ELLEN

JACKSON

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

"I make opera because I believe in the radical power of the operatic form to provoke compassion and sow love. In its essential form—the intersection of music and text—opera is the most powerful creative tool at our disposal to encourage respect on an interpersonal level. Music and text take hold of the subconscious in a way that has the power to elicit a deeply empathetic response to perspectives unfamiliar and unwelcome to us. My practice is guided by a motivation to harness this power to create social change. 

 

In approaching a piece, I am devoted to a rigorous process of discovery and conception. I work to extract the essential belief or question at the core of a work, and to create a theatrical world on the foundation of that fundamental characteristic. The initial phases of my process are highly intuitive—I observe and record my responses to text, music, character, relationship, story. I challenge any assumptions and traditions associated with the piece, interrogating what it might teach us about the way we live now. Then, I tack over to begin a focused intellectual study of the work—consuming source material, scholarly analysis, historical documents, ancillary cultural artifacts. I merge the intuitive with the intellectual, embarking on a semiotic translation of the work’s core beliefs to an aesthetic palette. This palette lays the foundation for building a theatrical world with a design team.

 

The rigor I apply in conceiving of a production carries over into the rehearsal process. I believe ardently in the power of community onstage: an ensemble who is invested in themselves and each other, who dare bravely together, and who identify their work as a communal task will ultimately electrify the theatre with that care and empathy, reaching the audience in an immediate way. My job is to establish and foster that communal spirit in the rehearsal room. I set the tone for an intentional, intelligent, and vulnerable approach to the work. I lead with questions, guiding the group within the parameters of the theatrical world while holding space for their own discovery of the characters and relationships at hand. Over the course of the process, I encourage a growing sense of ownership and mutual reliance in the ensemble: when the curtain rises on opening night, the piece belongs to them. I am simply a keeper of space and time along the way.

 

As I move through my process, from the initial stages of conception to the rise of the curtain on opening night, I carry these guiding tenets with me:

I believe in love.

I believe in meeting fear, acknowledging it, moving past it.

I believe in the abdication of ego. 

I believe in the value of imagination.

I believe in the value of research.

I believe in the importance of strenuous intellectual and emotional activity.

I believe in the importance of criticism.

I believe in humor. 

I believe in curiosity.

I believe in self-awareness and self-reflection. 

I believe in being political.

I believe in the power of beauty.

I believe in the importance of discomfort in the name of progress. 

I believe in being challenged, and in challenging. 

I believe in the power of a community to foster abundant love.

I believe that love will seep out of a community: palpable, infectious, irrevocable. 

 

And, mostly importantly, I believe that art can transform assumption, challenge judgement, and create change. I believe that art can do good. I conduct myself with these tenets on my heart and in my mind, that I might help foster and spread goodness. That I might be an agent of change. That together we might ease the pain of living."