Posts Tagged ‘Film

30
Mar
10

The Director’s Wife

Contrary to popular belief, being The Director’s Wife is not an advantage during the production process, in fact; it’s quite the opposite. I have found, several times now, that it is in fact, a distinct disadvantage to be married to the director. It doesn’t make the casting process any easier and if cast, it means a roller-coaster of a ride ensues! Nancy Allen recognised it long before I did! She and Brian de Palma divorced in 1984.

As well as trying to manage – wait, let’s just say find a reasonable balance between – the home, the theatre, the husband, the daughter, the work, the errands, the sanity (the list goes on)…one must also take on the following roles:

Directorial Consultant

(Sounding Board)

Sam: Hey honey, what if everybody is made up like in Rocky Horror?

X: Um. No. It should be beautiful, not grotesque.

Sam: Right. Okay. So everybody will be made up like in Rocky Horror…

Dramaturg

(Late night Google Girl)

Sam: HONEY! Can you get off Facebook and find all the adaptations of La Ronde and who did them and when they were done?

X: *opens new tab*

Personal Assistant

(The Maid)**

Sam: Baby, do you want coffee?

X: *saves draft and gets up to make coffee*

Personal Secretary

(Human Answering Machine)

Everybody, every time they call: “Hiiiiii! How are yooou? Goood!  Goood! So…is Sam there?”

X: *has already walked to where ever Sam is and handed him the iPhone*

Sure, I know, the director’s focus should be on the show. He has every right to live and breathe it, think and talk about only it, relate everything to it and take notice of how everybody else feels during the process, not to mention plan way ahead in case it takes off and tours the world…but only if he is unmarried. If you are the wife of a director it will drive you MAD.

Or it will drive you to come up with an Oscar winner. Just sayin’.

N.B. I have to include this because it was inspirational in the development of Scene 2. And because sometimes I feel like I’m being flung about, physically and emotionally, just like Ms O’Connor, both on stage and off (though she is much more elegant and beguiling and beautifully, delicately damaged than I and also, I tend to exaggerate for the sake of the story).

I love my husband.

Sometimes he remembers to tell me later, long after the rehearsal or the performance, that he loves what I’m doing. Other times…he is busy reminding somebody else to resist changing anything after Opening Night, or helping to strike the mirrors or, a week ago, twice (this is true), on the iPhone doing a radio interview instead of the usual morning coffee. He didn’t even have a coffee in hand! Now, I know there’s a multi-tasking issue there too…but there’s something a little amiss about this picture from the outset. You should know that Sam doesn’t skip that first coffee of the day for anybody. Suddenly, during this rehearsal period, he’s omitting it from the routine in order to gesticulate and concentrate on what he’s saying live to air before 9:00am! Unbelievable! I feel duped! I have been led to believe, for all these years, that my husband simply cannot function in the morning without coffee. Or sex. Or, preferably, both.

Don’t try to tell me that we are not, each and every one of us, completely and inexplicably, obsessed with our art.

We have at home, a little pre-cursor to every conversation. It’s quite simple and I think you’ll find, if you employ a similar measure in your own happy/unhappy home, it’s a strategy that aims to clarify and appease at the base level of every marriage and/or working relationship. I think, like most obvious solutions, we stumbled across it right before a shouting match conversation over coffee. I simply enquire as to whether I am being consulted as The Wife, The Cast Member, The Mother or The Social Media Marketing and Publicity Officer. I cannot help but think of Ko-Ko advising The Mikado.

Disclaimer: It was completely unnecessary to post all of these clips. Part 3 is the relevant, albeit slightly obscure reference, pertaining to an advisory role. But are they not delightful? Was this production not pure delight? Have you not enjoyed the little break from living and breathing and reading La Ronde?! Ladies and gentleman that was interval. And now it’s over.

Aside: My music theatre and operetta loving siblings and I watched this production over and over for years! It must have been shown on the ABC and my music theatre and operetta loving father must have recorded it on a video tape. That’s right. It was the eighties. It was VHS.

