Posts Tagged ‘Vision

18
Apr
11

INFLUENCE: AN UPDATE

Interview with the director: Sam Coward

Sunday 17th April 

Influence opened in Noosa on Friday night. You’ve had 3 sold-out performances to start the season. How do you feel? 

Very satisfied, especially considering where the show is at, where ticket sales are at and the level at which the public and critical responses have been. We’re in a good place!

Were there any obstacles or hiccups to overcome to get to this stage? 

It’s been a relatively painless process. Illness at the eleventh hour made me a little nervous but generally speaking, with the level of competence in my cast and the level of wisdom in Williamson’s words, it all went pretty smoothly.

Opening Night highlights?

It was the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to sit in the bio box and see the audience’s immediate reactions and feel the buzz – it was electrifying and very satisfying.

So what’s your role during the run?

Because I’m a control freak and because, for the technical accuracy of this show, a degree of intimacy with the script was required, I decided I wanted to manually operate the lights for Influence.

When did you stop giving notes?

 Today. Today the show reached a level that I felt couldn’t be enhanced or improved upon. This is not to say that I won’t be giving any further notes during the run, this just means I’m giving no more notes, at this stage, until further notice.

What’s your favourite thing about this show?

I would have to say that’s it’s probably that the end result is so close to the vision I had from the outset. This production has stayed true to the original picture and it’s exciting to see that a) we’ve been able to do that and b) other people like it too.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have put somebody else in the box early enough to learn the cues.

I really think the time invested in character early on is shining through now. We used the time we had very well. The performances are genuine. 

I’ve felt very confident, almost relaxed, which is really rare. Usually tech week is all horror but it was seamless. It’s been a relatively easy ride. I feel like I just had to sell the vision and then discuss characters with the cast, design…in fact, the biggest part of my job was at the front end. 

The playwright, David Williamson, is attending on the final night, a special gala evening to celebrate his 40 years’ involvement at Noosa Arts Theatre on April 30th. How do you feel about him seeing the show?

I’m very excited about that actually, because from our first discussions with him, he was intrigued as to how we were going to do this. Even Michael Futcher acknowledged that he’s not heard of anyone trying to do a Williamson in this way. I’m interested to get David’s reaction and I hope we can do his 40 Year Celebration justice. I’m quietly confident that we will. The way in which we are staging Influence is truly honouring the text and trusting that Australia’s greatest playwright is acknowledged as such for a reason. I don’t have to hide anything or do anything with smoke and mirrors because it’s enough on its own. And while I’m arrogant, I’m not arrogant enough to think there’s anything I can do with it that will improve on what’s already there. So with a text and a cast of this caliber how could I go wrong?

What’s next for you?

Hmmm. It’s a mystery.

David Williamson’s Influence continues at Noosa Arts Theatre until April 30th. To enquire about any remaining tickets, please call the box office (07) 5449 9343

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!

 

 

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.

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.

03
Mar
10

Directing La Ronde

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

We have coffee. It’s all good. GO!

So. Sam. Why La Ronde?

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

Is La Ronde doing that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a little more about the rehearsal process.

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

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

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

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

So what does the director want out of all this?

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

And what of the life span of La Ronde?

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

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

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

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