Posts Tagged ‘Adaptation

10
Aug
10

New Musings from The Director

This post dictated by Sam Coward, The Director, as he sits in an antique chair in his mother’s house, in which we too now reside. Two weeks ago, the universe decided we were needed here. So here is where we are.

Amidst a period of utter chaos, unmatched in our existence, XS Entertainment is forging ahead with preparations for The Sydney Fringe Festival (tickets have gone on sale today)! Somehow, we still seem to be on track. How? I don’t know! It’s a mystery!

Cast – check

Flights – check

Accommodation – check

Sets, Props, Costumes – check. Almost. Sort of. Well, not really.

We have faith that the theatre gods will smile upon us and allow us to create the next chapter of La Ronde…

How?

I don’t know.

It’s a mystery.

After two sell-out seasons of La Ronde, it is hard not to be complacent about our capabilities. A quick reality check reminds me of the work required to make each of these creative ventures successful. Maybe I’m being over-confident or maybe I have sublime confidence in my cast and the people around me. My system has worked thus far so why would it not work again?! Having said that, never before has my system had so many external factors impacting upon it!

What doesn’t kill us doesn’t kill us.

Three scenes are in tact and the remaining three are in various stages of development. ie I have to write them. We’re trying some new stuff, some different stuff, whilst trying to re-capture the magic that was La Ronde. It’s always hard bringing in a new recruit and it’s always challenging to work into the show, the physical changes of certain cast members…and into the schedule, sufficient time to satisfy her pregnant cravings!

It is also noteworthy to mention that there has been an air of expectation about the new context. We have previously worked within the perceived conservative boundaries on the Sunshine Coast and now I have to wonder…is it even necessary to alter what worked? Will the fringe audiences be any different? Isn’t each audience different to the next, regardless of the town they’re in? Does that mean we should spice it up for them? Because we have a pre-conceived notion that they must want “more”? There’s an element of if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it but there is also an expectation about the big city and what may be needed in order to make similarly sized waves in a slightly bigger pond. However, the show has never been about shock or gratuity so why would it be about those things now? I think I just answered my own question. Rather than changing anything to suit an unknown audience, perhaps we continue to focus on the vignettes and the talents and generousity of the cast, in order to deliver a spectacular piece of sexy theatre. Tell the stories.

We have airfares to get to Sydney and a roof over our heads once we get there. All we need to do is put on a show, right? Easy.

Do a bad show and we’re remembered for the wrong reasons. Do a mediocre show and we fill our spot in the program. Do a great show and we may well be on our way…

The most important thing at this stage is that I rebuild the team. Whilst the individual rehearsals were great, it was the coming together of the company that brought about the original success of this show. The timing in which we bring everybody together, to bond and learn to trust each other again is crucial. Even fitting in the individual rehearsals, while we attend to the other demands in our lives, has been far more challenging this time. This week and the last have been complete wipe outs. As things settle down here, we will find the ways to work again. The show must go on! BUT, as my wife reminds me daily (she is aptly re-named The Friend for this new version of the show), sometimes there is life to cherish first. Live the life, cherish the moments and the show will somehow survive (and grow and endure) simply because we, and those we care most about, continue to live.

How?

I don’t know.

It’s a mystery.

19
Apr
10

Remembering La Ronde

by Carly Partridge

Disclaimer: I have had writer’s block (yes, I know what they say about writer’s block) and insomnia (writer’s block and insomnia? Are you kidding me?!) and a seriously debilitating headache since Sunday (without having had a single drink after the last show – it’s quite unfair) as well as new musical theatre students to teach (with a three year old in tow) SO…I asked the multi-talented members of the cast to write something if they so desired, now that we have come to the bitter-sweet end of this incredible little La Ronde journey.

Except that it’s not the end. It’s just the end of this little bit.

