The Secret Library

What a strange experience this has been! On Monday at 6pm I met Andy the Litfest Artistic Director and a photographer from the local paper for the hand-over of the Mystery Launch theme. (I dread to think what the photo will look like – I had rushed to the meeting from the railway station and found myself posing by a headless statue just outside the priory…)

The theme was “The Secret Library”, which (after a quick Google to check I wasn’t missing anything specific) proved to be nice and broad. Between the hand-over and mid-afternoon Tuesday, a huge number of emails, phone calls, texts and tweets were exchanged between potential performers and me  and gradually a structure began to emerge – in my head at least – for the show. An hour’s meeting/rehearsal followed, where performance material was given out and where I talked way too much in an attempt to explain what I hoped would happen. My group of performers  left, slightly bewildered, I think, but still wonderfully willing!

And then there was Wednesday.

Wednesday included an interview on local radio (which I did in a complete blur), a manic shopping trip to spend the £33 budget on appropriate items, and a three and a half hour rehearsal in the theatre, complete with lighting technician and stage manager. Good will abounded and I think – hope – everyone had fun. Somehow, we walked through and then ran a complete hour’s show – with singers joining for the final hour of rehearsal to add some finishing touches. There were still sections we couldn’t fully rehearse – namely the two brief “interactive” segments  -where we hoped members of the audience would come onto the stage to return books given to them as they entered the theatre – and the finale – on which most of the budget had been spent and  which was something we could only really run once fully. So, at 5.30pm, a nervous, but focussed, cast took a brief break before the show began.

At 6.00 an good-sized and expectant audience sat  in The Round theatre space and  we began. The audience were very supportive and seemed to like what they saw: 12 performers (plus 6 singers) were on stage throughout, reading books as if in a library,while 3 librarians patrolled the stage and audience, and the show itself comprised a series of different stories and poems, including romances, adventures and ghost stories, told, and read by different cast members and linked by appropriate songs. Because I had confidence in the high quality of my performers, I was able to relax and enjoy much of what happened – especially as I could sense (I think!) that the audience was on our side.

As the finale drew near, though, I began to get nervous – really for the first time that day (not because I’m over-confident, but because I’d been too busy to worry!). The finale, you see, as I mentioned earlier, was where I’d spent the majority of the budget and I suddenly started to worry that I’d been too flippant – or surreal – and that it would fall flat. The finale was to be a “firework display” – every good opening event needs one! – and so I had bought loads of shiny tinsel, confetti and balloons and hidden them in the balcony of The Round for the the three librarians to pop (balloons) and shower over the audience (shiny things) while the singing group sang a piece of classical music and the cast shared chocolates with the audience. It worked in my head, but everyone I’d mentioned it to over the 48 hours – including the cast and singers – had nodded at me sympathetically and looked away.

Thankfully, however, the audience got into the spirit and really seemed to get – and enjoy – it (maybe it was the chocolates!), so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and enjoyed it too.

Phew!

Reader, we did it! Perfectly? Of course not! But energetically and to the best of our ability given all the constraints.

An enormous thanks to any performers – and crew – who are reading this – I was really proud of you all.

Here’s to the next challenge…

elaru xx

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Becoming Real…

Yesterday I went shopping. I bought blue material (3 metres), dark green material (quarter of a metre), light green material (quarter of a metre), 2 broom handles, a black feathered eye mask, 4 plastic pint cups and a black marker pen. At the end of my shopping I felt satisfied, as I had completed the buying necessary for Noye’s Fludde, which is on at the end of next week.

While shopping, however, I couldn’t help thinking about the Litfest opening event, and the fact that I couldn’t do any shopping for it – couldn’t spend any of the £33 pound budget – because I still don’t know the theme! Thankfully, Monday evening is getting closer, as I’m at the stage now where I can’t wait to get going…

I have managed to do a couple of very useful things over the last two days, though. Yesterday morning I visited the venue – The Round at The Dukes. Although it’s a space I have been in many, many times as an audience member, it’s very different looking round with a “director’s head”. I only stayed about 30 minutes, but it was extremely useful – being able to visualise the backstage space, working out where various exits go, getting a copy of the floor plans, finding out a little about available props/furniture and where exactly the audience will sit. (There’s going to be an audience – a few tickets have already been booked – AARGH!)

Additionally, I have contacted all the performers who have (crazily, but wonderfully) agreed to take part and I have given them a rough rehearsal schedule. Rehearsals, obviously, will be extremely limited, so it’s important we all know where we’re supposed to be at a given time.

All these things make the event begin to seem real.

Wish us luck! And hope to see you there…

elaru xx

10 Days To Go…

The mystery launch event for Lancaster Litfest is getting closer. Much closer. But my preparation remains frustratingly much the same.

It’s a very strange experience, not knowing what the theme of the event will be. I’ve got to the stage where I’m trying to second guess – and a couple of days ago I even nearly held a rehearsal with a group of the performers who will be on stage at 6pm on the 17th. There would have been little point, though, so I’m glad I managed to hold my nerve and not waste their time!

Roll on October 15th… At least then I can make some decisions and get on…

Contrastingly, my other main current project – Noye’s Fludde – is following a much more usual pattern and is nearing completion (it’s also on next week!). It’s largely a youth play, and there have been six hours of rehearsals over the weekend, involving over fiifty young people aged seven upwards. The majority of these are playing animals on the ark. Particularly memorable so far are a pair of constantly (and I mean constantly…) bouncing kangaroos, two fabulously waddle-y penguins and a lone wolf, who will have a partner next weekend!

Never work with children or animals? So far, I’m having fun!

elaru xx