Doin’ Dirt Time

Emergence presents a provocative performance questioning the role of arts in society. Written by Suzi Gablik this piece asks the question ‘what role does art have in a time of great change?’ as two sculptors reject the art world in favour of learning how to live life as a prayer, developing new skills for life on earth.

An Emergence collaborative project performed by Philip Ralph, Fern Smith and Guest Artist.
Based on a transcript of an astonishing interview by internationally renowned arts commentator Suzi Gablik in her book Conversations Before the End Of Time.

In “Doin’ Dirt Time” Gablik speaks to Rachel Dutton and Rob Olds, two celebrated American artists who have made the decision to give away all their artworks and possessions.
Following the interview they disappeared into the American wilderness, after an intensive study of tracking and survival skills. This powerful piece questions the role of the arts in society as the two protagonists explain their reasons for not only stepping out of the art world but also stepping out of society itself. They fundamentally question the traditional role of the artist in society, articulating their desire to live life as a sacred act rather than to simply document it.
Fern Smith & Philip Ralph play Dutton and Olds. Fern Smith is founder member of Volcano Theatre and co-initiator and collaborator on Emergence. Philip Ralph trained as an actor before turning to writing. His first play Deep Cut won the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award in 2009. Smith & Ralph are real life partners finding their way and deeply inspired by Dutton and Olds themselves.

Each time the piece is performed it is done with a different guest artist – someone who has taken steps to bring their life, work and commitment to sustainability more in alignment.
Jason Benson, Sarah Woods, Emily Hinshelwood, Rhodri Thomas, Tom Payne, Carys Shannon and Lucy Neal have all taken the role of Suzie Gablik in past performances. Doin’ Dirt Time offers the unique opportunity of a collaboration between an invited performance and resident or local artists.

Doin’ Dirt Time is performed with the blessing of Suzi Gablik and in some way is intended to bring new audiences to Gablik’s inspirational body of work – essential reading for artists, activists and anyone interested in the role of the arts in co-creating the future. Doin’ Dirt Time is itself an experiment in simplicity, a stripped-back theatre which dispenses with the smoke and mirrors of performance in order to focus on the essentials… It uses a fascinating technique pioneered by Alecky Blythe of Recorded Delivery Theatre, in which actors interpret verbatim recordings in real time. Following the performance which lasts roughly 30 minutes there is an opportunity to engage in a discussion regarding the themes arising from the interview…

Past tour of Doin Dirt Time
February/March 2013
Volcano Theatre, Swansea, Wales

April 2013
Tyn yr Helyg Theatre Barn, Llanrhystud, Ceredigion, Wales

July 7th
Woodland Pavilion Machynnleth

August 17th
Dark Mountain Festival, Hampshire

September 13th
World Stage Design Festival, Cardiff

Forthcoming Dates 2013
October 2nd
Coastal Currents Arts Festival, Hastings

Interested in hosting Doin’ Dirt Time?
If you are interested in presenting Doin’ Dirt Time contact Fern Smith on


“What do we want to have learned by the time we die?”

Rachel Dutton

“How do we live then in a time of decline, or maybe even collapse and what role does art have?”

Suzi Gablik