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

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Memories

A year’s end is a natural time to look back and reflect. And, as 2013 has been such a busy and exciting year professionally, there’s a lot to reflect on – far too much for a blog such as this, so I’m just going to focus on the most significant moments-as they seem from this vantage point.

As always in the middle of winter, I find it hard to believe that summer existed (or could exist), but it did, and 2013’s summer had in it one day I will never, ever forget – ELART’s All the World’s A Stage, performed in the RSC’s The Dell at Stratford-upon-Avon. Thinking back about that day, I can still re-create almost every moment:

– Meeting up with the cast on the banks of the Avon – all of us excited about the day ahead, slightly cloudy at that mid-morning time, but soon to become gloriously sunny -the first of many hot days ahead, though we didn’t know that then so the weather seemed particularly special.

– Sitting under a small tree, operating the sound, taking photos and really enjoying watching my cast perform two well-received shows – I’ve rarely, if ever, felt quite so proud.

– Lunch-time frisbee, with its wonderfully surreal quality, also looms large in my memory – I was highly amused by the woman, who, watching 7 men dressed in black (most of the cast) walk purposefully out onto the grass in front of The Dell stage, said excitedly to her friend, “Ooh look – I think they’re going to perform!” and then watched bemusedly as they spent 10 minutes throwing said frisbee around!

It was a truly great day and one that I not unreasonably thought at the time would be the absolute pinnacle of my year. In some ways it was – putting on a Shakespeare show is Stratford is hard to beat – but, astonishingly, The Rose Company’s Iphigenia’s adventures have at least equalled it in terms of their place in my 2013 memories – and in terms of public interest and future potential for an individual show, they have surpassed it.

I have really loved working with Lady Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia in the latter half of 2013 – July to November- and it has been a delight to watch The Rose Company start to bloom.

Highlights have included:

– Our very first show at Reading – I remember just feeling hugely proud of all involved -and, having overcome a range of difficulties, including illnesses, we really felt like a team.

– Fantastic days in Cambridge and UCL, London -a particular thrill was finding out we were performing in the beautiful main UCL building with all the columns at the front – such an appropriate view for anyone coming to watch Greek tragedy!

– The wonderfully warm local reception we have received from Lancaster audiences and critics, who seemed to enjoy our shows in the fabulous Lancaster Castle setting as much as we enjoyed performing there – cells for changing rooms and all!

– Our radio interviews – we were truly grateful for interest from Radio Lancashire and Woman’s Hour and relished the opportunity to be on the shows.

Through all this year’s projects, I have also found the support of friends and family really special and quite humbling. Thank you to all who have come to shows, “liked” on facebook, shared links, re-tweeted on twitter, spread the word about us, sponsored us etc – you know who you are!

And a huge thanks to all who have worked in any way with me on any show/project in 2013 – not just the two productions I have focused on in this blog. I can’t wait to work with you all again next year – and with other friends as well. (You know who you are too!)

A year’s end is a natural time to look back and reflect and a new year is a natural time to look forward. Here’s to 2014 – let’s make more memories!

elaru xx

The Dell, Part 3 (more clips)

Welcome to part 3 of my coverage of our day at The Dell. This will probably be the final post specifically about The Dell as I start rehearsals tomorrow with The Rose Company (introduced in an earlier post) for Lady Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia, a play we are performing in The Minghella Theatre at Reading University on July 9th.

More on that soon, but, for now The Dell: here follows a series of video clips (once again filmed inexpertly by me – apologies for poor quality at times and some strange cut-offs; a quick cut-off generally means I had to be somewhere else to do something!). However, they certainly give a flavour of our work, so I hope you enjoy them. One of the things I am most pleased about when I view them is the fact that audience laughter and appreciation can clearly be heard – there is nothing more satisfying for a director to hear and sense positive audience response; it’s what we strive for!

The first one is one of the most serious scenes, which worked beautifully on the day: Lord Capulet berating Juliet for refusing to marry Paris.

And now a couple of short clips of the 3 witches in action. Crazy witches!

A burst of Cleopatra (very poor sound quality, I’m afraid, but the acting is fab!).

And finally some Mechanicals – the whole company in action.

I hope you enjoyed getting a taste of the show. Next time (I really, really hope there’s a next time!) come and see The Dell for yourselves.

elaru xxx

My Theatre Matters – So Does Yours!

Earlier today I signed up to the #mytheatrematters campaign: http://www.mytheatrematters.com/

Why? Because I believe my theatre matters. And yours. And I believe our country would be immeasurably poorer (in every sense) without them.

My local theatre, as well as the city of Lancaster, serves a wide-spread rural community in a network of small towns and villages. It has a high quality and varied programme of live productions – classics, new writing, pantomime, live music, stand-up comedy, children’s shows, touring shows; it screens a wide range of films; it hosts and produces exhibitions and talks; it houses a cafe and bar; it supports new and emerging artists; it has a thriving youth theatre. Its audiences are good and demographically diverse and it aims to encourage this still further through schemes such as a Young People’s Pass. It undoubtedly adds to the local community’s life.

It should never have to justify its existence or fight for its survival. Nor should any of the great producing theatres in this country.

For a wider discussion of the role of theatre and culture in our society, please read my previous blog “My Case For Culture”, which was inspired by The Guardian’s Case For Culture: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/interactive/2012/dec/07/case-for-culture-100-voices?fb=nativeby

I hope that you – like me – will support our theatres. They need us – and we need them!

elaru xx

A Review – Part 2

Today is a significant day. It is the first day in over twelve months that I haven’t had a production to think about – and don’t know exactly what my next project will be. It feels nice to relax -fun and rewarding as theatre is, it is also highly challenging and stressful – and a short break will give me chance to decide exactly what I want to do next. The emphasis is on short, though – I have lots of ideas and several applications in and imminent, so will be itching to get going on new projects and productions very soon.

