Posts Tagged ‘Confidence

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

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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

25
Nov
10

One Night In Emerald City

One more sleep until I spend One Night in Emerald City, on stage, with some pretty impressive Aussie talent.

Yes. I know. I should be sleeping. But I’m a bit excited…well, excited and scared.

I will be sharing the stage with Robyn Nevin, Paula Duncan, David Field, Ita Buttrose, Bob Ansett, Mikey Robins, Lucy Bell, Ian Roberts, Felix Williamson, Jim Berardo and Daniel MacPherson. Our comperes will be Shane Bourne and local Zinc FM breakfast show host, Sammy Power.

Apparently, according to my sources, who have all been at The J in Noosa already this evening, to support the premiere of the locally produced short film Cyber Sin, everybody is in fine spirits! I was sorry not to have been able to make this special event too, but our QAVA students keep turning up to classes!

Look, I would like to tell you that I have my lines down. I would like to tell you that, just like Ken Baumann (and so many others, though his is the most recent impressive interview with an actor), I read the script a couple of times and just HAD IT. In fact, I would like to tell you that I know exactly what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, whether my hair will be straightened or styled in water waves (thank you Suite Three)…but no. I got nothin’. We have come to the eleventh hour and I’m freaking out like my four year old. That’s right. Not a typo. Not just any four year old, my four year old; who graduated from daycare yesterday (are we celebrating or are we celebrating mediocrity?!) She refused to perform the well-rehearsed little concert they’d put together for the proud parents. She’d been singing Home Among the Gum Trees for several weeks. She was so ready! But she was happy with her decision. She was a beautiful audience member, in her red sari for Diwali (Nanny and Bugsy-Pa have just returned from India and her head is full of stories and her arms bright and shiny with bangles). She was so proud of her friends and she mingled with them afterwards, congratulating them, as four year olds do, over pink “champagne” and sausages in bread.

Perhaps stage fright is partly genetic. I think I hid behind my mother’s (her Nanny’s) skirts until I was four. Or in Grade Four, I don’t remember which; I’ve blocked it out. Perhaps Poppy is simply a child who knows her own mind (and heart). It has taken me years to work out that there are times I love being on stage and there are other times when I love teaching and directing. Above all, I have loved having a choice in the matter.

Clearly, I had to respect her decision (it was worded so eloquently), “Mama, I want to watch my friends today. We are the audience today.” No amount of coercion from teachers, friends or friends’ (stage) mothers could convince her to change her mind. So we enjoyed watching her friends perform.

We also had a little conversation later, about sometimes just having to do the show…

 

Mama: You know, sometimes, you don’t have a choice and the show must go on and that means you must go on.

Poppy: I know, Mama. Like your shows.

Mama: That’s right, like my shows; the audience turns up so we do our show.

Poppy: Okay, Mama; I will do the show the next time the audience turns up.

 

I hope, when the audience turns up tomorrow night I will feel ready to do the show, rather than sitting and enjoying watching it! I really would like to see it! I love a good playreading! One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen was a staged reading directed by Michael Gow, of David Williamson’s Let the Sun Shine.

After a read with the cast in the morning and a read on stage with them in the afternoon, I’m hoping I’ll feel as confident as I did walking into the audition! We shall soon see!

 

If you’re there, enjoy and make sure you say hi at our little soiree after the show!

 

 

08
Sep
10

Scott Alan: He Came, He Saw, He Sang a Bit…in Brisbane

Irreverent American humour? Isn’t that an oxymoron? It’s certainly a term I have only used previously to describe our own sense of self-deprecating Aussie humour. Or humor. Whatever.

Whatever, it was what left a lasting impression on me after Scott Alan’s Brisbane Powerhouse appearance on Friday night.

Scott Alan, delivered unto us by Harvest Rain Theatre Company, as the second instalment in their promising Broadway to Brisvegas series, himself delivered, during his debut Australian appearance, something entirely unexpected…he was nervous, raw, honest and absolutely fucking hilarious. The man is a comic genius, of the most irreverent kind!

I’m not sure he had set out to be but at his most self-deprecating, he managed to separate the near-capacity crowd (how many of those were comps, I wonder) quite neatly – we could almost hear it – this rip at the seams, straight down the middle, splitting the new fans and friends from the old. And then another divide: the new who would stay and buy CDs forever and the new who whispered loudly to their partner, “Well, I never! Harvest Rain will be receiving my strongly worded letter!” The audible collective intakes of breath were from audience members Of A Certain Age, who clearly enjoyed the music (no doubt about that), however, they obviously didn’t appreciate the comments that came thick and fast as part of what Sam and I thought was a pretty witty repartee! How torn they must have felt! “How talented!” “How inappropriate!” “How talented!” “How inappropriate!”