The Actress and The Poet by Kaela Daffara

La Ronde, ah yes I knew it well; for me it started on the introduction night when Sam shared a few of his visions. I came along already excited about the story and left that night with a “must get a part in this or die” attitude. It was already in my blood and I thought of it constantly until the auditions and once again this was like nothing I had experienced before: a workshop audition that was being filmed. The first of many film experiences and I think the fabulous relaxed attitude of Dutchy and his very ameniable nature made him like part of this very new atmosphere of theatre and rehearsals, not to mention being accompanied by his beautiful and talented wife Evita, who made any interviews comfortable by just chatting with a friend.

Rehearsals again, very different from the norm, for me it could have been a play with 3 characters; myself the actress and my beloved and beautiful lovers Nathan the poet and Tim the judge, for these are the only people I saw for the first few weeks, apart from a crazy ‘malelike’ version of myself, maybe a little wilder…let’s call him the director . I think in my first rehearsal, Sam pulled his pants down and walked around in his underwear, and being new to his style of direction , kind of took me off-guard! But how quickly I adapted to this new world and loved every second of it. Closer to the show date, I did find out in fact that there were 7 other actors in our play! (seriously though, we had only met as a group once before we all went our own ways until couple of weeks before opening) and funnily enough when we did all get together it was like we had been like this from the beginning and it was to become a very closeknit “family” from then until the last show in Mooloolaba and I daresay forever, as we all did experience something very very special.

I loved everyone involved, all talented, fabulous human beings. Sharon, Megan, Nathan and Shane, with whom I have worked before and they are all special memories and now to have worked with Xanthe, Mary, Kay, Tim and Steven have just created more happy times for me to remember when I finally get old?!?? As if!!! Also, to work at Noosa Arts again is always a pleasure and Margaret, George, Susan, Nelson, Andrew a great time again. Margaret you’re a whiz, who thought that corset could hold my stomach in for the whole show??!!

The new ones backstage Mel whom I adore, Tom crazy Tom, the stunning Kaela and talented Wayne. Also, a special mention to gorgeous Ben, who helped out at Mooloolaba. Bizarre times on a bizarre show – I don’t think waiting to go onstage will ever be the same again! Leah Barclay whom I only met a few times, wow, what a very talented lady, with these haunting melodies that will stay with me for a long time.

Finally, Sam, thankyou for casting me in this wondrous, exciting and innovative creation. Loved it and love you.

The Judge and The Actress by Kaela Daffara

02
Apr
10

A Note from the GM of The Noosa Longweekend

Ian Mackellar, General Manager of The Noosa Longweekend, sent this little note to Sam. And was happy for us to share it with you.

Dear Sam,

I wanted to touch base and congratulate you on La Ronde.

I had the opportunity to be part of the Preview night audience and came away feeling I had been privy to something very “special”. Actually, I came with no expectations and left feeling nourished and replete.

The way in which you have approached the work displayed great sensitivity and panache and I found myself enthralled from beginning to end.

After the performance, I was asked by several people my thoughts and I replied, “I would like to just take it away and sleep on it.” To be honest, I really just preferred to stay within my own space for a little longer and savour what I had experienced, without having to vocalise.

I was really very impressed your treatments to specific vignettes, some of them simply beautiful and other moments; humorous, revealing or simply shocking. An overriding sense of, no matter what had been portrayed, presented and/or revealed, it was done with a sense of dignity and grace, simply and sensitively reflected, whilst maintaining a sense of tastefully handled (no matter the subject matter).

As Director, Sam, you could have chosen a multiple of ways to present La Ronde. For me, it was presented with dignity and grace, humour, pathos and empathy and I applaud you for choosing this road.

Although I found myself immersed in all scenes, two stood out (for me).

The Maid and The Socialite – for me, this was sheer bliss – perhaps it was due to no dialogue (apart from the final line delivered by The Maid).

With the portrayal of these two female characters, I found myself being transported into another world and as I sat and watched, my imagination took me to a wondrous place.

I found it all really quite beautiful (and humorous and coquettish) and the lack of dialogue simply enhanced these moments for me.

The other scene that I found superb was the bedroom scene between The Husband and The Wife. The way in which this was presented and the mastery of your choreographed movements between the two actors was simply the best thing I have seen in a very long time…very clever and intelligently reflected.