Right. What was I saying? Oh yes. I don’t always feel that I am in the best position to advise the director. I feel conflicted. No, not afflicted, conflicted; there are conflicts. Sometimes I try to be the objective Wife With Nothing to do With the Show. And then as The Director’s Wife who was Cast in the Show and Accepted the Role Against Her Better Judgement, I argue the point that will invariably make or break a scene.

Sometimes we actually agree.

After a questionable start to our scene work (he wanted me to be pathetic. I wanted to win a little bit), Sam has trusted me implicitly in the development of my character and he has, as part of the process, allowed me opportunities to explore possibilities and approaches to my scenes that were not obvious to him at the outset. Of course I share his vision; we all do, after just 8 weeks, rehearsing only in our pairs and fitting rehearsals in around our work, friends, family and other “real life” commitments, as we do when we are not making an income from this theatre thing. We are a close-knit little company now, having collaboratively re-written and re-shaped a good 60% of the original text. And having pulled an all-nighter to film the production for the documentary.

My interpretation has always been swayed by the desire for beauty to have an emotive effect on the audience (I’m a bit old-fashioned and feminine that way), as well as the need to portray my character as someone with stronger and more intriguing qualities than just those of a long-suffering victim (I’m a bit contemporary and feminist that way). Sam has wanted the physical,emotional and intellectual power play within each vignette to achieve the same results, challenging viewers to really feel something, even if they are unsure about what it is they are feeling. Originally, Sam wanted my character to come across as genuinely pathetic and without any power at all, just by the end of the scene with Shane. He wanted to save my “win” for the following scene. I argued the point with the same stubborn resolve I was looking to find for the character…and I hope I’m now getting across a win – of sorts – because my objective throughout has been to get him to love me. And I have to believe that he does.

I think that, almost by accident, we found that in my scene with Sharon, our different approaches amounted to the same thing. My objective would be the same: to get her to love me. But Scene 3 was always intended to be The Beautiful Scene. We were told when cast that having a relationship outside of the theatre was going to prove to be either a complete disaster or the best thing for us. For some reason, this comment infuriated me and I thought at the time, “What a ridiculous thing to say! What does he mean? This is Freudian! This is code! This is excessive use of the exclamation mark! He knows Sharon and I will be fine. He’s actually referring to our marriage and this show will be the end of it after all” (I’m a bit melodramatic that way).

The truth is that my husband, The Director, realised at some point (I don’t remember when, I blocked it out; there were tears) that he had been directing me very differently, communicating with me differently to the way he communicated with the other actors…because I am his wife. He was over-compensating and speaking to me more harshly because, for some reason, I should know better. Or he should set an example. Or something. Of course, being his wife, I should be able to read Sam’s mind. I should have somehow absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, his preferred creative vision and direction for me. Oops. My bad.

Another thing. Very interesting. Because I am The Director’s Wife, Shane was hesitant at first about really working our scene. From his perspective, having never worked with Sam before, he had a really scary scene to do! He was pretty reluctant to viciously and violently overpower me, throw me to the floor and carry out a simulated rape…in front of my husband. Once we had convinced Shane that I was fine with the evil intent and the physical nature of the scene (and that Sam and I had experienced this very issue before, when I was Fantine on a stage in Mt Isa) we came up with a terrifying encounter, which makes it relatively easy for Shane to fearlessly assault me and for me to show real fear, leaving the audience cringing and me shaking. I will save the breakdown of my substitution, inner objects and the moment before for another time, like, for the launch of my posthumously-published memoirs…

So anyway, before we had Leah Barclay‘s stunning original score, this was the inspiration for Scene 3. Simple. Whimsical. Beautiful. I insisted on using it to underscore the scene during rehearsals, until we had the actual piece, written by Ms Barclay in India and sent to us via email, after just one meeting with The Director, during which he described the mood and movement of the scene.

It seems Sam and I approach the work, like marriage and like raising a child, very differently sometimes. Sometimes the fact that we disagree is what works, forcing us to reconsider our perspective and our respective priorities. And sometimes it’s a matter of just knowing when to choose our battles. It’s just marriage, after all.

