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Dynamic Dunoon

Carole – Dynamic Dunoon

I had met Elaine Graham on a couple of different occasions the most recent being at the Scottish final in Pitlochry where she told me about the newly formed Burgh Hall Players in Dunoon.  As the Chairperson she was keen that they have a general drama workshop as soon as possible.  Apart from giving people some skills to take into early productions, it would be an opportunity to attract some newbies and see who we could get through the door.

After some careful diary management we got a date in the diary and my adventure began with a short train ride and a slightly bumpy ferry crossing.  It was certainly windy and a bit wet when I arrived but I was experiencing my usual excitement at visiting a new club with all the uncertainties of whether anyone would come to the workshop and if they did would they be happy to go along with the activities I had planned.  I had opted to go over on the Friday evening even though the workshop was all day on the Saturday as I didn’t want to take the chance that the weather would scupper my journey.  As Elaine was in the midst of home renovations I was made very comfortable at the home of Julie Forrester for the night and after an evening of talking all things theatre I spent a very comfortable night in Julie’s spare room.  Thanks so much of your hospitality Julie.

Saturday morning arrived and we made our way to the hall – as people started to arrive we realised that we would have a nice size group – eventually there were 17 people which I think exceeded all of our expectations.

This workshop was slightly different as the introduction games are usually very much for me to try to get to know people quickly and get a feel for what people seem to like or not like  In this case most people didn’t know each other well, if at all, so we were all in the same boat.  As things relaxed one challenge that we did discover was that the echoey nature of the room made it a little difficult for some people to hear.  We were able to experiment with this in the vocal exercises with lots of discussion about how to deal with the echo – soon realising that just being louder wasn’t always helpful.

It was a fun and exhausting day and the feedback session at the end was an opportunity to discover that some people who had never attended a drama workshop before had really enjoyed the experience.  A couple of people were a bit overawed at the talent in the room and were unsure whether they would feel able to get onto the stage but hopefully Elaine and myself were able to reassure them.  Community drama for both of us as Directors is very much about the journey we all go on together and we are both interested in working with people who want to have a go and are both enthusiastic and willing to try new things rather than the always casting the most experienced people.

I thought it was also worth mentioning a compliment I received (there is a reason behind this rather than my own ego).  One person mentioned that he usually hates anything to do with games or warm-ups as it can often make him feel silly or vulnerable but the reason he enjoyed them in my workshop is that I was able to contextualise them and explain what each one had to do with performance.  I believe that this is very important as I realise that people don’t always have the time or inclination for these kinds of activities but a few that are well chosen can get you somewhere quite quickly as well as set the atmosphere that you want in the rehearsal room.

As usual here’s some photos for you to get a feel for what we did and my thanks to everyone who made me so welcome and threw themselves into everything we did.

Until next time good luck to Dunoon who have already planned an evening of one-Acts in the Autumn.

See you down the road.

Carole

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Riverside Drama – Raining outside but warm inside!

Riverside Drama – Raining outside but warm inside?

Saturday 3rd June – the summer might have disappeared as I got off the train in Alloa – it was windy, raining and had turned a bit cold in comparison to recent weeks, however, inside was warm and welcoming.  In order to try to stick to my eating regime I tried my best to avoid the lovely home baking but it all looked excellent.

My brief had been that the club would like to work on voice and with some new members they wanted to look at clarity, projection and sustaining the voice.

The first half of the workshop focussed on various warm-ups and techniques with a slightly hysterical go at ‘Where’s my Spaghetti Luigi’.  Regulars will know that this is one of my favourite voice exercises – and it didn’t let me down with some hilarious stereotypical Italians entering into the proceedings!

We worked on monologues for the 2nd half of the workshop – I have been delivering a few of these workshops recently and I continue to search for some good quality ones giving everyone lots of opportunities to dissect a piece of text with the focus on the technicalities of delivering the words rather than a lot of discussion about character and context.

There was some really good quality discussion about different approaches to text and the lightbulb moments about beginnings and ends of each sentence as well as finding the places to add interest through pauses and intonation.  My only regret is that we couldn’t hear everyone’s piece – there is never enough time and I think we just needed about another half an hour in this one.

This was a small but perfectly formed group and I really enjoyed my return visit – it has been some time since I have been with the club and I hope that it won’t be that long again.

They say every picture tells a story and I couldn’t resist posting all of the photos here – particularly the ones where we attempted a selfie at the end as this was probably one of the most hysterical moments of the afternoon.

Thank you Riverside I think we created our own bit of sunshine.

