Collaboration: the big push and pull

I started writing this blog from an instigation by two artists who work with us at the Kelly-Strayhorn; Staycee Pearl is a long time collaborator who recently choreographed and presented circle POP and Hallie Donner is the Artistic Director of our resident youth program, Alumni Theater Company, who I recently spoke with about her collaboration with actor/director Bill Nunn. They will present Ananse and The Glue Man at KST on December 10th and 11th

I decided the best way to talk about collaboration was to ask just one question and invite you to share your answer. This can be our collaboration!

MM:  “What do you think about collaborations?”

What interests me about collaborations is that they set up a situation for each participant to see ourselves, all parts of ourselves; the most creative, the most intelligent, the most selfish; the most giving, the most valuable, and often the least and most frustrated… you know “the picture”.  As wearing as it can be, collaborating can be incredibly valuable and can push us to develop effective new flexible practices in all the arts and the whole of our living. We need each other to push and pull on all aspects of ourselves in order to create new work, new thinking, new methods and come up with forward moving ideas.  As Arnie April, CAPE Director, International Educator says; “We need to move beyond habits of isolation that have become “normal” in our culture and recognize that we need people with diverse skills in order to totally collaborate”

– Maritza Mosquera, KST Director of Education


When I consider collaboration I think about it as necessity. I take prehistoric times; pioneer days, community, families into consideration… I collaborate daily with my child and my community. There is a need and a desire for me to connect and facilitate the rituals of my daily life with those who are like minded and close.  A cup of tea with a friend as we discuss supporting our children, emotionally, and spiritually…. helping them to develop into their fullest… Collaboration is not just bringing single goals to realization… it’s about bringing our deepest human desires to the surface and encouraging them to grow.  AHHH and I do this all for myself as a woman, a child, a mother, a friend, an artist… ! YES. I forgot about myself!

– Laura Jane Bonnet, Photographer


Collaboration is an essential element for any creative action that I even attempt to participate in.  For my own creative process to be productive, it almost requires that there be some thinking voiced other than my own.  I need the mental stimulation, provocation, even disagreement that comes with associative interaction.  This can result in an unexpected broadened perspective, and is one of the rare gifts that comes out of collaboration.

– Jeff Jaeger, Business Owner, Permaculturist


The collaborative process is like anything else. It can be a struggle or a joy.  It can be balanced or chaotic.  I think most people enter into collaborations with good intentions.  But even the best of intentions can go awry if there is not a clear understanding of the goals and deliverables from the beginning.  Though it’s tempting to jump right into an exciting, collaborative project, it’s critical to the project’s ultimate success– and the partners’ continuing relationship — to develop a strategic plan at the outset.  Each participating partner has his/her own mission to fulfill.  So each partner should clearly understand what role he/she will play and how the project will help to meet his/her organization’s mission in concrete terms.  This plan should be revisited at intervals to make sure everyone is on track and everyone is satisfied with the progress.  While this approach is not very “organic,” it still makes room for individual creativity.  And experience has shown me that it delivers the best results.

– Dane Clark, Sustainability Program Coordinator


I realize it’s my style and the way I learn, but I don’t think I know how I would ever make work on my own – any kind of work.  The root of creating for me is in the conversation.  As a director, my artistic skill is my ability to work with people.  As my artistic practice grows, the tangible change is in the way I collaborate with others.  It is obvious to note the way I interact with designers and actors, but I also see my artistic choices and aesthetic impulses as interactions with the playwright (dead, alive, friend, foe), the audience, the people and histories implicated in the piece, myself, the people in my past…. etc.

– Adil Mansoor, Theatre Director, Educator


  1. Yvonne Hudson

    As of this Sunday, December 5 at Pitt’s English classroom, I will have presented “Mrs Shakespeare” well more than 100 times, but never really “solo.”As a solo performance artist, I have valued the role of collaboration to complement that time I spend on stage alone. I have been so fortunate to have the input of various directors over the course of developing and performing my one-woman show “Mrs Shakespeare.” Input from each of them is layered into the piece over time; it’s been so interesting to explore this sort of unintentional collaboration among some people who may never meet! In addition, the collaboration of those who first gave me feedback on the concept of the piece along with that of my audiences continues to inspire me in both performance research. The more audience members want to know, the more I delve into Shakespeare biography and the works. Collaboration keeps my work fresh and me curious.

  2. Akilah Williams

    Collaboration is the conjoining of visions and virtue with respect of each other’s time and tenacity. In order to collaborate, those involved must also humbly know how to give and receive for the greater good. It is an iterative process that takes constants: mutual consent, risk taking and compassion. It is an experience that connects one to another in order to advance purpose. To live without collaboration is to not live at all.

    Akilah Williams
    Designer, Arts Trustee, Philanthropy Professional

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