There are also times when, despite my best intentions, passion and dedication; I’m just an ordinary housewife and mother and The Director’s Wife is just another multi-layered part to play. And there is really very little acting involved.

** I play The Maid both on stage and off.

27
Mar
10

World Theatre Day

Happy World Theatre Day!

How are you celebrating?

What does theatre mean to you?

Of course, you might know that it is also Earth Hour tonight! We are deferring our candlelit conversation until after the show, which is – very artfully – dimly lit anyway, so we are doing our bit to conserve energy even as we perform.

We previewed La Ronde on Wednesday and opened on Thursday. Today, on World Theatre Day, the Sunshine Coast Daily has given us not one, not two but three stories! (That’s right! That is unheard of! And on Mooloolaba Triathlon Weekend!) It also seems that word of mouth continues to spread like wildfire. Thanks to the awesome power of social media marketing, this thing went viral a few weeks ago. Bookings have been strong and if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll make sure you see La Ronde in Noosa before April 3rd or in Mooloolaba on the 9th, 10th, 16th or 17th of April.

Interestingly, there is a lot of talk amongst the local artists at the moment about reciprocal networking and about supporting each other in this crazy industry. If networking is NOT reciprocal, how is it WORKING? Ah ha! I hear you! I know! It’s really hard to get to everything. There is so much good stuff happening and we are all busy doing our own thing. It’s incredibly frustrating. I hate missing anything. I am guilt-ridden. However, I am frequently impressed by the Facebook messages, status updates, comments, links, blogs and tweets, referring to ticket sales and the friends who are able to move heaven and Earth to make it to a show before closing night in order to show their support for their peers (and enjoy a great show)! So much for the poor, sleepy little country cousin Brisvegas and it’s even poorer, sleepier, half-cousin-twice-removed Sunshine Coast. It seems everybody I know is getting busy making theatre! KEEP MAKING IT, KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, KEEP SUPPORTING IT AND PROMOTING IT. We will all get to as much as we possibly can. Promise.

Dame Judi Dench says, in her message for World Theatre Day 2010, that “theatre comes about through team work.” And so does the continuation of the growth and support of the industry, at any level. Well, we knew that. It’s just hard (because we may be time poor, energy poor and quite simply POOR) to commit to booking tix and just doing it. I know that “Break a leg” posted on your Facebook wall sometimes means disappointment because you realise THAT friend/fan/influential industry type is unable to attend your show…but it IS a show of support and it’s the least we can do in lieu of attendance sometimes.

The response from La Ronde attendees has, thus far, been overwhelmingly positive (*collective sigh of relief is heard across South-East Queensland*) Already, audiences have told us that they didn’t really know what to expect so in a way there were no surprises. And yet they were surprised and challenged to not only feel comfortable joining us for the journey, no matter what we threw at them but to consider the context and the truth in which each story was told. Actually, most audience members, at least for the film makers, have been unsure about how they really feel at the end of the show. It seems that some can’t just sum it up. Although we can safely assume that not everybody is ready for their close up upon leaving the theatre, we have seen many audience members stumble out of the theatre, completely lost for words and not even sure whether or not they are ready for a drink! Now, there’s no interval, remember; how can they NOT be ready for a drink?! The most common comment, along with those below, has been, “Oh. Um. I have to think about it. I have to see it again…”

Audience comments for camera and from the conversations with the cast have included:

That was fantastic!

I loved it but I hated that scene (everybody describes a different scene)…

I shuddered and I loved it.

The girls gave me shivers. So beautiful. So sad. Something made me remember…

This is the best show I’ve seen on this stage.

This is the best show I’ve seen on the Sunshine Coast.

That is how they do theatre in Europe.

Very European.

Delightful.

Original.

Intriguing.

Frightening, challenging, stunning theatre. I’ll be back to see it again.

I’ve booked again for next week. I want my friend to see this show.

Beautiful.

Sexy.

Brave.