See you down the road.

Carole

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Super Stornoway

Carole – Super Stornoway

At last I have a chance to write a few lines about my visit to Stornoway back at the beginning of May.

I landed in brilliant sunshine and my hosts Lily and Drew took me to a beautiful deserted beach to enjoy a pack lunch and talk about all things drama – have I mentioned before how tough life is for the SCDA Drama Advisor?

Thursday evening was a chance for the cast to have an early read through the play that they plan to take to the one-Act festival next year.  It was really great to have a glimpse of the beginning as we could have lots of fun discussion about all the different possibilities for the character interpretations.  I was completely shocked when I realised that we had overrun by quite a bit but I think we were all have such a good time that it just ran away with us.

Friday was back to the young people – one of the lovely things about developing relationships with groups over a period of time is that I start to develop a sense of what I can try with the groups and they almost treat me like I am a part of the group.  We worked on devising some short scenes loosely based on a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I love seeing their imaginations in action.  It was especially rewarding to observe the great team working skills – the natural leaders drove things on but in a really nice way – lots of good co-operation resulting in some great work.

Here’s a few photos for you to get a sense of what they created.

See you down the road.

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Braemar Re-scheduled

Carole – Braemar Re-scheduled

Last October, having completed my preparation to deliver four 1/2 day workshops at the Braemar Arts festival, I fell ill with the horrible flu and had to postpone at the very last minute.  We decided on late Spring as a good time to re-schedule and taking the glass half full perspective it also meant that people who play instruments or like to take part in arts and crafts activities at the festival were free to attend all of those sessions last October and still attend all 4 drama workshops – good result!  It’s not only Braemar folk who come along with one person timing her visit up to Braemar from the south of England to coincide with the workshops, that’s real dedication.  Another drove up from Edinburgh setting off again straight after we finished on Sunday for an early start on Monday.

My challenge is to deliver 4 standalone workshops so that there is no inter-dependency, anyone can come to any combination without having to attend all of them.  Myself and Marilyn agreed that we would keep the titles from the year before and I would see if I could reimagine what they could be.  With some people completely new to drama I always recommend everyone try to come to the first morning as that is where we play and become comfortable with each other and the idea of performance as a basis of discussion and group learning.

Here’s a breakdown of the weekend

Sat 10am – 1pm Let’s Play warm-ups and games including some improvisations

Sat 2pm – 5pm The Play is Everything – looking at creating characters for devising new theatre we explored the process that Mike Leigh uses to create realistic characters

Sun 11am – 1pm From Page to Stage – working with monologues that can occur within plays or as standalone performances

Sun 2pm – 4.30pm The Actor and The Text – working with scenes focussing on rehearsing and playing with different interpretations

If a theme did emerge then it was probably focussing on characters – creating them from scratch or developing them through existing text.  Although the group perform murder mysteries, panto and small sketches they are also very happy with the challenge of devising so I try to deliver a good mix in both of these areas.

What a journey we all went on together.  The usual good humoured banter was in evidence with the more experienced performers encouraging and supporting the less experienced.  Being together for a whole weekend creates a very special bond between all of us which is evident in the level of risk that everyone is prepared to take.  We had a particular moment that occurred during one of the performances of a monologue where the actor seemed to completely inhabit the character and the situation in a way that was seamless – of course the trick then is to try to capture some of that magic through into performance which was the basis of some great conversation.

I always feel like part of the community in Braemar and when to      in workshops I attended the ukelele club and sang with the choir.  On the Saturday evening we enjoyed a meal together and with everyone coming along we almost took up the whole restaurant – i just hope we weren’t too noisy for anyone who wanted a quiet evening.

I won’t be at the festival again this year as I will be at the Blairgowrie festival the week before and I think that everyone appreciated having a separate weekend of drama.  The Spring weather made for a very nice drive up and I look forward to my next visit up to my friends in Braemar.

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East Kilbride Rep in good voice!

Carole – East Kilbride Rep in good voice!

Midway through a very busy week I found myself at the premises of East Kilbride Rep.  They had been let down at the last minute which gave me a great opportunity to work with them for the first time.

They had been looking forward to working on voice projection and clarity which is something I am always happy to do with groups.  There were already a few people there when I arrived and as it was new member night I would have someone in the group who also didn’t know anybody so we both had something in common.

As more and more people arrived I was slightly concerned about how we would all fit into the space upstairs but I needn’t have worried – once we pushed back all the chairs and the furniture to the edges we created a cosy space which worked really well.  The group were a fun-loving dynamic crowd who obviously wanted to take advantage of everything on offer which resulted in an hour and a half of laughter as well as some really hard work.

