Is it a gift one is born with or born without?
Have we got that creative spark within? Can we articulate how we got it, and get it? Is ours a universal experience, or does it vary with each person, each culture, each generation, each age?
If it is something everyone was born with, why does it seem to flourish more in some than others - even in some not at all - whilst in others it is like a gushing oil well?
Does creativity have a part in politics?
Where does hard work figure in the creative process? Are creativity and hard work the same? Is one any good without the other?
Do creative people try to be creative, or is it just the way they are?
Are these examples of creative people? Henry Ford, Mother Teresa, Picasso, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Beethoven, Alice Walker, Tiger Woods, the Dalai Lama, Martina Hingis?
Is invention the same as creation? Do both discover something already there? Is the answer yes or no?
Does creativity involve pain? Always?
Are there essential ingredients and preconditions?
Is the most creative thing to release creativity in others? How is this done?
Dickie Dodds, UK
WHY ART? WHY CREATE?
Have you ever hear the theory of creative chaos? As the name suggests, it's about creativity evolving out of chaos - and I'm hoping it will happen in this article. The questions I have been pondering are: Why art? Why create?
As a drama student living in a house full of vets and engineers, my first years at university were interesting. Names like 'arty farty' and 'dahling' I could deal with, but surrounded by people doing such practical/vocational degrees I was left wondering what my role was - would I make a legitimate contribution to society or not?
Before entering my final year I had the good fortune to see a short film called One Word Of Truth. The script is based on the Nobel Prize Lecture of the Soviet dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In it, he exposes the vital importance of art and literature in the battle against evil (the lie). 'Writers and artists are capable of something more', he says. 'They can defeat the lie. Art has always won its fight against lies, and it will always win. Everyone can see this. No one can deny it.'
This had a profound effect on me. Now I could see the importance of my role as an arts student - and the responsibility that went with it.
Back in first year, a friend described his favourite play; the curtains open to reveal a fridge centre stage - on top of the fridge is an electric light bulb which is on - thirty minutes later the curtains close. Ideal for meditation perhaps but is that theatre? Later, the same guy created a theatre piece for our class. We all had one line to repeat, as loud as possible, and wait for it... he got to kick the fridge. My line was, 'I am a Satanist and I believe in communism!' The others had variations such as, 'I am a Christian and I believe in fascism!' I don't know about them but I certainly didn't believe in what I was doing. I doubt I even know what communism was. But I did it because I wanted to act. And I wanted to act because I wanted to be famous. Vacuous or what?
Here is perhaps not the place to discuss what constitutes theatre or not but the aforesaid examples stand up pretty poorly to news coverage of Angolan children creating theatre sketches to warn against land mines. A sobering image. Equally so is the fact that whilst I was running around a drama studio mindlessly shrieking 'I believe in communism!' millions around the world were emerging from years of inhumane totalitarian oppression. It is with a guilty unease therefore that I reflect upon my meeting in August with Studio Ararat - a young people's theatre group which was launched in Prague, Czech Republic, three years ago. The initiator, Ludmila Pichova - an actress with 40 years experience in Prague's Municipal Theatre - wanted to bring something creative and anti-materialistic into the lives of young people. She also felt the need to prove that drugs are not a prerequisite to 'opening up' and finding one's identity. Her daughter, Michaela Miskova - also an actress - has shared the directing and since the group's inception their repertoire has included pantomime, cabaret, and poetry recitals.
Their latest and most successful production is Urfaust - Friedrich Durrenmatt's adaptation of Goethe's classic play. They chose this one, explains Michaela, 'because it is one of the most interesting and truthful plays about the difficulty of finding a purposeful earthly existence; it highlights the everlasting struggle between good and evil, the moral and the immoral, the human and the divine'. I don't speak a word of Czech but I found myself hypnotised by the two hour production at the Caux Theatre in Switzerland.
The same week I saw a different (but equally compelling) production of Slurp. Advertised as 30 minutes of 'Physical Theatre', it was devised and performed by three Swedish girls. The first of the seemingly unrelated scenes contained a non-verbal conversation between two people, two chairs and a table. And if I tell you that the next contained a speech about potatoes whilst two people made a human circle and rolled across the back of the stage, you'll be... confused? You had to be there. Describing it will kill it. What's important is the effect it had on the audience. And boy, did they laugh. Whatever happened on stage that night, it definitely worked. It was clever, fresh, innovative, thought provoking and funny. Dare I say - it was inspired.
And real inspiration is what, I think, the theatre and the arts are most in need of. As a student I used to dream of all the plays I could write. Now I don't. Instead, I ask myself, 'What is the right play for me to write? Indeed, is it right for me to write a play?' Of what relevance is this, you might say. I am struck by the comment of the late writer, Henri Nouwen: 'Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair'. It is surely no coincidence therefore that 'many contemporary movies and plays portray the ambiguities and ambivalences of human relationships'. He cites Bret Easton Ellis' novel, Less than Zero, which describes the life of sex, drugs and violence among the teenage sons and daughters of the super-rich entertainers in Los Angeles. And 'the cry', remarks Nouwen, 'that arises from behind this decadence is clearly, 'Is there anybody who really loves me; is there anybody who really cares? Is there anybody who wants to be with me when I am not in control, when I feel like crying? Is there anybody who can hold me and give me a sense of belonging?'
This reality, coupled with the observation of Hollywood film critic Michael Medved that rather than uplift, inspire and ennoble the human spirit, 'we have substituted the idea that the only worthy purpose of art is to shock, horrify and depress', reveals more tragic dichotomies.
People ask, 'Was Hitler creative?' No, he was destructive. People ask, 'Why create?' To save ourselves from dying spiritually and to give life to others. People ask, 'Why art?' Solzhenitsyn's answer, previously quoted, is the best one I know of.
There is not the time, and least of all the need, for self-indulgence in artists. And given the insights he gleaned from his time in the labour camps, who amongst us can ignore Solzhenitsyn's universal plea: 'Mankind can only be saved if all people are concerned about everything. If we are worth anything at all, let us try to help.'
Laura Trevelyan, UK
One Word Of Truth is available from the Anglo-Nordic Productions Trust, 2 Thornton Close, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 ONQ, England.