2016 in Pictures

2016 has been a busy year.

In January, the Rose Company dominated with Arts Council funded Research and Development on the battle scenes of Coriolanus. Working with a talented team of women started the year off in an excitingly challenging way.

 

Both The Rose Company and ELART Productions were involved in the Bard By The Beach Shakespeare Festival in April. The Rose Company provided an afternoon workshop and a series of Shakespeare “statues” that came to life, delivering monologues when an audience appeared in front of them. ELART Productions presented Shakespeare’s Seven Ages (pictured below in rehearsal) – and this was the start of a run of ELART Shakespeare – perfect for #Shakespeare400!

 

June saw a return visit to The Eden Festival in Scotland with our Shakespeare extracts show All The World’s A Stage. We had a great time and it was a joy to perform on the fabulous Melodrome again, this time in the Chas Ambler Would.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream came next in two different venues – a charity performance in St John’s Hospice Midsummer Marquee, followed by a sell-out evening performance in Lancaster Library. This was the biggest cast I had worked with for ages and the energy and fun was fantastic all through as should be clear from the pictures below, taken in a range of rehearsals  and the Dress Run.

 

Kendal Yarns followed at the end of July  and what an experience that turned out to be – I still can’t believe how much was achieved in a fortnight! Concisely here, as blogged in much greater detail earlier, it was an absolutely brilliant community festival.

 

The day after Kendal Yarns we performed All The World’s A Stage on the Melodrome Mobile Stage again. While in some ways the timing wasn’t perfect (I was exhausted!), it was a particularly special event for two reasons: firstly, I’d wanted to put something on in Lancaster Castle courtyard for ages – what a location on a sunny day! – and secondly, two of my goddaughters were in the audience.

 

The ELART Mechanicals had one final 2016 outing and enjoyed playing in Warton St Oswald’s church for a charity 16th birthday concert for – and organised by – the youngest member (I think) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream cast. After this, the third Lancaster Fun Palace opened its doors at the start of October for the now regular (yay!) annual celebration of arts, science and community. See http://www.funpalaces.co.uk for full information – and get in touch to get involved…

 

Finally at the end of November, came an event in aid of Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary – a charity close to my heart.

 

And that was 2016. During what I’m sure many of us will agree has been a challenging year, I have managed mostly to retain a sense of positivity and hope – in no small part due to the events listed here. Thanks to every single person who has been any part at all of any one – onstage, offstage, audience etc… Theatre and the Arts could not be more important than now and there are already several ELART and other events in the pipeline for the new year, but more warmly welcomed – collaborations, commissions etc… Get in touch, however fledgling the idea. Let’s work together!

All the best for the festive season and beyond.

elaru xx

 

 

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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

P1110290 Richard 3

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

Back To…

My husband is a teacher, so, for him, today marked “back to school”. He loves his job, but this morning he was as sad as any pupil about the end of summer and the loss of freedom term-time brings with it. It won’t take him long at all to settle back, though, and immerse himself in the opportunities of school life.

September means that I am fully back to work as well – and not just with the educational commitments I too still have, which begin later in the month. Summer is always a strange time for theatre work, unless involved in a full festival production or some other event. It’s hard to plan as so many emails are answered by “out of office” messages as people are on holiday or away at festivals; hard to fully keep up with admin. because it’s sunny and warm outside (at least that’s been a legitimate excuse this year!).

So, September marks the return to all that. And I’m ready for it. I’ve already had a useful meeting this morning with Talk With Leap ( a great Lancaster-based organisation, who help emerging artists of all kinds), which has given me some tips and advice about a late-autumn story-telling event/show I’m planning for some local pubs. I’ve also been emailing various colleagues about The Rose Company, which is hopefully performing Iphigenia in Cambridge – and maybe other places – in late-November. I’m meeting with an actor soon, to talk about that and other things, and there are other contacts I need to make regarding ELART productions I have in mind for the new year and beyond.

I’m feeling energised, which is helpful.

