Posts Tagged ‘Character

24
Dec
10

Uncle Vanya

I’ve been catching up on the the last couple of episodes of Rake and whilst watching Richard Roxburgh, it occurred to me that I really should tell you how wonderful it was to see him on stage as Uncle Vanya, for STC, last week. Interestingly, my mum (and others) didn’t agree; she took issue with (Director) Tamas Ascher‘s whole vaudeville-esque approach and is of the opinion that something (or someone) akin to Roxburgh’s Rake character, Cleaver Greene, would make a more likable fellow in the title role in Chekhov’s classic play. To me, Roxburgh played a Vanya on the verge (some would say broken already) and shared with us the full gamut of human emotion, winning our sympathy early…well, clearly, not my mother’s sympathy! But that’s ok! Because this is Theatre! This is Art! And we are each entitled to our own opinions!

Interesting to read, as I do, some other opinions. Let’s look at them later, shall we? The overall impression I got from this production was that it was reinterpreted and staged to entertain, rather than to educate, a new Chekhov audience. This was, I think, Chekhov’s original intent (the humour is very much embedded in the text) and has been forgotten by various companies (and universities) over the decades, who have given us the impression that the classics should be highly regarded, carefully considered and deeply felt, rather than recognised, appreciated and enjoyed. I was so glad to see (IMHO) STC treat it as a gift to be enjoyed.

My opinion about Cate Blanchett hasn’t changed. I admire and adore her. She is surely one of the most consummate actors of our time (this, when Judi Dench has been named best stage actor of all time). Her beauty is incandescent, her voice is sublime and her collective skills – employed seemingly effortlessly – to portray even the slightest hint of emotion, both on stage and on screen, cannot be contested. As Yelena, Ms Blanchett was beguiling and SO beautifully bored. In fact, I have decided that it is my ambition to be that beguiling AND that beautifully bored one day. Also, I would like, one day, to casually and seemingly effortlessly fall backwards through an open doorway without causing any injury or humiliation to myself or to anybody else whatsoever. Just saying.

It was a treat to see John Bell as the Professor, Jacki Weaver as Nanny and Anthony Phelan as Telegin. In fact, Mr Phelan reminded me of a delightful, gentle friend, with whom I used to work, so tender and amusing was he. It was a disappointment to me that Hayley McElhinney, with her long list of credits, including the honour of being one of the 12 contracted to The Actors Company, completely lost the depths and layers and contours of the final monologue, which I have always loved as it is written and loathed as it is delivered, in that classically-trained, dark and dismal, typically university-interpreted Checkhov voice; empty of the hope that underlies the acceptance of the working poor that life does indeed go on and thus, work must also, quite simply GO ON. There was the hard determination in her voice but none of the subtle, gentle joy and love and light simultaneously, which I have always felt needed by the end of Chekhov, in order to let us leave the theatre looking forward to the next day rather than dreading it. And I wanted her to have loved and lost and retained something. I’m thinking of Pippin’s Grand Finale. Not because I think every show should finish with flash pots and glorious death but with the hope that there are still the simple joys to be found in every day, if only we look for them, even in the face of despair. And after her tumultuous journey, I expected more…contrast.

To put Cate Blanchett on stage with Hugo Weaving was pretty much a stroke of genius. For me, the relationship between them MADE this production. What I want to see in any production is the connection between the characters and for each, a clear journey. The connection between Blanchett and Weaving was pure magic. Each had a journey of epic proportions, made up of the most minute detail. To join them for 4 acts meant a masterclass for actors, for the cost of a coveted ticket.

The tickets were booked a year in advance, as part of an annual sojourn to Sydney “to see Cate”, which, each year, involves my mum, my sister, various friends from editing and publishing as well as a bunch of other friends, who are now known in literary circles at least, as The Family Law.

We did not get (we did not try to get) anywhere near Oprah while we were there but we did spend hours wandering through Annie Leibovitz‘s life, at the MCA, which was inspiring and incredibly moving. In a room holding a series of photographs of her dying father and another series of her dying long-time partner, Susan Sontag, I was moved to tears and unable to look away…

This Vanya failed to stir in me the same emotions. Despite this, I loved it. For me, that is great theatre. For Jason Blake, of The Sydney Morning Herald, same (read his review here). Not so, for some of his readers and these are the comments I find fascinating. Hint: read Blake’s review first…

Then read…

Couldn’t disagree more with this review. The production was a travesty of Chekhov’s work.

The adaptation, with indulgent Shakespeare references to boot, managed to lose all the depth of the Russian original replacing it with a Carry On! version full of slapstick. All the beautiful monologues washed over the audience and many of us left feeling gravely disappointed. Checkov should give you a kick in the guts by the end but all the beautiful monologues washed over to nothing and I left the theatre feeling gravely disappointed.