So. I’m thrilled to be a part of this very clever production and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing on World Theatre Day than performing and then live-tweeting the backstage antics and dressing room fun (last night it was stealing Easter eggs from under the stage manager’s nose).

What does theatre mean to me then? All of this and more! It may not be as eloquent as I intend it to be but you’re reading it in every post. That we can stage something that makes people uncertain about how they feel, especially about very specific controversial subjects, that we can explore the vastly different approaches to the way in which we present these taboo topics, that we can challenge our audiences to question and consider their own social mores and private habits and they enjoy it and that the process by which we have reached this point continues, allowing us to keep growing and nurturing each other as artists and showing other artists that anything is possible, is something to be realised every day. I’m proud to celebrate today (and tonight, in candlelight at a dear friend’s place, after the worker lights have come up, the white pancake has come off and the audience has left after the empties have been collected by our dedicated and beautifully presented Front of House staff) but I do believe we get more joy from a thing that is celebrated and shared every day. Luckily for me, just like these entertainment industry power couples who are leading the way, I get to share it all long after we leave the theatre…

Of course, there are different challenges associated with that but we’ll save it for another post, shall we?

Theatre means there are some challenges, some discoveries and some joy every day. How lucky are we?!

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

Lisa and David Campbell

Sam and Xanthe Coward

23
Mar
10

The Extra Rehearsal

It seems this rehearsal period is almost at an end and you still don’t know very much about how it’s been going, do you? Well, it’s been going great, thanks! Oh. Well, what I mean is, that I sort of expected, as you did too no doubt, that there would be a bit of drama off stage as well as on. There almost always is. What’s live theatre without a bit of drama, after all? But in actual fact, we have had comparatively very little drama. I know! How refreshing! Indeed, the focus has been, at each and every rehearsal, on the scene work itself and how to get a better result from just those involved in the short time allowed.

It may seem to some of you, especially if the theatre is not something you are involved in beyond being an audience member, that this is a very strange thing to be making a point about. I think it has been a major point of difference to the success of this production. We have not had company members sitting idle at rehearsals and thus, we have avoided all sorts of petty conversations and criticisms that one has, sadly, and come to expect in community/amateur theatre. Of course it takes all sorts. We are lucky that the sort of people drawn to this show are those who are able to listen to each other and respond accordingly, generously and supportively; feeling the shifts in energy and compensating for somebody being a bit down on themselves or somebody else having had a hard day at work or a horrid day at home. These are the sort of people with whom I would like to keep producing great theatre. These are also the people I’m proud to count amongst my friends.

After a tough tech week, during which we allowed the crew to come in and take over the theatre, previously having claimed it as our own, we can see now that we do, indeed, have a great show. Last night’s rehearsal tied some loose ends together (quite literally- wait to see the ribbon put to good use) and we had our film makers, Simon and Evita, backstage with us, capturing those candid conversations, preparations and the interesting/scary/revelatory moments just before and after the usual (or unusual) entrances and exits. Fascinating stuff. Only I hope I didn’t say anything really stupid in the dressing room. Other than encountering, for the first time ever, difficulties with my make up – the pancake took a dislike to me and refused to adhere – oh and being thrown to the floor rather more viciously than usual and sustaining injuries to a foot and an elbow during the scene with Shane (what WERE you on, Shane?!), I think I did okay. I think we can achieve some clever edits there. As we say, we’ll fix it in post.

So anyway, tonight was never going to be a night off, as some had hoped. We scheduled an extra rehearsal some time ago, in order to get what we needed on film. Here’s the drill, just so you know what we are up to as you make your Milo and head off to bed with a good book:

  • 6:30pm call for 7:30pm curtain
  • wide shot of the entire show. This means we run the show as per usual. The shot will be from the bio box.
  • medium shot of the entire show. This means we run the show a second time. The shot will be from the stalls.

Hahahahaha! I will just say, there are just the stalls at Noosa Arts Theatre. It’s a teeny, tiny, lovely little theatre of around 100 seats…

hope you’ve booked!

