Posts Tagged ‘Rehearsal

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!

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.

13
Jul
10

The Sydney Fringe – Suck it and See

Here are the recent shows, which I would normally, however I will not this time, write about:

  • The Nambour Show, now known as The Sunshine Coast Show but really known for never being anything BUT The Nambour Show
  • The Noosa Longweekend
  • Kidz on Broadway
  • Anything Goes
  • Tender

Here’s why…

You may have heard. We are off to Sydney! We have accepted The Sydney Fringe Festival‘s invitation to share with their festival audience in September, a more intimate version of our sell-out show, La Ronde. Re-named and re-configured to better suit the requirements of the festival and its more liberal audience, Erotique will see six dedicated actors and their fearless leader/director fly in and out of the big smoke for just four performances. Of course, it would be nice to duck over to Montreal first but August is flat out here. Maybe next year! As you can see, my head has been full of festivals (how ABOUT that Montreal one)?!

Also, real life has gotten in the way of writing regularly. Sad but true. It seems Ms Virginia Woolf was right (in fact, I have never doubted her); one does indeed require a room of one’s own in order to write. Let’s see how far we get tonight then, shall we?

Husband and Director, Sam Coward, updated his Facebook status today to reflect his currently conflicted state of mind.

Directing is creating…..Producing is destroying!!!!

I’m sure the producers of the world will have their differing views on that. I disagree purely from a financial point of view. If I had the money, I would be able to produce whatever I wanted, using whomever I preferred, wherever I desired. Sam says I could also achieve this by being Queen of my own country. Whatever.

As a director without the capital to make bigger dreams come true, producing is, in a sense, destructive. Changes and compromises can’t be avoided. A smaller, less costly variation of the show must now travel, bump in to a new space, bump out and have pleased (or not) audiences outside of the local area, where we enjoy the support of friends, fans and family. The prospect of taking our baby outside of our warm, sunny, coastal comfort zone is frightening! Overwhelming! But it must be done to serve our souls!

So. Just so you know. We have re-cast the role of The Poet and re-named him The Boy. Unfortunately, we lost Nathan to PAID ACTING WORK. Yes, it’s true. It exists in this state (and just across the border, apparently) and he nailed it! As you might imagine (or not) there was quite a lot of interest in the role. The successful candidate was, serendipitously, available to take on this new challenge now, when he had previously been unable to consider even auditioning for the show. This time, the time was right for Ben Johnson.

We met the other night. Production meeting/dinner party, of course; similar to the last one. N.B. No cameras. Oh, and no voice. That’s right. The universe is obviously trying to tell me something. More on that later. All new key people were present at this event, except for Ms Mary Eggleston, who is currently rehearsing with the re-formed Fractal Theatre, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia. DON’T MISS IT.

There are some major changes. We have cut Scenes 1 and 2 and scenes 9 and 10. We are yet to write the new final scene, Scene 6, which involves The Boy and The Friend (previously known as The Maid). They will cross a boundary in their relationship that has already sparked raucous debate amongst the cast.  Clearly, we all feel very strongly about the place of sex in a relationship between a man and a woman.

N.B. While my husband may agree with Harry’s sentiment, for the record, I’m not agreeing entirely since I happen to have always had Sally-type-just-friends-men. My husband says I’m naive and in a permanent state of denial. He has had quite a lot to say tonight!

Anyway, I hear you ask; why did we not write the final scene already? Well, in continuation of a truly collaborative process, we didn’t try to write anything new without the new cast member’s contributions. You might remember that this is how the entire script was re-interpreted, by the actors and director, as we rehearsed. Currently, that cast member, Ben, is in Melbourne. He doesn’t get back to the Coast for 10 days. We will be in Sydney in about 60 days. Sam, Ben and I will write our scene as we rehearse when he returns. Intense, I know. Exciting, isn’t it?

Then there is the re-write, which also involves Ben-who-is-currently-away and the lovely Kay, whom you will fondly recall, was The Girl. She will remain known as The Girl but she is now The (expectant) Girl. I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning this because the joyful news helped us to decide to keep her on board and re-write her scenes, rather than write her out of them. The first of her scenes will be beautiful, the second horrific.

We always thought La Ronde would have a long life. We were determined to give it life somehow, somewhere, in some manifestation. Of course we cannot forget that we also have over 100 hours of footage, including the HD footage of the entire show, shot from 3 different angles with which to to play, thereby legitimising the work and giving it some permanency in the market place…er, once we can view it, edit it, produce it and distribute it (and assuming we have determined our market)! Perhaps it is fair to give Newcastle’s Crack Theatre Festival a shout out at this point! They have invited Sam and I to discuss, as part of a panel of artists, the pros and cons of theatre-making on the Sunshine Coast. It is part of the TINA Festival and we are very much looking forward to mixing and sharing perspectives and strategies with other struggling artists!

So. It seems that people outside of our little local region, at least in Sydney, are interested in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

It’s so sad that we are not taking with us, the entire original cast and the show in its original form (and by ‘original form’ I mean our original form, not Schnitzler’s). I’m so grateful to have had such a bold, brave, creative cast and crew to start with. The success of a project is its people, is it not? How lucky we are to have had friends – old and new – drawn to us just like that, at Sam’s invitation to “come play” and, trusting him, join us at work on this little project that does indeed have a life beyond two Sunshine Coast seasons and a hard drive full of footage!

Erotique will be seen at The Sydney Fringe Festival for 4 performances only.

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

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.

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.




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