How did I get here? (Part 1)

One of the things I’ve been thinking about in relation to my PhD candidature and research is how I’m positioned in terms of my relationship to (or within) the case study of Sleep No More and Sleep No More audiences.

It’s a particularly important question now for a few reasons: I’m trying to nut out my methods chapter; I’m aware that this question of my position is going to an important one to keep an eye on throughout my project because of the potential for researcher bias; and because I’m starting to make contact with people about Sleep No More with my ‘researcher’ hat on.

It’s the last part of that that I want to focus on here. It occurs to me that it might be helpful to potential participants to know a little bit more about me and what my intentions are. Of course, as a normal part of the project there are formal participant information sheets and project descriptions but those don’t necessarily leave a lot of room for the ‘story’ of who I am and what I’m bringing with me to the project. I guess I feel as though, if I’m asking people to tell me their stories, it’s not unreasonable to expect that I should share mine.

So, here’s a little story about me and how I ended up doing both a PhD and this particular PhD.

Late 2012. I’d recently resigned from my job. I didn’t know quite what I was going to do with myself but it felt like a good time to ‘throw myself to the wind’ a bit and see what might happen. Already during this year I’d been making a concerted effort to try to engage a bit more with the creative arts (and theatre in particular). I had studied theatre as an undergrad and had, for a little while, tried to think of myself as an emerging artist. I’d written a bit, some prose but mostly script and I’d been lucky enough to have some support given to me in various ways (including a couple of stagings and readings of said scripts). But, for various reasons, I had drifted away from that idea of myself and had also stopped seeing as much theatre as I used to.

But now I was turning all that around. I was in Melbourne for a whirlwind visit—maybe catching a few shows and exhibitions over the course of a long weekend or it might have been during the Melbourne International Arts Festival—and I caught up with a friend for dinner. She was very excited about my ‘throw myself to the wind’ attitude and planned lack of plans for the coming year. Somehow we started talking about Sleep No More. I hadn’t heard of it. She’d been to it and thought I’d love it. I was pretty enthralled with the idea of it from the get go.

What was it that sold me so quickly I’m wondering now…. Was it the masks? The ‘open-world’ exploration? My desire to prove my friend right (that I was as well-matched to this unusual sounding, word-of-mouth thing as she thought I was)? Was it the atmosphere in the restaurant and the wine? Was there wine? There were candles. Everything is more persuasive when there’s candles.

I decided I had to see it. I’d felt no real pull towards the US or New York for travel before now but I decided this was enough. I’d go there, that far, for this. I’d learn how to tip, for this. I became terrified that it wouldn’t last and that I wouldn’t get to New York in time. So, a very short time later (maybe 2 weeks?) I booked my ticket, brought forward my departure date from the job I was leaving and shortly afterwards was on my way to New York. To Sleep No More.

To be continued….

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