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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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…
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…
This series is not the definitive ‘How to Direct a Play’ guide – I wouldn’t presume to be anywhere close to that (not even sure what it might look like). This is how I direct a show and I daresay we all have a few things in common we can compare and explore. It may also be of help to directors just starting out on their journey or others that need to refresh the way they approach the task. It may also be of no help whatsoever or may just give you an insight into how other people direct and be rather/tremendously/vaguely interesting in that respect. Who knows … Please feel free to comment!
So … stepping gracefully up to the ‘vision’ part, we assume that you have in fact read the play you want to direct. I know, it’s obvious isn’t it (no insult intended), but I have known directors turning up to an audition for their play and guess what? Yep, they haven’t actually got round to reading it. Director’s credibility at this point in the eyes of the prospective cast = nil. Continue Reading…
I’ve just had a great time sorting through all the Bugsy photos and 1920s style photos that I collected when we did our own production of Bugsy Malone a few years back. We had so much fun doing that show. In fact, there’s nothing like a musical with a live band, dancing, singing, a great set and glitzy costumes to really create that amazing feelgood factor you get in theatre. I think we had a 9-piece band, a fantastic set (see the board!), a great choreographer, excellent singers and .. I had a brilliant time directing. I do remember that when it came to sorting out the costumes though we ran into problems. I asked locally (we had a large drama store serving the county with costumes for youth groups and schools), and they politely refused to costume the show (that really took me by surprise). Splurge, of course, is the problem! No one wants their costumes splurged and how can you do Bugsy without the mess? I looked around online and yes, there were places that would supply costumes but they were WAY out of my budget and comfort zone. We had a big cast – of course we did, you can’t do the show without! Also, I wanted really good costumes – boas, beads, sequins, glamour, fringed dresses – everything! The choeographer went to the West End to see Chicago and came back with large ostrich feather fans on the agenda. So, we decided that Offbeat Theatre (run by myself & my partner Jim), would costume the show … (yes that did include large ostrich feather fans) and Jim would make the splurge guns that Offbeat would finance. So, over the months that folowed we made costumes and bought 1920s style everything I could find on Ebay! Well, to be honest I didn’t actually make any costumes – I’m not safe with a pattern and a pairs of scissors, but I knew someone who could and did. In the end we had a huge amount of costumes and an enormous bill that we carefully ignored until it was all over. We had a tearful standing ovation (me and the choreographer – we were the tearful ones) on the last night and then it was all over. Continue Reading…
If we called ‘theatre games’ by another name – say …’performance-based awareness, productivity and skill enhancement exercises’ no one would want to play but more people might appreciate their value!
Whilst I was running a youth theatre a few years back I was asked if we could do something for ‘Shakespeare Day’…. Well yes, but no time to get a full length play together. People were doing things in and around the town on the day in question. Sonnets in the teashop, that sort of thing.
Scenes from Shakespeare? Well, possibly I thought…
But then … why not have all the classic bits that lots of people would know on a menu and place the menu on tables in the local theatre foyer when it was open on Saturday morning (shakespeare Day in fact). Along with coffee and cake the customers can choose a short scene, famous soliloquy or adapted or related extract (could be a song related to Shakespeare, a comedy sketch etc). Get a band of suitably robust players together, a few different hats and props and they can spend 2 hours (or so) going from table to table performing requests and raising some funds at the same time (take the hat round). Our trusty band of players were kept fully occupied for 2 hours and we had to get an order system going! Great fun and (of course) you can do it with any sort of material at all. Favourite bits? Macbeth’s witches went down rather well…
Make up your own menu to suit the occasion and get your travelling players going from table to table!
This is a great theatre game to get your group working together as a team and relying on each other for support!
Give everyone a number & challenge them to remember it (!) Then they walk around the space with awareness of their physical relationship to everyone else.
No bumping into each other.
Just a silent contemplation of the group.
The facilitator calls out a number*
The person with that number swoons/falls (with or without noise) and the rest of the group run to his aid and support him so he doesn’t fall. Having successfully saved that person the group continues to walk and another number is called out.
*You can change what happens when the number is called, but it must result in the rest of the group rushing to their aid.
- Your group members learn to trust each other
- They get used to physical contact
- They allow themselves to become vulnerable, knowing they will be ‘saved’
- They physically relax in the presence of others
- If some members of your group are VERY body conscious, or heavy, you may want to change what happens when the number is called to make sure the group can manage the task and no one is made to feel awkward. This is often a problem with body conscious teenagers and overweight adults. Don’t risk physical injury. DO encourage everyone to participate – change the game to suit if necessary. Don’t let them go away from the game feeling too ‘different to be part of it.
- There are always those within the group that will test the group to its limits by walking too far outside of the space. That way when their number is called they cannot be saved as they are too far away and they fall. This has the effect of making the group look responsible for the ‘failure’. In fact it is the group member that cause the situation by refusing to be part of the group and play be the group rules. Be very clear about this to all members! It is not up to the group to be generate superhuman responses to save stray members. Each person has a responsibility to be part of the group.
Other than that it’s a great game and allows your group to develop physical contact and trust.
Introduction: This week we have a Guest Blogger. Tom Flathers is a fantastic photographer with an essential skill for your theatre production – he takes great photographs! We all know how important it is to have photographs that ‘capture the moment’ on stage. Not only good for publicity, but a wonderful addition to your archives and memories. Barbara
I have been photographing theatre since September 2012 and have now worked on a number of productions. My favorite without a shadow of a doubt is the 5 months I spent documenting the rehearsals of Beauty and the Beast which was performed at the Conquest Theatre in February. I have also worked on numerous productions for the Drum Theatre in Birmingham.
Theatre has always been really prevalent in my life as I regularly go and see plays. However, my photographic career began in sports rather than theatre. I worked as a sports photographer from the age of 17 and photographed some amazing events such as the Barclays Premier League and Wimbledon.
I used to shoot sport 5 times a week and I was mentored by some incredible photographers. This strong background in photography is the reason I have moved across to theatre photography very smoothly. I have learnt to be very disciplined as a sports photographer and it’s this approach that I bring to theatre and it seems to be serving me well. Continue Reading…
You know when you wake up and you’ve just had the most amazing dream. You’ll never forget it! Until, of course, a few minutes later when it’s completely slipped away and no matter how hard you try you can’t get it back. So you try to keep a dream diary, but half the time you don’t write your dream down (the pen doesn’t work/isn’t there at the right time and/or a cup of tea/coffee/more sleep beckons….) When you do write your dream down you’re really not sure where to go with it next? One of those generic online/in-book interpretations maybe? Then what? Analyse it, understand the message (there’s a message?), use it as material for your next piece of creative writing (ummm, maybe). Dreams are strange and slippery things, maybe we should wake up and bask in them before they leave us, just absorb some of the dreamy fabric of the night and not try to hold on too tightly. And maybe, whilst basking, you could use this strange dreamworld to inspire a stage production? I did, it was fantastic fun – let me share a bit of the journey. Continue Reading…