Bill Peters | Sydney – November 15, 2010, 8:29AM

And…

Some sanity – thanks Bill Peters!

I sadly feel as though many theatre makers are guilty of grossly underestimating the sophistication of their audiences and therefore feel the need to ‘panto’ shows up. You do not have to be a theatre buff (which I am not) to realise when you are being condescended to and when this occurs walking through the liminal door that good theatre (so I am told) should open is next to impossible.

The sycophants in the crowd irked me no end. It is as though they are all playing the part of theatre goers, all in on this bizzare conceit instead of ever truly engaging with the work. My relief upon leaving the theatre earned my sanity five stars!

Chris Hanrahan | Sydney – November 17, 2010, 3:51PM

And…

Embarrassingly, those ‘sycophants’ in the crowd were my fellow students from NIDA.

They were laughing up at every opportunity so people would look at them.

I too was bored with this show. If anyone saw the production from Maly Theatre a couple of years ago you’ll know what I mean. That production had me in tears, digging around in my bag for tissues, a cloth, anything.

I think everyone’s a bit starstruck.

NIDA Grad | Sydney – November 19, 2010, 8:07AM

 

I was determined to get over my starstruckedness because, let’s face it, I’m a forum bunny and you can imagine how excited I was about being there on the NwtA (Night With The Actors). I actually had a question! So I asked it! I asked, after a lot of other fussy queries about the inclusion of Shakespeare and about working with a non-english speaking director, about the company’s general approach to text and to working with each other. It was was important to me to verbalise what we have been getting nearer to defining as XS Entertainment‘s approach to our own creative process. Who better to answer than the Co-Artistic Director of the Company, Cate Blanchett?! She said, “Text is the bedrock. And then, as actors, we each bring to it what we will.” And I am so glad it is as simple as that!

After, of course I was totes inspired to spend a heap of money at the bookstore downstairs while my sister and co posed for pics outside by the poster…

I’m finally posting this on Christmas Eve and I hope Christmas and New Year’s Eve are wonderful for you. Poppy and I have just watched It’s A Wonderful Life and it really is the ultimate reminder of the season.

Next week, keep up with what’s happening out at waterlogged Woodfordia by following XS Entertainment on Twitter!

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07
Dec
10

I Can Do That!

“Youth Theatre” is the bane of my life. It hooked me at 15 years of age, it kept me busy on stage and off until I was 30, and now, er…with another birthday coming up, it wants to take over my life again. But to Youth Theatre, I say NO! There are others! The grown ups have me now! I will coach you but I will not direct your productions! Unless, of course,  you pay me and then I will happily direct anything your young, enthusiastic, untainted hearts desire.

Please note: Youth Theatre is different to “Theatre for Young People“. The latter enjoys (a little) government funding and (some) support in (some) schools and venues.

In the Australia Council for the Arts Review of Theatre for Young People in Australia (December 2003), the Executive Summary states:

Among other factors, early exposure to positive arts experiences correlate to later interest in and engagement with the arts. It is one of the reasons that Theatre for Young People (TYP) is so significant, why the nature and quality of contact with this work matters. For some, the rationale for engaging with young audiences, and supporting other specialist theatre companies to do so, is enlightened self-interest—the cultivation of tomorrow’s audiences. But there is an equally cogent argument—that children and young people are entitled to the same cultural rights as adults. They are not the audiences of tomorrow, they are the audiences (and participants) of today. On this basis, the same resources should be devoted to TYP and other means of providing access to quality theatre experiences as are devoted to adult, mainstream companies.

About one-third of Australian school children take part in organised cultural activities outside of school hours, according to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, theatre was just that other thing; the organised activity we did if we were not doing one or most of the following:

  • Swim Club
  • Surf Club
  • Netball Club
  • Rugby League Club
  • AFL Club
  • Soccer Club
  • Little Athletics
  • Ballet, Jazz and Tap
  • Gymnastics
  • Callisthenics’s

It’s a very sporty place.

N.B. The Callisthenics’s kids never really fitted in either.

There was only one place to go – if you really wanted to be taken seriously as a performer – and that was BATS (Buderim Amateur Theatrical Society). Those were the days! We would get hot chips, tomato sauce and tubs of Homer Hudson ice cream from the shop on the corner (the site is now home to a fancy French restaurant, a salon and a couple of old lady boutiques), which we shared outside, lying about on the grass, just as we did later, at uni…hmmm. There was nothing better for young voices! And faces! And figures!

We had cool teachers, who let us finish our ice cream inside. It was fun. And I learned early that you didn’t have to face the audience to say a line, which was a point of contention at school. (At school, I also argued about beginning sentences with capital letters. Thank you, Veny. And the existence of God. Thank you, Lutherans). We gained confidence, friends from other schools, regular performance opportunities and some of us even got our homework done in between rehearsals! We really did have some fun at BATS.

