Archives For Essential theatre skills

Here's hoping they won't hold back at audition (although Boz, pictured here, is actually the lighting designer - I like my team to be versatile!)

Here’s hoping they won’t hold back at audition (although Boz, pictured here, is actually the lighting designer on this occasion – I do like my team to be versatile!)

I’ve been planning this for months now (as you would expect from the Offbeat Directing Series of blogs on this site!!) Now up to the dreaded audition bit (see the blog post)! I don’t really like auditions. I find that nearly all the group will audition for the same parts, so in the last few weeks I’ve been trying to encourage a bit of diversity. I hope I’ve succeeded. The group is 16 strong and there are many, many more parts than that … so, multiroling is key. It took me AGES to work out which characters can be played by an actor also playing another part. We’ll see if it works!

At the same time as I’m auditioning on stage Tom (photographer) will be working on his video diaries and, no doubt, taking a few groovy pics! So … I’ll update when everyone has auditioned and been cast. Not expecting anyone to get terribly upset, but they can’t ALL play Agnes Nitt! And why is no one auditioning for the lovely part of the Opera tenor of gargantuan proportions (fatsuit anyone?) Greebo the cat-who-turns-human-sometimes will be a challenge (although he appears to look a bit like a Johnny Depp style pirate – that would work). The casting of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg is also a big challenge and (apart from other important considerations – obviously) I’m really hoping not to have to make new costumes (we did Wyrd sisters some years back). But .. if required costumes are always fun to make!

So … here goes! Fingers crossed for a good, clean audition. No biting, scratching or hysterical outbursts please… Cover me ..I’m going in….

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You’re right. There is absolutely no reason to place this photo with this post.

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through

Ok, now the work can really start. I love rehearsals! There is nothing more satisfying than a dynamic, creative, interactive rehearsal that leaves everyone feeling like they”re getting somewhere! It isn’t always like that of course, but we’ll work though that in time.. For now we have several things to do within the same time frame in the early stages. We need to be aware of the way we’re going to work and who does what (this is the subject for this post), we need to have a plan for how we work with our actors in rehearsal and we need another for dealing with the infrastructure, the design and the people helping us out with it! Sounds like a lot – and it is. If you’re organised and clear and can delegate you’ll be fine. Continue Reading…

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Many people believe that to exercise your mind you need to read. Read by all means, but then you need to THINK about what you’ve read. Otherwise it’s like standing on the treadmill at the gym without turning it on….

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Get into the Mind Gym!

Ok, I'm cheating - this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.

Ok, I’m cheating – this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.
Pic by Tom Flathers (as if you didn’t know)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition

You’ve just survived the painful experience of casting the play and your chosen actors are assembled for the first read through. You would love it if they’ve actually read the play, thought about it and got to know their characters a bit, but just having read it would be ok for now! You all sit in a circle …. now what? This can be one of the most awkward moments and it’s easy to fill the awkward silence by rabbiting on about your vision, how you see the set and the costumes, what you think it’s all about and many other valuable insights you’ve collected over the months you’ve been working on the play. But don’t do that, it’s really not the right time! People are nervous – get them reading pretty quickly! They don’t want to listen to the director (not too much anyway) – they just hope they don’t sound foolish or pronounce that strange word on page 24 incorrectly (they will – ignore it). Continue Reading…

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Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Listening and watching (in a positive way) are very underrated. In a previous ‘life’ I was a therapist (remedial massage mostly) and I spent many years teaching others how to assess the varying conditions of their clients. Listen, watch and, in the case of a physical therapy, get your hands on (but even then you are listening with your hands). In theatre, observation is everything – but not just in theatre. The same applies if you just want to help a friend. Watch .. listen. Where are they? Continue Reading…

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finding your cast

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?

Ok, hands up .. who likes auditions? No one? Well, there’s a surprise! I absolutely hate auditions. As director I always want to give everyone a part, preferably the part they want (naturally I squash that part of me for the duration!). What makes that so much worse is that there will always be a significant number auditioning for the ‘best’ role. After years directing in youth theatres I can honestly say that most people do not find the idea of the ‘character cameo’ very appealing – they want lines and appearances. Some people count the lines – presumably so they can see just how good their part really is. I can’t complain I suppose, I do remember auditioning for the part of Juliet in Romeo & Juliet at school and no other part would have been on my radar (yes, I did get it – I was very determined). As an actor of course, the whole process is nerve racking and fraught with horrors. Not getting the part you want may result in tears and tantrums, or just bitter disappointment and profound silence. Getting the part you want results in wild celebrations and much screaming – which makes the the ones who didn’t get the part feel SO much worse (yes, I have worked mostly with the unbridled emotional responses of teenagers and children). So why on earth do we do it? Why don’t we just handpick pick the cast we want and bypass the horrid audition? Continue Reading…

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Unleash your Creativity!

Barbara —  May 28, 2013 — 26 Comments
flowers by Barbara Hockley

A survivor from a painting frenzy many years ago!

When I was in my 20s I had a sudden urge to paint. I had emerged from a difficult time and found myself in a relatively peaceful place and was drawn back to theatre, to creativity and expression. But, totally at odds with what I thought I could and couldn’t do, I started to paint. I had no knowledge of anything to do with painting, of techniques or types of paint (I had been declared ‘hopeless’ by my art teacher many years back when I couldn’t draw a face). I naturally found myself using paints that I liked the look of (I used enamel paints – very shiny and bright), brushes that suited detailed work and I painted on hardboard because it was cheap and I was broke. I bought offcuts from a local hardware store and I painted and painted. I had no idea ever what I was going to paint, I just sat down and ideas flowed from the brush without my head intervening. I painted all night in a little attic room (how romantic is that!) and stacked them up over many months. I sprayed the finished products with varnish and had them framed as cheaply as I could. Unsophisticated and lacking technique undeniably, but painted from deep down inside with passion and commitment. Continue Reading…

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Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound

Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound. Photo by Tom Flathers

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning

What does the Director do? You might well ask! I’ve seen many directors at work and some appear to think it is entirely to do with deciding which side to make your entrance from and where to stand when you get there… These things do have to be decided (to some degree) but there is so much more to do and, like most things in life, we can always defer the hard tasks and meaningful, but difficult, conversations by doing something fairly mechanical (the washing up is always fair game if you’re at home – obsessing on where to place your cast if you’re in the theatre). So .. what is the actual role of the director?

The Director’s job is to TELL THE STORY.
Sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Continue Reading…

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The set for Beauty & the Beast used 3 revolves!

Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on). Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production…. Continue Reading…

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Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing ... but not as we know it)

Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing … but not as we know it)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script

I never stop dreaming and I never stop planning either. These two things work well together – in fact it is crucial that you can engage with both if you want to create something special (and you should). Never strive for mediocrity! Start to think big – and it really doesn’t matter that deep down you know you won’t get sell out audiences, standing ovations, knockout performances and a set to die for – AIM FOR THEM! When you aim for something big you are pointing yourself in the right direction. If you saw two signs – mediocre to the left and brilliant to the right, which way would you look? I think we’d all look right – so point yourself in that direction from the beginning and don’t look back. Never say ‘but there is no point, I won’t get there’ because in doing that you are missing the point. The point is that we want to improve our skills, achieve more and get a better show on than we have ever managed before and to do so we go in the direction of awesomeness and brilliance. I know lots of people simply don’t believe in themselves, some aren’t interested in improving skills and others don’t realise that improving their skills as a director (or anything) really isn’t rocket science (unless you want to be a better rocket scientist .. in which case it is). It is harder work, but the rewards are there if you put the time and effort in. So … onwards into dreams and planning … Continue Reading…

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