…as I have said, I thought it was all tres amusement and I love the man’s work, so the manner in which he chose to deliver it for barely an hour in Brisbane one random night in the middle of his busy schedule annoyed me not. In fact, his blatant disregard for the sensitivities of the audience or singers added to the whole atmosphere, which once again felt, it has to be said, as it did when Shoshana Bean was here, more like a big ol’ High School Musical cast reunion (and I have included the link there, just in case, you know…) than a debut Australian anything. Or else I’m just too old and un-hip – and no doubt too undressed – to hang with the Harvest Rain kids *breathes sigh of relief at this sudden realisation*

I love what Harvest Rain are doing with this series. I’m not sure why they’re not selling out each concert as they are announced. I’m hoping they find a way to attract a much broader audience, an audience from outside their own inner circle. In case I forget to mention it again next time I see you, for the attention of particular friends and industry types, whose faces were noticeably absent; WHERE WERE YOU? I’m telling you, get over the whole Harvest Rain thing – whatever it is, whether or not they are themselves feeding it, WHATEVER – and support this venture!

Support the young and emerging artists who have the opportunity to learn so much from our favourite Broadway singers and songwriters, support another great effort to put Brisbane on the map as a valuable stopover!

Speaking of young and emerging artists, the talent that nearly stole the show was without a doubt, Jordan Pollard and Ellen Reed, both fabulous products of Harvest Rain (and who knows where else. I await their Facebook Fan Pages, due to appear…well, surely, imminently). While I question the decision to put your own up there on a stage in a town that’s not your own, while in your home town, by all means, let your own talent shine! And shine they did! Ellen killed Please Don’t Let Me Go and then turned on her tender side for Always. Jordan’s interpretation of Now was mature and moving (pretty quietly devastating, in fact, just as it should be) and his bold, boy-to-man Over the Mountains might just have been enough to make me predict this stirring soldier’s heart song to be the new Anthem of the musical theatre world. And Jordan Pollard the one to watch. Not that anybody takes any notice of what I say. Or predict. Or watch. Both singers shared stunning voices and just about every emotional change fathomable…and in any Scott Alan piece, you know that’s a roller coaster ride’s worth.

I will certainly look forward to seeing:

  • Harvest Rain’s site updated
  • Any other mention of this concert in any context whatsoever
  • Who turns up, having purchased their tickets, to the next one
  • Who, in fact, we will be turning up to see

In Melbourne on Monday night, appearing with Scott, was Harvest Rain’s Angela Harding, Naomi Price, Luke Kennedy and the star of Wicked in Japan, Melbourne’s own Cassie McIvor, who recently recorded one of the tracks on Scott’s upcoming album. I asked her how the Melbourne show went. Cassie said it was a fantastic night!

She sang 2 songs from the new album, Watch Me Soar and I’m Not Quite Ready Yet To Grieve (her track on his new album).

Cassie spoke highly of  The Malthouse crew, Harvest Rain’s Artistic Director, Tim O’Connor and the visiting singers; “They were not only incredibly talented but some of the most wonderful people I have met in this industry. I really want to work with them again soon.”

Of working with Scott Alan, Cassie said, “Of course, Scott and I have a relationship from New York so it was super cool to hang out with him on my turf. He has been so supportive and he really talked me up during the show, which was nice because it was my first performance in Australia for almost 3 years. He had a great time and I think he is looking forward to coming back again.”

We hope so too, Cassie! Thanks for your comments. We can’t wait to hear your track on the new album!

In the meantime, back to our own little “exceptional piece of art” (thank you indeed, Mr Cooper; come again) EROTIQUE

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!

24
Aug
10

The Sydney Fringe: In 18 Sleeps!

OH!
WHAT???
Only 18 sleeps before our Sydney debut?!
Thank goodness I visited The Brazilian Hut yesterday! These latest wardrobe issues are all a matter of impeccable timing. And maintenance. That’s right. The Sydney audiences are going to see a whole lot more than Sunshine Coast audiences did!
Wait. What’s that? We are doing a one night only for them?
WHAT? TWO NIGHTS NOW, BY POPULAR DEMAND???
Sunshine Coast peeps, you have two opportunities to see us take everything off before we all take off to The Sydney Fringe Festival!
Preview the sensual (and dare I say, a little more disturbing than you thought) Erotique on Friday September 10th or Saturday September 11th at the il secondo & M1 Function Rooms, Maroochydore.
Tony Kelly and Whitehouse Celebrations have joined forces with XS Entertainment to offer the Sunshine Coast locals (and dedicated Brisbane fans and friends) a sophisticated night out, combining a superb location and great food and wine with dark and delicious new theatre…but numbers are strictly limited. You will need to book soon. We will need to give you the details sooner…
WATCH THIS SPACE
I think it has to be said, that out of the entire cast, I expected me to be the least concerned about baring my body on stage. Not so. But you know what? It’s my winter body! I mean, c’mon! A tan would really help me out here. Without giving too much away, can I not be terminal with a TAN?! I’m much more comfortable in my tanned, summer skin…no? Oh. Ok. So, how much more confronting must this approach to the final scene be for Ben, who did not have the luxury of getting up to any mischief during the original La Ronde and is certainly less accustomed than I, to wearing risqué or revealing costumes…not to mention none at all…although this is probably a moot point when it comes to some of the cast parties he…we have attended. A-hem. Also, he has been given a character description devoid of the term, “tanned”! Do feel welcome to comment if you’d like to see a guest post from The Boy, Ben Johnson!
We have certainly raised the stakes.
See for yourself. Soon, real soon
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.




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