Some might say nothing has changed. I would say a hell of a lot has changed, however; BYTE (Buderim Youth Theatre of Excellence), based at the same hall in Buderim, run by Robyn Ernst for over 10 years has stayed the popular option. One of those cool teachers of mine, Ian Austin, had this to say, back in the days when he was given a say, about BYTES:

BYTES offers students from 5-18 professional studio training in acting, dancing and musical theatre with several public performances every year.  This esteemed training ground, enriches and builds talent and perhaps more importantly personal character.  BYTES showcase presentations add the imperative gloss.” Ian Austin Review Sunshine Coast Daily

And he’s right. I get to their shows pretty irregularly and when I do, I see this to be true. Basic character is evident, as is the self-confidence (some might say over-confidence). The kids learn their lines, they deliver them in well-projected voices, they sing mostly in tune (thanks to the talented teaching team, Scott and Libby Gaedtke) and they are always dressed magnificently and lit quite adequately. I am aware that there are other productions throughout each year, which might showcase a wider range of acting ability, however; I haven’t seen any lately and the last one I did get to – I think I mentioned in a post at the time – had cast members blacking up for To Kill a Mockingbird at the same time a production of Miss Saigon went on in Hobart without any Asians in the cast! Just saying! Nevertheless, the productions provide the performance opportunity and the gloss that kids need, to feel the magic of the theatre and to be able to say, when they see something they like and aspire to, “I can do that!”

The Pirates of Penzance was perhaps an odd choice, with so many male roles and – typically – very few males available to fill them. I always loathe girls playing boys unless the context can be updated and we get to enjoy the legalisation of gay marriage for the finale. Obviously this messes with the original book and a particular demographic in the region.

In the show that I saw on Saturday afternoon, the cast featured Brandon Maday (Frederic), Eloise Mueller (Mabel), Robert Steel (Pirate King), Daniel Moray (Major General), Brianna Schlect (Ruth) and Phoebe Sullivan (Police Sergeant). I have to tell you a) I know Eloise and b) Eloise was the stand-out. Her mature vocal work was matched by Brandon’s (and what a relief that was)! The ensemble were enthusiastic and the company clearly enjoyed themselves. And that is really important. Some parents would say that their child’s enjoyment of the activity is the most important thing. But what if that fun, enthusiasm, confidence and the opportunity to perform can be tied in with some basic stagecraft and performance etiquette?

That is precisely what my friend, Mary Eggleston, is doing at SODA (School of Dramatic Arts). She runs classes in Buderim and Coolum and she is really, for youth theatre, the hottest new kid on the block. SODA’s inaugural showcase, on Saturday morning, was testament to Mary’s ability to use original material and the talents of those kids involved. We saw younger students share The Rime of The Ancient Marinater, which is like giving your primary school production of Alice in Wonderland a bit of a Tim Burton slant! It’s not light stuff and the 7 performers handled the text and the context well.

A cast of 16 slightly older students re-told the story of our local lass, Eliza Fraser, as penned by Sue Davis. The material, Figments of Eliza, was originally performed by Mary as part of the NeoGeography project  and it was interesting to hear her voice-over relay some of the story as part of this re-interpretation. And it was a pleasure to hear the familiar qualities of another of Leah Barclay‘s original compositions as their underscore. As well as teaching these students basic stagecraft, voice, movement, discipline and performance etiquette, Mary has encouraged one of the students to develop his technical skills and so Tully Grimley, for this show, became Lighting Designer and Operator.

Mary works with young people in the same way that Sam and I work with adults. I know this because as well as seeing the results in performance, I’ve taken classes for her a couple of times and these kids respond in the same manner. They are keen to perform and even keener to learn everything they can about themselves and the craft along the way. This is perhaps the difference that we are noticing now on the Sunshine Coast. The performers we seem to attract want it all. Those who stay away want just to be recognised for their performances, regardless of the end result. So we play, we have fun and we make up stuff all the time, just like those kids! We also notice what it is that the individuals bring to the ensemble, how they are connecting with themselves and how they are able to connect with others.

Kids who want more than just the gloss of the final performance should check out SODA.

Adults looking for something fun, interesting and a little more challenging should check out Sam Coward’s production of David Williamson’s INFLUENCE for Noosa Arts Theatre.