I don’t want to pick favourites, as all scenes had something to offer, however; I was absolutely captivated with this bedroom scene 100% of the time.

I believe it has been repeatedly said, “A well chosen cast reflects a successful outcome” (said in a thousand different ways and languages). To this end, the casting was razor sharp. Not a single character was out of place. Casting in the case of La Ronde was quite exceptional and I congratulate every member of the company, for stellar performances under your guidance.

The music was hauntingly beautiful and a masterpiece unto itself.

In closing, may I just say, it was indeed a pleasure to experience La Ronde on so many levels and I salute you and your astute assessments, Sam, in directing and moulding this work into something. You and every person associated with this production should feel justly proud.

I personally wish you and the ensemble every well-deserved success, which may flow from your production of La Ronde.

Congratulations.

Regards,

Ian Mackellar

03
Mar
10

Directing La Ronde

I thought it was time for a proper little chat with the Director, Sam Coward. He wasn’t hard to find. He was watching SYTYCD in the next room.

We have coffee. It’s all good. GO!

So. Sam. Why La Ronde?

Sam: I felt it was time to challenge audiences and actors. First and foremost a performer, I’ve recently become frustrated…disenchanted with what performing is all about. I have seen too many 2-dimensional characters on Sunshine Coast stages. I wanted to give those performers the chance to stretch their legs.

Is La Ronde doing that?

Yes. The plan to stretch audiences and actors is working, well; it’s clearly working for the actors at this stage anyway. We will see about audiences.

Performers have suddenly found themselves immersed in a process of self-discovery and have had to really trust in their director from Day 1. These particular aspects of acting may be new to some Sunshine Coast performers!  Their vulnerabilities are in my hands. They may not have been asked to take such enormous risks before now. La Ronde presents very different challenges for different performers. We have characters who are driven by the words they utter and characters without any dialogue at all. And by introducing nudity, the actors have all had to step out of their comfort zones, bare some flesh and feel completely comfortable with that pretty quickly. Some more quickly than others. I have cast bold performers who each have their own style and approach to acting…and I’ve challenged them on those things. I’ll give you an example. Without giving too much away, Nathan (The Poet) is being stretched as a performer. He is working hard to feel comfortable with his nakedness and with his pretty hot encounter with Kay (The Girl)…this on top of learning lines and determining objectives. More so than getting those mechanics of the character’s actions happening, it’s mostly the mental, emotional process as an actor; coming to terms with such confronting, challenging demands. He is seeing some great results come from a creative process that is entirely new to him.

As Director, how do you feel about your approach to this workshop-style process?

I was well-prepared and I prepared well, those who I knew would be involved. There were a few initial discussions about why we’re doing La Ronde. My reasons, explanations and justifications about the direction and the vision allowed the actors to accept what I was trying to do. And then, after a bit of talking, they had to just jump in and get the clothes off and feel that first shock/slap of embarrassment and get on with the job.

As Director, how have you  helped support/guide the actors getting past that initial point of fear?

Some actors needed to remove some layers sooner and some have waited for me to tell them, “Ok, now let’s get the gear off!” As a director, I was a bit green in terms of shaping the sex scenes and initially, for two of the girls, I turned the lights down and lit some candles and let them listen to the mood music…and it backfired because it set a really romantic mood and the girls started feeling really uncomfortable and wondering what I wanted to see and they started really fondling each other and then got really weirded out! So then we put the ugly lights back on and debriefed and choreographed the entire scene. It was the third party directing their sequence of steps, relinquishing them of all personal responsibility. Sometimes we forget that the actors are vulnerable and they are real people. In this case, the sequence became their safety net.

What about your original vision for the show? Is it being realised? If so, what is it that is helping to bring it to fruition?

The vision is being realised, with enhancements. The original plan was to workshop a textually out-dated, thematically and contextually current play with competent practitioners who had the ability to work in this particular way. People are happy to be working with a director who has had a clear vision from the outset and has some idea about how to manifest it.