  • Close Ups and reversals. This means that, sometime close to midnight no doubt, after extra tea, coffee, chocolate, miso and a few more cigarettes than are really needed (Sam…) we will be running each scene several times to capture various aspects of character, relationship and story. And some really good out-takes I’m guessing, for the special features!

This is the real film part, friends. The part where we do take after take after take, to make sure we have everything we need for the doco. I don’t mind it. Actually, I hate the camera but I don’t mind being filmed by it, you know? This is the part that we can still control a little. After tonight we have an audience. La Ronde previews tomorrow night and opens on Thursday night. Tonight we can still manipulate the telling of the story to a greater degree than once we have that live (and mostly unforgiving) audience in front of us. We can’t go back and do something again if we are not happy with it. Oh, the thrill of live theatre!

I guess I will sleep at the end of April. Whatever.

It was always our intention to film the show in HD (that’s High Def, High Definition, folks. Don’t worry, I will learn the lingo with you) and capture the creative process on the little hand held camcorder. I love this whole rough-as-guts thing while we work and then we reveal the all-shiny-and-new look for the performance. It’s a message about the façade of the theatre. The façade of life! No, no, not really, we’ve not talked about that at all; I just threw that in…

It’s true though: most audiences don’t really care what came before. They are interested in the product. Of course, social media and access to all manner of blogs and reviews online as well as programs like Inside the Actors Studio and the special features on every DVD have, perhaps a little insidiously, been educating our audiences to expect more. I do believe this to be a good thing. THIS IS A GOOD THING, PEOPLE! It is part of what we aim to do with La Ronde.

Sam (the director, if you’ve only just joined us…Hi!) has said all along that he wanted to offer a number of challenges to actors AND audiences. And part of the point of filming what comes before, is to pull back the curtain (yes, sorry, look, I can’t believe I said that either) on how the product is created, helping to foster the audiences’ interest in the performing arts and thereby, garnering their SUPPORT FOR THE ARTS. I know. Sigh. It’s been done before. But never like this! Oh. Yes, it has and I think I have already referred to the brilliant insight that is In the Company of Actors and (yes, this old chestnut) The Making of Miss Saigon. I’m sure there are others out there but these two documentaries in particular, have inspired us and influenced our approach to this show, as serious work – to be continued – in community theatre.

Once we’ve shared this little show with the Sunshine Coast we intend to take it to…well, who knows where? I hope you will find us…there…and I hope some of you will come along for the ride.

21
Jan
10

Casting La Ronde

A Letter from the Director

13.01.10

Auditionees,
I would firstly like to thank everyone for auditioning on Monday night for La Ronde.

The talent on display was outstanding, making it very difficult to cast. In fact I toyed with the idea of casting it twice and, for the doco, rehearsing two casts and only staging the best one……..but then I figured that this would be a greater kick in the head for those not performing than finding out now.

Some roles were easier to cast than others, some roles were cast before we left the theatre and others have taken up till today to decide upon with two roles having as many as five on my shortlist.

The end result has come about based on three specific criteria:

  • Individual Talent – The show and its content demand a high level of performance competency and skill
  • Adaptability – The ability to work in an ever changing, unorthodox and sometimes chaotic style and method of theatrical exploration.
  • Chemistry – In the end, this is where the final decisions were made, how the individual paired up with the two prospective partners, in look, feel, gel and fit.

As I said on Monday night, we only have roles for 1/4 of those who auditioned. For the remaining unsuccessful 3/4’s I hope you enjoyed the audition process and continue your performance aspirations. Noosa Arts has a wonderful season ahead and many more opportunities will be available throughout the year.

Finally, after much deliberation, I am proud to announce my cast for La Ronde

The Whore – Meg Maguire
The Soldier – Shane Ross
The Maid – Xanthe Coward
The Socialite – Sharon Grimley
The Wife – Mary Eggleston
The Husband – Stephen Moore
The Girl – Kay Ellsum
The Poet – Nathan Hynes
The Actress – Carly Partridge
The Judge – Tim Murphin

Thank you once again to everyone who attended, congratulations to those successful (I hope you know what you’re in for) and to those on this occasion who find themselves unsuccessful, please know that it has not been easy to make decisions regarding the cast for this show and I would welcome all of you to audition for me again for future projects.

