Yarns

I have just completed a fortnight working on the Kendal Yarns festival of new writing. I loved it – and am in complete awe of the ambitious, inclusive, original vision and the way it was carried out by a brilliant organising team (huge congratulations to any of them who read this). Arranging for 58 new 15 minute plays – written by a wide, wide range of writers: some school children; some written by groups; some experienced writers; some adults writing for the first time – to be performed by approximately 80 community actors of all ages and experience levels in a range of outdoor and indoor venues is no mean feat… I was one of the directors of Team 6 and it was an absolute privilege to be a part of it all. My team – writers, actors, co-director, stage manager – were fantastic and made the work a pleasure – thank you to any reading this. I came away more certain than ever of the vital importance and value – for all – of real, inclusive, community theatre (arts) and can’t wait to do (initiate…) more. Here are a selection of my favourite pics from the festival week.

 

Long live Kendal Community Theatre and all community arts. We need them!

elaru xxx

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Dream Team

One of the great joys of putting on a play is working with a group of great people. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is proving no exception. Here are ELART’s Dream Team in rehearsal.

The Fairies

 

The Lovers

 

 

The Mechanicals

 

The Court

Shows: June 26th St John’s Hospice 2pm  and Lancaster Library July 1st 7.30pm.

Hope to see you there!

elaru xx

Dreaming

Life is busy and complicated. Again. So, trying to put even a short production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream together is a challenge to say the least. Having said that, it’s a challenge I’m very pleased to be undertaking, not least because one of our two forthcoming performances is a charity performance for St John’s Hospice (2pm Sunday June 26th) and the other is at one of my favourite community spaces – Lancaster Library (7.30pm Friday July 1st).

I’ve got a talented and committed cast. They’re hard-working and lovely to create with – willing to trust me and each other and try almost anything, which is vital in a process of this nature. I’m expecting a lot of them, I know; rehearsal time is at a premium, so I need them to work out of rehearsal, individually,  in a really professional way, learning lines, thinking about and developing character, finding characterisation and then bringing all that work to rehearsal to play and refine further. They’re coping, pulling together – and there are some lovely things happening already. With an intensive week ahead, I think we’re going to be ready. Just!

We really hope you’re going to join us.

Tickets are –

£7.50 (lower for children) for St John’s Hospice, available from http://www.sjhospice.org.uk/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream/

£5 for Lancaster Library, availailable from Lancaster Library or by emailing emma@elartproductions.co.uk

Or just turn up on the door!

To whet your appetite, here are a few rehearsal pics from a fun rehearsal last night:

Sweet Dreams.

elaru xx

 

 

Once Upon A Time…

I’ve just spent one of the strangest hours I’ve spent for a while: watching a primary school pantomime in which, aged almost 10 years old, I played Prince Charming. Viewing the footage, the years melted away, I found I still remembered my lines- though I suspect my polka prowess peaked then (evidence approx. 30 mins in) (not even sure I could pull off the chicken dance now, which also features in the show a few mins later…). It was really fun – recognising so many faces, some of whom I still know well, and bringing back many, many memories.

I showed my husband the finale section and he commented on what a huge show it seemed to have been – especially for the time – Christmas 1985 by my reckoning(!).

“Not really,” I said. “We did similar sized shows every Christmas – “King Arthur and the Knights of the Square Table” was one and “Snow White and the 7 plus 7 plus 7 Dwarves”, in which I played a bedraggled tulip (don’t ask!). We also did lots of concerts and smaller shows and Speech and Drama events (Morecambe Festival – more memories) and so on throughout the year. They  were a huge part of my primary school life.”

Music and drama abounded. They  really did.  I’m sure I took it for granted because, although I loved performance from the word go, I didn’t recognise, as I do now, how lucky I was to have experienced such richness at such a young age – or how lucky to have had such talented and committed teachers.

Watching the video today and seeing the smiling faces of my friends and I, realising anew just how much we learned through these experiences, has got me thinking again about the current Education Secretary’s recent comments about Arts subjects. Yet again, I am saddened and angered. I can’t do much better, though, than to re-post the open letter in response to her speech that I recently posted on Facebook.

Have a read if you’re interested: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2i8tbneylzqqos2/1411%20-%20Letter%20to%20Nicky%20Morgan%2C%20Education%20Secretary.pdf?dl=0

And do take a look at the blast from the past above  – courtesy of Cinderella herself. Who says the Arts don’t add value?

elaru xx

Fun Times

The last few weeks have been all kinds of fun, not least because of Fun Palaces. In case you missed it, see here for all details about this fantastic initiative: http://www.funpalaces.co.uk. It happened for the first time last weekend and I was part of the organising group (nothing so formal as a committee!) for Lancaster’s Fun Palace, which was held in Lancaster Library. The photos below will give some sense of the event, which, though relatively small in many ways – certainly compared to many of the Fun Palaces taking place nationally – seemed to be really enjoyed by all who took part as organisers/event co-ordinators/participants; as the “/” hopefully suggests, the lines between roles were often delightfully blurred.

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The great photos above were taken by the talented @fotometer_uk.

And here is a small taste of the fabulous Sue Parish ukulele orchestra in action. For me, almost more than anything else, they encapsulated Fun Palaces – such a wonderful mix of people of all ages having fun performing, watching and, later, having a go in the workshop section:

Sad you missed it? Don’t worry – Fun Palaces will be back in Lancaster and elsewhere next year. Save the date -first weekend of October; look out for taster events throughout the year; join in the conversation and be part of it – we’re on Facebook and twitter (@lancasterfunpal @funpalaces). We’d love input from anyone about anything!