With everybody onboard, the actors were able to adopt what I wanted, in terms of mood and relationships and find new ways to improve/develop their scenes. Each scene has the potential to be spectacular. Remember, each actor only has two scenes so, as actors, each has the opportunity to really shine in this show. The actors have all taken on board the direction (and the overall vision) and extended themselves beyond it. We’ve truly seen that. Some more than others. Some performers have been happy to let me lead. Some have been more forthright about their opinions on things. Let’s use Kay and Nathan for another example. Kay and Nathan were originally directed to play their scene in a soppy, romantic way and then it ended with a blow job. My bad…Kay suggested that if they were in love and a romantic mood had already been established, it would involve more than just a blow job. She felt comfortable to discuss this and consequently the result is far superior. This has been an integral part of the process; the negotiation and give and take between actors and director.

Tell us a little more about the rehearsal process.

There were always some intentional applications in terms of process, however; some things have been stumbled upon quite by accident. For example, by not giving Tim (The Judge) a complete script until this week, we’ve taken his focus away from the text. He was a script-driven actor and wanted the text committed to memory prior to the rehearsal period. He spoke to me about it. I didn’t want to see that kind of judge. The potential for any actor who works purely from a script is that the text is used as a crutch and the character is created from the page alone, rather than making it an internal process and letting us see a bit more of the actor himself. The workshop atmosphere of rehearsals to this point has allowed the actors a greater degree of freedom: time and space to play, which is often not afforded (or entrusted) to them.

You obviously have a great deal of faith in your cast. In the context of working with Sunshine Coast actors, what have you discovered during the process so far?

The audition was impressive (I only wanted one, no call-backs, it was quite an intuitive thing), in terms of the discovery of a broad cross-section of people all willing to go on the same journey. I’m very matter of fact about it. The coast has always had these people, this talent, here, in little pockets; they come out of the woodwork whenever there’s something interesting happening and it shouldn’t ever be a huge surprise to see them. It’s not often that something more interesting happens and these performers get the chance to present themselves in a truly honest and open manner, ready for anything the director might have for them. And look, this may not be the best vehicle to showcase the extent of everyone’s talent anyway.

What I mean is, we weren’t aiming to please with this show. We’re not pandering to the performers or to the theatre going public here. We’re hoping to put on some different theatre, which will evoke responses about people’s own sexual activities and experiences. Everyone will be able to relate to someone in this show. It may not have been the type of entertainment they wanted to see this year (it’s not a toe-tapping, colourful musical) but not all theatre is nice. The comical, uplifting, light-hearted entertainment has a place – go see Avenue Q – but we’re telling extremely intimate stories here, we’re sharing secrets if you like, putting out some challenging messages and there are many layered, contrasting and complex emotions involved with that, without a song or even an interval to give you a break. It’s relentless. And that’s a very human thing. Sometimes there are just no stops.

So what does the director want out of all this?

I want acknowledgement…that you can do something that may not be publicly or socially loved and gushed about by the industry or by the public but that you can be respected, not only for being bold and taking risks but also for being able to pull off some high class entertainment. I want this to grow me as a director and enhance my reputation as a creative professional.

And what of the life span of La Ronde?

Who knows? I really don’t know. That’s for next time…over more, much more, coffee.

As a producer, director or performer, Sam has worked for the past fifteen years in the business. On both stage and screen, Sam has experienced all facets of production. In 1999, with appx $250,000.00 of self generated corporate and private funding, Sam staged in a warehouse in Warana, Lloyd Webber’s classic, Jesus Christ Superstar, which broke all records for attendance at a Sunshine Coast production.

Shout! The Legend of The Wild One, in 2008, marked Sam as a bold, inspired Director. In close collaboration with The Events Centre, Caloundra, Sam re-cast, re-structured and re-directed this major musical production in just 8 weeks, achieving a successful artistic outcome.

Sam is currently the Co-Director of XS Entertainment, which will establish a functional network of Sunshine Coast artists and produce film and theatrical productions, utilising new media and local resources.