Back to… the future!

elaru xx

Feeling Connected

I’ve just waved my cousin off on a big adventure. He’s emigrating to Australia and starting a new life with his wonderful partner. He’s one of my favourite people in the world; we’re very close and I know I’m going to miss him hugely. But I am very proud of him and thrilled about the adventure upon which he is embarking.

Technology is going to help enormously. All his family and friends will be able to email, facebook, tweet, Skype, phone etc… and once he is fully settled, we won’t feel (I hope) all that disconnected at all. What an amazing world we live in!

So, how does this link to my current theatre project with The Rose Company? Tenuously, but importantly, through the idea of connection. The Rose Company, as stated a few posts ago is newly formed, so we need to get to know each other – to feel connected as a company – to start to trust each other and each other’s ways of working. There is no quick way of doing this, but, hopefully, slowly but surely over the rehearsal period this should begin to happen.

Additionally, though, there is the connection through time to the writer Lady Jane Lumley, who wrote the play we are performing well over 400 years ago, and in her turn she must have felt a connection to the Euripides’ Iphigenia, which apparently premiered in 405 BC! It’s amazing to me how characters from such time-scales can still be so relevant and immediate today, but they are. They really are! I already feel an incredible connection to Iphigenia and Clytemnestra, to name but two – and not just because of the plight they find themselves in. In Lady Jane Lumley’s hands, at least, they are strong, passionate women about whom it is very easy to care and respond strongly to.

Amazingly, to accompany the play – or bookend really, as we are using it at the beginning and end – we are using a tune suggested by a member of the cast: Seikilos Epitaph, which is the oldest surviving complete musical composition in the world – thought to be from the 1st century BC. It’s a beautiful, haunting little melody – entirely appropriate for our production and with lovely moving lyrics which I’ll reproduce when we’ve decided exactly the form they will take for us.

I find the idea of being connected through theatre to dates like 1st century BC (and obviously 405 BC with the Ipigenia premiere) somewhat mind-blowing – and very, very exciting.  

Here are just a few photos of the Rose Company in action in our first rehearsals:

 

 

 

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Yours – connected-ly,

elaru xx

All the World’s A Stage (again!)

Hello again.

It’s been a busy few weeks! As well as casting “Iphigenia” for the Rose Company a week last Monday (a very exciting prospect for late June, early July and beyond), ELART Productions is also slowly, but surely getting ready to perform at The Dell in Stratford on Saturday June 8th and we are all really looking forward to the experience. It’s getting scarily close now! (I’m desperately trying to stop myself looking at long-range weather forecasts; one of my grandmothers is addicted to weather news, so I’m even trying not to listen to her too closely when the subject of the weather comes up in conversation!)

It’s been great fun re-visiting the show. We performed it – not quite in this form or with quite this company – a couple of years ago and it was well-received by audiences, so it’s lovely to have a reason to play with it again. As I mentioned last post, the thinking behind it at the very start, was to devise an accessible and entertaining show that would appeal to young and old, while trying to see what it must have been like in Shakespeare’s day when women weren’t allowed on the professional stage. The comedy scenes have usually worked quite easily (well, as easily as anything ever does in a rehearsal room…), and, indeed, in the few rehearsals we’ve had to date, that has again been the case: Pyramus and Thisbe is a real romp; the 3 witches (not always played for laughs, I realise) are hilariously manic; even Cleopatra’s temper tantrum is humorously – and deliberately – OTT.

The scenes that most interest me as a director this time round, though, are some of the more serious ones. For example:
Will Portia convince as she manipulates the courtroom (admittedly dressed as a male-lawyer)?
Will the audience be on Juliet’s side as Lord Capulet rages at her for refusing to marry Paris?

Only time will tell – but (as our rehearsal photos below hopefully show) we are working hard to make these scenes as compelling, interesting and real as we can, so that our audience can experience a fully varied and entertaining ride through some of the famous Shakespearian scenes.
We hope we succeed!