So, that was Fun Palaces. For Now.

But there’s still fun coming up. I’m waiting for a licence before I can start my next ELART show (news as soon as…) but The Rose Company has been active post-summer. We filmed Iphigenia a couple of weeks ago – an exhausting, but hugely fun time. Editing has still to be done, but it seemed to go well…

And, most pressingly in mind at the moment, on the 19th of October The Rose Company is going to be performing a very short two-actor excerpt from our “I Have A Speech Of Fire” show, a show that we performed at Lancaster Castle in March. We’ve been picked to be part of an evening of Shakespeare and Gender, hosted by Smooth Faced Gentlemen (a fab all-female Shakespearian company) at The Pleasance Theatre, Islington. We are thrilled to have been chosen (filming our audition piece on the canal towpath was “fun” to say the least – Ruth’s later hashtag #interruptedbybikes being entirely apt) and we are looking forward to performing, seeing the work of other companies and meeting some great people. We’ll be rehearsing next week and I can’t wait. Looking forward to revisiting and refining Richard…

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elaru xx

Going Forward

Today is one of my very favourite days of the year: the day the clocks go forward! I love the extra light, the sense of spring – and I don’t mind in the least the slightly bleary feeling due to an hour’s loss of sleep – it’s more than worth it.

This year the clocks going forward has come two weeks after the ending of my most recent theatre project – “I Have A Speech of Fire” performed by The Rose Company in Lancaster Castle’s A-Wing (the ex-prison – reputedly haunted and hugely atmospheric) – but before I have fully got going with my next show – an ELART summer production still in early planning stages, due to be firmed up in the next 3 weeks. I always find “in-between” phases a little strange and disorientating, so used am I to structuring my life around rehearsals and the rhythms of performance. I am, though, at this lovely time of year, enjoying a little extra space to contemplate exciting projects ahead.

More of those in future posts… First, though, just a few pictures from The Rose Company’s last show, mentioned above.

Prospero

Prospero

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Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Charmian, Dolabella and Iras - Cleopatra's maids

Charmian, Dolabella and Iras – Cleopatra’s maids

Julia from 2 Gentlemen of Verona

Yours in light –
elaru xx

Connect 14

At the start of 2014, I find myself in a reflective mood.

I still have a (small) handful of days before I have to get fully into work-mode and I am mostly enjoying the unusually quiet pace of life:

– lie-ins
– cinema trips – American Hustle was good!
– reading -among other books, a birthday present of Simon Callow’s Being An Actor, which I first read at university and then lost, is a delight – like re-discovering an old friend
– DVD box sets – we’ve finally begun Game of Thrones (no spoilers, please!)
– seeing friends- I love feeding people (and being fed);
– twitter-ing…

Now I love twitter. Really love it, in fact, in what I am sure could become an unhealthy way if I could afford a pricier mobile phone contract, which allowed me more internet access. I love following people, especially theatre/arts people – interacting with them, finding out about their projects, reading their blogs.

I love it, but I also find it confusing and sometimes intimidating and this is at least part of the reason for my reflective mood, that and a natural – for me at least – slight new year/new beginnings angst. There is so much out there (banal statement of the year award!) that, although I see a lot of theatre and other live performance, I sometimes feel as if I am missing all the really important shows and am not entirely sure where my own (largely northern England-based) work fits in… The possible opportunities can also sometimes seem endless, which, while fantastic, can be scary, as knowing exactly which route to follow (no twitter pun intended) can be very hard to determine – and that’s without having to consider the practical money-making aspects…

So, where does this leave me at the start of 2014?

Well, to be honest, better off (I think/hope) than at the start of 2013. Aided and abetted by twitter – and other social media – ELART and The Rose Company shows were well-supported and well-received in my Lancaster home-city and a range of places around the country last year and we have a new set of dates for Lady Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia starting on January 12th (please see http://www.therosecompany.posthaven.com for full details and ticket links). Twitter also allowed me to have some conversations with people I would never have dared to contact via any other means and gave me the means to contribute to some important arts discussions (albeit in a tiny way) that I would never have had access to in any other way – I hope to continue this type of involvement in 2014.

However, as well as online connections, in 2014, I hope to further the face-to-face contacts that have been hugely valuable in 2013. These include (but are certainly not limited to):

– rehearsal rooms, which clearly abound with face-to-face-ness – I can’t wait to start working with talented performers in rehearsal rooms this year – Iphigenia and beyond
– the freelancers gathering, which started in summer 2013, and has brought about a range of possible projects and useful professional connections; it’s been a great addition to Lancaster life and I look forward to experiencing its development in 2014
– open space conferences – these have been a revelation to me and I can’t get enough of them! I loved the Fun Palaces one in October – and fully intend to play my part in making sure Lancaster has a fun palace in October 2014. I’m also really looking forward to D and D 9 in London at the end of January, which looks to be by far the largest open space I will ever have attended and is likely to give some face-to-face time with some twitter connections

So, on balance, I’m looking forward to meeting and working with an exciting range of people both online and off in 2014 – and hopefully making high-quality work, which resonates with a range of audiences – arguably the most important connection of all (but that’s for another blog post…)

Let’s connect!

elaru xx