John Waters as Ziggi Blasko

 

Information Night: Friday December 10th 7pm at Noosa arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Audition (Workshop): Friday December 17th 7pm at Noosa Arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Season: April 20th – April 30th 2011

Casting:

Ziggi Blasko – early fifties, talkback radio “shock-jock”
Carmela Blasko – twenty-nine, Ziggi’s second wife, narcissist ballet dancer trying to return to form after childbirth
Vivienne Blasko – seventeen, turns out to be manic depressive
Tony – a taciturn man in his forties
Connie Blasko – forty-seven, social worker
Marko Blasko – dignified Croatian man of eighty-two
Zehra – forty-two, a slim Turkish woman

 

For more information email xsentertainme@gmail.com or check http://noosaartstheatre.org.au

07
Dec
10

The New Dead: Medea Material

I saw 3 shows on the weekend so I’ll tell you a bit about each one, over two posts. If I tell you a lot about any one of them, I will come across as being completely impossible to please. Wait. Too late?!

The truth is I am more easily pleased than you would think.

If a production delivers all it has promised to deliver, I’m a happy camper (and by “promised” I mean promised by the media too, inclusive of press releases and the early/out-of-town reviews. And by “camper” I mean theatre-goer, except when, once annually, I actually mean “camper”; the Woodford Folk Festival variety). If not, that is if it doesn’t deliver, I have to wonder why not.

For example, the show I saw on Friday night at La Boite – the last show of their Indie season this year – failed to deliver, despite being touted as one of the must see shows of 2010. In Brisbane, at least. And it should be noted that The New Dead: Medea Material came to Brisbane after seasons at NIDA (2009) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (2010).

Kat Henry, Director and Artistic Director of Stella Electrika, has an impressive body of work behind her and a whole host of exciting projects ahead of her. I had (very) high expectations of her show.

Heiner Muller‘s text is extraordinary. I wanted to hear it more clearly and react to it more extremely. I wanted to be shocked and horrified and, well…SHOCKED. But there was all this stuff that got in the way of me feeling anything much besides a kind of fascination in the result of the creative process.

We know the story. The story is shocking. It was entirely appropriate to tell the story through a combination of electro-rock-pop-or-something, theatre and dance. It felt like there were many tricks tried and many attempts made to shock –  in fact, just about every device known to theatrical mankind was used, though rarely to great effect. The anime porn, for example, flickering across the screen, was a distraction and what’s more, it was completely superfluous. Guy Webster and Kimie Tsukakoshi had already demonstrated their ability to morph into dancers and I was baffled as to why, as opposed to sitting still and posing, locking eyes only, while the anime figures onscreen made a mockery of their passionate gaze, they did not use their bodies in some Matrix-cum-Karma Sutra inspired porn piece! Was that just me?

For Lucinda Shaw, despite her apparent energy, the show seemed to start half way through it, with the commencement of her stand-up routine. Even then, she took a moment to settle into the accent and never seemed to quite settle into the routine. It was a clever device that didn’t quite work because she appeared to be uncomfortable in it. In fact, she appeared to me, to be uncomfortable from the beginning of the show, with her anxious, frustrated scratching and scoffing of corn chips. In class, I refer to this style as “anxious, frustrated acting” (Julia Roberts’ name often comes up at this point) and I challenge actors to find a more organic, interesting state of being. Interestingly, this role was played originally by Emma Dean.

I loved that Kimmie’s role required her to skate (though, for what purpose, across the space to start? To show us that she could skate?) and dance around a pole a bit BUT – and it’s the same point – why include it if it can’t be convincingly used? USE the pole! The routine was lackluster, underestimating (I’m betting) Kimmie’s ability. Regardless, if Jason were the man I thought him to be (no, not Bernie from Powderfinger, though you would be forgiven for thinking so), he would have left the drum kit for dust and fucked her right then and there on the floor. I’m sorry but there it is. Or was…not. SHOCK VALUE.

The device that really worked for me was the video footage (captured by Alex Duffy) during the final moments of the show, it’s an oldie but a goodie; it made the final horror all the more horrifying. Truly chilling, as it ought to be. Now, THAT is the kind of challenging theatre I had been expecting to see – and feel – all night.  That reminds me…watching Guy watching the screen at this point and earlier, watching him watching Kimmie across the space, we saw his best work; he was focused, connected and he was real and vulnerable.

In short, I didn’t feel that the characters were completely developed, nor that they had any real or lasting connection with each other. Having said that, all three actors are clearly multi-talented and did well to wade through all of the excess, all of the tricks…I’ve even thought of Barnum since.

The clever ideas in this production were like red weed, growing and spreading uncontrollably over everything that was good underneath. I wanted to see more of the good, organic stuff. I wanted to see a selection of the devices used to enhance the text, rather than distract from it.

03
Dec
10

That Just Happened

 

One Night In Emerald City

The Corrilee Foundation

And Noosa Longweekend 

Friday November 26 2010

 

emerald-city-fund-raiser-noosa

 

This time last week, I was swanning around with Robyn Nevin, Paula Duncan, David Field, Ita Buttrose, Bob Ansett, Mikey Robins, Lucy Bell, Ian Roberts, Felix Williamson, Jim Berardo, Daniel MacPherson and Sammy Power. Now, I think I mentioned Shane Bourne in my last post about this and that was me referring to inaccurate, outta date info. Shane was not involved in this version of the show. Sorry to mislead you.