Regards

Sam Coward

Noosa Arts Theatre

Tim Murfin gets personal

20
Jan
10

Choosing La Ronde

Sam Coward doesn’t mind causing  a stir. I know. I married him. Perhaps that should be: I know, he married me. After 10 years, I think we work together better than we live together and more often than not, as we are usually busy working on something, it is just as well. During those down times, in between creative projects, there is more drama in our home than within most amateur theatrical companies, let alone households…so we figure it is better to be always working.

And so he has cast me as The Maid, in his challenging new production of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. First read-through with the cast in Noosa tonight. This is very exciting. Like, even more exciting than usual. The challenging nature of the material and Sam’s extraordinary vision for the production is already causing a stir amongst all those who attended the organic, intimate, workshop-style auditions (a post about auditions later).

The first read-through/meet and greet at the outset of any show tends to bring forth mixed feelings as it is; nerves and new energy, a sense of satisfaction and anticipation about having secured the role and about the prospect of working with a bunch of talented people in something that you’re not entirely sure about…in fact, I’m not even sure when these feelings ever settle down into any sort of comfort level and confidence about one’s place in the production. I shall endeavor to let you know. In fact, the purpose of this blog is three-fold.

1. I teach actors and I talk a lot about process and approach and yet I have never kept (well, not since uni production days) a complete record of what is happening, from an actor’s perspective, during rehearsals. As an actor and acting coach, this is an important part of the process for me.

2.  By documenting the process, including the pains and joys of putting on a stage production, I will accumulate material to accompany the documentary we are making at the same time, Inside La Ronde. I have always been so inspired by The Making of Miss Saigon and In the Company of Actors and I hope we can produce a similiarly inspiring story of how this thing, this “putting on a show” thing, turns out.

3. By blogging about what is happening in the space and outside of the rehearsal rooms, I hope to share with you the skills, attitudes, approaches and discipline of a group of committed actors and creatives, in order to influence positively, those wishing to pursue a career in the industry as well as those wishing to gain performance experience and be involved at a local level just for fun. It takes all types. Be serious about carving a path for yourself as a performer or just love taking your turn to tread the local boards. But if you are performing in front of a paying audience, be good at it. And be even better at it the next time you do it.

When Noosa Arts Theatre approached Sam about directing a play for their 40th birthday year, they got a hell of a lot more than they’d bargained for. The committee had something entirely different in mind. Now they and Sam have “an understanding.” Sam pitched La Ronde as a challenging artistic piece for both actors and audience, a controversial piece to seduce audiences and to spark debate; a stylised, sensual rather than overtly sexual production to attract the attention of everybody who has any sort of relationship with sex…ie everybody! For Sam, there could not have been another consideration. Here was a classic play (David Hare’s The Blue Room is based on it), banned originally and still able to incite passionate opinion and debate about the most taboo topic of all. Oh sure, of course we all talk about sex! We are an enlightened, modern society, are we not?! However, an interesting premise arose out of a conversation over coffee and cigarettes; sex is a thing we most often joke about. Sex comes up in conversation as an opportunity for comic relief.  Sure, we talk about it – how much we are getting, how little we are getting, how we are liking or disliking it – but more often than not, it is far from a serious discussion, even when it most needs to be. Sex is more often than not that thing we almost talk about. Don’t even get me started on the inadequacies of our sex education!

In choosing to present a new interpretation of La Ronde, Sam has set out to challenge his actors and confront his audiences with all the preconceptions, misconceptions, beauty, horror, hope, disappointment, disarray, power, passion, joy, fun, frivolity and in this case, as we are not producing porn, simulated fucking we all almost talk about all the time…

10 actors. 10 scenes. 10 sexual encounters.

Hope you’re ready.

19
Jan
10

La Ronde

Directed by Sam Coward