Shylock., Portia and The Duke

Shylock., Portia and The Duke

Clarence trying to persuade the 2 Murderers

Clarence trying to persuade the 2 Murderers

The Mechanicals

The Mechanicals

Capulet and Juliet

Capulet and Juliet

More soon…
elaru xx

My Case For Culture

The Guardian’s 100 Voices Case for Culture was published online yesterday. Here’s the link, in case you haven’t already seen it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/interactive/2012/dec/07/case-for-culture-100-voices?fb=native

Reading through the hundred quotes, looking at almost a hundred faces all putting forward essentially the same message, was an exciting and humbling experience; I was very proud to be one of them and my mind has been buzzing ever since – buzzing with the question: why do I feel so strongly about this and why am I compelled to make a case for culture?

In the current economic climate, I know that some people may feel the country faces bigger problems than a shrinking of arts provision, that culture is a luxury we can ill-afford, but, while admitting that there are a range of major problems facing us, and acknowledging that some tough choices do need to be made, I still feel that a case must be made for culture; it is not a luxury but a necessity for a healthy and forward-thinking society.

I was brought up in a small village in the north of England. My mother was a single parent and we lived with my grandmother in her house. I don’t mention this to win sympathy votes – my childhood, while, perhaps, not ideal, was far from deprived; I mention it to refute the idea that culture is  merely for the rich, the elite. Money was not plentiful in my upbringing, but the arts were. In my village there was a thriving choir, which I joined at the age of 9, and a fantastic drama group. Both organizations were (and still are) full of talented, committed people and I found myself singing a wide range of music – ancient and modern – on a weekly basis, and performing in plays by  Ibsen, Shakespeare, Miller etc several times a year. Through these activities I grew in confidence, creativity, discipline; I learned to work as part of a team and made a range of life-long friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Eye-opening and mind-broadening trips to theatre, cinema and concerts were also a regular part of my teenage life. Mum took me to all the events my school offered, whether or not I was in them, and we often attended theatre in the nearby city and, occasionally, but memorably, took trips to Manchester and even London. I know mum made sacrifices for these trips, but they couldn’t have been more important to me.

So my childhood – and later life path – was moulded and shaped by culture and I believe my life is hugely richer for it. I also believe that everyone’s experience can be enriched by exposure to the arts in any form. To give just one example: as a freelance theatre practitioner, I spent two years working part time in a Young Offenders’ prison, teaching literacy and running some drama workshops. It would be untrue to say the workshops were always wholly successful – anyone who has worked in this kind of environment will know how challenging the individuals can be – but when they did work, they were fantastic: the drama activities and devising processes we used unlocked emotions and experiences that the Young Offenders rarely talked about or explored and I watched them visibly grow in confidence, relate more effectively to each other, value themselves a little more and gradually begin to trust one another – something this group of individuals often find very hard to do. I truly believe there are very few activities – if any – other than arts ones, which would have allowed this to happen.

I could go on and on and on… and may do in a later post – perhaps in a more useful and systematic way than this personal rant. But for now, I want to finish with some of my favourite quotes from The Guardian’s interactive wall:

I value culture and the arts because…

“Without them, we are less. Less human. Less empathic. Less inspired. Less inventive. Less resourceful. Less fulfilled. Less creative. Less visionary. Less future-proof. Less socially aware. Less globally aware. Less economically viable. Without them we are less of a society.” Anita Holford, Freelance writer and comms practitioner Writing Services

“…This is all the more important at times of hardship and austerity – what one banker earns in a year would be enough to sustain hundreds of arts projects and livelihoods for artists.” Dorothy Ker, Lecturer, University of Sheffield

“The arts are essential to the formation of any culture; they are what define a culture. They are not negotiable, they are irreplaceable.” Jeremy Holloway, Director
Transient Theatre Ltd

“How dare we make drastic decisions that affect young people and kids who will never be able to undo the damage being done? Cuts might need to be made but they shouldn’t be rushed or dramatic. Implementing fees will only discourage those who can’t afford to go, adding fuel to the fire that culture is for the elite.” Mar Dixon, Audience development consultant

“Cutting art funds is going backwards as a civilised society.” Nicholas Smyrnios, Visual artist and designer

I hope you agree!

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