 

In order to avoid further confusion, by “swanning around” I mean I turned up to The J in Noosa, at 10:45am on Friday, with Aroma’s soy chai latte in hand (yes, I know there is now soy rotting inside of me; shut up), met everybody, including the mastermind behind the whole huge event, the inimitable Ms Tanya Lee of The Corrilee Foundation, took my place on stage next to Dan MacPherson, and we read through the play twice (we stopped for lunch in between readings). And THAT was rehearsal. And THAT was the day. Oh, and I took off to our lovely room at Netanya for a hot tub, then to Rococco’s for Veuve and oysters, before heading back to the theatre for hair and make up.

 

emeraldcity_SCD1

 

David Field played two roles during the day – actor and director – and he was awesome in both. In fact, if I didn’t continue to feel the pull to keep getting up on stage, I would happily sit in a studio or in the theatre with stupidly talented people like David and simply absorb his energy and ideas by osmosis. In fact, I have a whole list of these directors. And actors. And authors. And teachers. And leaders. You know, those people in whose presence you would just like to be. Obviously, there is a fine line between being invisible and um, stalking…

 

As a director, David tends to stand back and let the action unfold. If he (barely) visibly cringes, you know you’re about to be politely interrupted and given a direction like, “Just tone all of that down a bit. Let’s go again and stay right with the script. It’s all there. It’s all in there”, which is easy to say when you have a David Williamson script in hand. It IS all in there and, particularly within a play reading context, the words must win in the end. As a director and as an actor, David Field GETS IT. I love the way he holds the stage, having established his presence on stage and continues to hold your attention – while you hold your breath – waiting for his next line. He doesn’t pull any stunts or lay on anything too thick. He just IS who he has to be to relay the story to the audience (he knows they’re captivated).

 

emeraldcity_SCD2

 

I wonder if, even with all of the talk about it in the media being “just” a play reading (and we tried not to say “just”), people knew what to expect…the actors sitting on stage, books in hand. It doesn’t happen too often on the Sunshine Coast. Except at rehearsals for full scale productions. And they’re usually closed rehearsals. Did anybody expect to see sets and costumes? I mean, a staged play reading to anybody involved in the theatre indicates that we would actually be moving it a bit. Actually, Felix and I got to move it a lot; the low solid timber table was ideal for our “wrestling” as his uncle, Chris, phrased it the other day on FM 101.3; “You and Felix got to wrestle quite a bit, didn’t you? Felix is my nephew, you know”. I KNOW. I think I told him, live on air, that Felix can wrestle me anytime he likes. I know. It just came out. We were live, kids; what could I do?!

 

It was pure joy to watch Robyn Nevin at work (I worked with Robyn Nevin!) I absolutely adore her vocal work especially. It’s that trained voice, isn’t it? Duh. Lovely Lucy Bell has it too (I worked with Lucy Bell!) Cate Blanchett has it too (note to self: work with Cate one day). My mum does not have it, however; Robyn Nevin reminds me of her. Seriously. She looks like my mum. Or, my mum looks like Robyn Nevin. We’ve all said it for years. And it’s true. When I have time to find the pics, I will post portraits of both theatre loving ladies and you shall see for yourselves.

 

Ian Roberts was totes OTT (it totes worked for him), playing a serial killer who’d never been caught, killing off only those who deserved it, the scum of the earth (bankers, financial advisers…) whilst out on their morning jog, taking down one spear-tackle victim at time. Ita Buttrose, one of the most elegant old-world ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, was a fabulous Zara, delivering the wordiest, funniest monologue in the piece. Paula Duncan was superb, during her brief appearance as the very Christian cleaning lady who came across not just mine and Felix’s characters in a compromising position but also, Lucy’s and Mikey Robbins’ characters in a similarly compromising position. This of course resulted in her securing not one but two holidays in Bora Bora, which the audience LOVED. There are no small parts, kids!

 

I think I mentioned Dan MacPherson (I worked with Dan MacPherson!) He played the past-it skateboard champ and had his own hilarious little moments, recanting the completely fabricated tales of his success. Dan is one of those soapie stars who truly used the genre (the soap and all those suds) as a solid foundation to take him into the next genre (the grit and guts of crime drama). Dan is no ordinary TV actor. In fact, David Field and Daniel MacPherson have given me a whole new outlook on “TV actors” (being based on the Sunshine Coast, I don’t know many of them, unless I went to uni with them, which I find is often the case because they are all super talented and super gorgeous and their potential for TV was spotted long before they graduated!) so I’ve never doubted their talent as actors, I just didn’t realise they were so passionate about theatrical projects and would, perhaps, like to do more of them.

