed, produced and performed a solo show—Dark Room. We had a chat with her about some lessons she learned from producing her own work that we could all very much take away from.
When was the eureka moment for deciding to create your one-woman show, Dark Room? Actually, the idea didn't come from me. My friend—an actor, director, teacher and producer back in Singapore—Kamil Haque suggested it to me. The story goes like this: We met at a coffee shop back in 2014, I think. I invited him for lunch. I was feeling so down and frustrated with the creative industry in Singapore and lack of good acting opportunities that I just needed a shoulder to cry on, and Kamil was that “shoulder”. I was on the edge and about to give up on the whole acting career. This was the darkest time for me. Kamil, being a good friend, listened, nodded and listened some more. He then asked, “Kristina, why don’t you start producing your own work?”. That confused me, “Ummm...What do you mean? I’m an actress, not a producer.” “Well, you can sit her and blame the industry all you want, or you can start writing, producing and acting in your own shows! Your choice” A long pause. I didn’t know what to say. “I can help you”, he said. “ I can give you my studio to perform for free and I can help you to write the script. But you have only 3 months to get it done.” 3 MONTHS!!! Can you believe it? Perform, write and produce a show from scratch in only 3 months?! It seemed like a mission impossible. I was very scared and even tried to fight it but Kamil helped me to overcome my fears and gave me the necessary push, because I guess he believed in me, for which I am very grateful and in the end I did create a solo show in 3 months. Just like he said. Ever since then, I've always told young artists, “ Deadline is your best friend.”
What guidance did you decide to get when creating it? Firstly, like I said, setting up a deadline was very helpful. Next step is to just start writing. Nothing will happen unless you start writing. I began writing without a clear story in mind. Kamil asked me, “What is it you’d like to write about?” “I have no idea." “Well, you gotta figure it out.” After a few days of thinking I began to do my Morning Pages, which I wrote about on our blog post Unlocking Your Inner Artist. I learnt it from the book The Artist's Way, and it's essentially a morning brain drain ritual. You free-write into a notebook as soon as you wake up, before you do anything, and without any judgement or reading back. I did it for about a month, without reading back. When that month was up, I read everything and found a pattern. I saw that I was writing a lot about loneliness and the feeling of being trapped. Then, somehow, I came up with a story about an expat wife in Singapore and then got the idea to interview some expat wives. So I did. I found out a lot about the wives I interviewed, that despite their privileged lifestyle, they feel very lonely and trapped. What with being away from home, not being able to work and some even betrayed by their own husbands. I now had material for a story, which I wouldn't have come up with if I hadn't started my Morning Pages.
Creating Dark Room must've overwhelmed you at some point! Any tips on overcoming the overwhelm? — Don’t let fear stop you. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. It takes time and practice, but always work on your fears. It's scary to put your work out there. At times I feel like my work is stupid and not worth watching. If it happens with you too, just know that it’s your inner censor talking—the same voice that tells you that you are not beautiful enough, not talented enough, not smart enough. Shut it. I know it's easier said than done but try to find a way to shut it. I was very lucky to have great support in the form of my friends, family and a creative community who believed in me. They really helped me overcome my insecurities. — Ask for feedback. Talk to people you trust—a close friend, mentor or people from the industry you look up to. Ask for their advice. Share your work-in-progress with those who you really trust and who you know won’t be too judgmental as it might discourage you even more. Look for objective criticism. — Be ready to fail. I mean what’s the worst that can happen? No one will turn up to watch your work? You’ll lose money? You’ll embarrass yourself? You are not gonna die, right? So go ahead and do it! You can end up succeeding! But you will never know unless you try.
Kristina is right. You really will never know unless you try. But often times, that step is waaay to big for us to take. Or so it seems. You could always take baby steps towards the other side! We've recently written an article about how to Unlock Your Inner Artist — 2 Steps You Can Take To Be More Creative. Give them a try if any of you are feeling stuck.
Have any of you produced your own work or plan to? Let us know!