So, it’s a good time to review. The easiest way is through pictures of the main productions which have happened in 2012. It means missing out the various workshops – one of which was mentioned in A Review- Part 1; the reading of a verbatim text devised by a local writer, which happened at The Dukes with a range of theatre professionals – a gathering which focussed on a new actor-centred approach to new writing which is being piloted in various places; the fun I had leading the audience around a castle for a local theatre company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing; the Litfest Mystery Launch – it was such a hectic time (detailed in earlier blog posts) that I didn’t have time to arrange – or take – photographs; and the recording of All The World’s A Stage for an Australian online festival  (though a link to part of that recording can be found at www.vimeo.com/channels/elartproductions ). Despite the omissions, though, I hope it gives a real flavour of what 2012 has been about.

Things started properly early in March, when The Dukes flatteringly asked me to revive All The World’s A Stage as part of a city-wide Shakespeare Festival. A couple of the original actors were unavailable, so we took the opportunity to adapt and revise, culminating in The Play’s The Thing! which was performed at The Ashton Memorial.

The acoustics in the building were very strange, but some wonderful effects were achieved by using the stairs. With playing and hard rehearsal, we finally cracked the overall acoustic too.

As an all-male cast, one of the real challenges of The Play’s The Thing was producing serious scenes involving female characters. This scene – Lord Capulet berating Juliet – worked beautifully.

The whole cast made me laugh in Pyramus and Thisbe. This is a tiny moment when Pyramus and Thisbe whisper through Wall’s chink.

The amazing venue of The Play’s The Thing from the outside.

The Play’s The Thing! was swiftly followed by The Vigil, a community production in a lovely village church. The Vigil by Ladislas Fodor re-tells the Christian Easter story as a courtroom drama, with the gardener on trial for snatching the body of Jesus. The production was moving and hugely enjoyable and it played to extremely receptive audiences. For various reasons, I found myself acting and directing, something I greatly prefer to avoid, but in this case it seemed to work out satisfactorily.

Rehearsing The Vigil by Ladislas Fodor in a lovely village church was a joy. It was amazing how well the church suited the courtroom set and the pulpit was a fantastic dock.

Using some of the church features suited the message of The Vigil very well.

Next came The Crucible (detailed heavily earlier in this blog). I loved this production so much, that I’m going to indulge myself with a number of photos – tirelessly taken at rehearsals by a friend and member of the cast.

An early rehearsal – April 2012- for June’s The Crucible.

Working with such a talented and committed cast between April and June 2012 was a real highlight of the year. Explosive moments, such as the one pictured in rehearsal here between Proctor and Abigail made the production very special.

Rehearsing Act 1 in a different rehearsal room. May 2012.

Working hard in the priory cafeteria!

Some of the fabulous girls – and the equally fabulous Proctor!

Placing Danforth in the pulpit worked well, allowing him to dominate proceedings in Act 3.

Pre-dress rehearsal (minus long socks for the men!)

The whole priory in use as the court springs to life in Act 3.

There were challenges in using the priory space, but also some wonderful bonuses, such as this fantastic shaft of light illuminating Abigail as she is confronted by Hale.

The whole cast and crew – a fantastic group of people!

A quieter summer followed, and then in autumn things got going again. The next production with photographs had the largest cast of the year – two casts, in fact! It was a youth production of the opera Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten and alongside a core of teenagers, who played the lead roles, were two teams of over 30 primary age children, who played the animals at alternate performances. A good, if hectic, time was had by all!

The whole show was medieval in design and these wooden waves (handled by stage crew) worked beautifully in the storm sequence.

At the end, as well as a wooden rainbow, sun and moon, the children moved into colour groups according to the colour T-shirt they were wearing, and became the rainbow themselves.

And finally, we come to last night’s Theatre Uncut show, which seemed to be a great success. The audience was certainly appreciative, and the seven shows fitted together very well, with only minimal scene shifting needed. This allowed the evening to flow and really gather momentum in a satisfactory way.

Ama and Lou in prison.

A disagreement.

An intimate moment of persuasion – one of my favourite parts.

And there it is. 2012. A huge thank you to anyone who has been involved in any way at all – and to all who have supported the shows. All ideas for future projects gratefully recieved; all considered.

2013 – Bring it on!

elaru xx

Closure

So, that’s that. The Crucible 2012 is done.

We had good-sized audiences at each show, and comments I have heard have been extremely positive, which is very pleasing. It’s always hard for me to judge how a show has gone – by the time it’s being performed, I am way too close to it – over-aware, perhaps, of its flaws and over-pleased, perhaps, with its strengths and high points.

I do know, however, that on this occasion, I was as confident as I have ever been in what I saw happening on stage at the Saturday matinee (the only one of the four shows I watched all through). Cast and crew were working together beautifully, and every single person seemed to me to be performing at the top of their game. I was really proud of them – and not a little emotional!

And now here we are three days later: props have been returned, costumes will be collected Saturday, photos have been uploaded and shared and “normal” life has resumed. Images of The Crucible still flash often into my mind, however – like some of these from the dress rehearsal.

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And this one of the whole cast and crew after the final show:

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So, has my love-affair with The Crucible ended? On balance, I think not. I have a feeling I’ll want to revisit it sometime. To play with it again. But not for a long time. Now other projects beckon – some involving some of the fantastic people I have worked with on this show.

Watch this space… there’s more to come…!

elaru xx