 

emeraldcity_noosa_program_about

 

The evening was a success. As I hadn’t felt nervous since about 10:44 the same morning, I did only some very minimal jumping around in the wings (and if you’ve seen me in the wings before a show, I hope a) you were not in the audience at the time because it would be appallingly unprofessional of me to be seen at that juncture and b) that you realise I don’t actually JUMP around. It’s more like…little ballet fairy warm-up runs on the spot and sometimes those shivery running legs, you know, like in Flashdance. I don’t do jumping around).

 

I will tell you the secret to what I hope was a great performance, worthy of being included amongst such esteemed company (as I say, I hope it was, otherwise YOU’RE ALL LIARS), which came from David Field. And later, from Ian Mackellar too, the General Manager of The Noosa Longweekend and the instigator of this project happening in Noosa. And it was for some reason, shocking coming from Ian and normal coming from David! They both said something like, “Tonight, vamp it up…slut it up. GO FOR IT.”  SLUT IT UP. That’s right. It’s my new favourite phrase and has, I believe, the potential to be used in many Christmas season contexts coming up. Try it. Try it at the staff Christmas function by shouting to a colleague on the dance floor after six too many drinks after a bad buffet dinner, “That’s it, love; SLUT IT UP!” It will certainly help to make an impression.

 

The official post-show party was pretty fun too, these things usually are; we settled on the lounge with Dan’s super-cool chic, Nat, and let the fans and friends (and the wait staff, who were excellent, with their trays of teeny-tiny, love- heart-shaped, mushroom-filled delicacies provided by Splash) come to us.  The unofficial post-post-show party was even more fun but you know, what happens at the post-post-show party stays at the post-post-show party.

 

Perhaps somebody who was there  and enjoyed the show, will write the unbiased, unassociated post next! I’d like to see that! And I’d like to see photos! I didn’t want to be that girl who stopped to have her picture taken with everybody…that role was clearly reserved for Sammy Power! Love your work, Sammy!

 

Do check out The Corrilee Foundation. The next One Night in Emerald City event is to be in Melbourne next year, at The Malthouse (yes, they know I’m available!) but they do a heap of other work right through the year (more on the project that David Field and Miranda Kerr are involved in coming soon). I hope I will have the privilege and the pleasure of working with all of these wonderful people again sometime, in some capacity. And in the meantime, life goes on.

 

As I tweeted the following day, “One day you’re on stage with the likes of Robyn Nevin and the next you’re back in the studio coaching kids!”

As @Dramagirl promptly replied, as she does, “That’s showbiz!”

 

actingworkshops_NLWF13

26
Aug
10

EROTIQUE – NOTES

I know I had promised to share process/progress notes at the outset of this blog and failed to deliver during La Ronde, largely because I felt I was in such a busy, multi-tasking place at the time and I never stopped for very long to reflect upon or to dissect exactly what I was doing. Also, I tend to shy away from the more academic literary styles of writing…as you may have noticed.

Tonight we had notes. It was just Ben and I, working together with Sam on our scene, Scene Six; the final scene of the show.

No pressure, guys, NO PRESSURE.

I had been given notes previously of course, during La Ronde‘s rehearsal process, which I either applied or argued at the time, before getting on with the job. This time, this process seems slightly different. In my life, I’m just as busy (busier), just as multi-tasking (more so), just as exhausted (much more so) and yet, this time around, it feels like I’m more focused and more able to apply immediately – without arguing – the teeny tiny adjustments necessary to make this scene really…smart. And by “smart” I mean “sting”, rather than come across as anything particularly intellectual!

The premise is simple. The motives are honest. The story is short and bitter sweet.

For those of you unfamiliar with

a) the way we work or

b) our product

let me explain something…

We don’t do “acting” *GASP*

I know. I hear ya. It’s a big call. And arguable, sure, depending on your perceived notion of what acting is or isn’t or should be or shouldn’t be. And whilst Sam and I may disagree on the process part, we certainly strive for the same end result. And that is:

TRUTH. BEAUTY. FREEDOM. LOVE.

Ha! I just wanted to throw in a little Moulin Rouge again. It was time.

We do want all of that, in various guises, on stage at some stage…but not all of the time. What we do want all of the time is truth. And the way we get it is to gradually rehearse the actors out of their pre-conceived notions of story, character and connections or relationships.

The actors end up not “acting” at all.

Ben and I have indeed been feeling our way into this final scene. No pun intended. It is so not that sort of sex scene. We had a script with which to work on Monday, after 2 rehearsals and just 2 weeks out, before we “should” have it all together for the preview performances at the M1 Function Rooms in Maroochydore (stay tuned for those details).

As Director, Sam gave us the basic structure of the scene and did his whole descriptive-analysis-my-turn-in-the-spotlight thing so we were sure to GET IT. His vision, that is. WE GOT IT and we brought our own stuff to it, then we contributed to the shape of the script, did away with the script, wrote a new interpretation of the script to better reflect the mood and motives of the people we felt these characters to be and we worked it to the desired emotional point at the very first rehearsal anyway, because we were really feeling it, because we could relate to it, because we had created it.

Wow, look at that; my little green grammar line didn’t come up there! *win*

Expressed that way, it sounds so simple! Doesn’t it?!?? It is simple…if, as an actor, you can let go of all the stuff you “should” be doing as An Actor and just be the person in the story. And within that story, tell your story. We are privileged to be working with a bold director who believes in madness before method and that in between, anything goes! Lucky for him (and for us) it appears to work.

It is, in fact, the same way I coach much younger actors and singers (not so much of the madness methinks, though they – the kids – may beg to differ). It’s certainly not a common approach on the Sunshine Coast, particularly when we’re talking about school students and studio students in the lead up to the local eisteddfod!

Luckily, my recent experiences, outside of the schools, have served to validate the way I do what I do.

The way I see it is that parents are happy to pay fees for lessons outside of school in order to see results outside of the ordinary.

Contrary to popular belief, these are not just parents looking to put their child into a class because they didn’t make the netball or the footy team! In fact, they are my favourite kind of parents because they are like mine and they acknowledge and support their child’s passion for the Performing Arts, driving them to classes and rehearsals and concerts and eisteddfods and exams and…well, you probably know them too.

In schools, regardless of fees paid or the way in which the department is run, I have found that if I employ the same unconventional teaching methods, parents and principals all tend to ask, “Is that really necessary?” even before they see the work. Or indeed, the results that come from working in such an honest way.

Sometimes, when they have seen the work, they can’t help but question the way in which it was developed. And well they should! It’s always a fascinating and very courageous journey! But they don’t always like what they hear. They wonder why, when JUICE is the title in the curriculum, do we stray from it?! “Well, actually, it’s more that we’ve gone off on a tangent, to tell more personal stories and the stories have come from the kids. This is their Juice.” Their ideas, their content, their experiences, their stories. Their truth. Do we censor that? Do we deny what actually happened during their weekend? Do we not tackle the real stuff when it starts to get hard? Do we not allow the real stuff – the hard stuff – to become the lesson? I don’t want to get way off track here (too late!) but self-devised and collaborative drama is really what we’re doing here. And it’s magic. Let the kids play like this too. Don’t stop at “drama games” for 10 minutes to start or finish a class *groan* but build on them! Use them to advance the drama and develop the stories the students want to tell. We are all storytellers; actors, singers, dancers…how liberating and empowering it is to just tell the story in the spirit of truth! I hope I’m preaching to the choir here!

Maybe it’s just me.

Oh, but tears! Tears, for example; tears mean trouble! Trouble for me, that is! For the student, tears often mean the liberation and self-discovery and the realisation that “OH! I never knew I could do that!” And, “Thank you!” that, as a teacher, I can tell you, we love to hear! Tears might be shed over something joyous like this or over something devastating, like, “Oh. I never realised I felt that way.” And, “Ouch! That’s a painful truth!” (i.e. he’s just not that into you!) Somehow these lessons are more easily taught away from the rigour of a traditional classroom setting.

For those on the outside of the drama class at school, tears (or any strong emotion) can be confronting and confusing and frightening and threatening (“Oh! What? She made her cry?!”) For those outside the studio setting however, tears seem to be a little more acceptable; there is an understanding that the student has made a bold choice and has committed to delivering their own interpretation of the song or monologue or scene. AND THAT’S CONFRONTING. For the artist, I mean. So let’s learn to chill out, open up and tell the truth of our stories! Let’s accept that THE PROCESS MAY INVOLVE TEARS. And let’s appreciate those parents who support the interests and ambitions of their children and send them to Performing Arts studios outside of school hours! And look, I don’t really make a habit of making my students cry; of course it’s just an example. What I do, unlike others who baulk at the thought of anything really tricky or emotional or REAL (or those who have also been told by administration that they just can’t field any more enquiries about one class) is to not stop nudging somebody towards their own raw, vulnerable place, which is where the tears might be.

The truth is extremely confronting and we face it in order to deliver it believably to an audience. As my good friend, Todd Schroeder likes to say, “If you can see it, you can sell it!” This is so difficult at first, for the students (including the adults) who have been told that their proclamation style “acting” and pantomime over-the-top-ness is DA BOMB.

THANK YOU Idol, X-Factor, Everybody in the Whole Freakin’ Universe’s Got Talent and every other reality tv talent-seeking competition insisting on increasing ratings and rewarding mediocrity!

Even my 10-12 year olds will invariably hear from me, from the outset, “I don’t believe you!” I say it lovingly, of course. And then I wait, with baited breath, for each to turn up to their second lesson ever…and yes, they always do!

Ok. End of rant/schools vs studios comparison/self-appraisal and approval segment.

So. I was going to share the director’s notes with you. Here they are:

  • 4 pages of script and 3 out of 4 pages perfect.
  • projection. You only have, at any time, one word each; make sure they get it.
  • more joy in the memories. Not sure why but “wasabi” works!

The rehearsal ran thus:

  1. lines run
  2. gabble, which is a lines run in fast forward
  3. lines run out of context (this was DIFFICULT for me)!
  4. lines run eyes closed (this was easy for me)!
  5. director’s notes

So, without even moving it this evening, we felt we got to the truth of it again. Well, our truth, which is, after all, all we can offer.

And you can take from it what you will.

Sam said an interesting thing, a great analogy for what we do. Here it is, paraphrased and noted here late, late, late; I will do my best to explain it so you GET IT.

The Preface: Sam used to run nightclubs. The real seedy ones, you know? He would sort out all sorts of trouble, especially after close (and kids, I’m talking about a 5am close, none of this 1:30 curfew and bring up the ugly lights before 3). During a stint at the helm of one particularly notorious club, he would walk home to our apartment at sunrise each morning and then walk with me along the beach to the school at which I was teaching, before walking home again to go to bed by about 9am. True story. He walked a lot.

The Analogy: Sam says a scene is like a nightclub. You have it there, all set up and you can see in your mind, the types of people who are going to rock up each night. You vaguely know what to expect from them because you’ve seen it all before (the bogans, the bikies, the flirtatious fake boobs, the stiletto through the palm of your hand on the stairs)…When they actually rock up, they’re not quite as you imagined them but they fit your scene and you can manipulate their actions to a certain extent (mood, music, lighting, security, etc). Every time a person walks into that club, the scene changes. You manipulate what you can but ultimately, the people make that club what it is.

Sam says it is his job to welcome the actors to the club and help them to feel comfortable in their own skin. Hmmm…Well, now, more than ever, that job description makes perfect sense. Next week, Ben and I will be getting comfortable – literally – in our own (lily white winter) skin.

Keep those ugly lights off, thanks, Sam!

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

14
Apr
10

The Mechanics of Undressing – Part 2

By Sharon Grimley

So, to date I have undressed publicly at least 12 times (excluding rehearsals, over the past 2 months).  I still have at least another 2 performances to go before our first season is complete – I say this in hope of a second season materialising – and I, and the Socialite, am surprisingly comfortable disrobing for an audience.  Sure, there is still the frisson of excitement when I remember that my audience don’t expect this, as I remove my peignoir and camisole, but any reservations about appearances have melted away.  I am just doing my job.

However, it struck me over the last few weeks that other people’s reactions to my doing-what-I-am-doing, in the name of theatre, are widely varied.  And this puts me in mind of a memorable question from an authority from my past, Professor Julius Sumner Miller:

“Why is it so?”


What is it about a body?

We all have one.

Most people are equipped with one of two variations on the bits attached to them.

So what makes people fearful of it?  OR more particularly, fearful of seeing someone else’s?

Nipples?

REALLY?


The reactions I have encountered are as follows:

Ignore – “If I don’t mention it, it isn’t happening.” – a response common to conservative friends and parents-in-law

Awe – Being a “woman of a certain age”  …I rather like this one!

Curiosity – “What does she look like?” “Does she look like me?”  “Does she look like I imagined?”  “ Is she going to take it…..oo, yes, I think she’s… oh my god, she’s really going to take it off!”

Fascination – “I expected to be confronted, but found myself mesmerised instead.”

Disgust – OK, I made this one up.  Not to date anyway (or to my knowledge, anyway).

Seeing another person’s body is not something we are culturally equipped for.


At the beach or in television shows or in magazines or in billboard ads (OK, everywhere), we seem to deal with various degrees of undress, but seeing another REAL human naked RIGHT UP CLOSE is something often associated with private and intimate relationships.

Isn’t it right then that, in a play dealing with sexual relationships, some degree of nudity would be appropriate and genuine and integral?

Oohhhh…. it’s the SEXUAL relationships they don’t want put under scrutiny, yes?  And the icky, uncomfortable, basic, not-for-public-consumption feelings they get when they see someone else undress…

Or worse still, that they might never be able to look me in the eye again.

The Maid and The Socialite

After a sell-out season in Noosa, the Mooloolaba season of La Ronde is SOLD OUT





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