EK are also a club who regularly hold workshops so I was really pleased to get good feedback from them and they have already expressed an interest in having me return to them at some point in the future – fingers crossed!

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Milngavie Merriment

Carole – Milngavie Merriment

On a Monday evening in April I headed to Milngavie Lesser Hall to meet the folk from Kilmardinny.  Unfortunately their local venue is still closed for redevelopment but the space we had was perfect for the size of group.

The group wanted to focus on body language and physicality and following my recent workshop with EPT I felt quite confident to deliver something interesting.  I had recently seen Kilmardinny’s production of Confusions so I knew that there were strong acting skills within the group but I hoped that I could give them some food for thought.

Working with gesture and taking away the group’s ability to communicate verbally was quite a challenge but the group rose to it all with good humour and a desire to be playful whilst at the same time learning something new.  There was a warm, supportive and friendly atmosphere in the room from the first exercise to the feedback session at the end.

With participants expressing an interesting for some more workshops in the future I hope that this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Luckily someone else in the group was taking photographs which allowed me to focus on leading the workshops.  Here are a couple to whet your appetite.

 

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Let’s be ‘Frank’

Carole – Let’s be ‘Frank’

The title of this blog refers to the fact that Edinburgh People’s Theatre (EPT) are currently rehearsing Diary of Anne Frank and I was invited to deliver a workshop for them on Saturday 22 April.  Following some emails we settled on characters and physicality as the main theme but I would have in my mind the upcoming production.

When I arrived at the venue it was like entering a tardis.  We walked through workshops and storage areas for props and costumes arriving into a couple of spaces, a smaller one for meetings and sometimes rehearsing and the larger one for rehearsing giving the group have the luxury of often being able to rehearse in the same size of space as they have for performance.  There was a well fitted kitchen which I knew would be put to great use later for a coffee and cake break.

After the usual nerves over whether anyone would actually turn up the floodgates opened and we ended up with a huge group.  Although there was a varying degree of experience I quickly discovered that everyone had attended workshops before so I knew that it wouldn’t take too long to get everyone involved.  I was trying out some of the elements of the new workshop ‘Is there any ‘body’ there’ for the first time so it was a little scary but everyone was brilliant – throwing themselves completely into everything.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the group and I was made very welcome.  It was helpful for me to try out some new things although I hope that the group never felt like guinea pigs.  The quality of discussion and feedback at the end was really high and it was gratifying to see that some people who have been acting and sometimes directing for many years had never looked at performance from the perspective of physicality before.

To my regular readers I apologise for the lack of photos – it was one of those workshops that I tended to be leading in a lot and we were so wrapped up in a creative conversation at the end I missed the opportunity to get a group photo before people left.

I am hopeful that I will get back to EPT in the future and that they will add me to their list of workshop facilitator and I will soon have another date in the ‘diary’ (see what I did there?)

Carole

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Best Practice – Working with Protected Adults

Best Practice – Working with Protected Adults

A question came up at the AGM last year about working practices when considering ‘protected adults’ (please refer to PVG page in the Legislation section of the SCDA website for link to definition of a protected adult) as everything still feels very focussed on child protection.

I agreed to go away and do some research and unfortunately have come up with very little.

There are guidelines on supervising protected adults who want to volunteer for work or for staff working in organisations whose sole purpose is to support vulnerable or protected adults but I couldn’t locate anything that might provide some advice about how to mitigate risks and keep everyone as safe as possible that might be useful.  So… I asked myself “how we can all enjoy the benefits of being involved in drama but keep ourselves safe without being intrusive”

We are all people with different needs and if I were allergic to peanuts or diabetic I would have some responsibility to tell someone in case an emergency situation occurred and I wasn’t able to communicate at that point.  On the other hand it may just be part of my every day life and I wouldn’t think to mention it.  If you have a protected adult in your group they and/or their parent/guardian or carer may not necessarily automatically think to tell you either because it is part of their every day life.

What should you do?

My suggestion is that you ask everyone the same questions about allergies or medical needs and make sure details are available at every rehearsal.  If people choose not to tell you that is their choice, but it does provide that extra bit of security having it properly logged in case of emergency.

Any of us can have an accident in the rehearsal room, it isn’t just young people who might slip or fall – do you have up to date emergency contact details for everyone and an agreed process for logging any accidents?  Why not put this in place now – you need to do this if you are working with children so why not do it for everyone?

Unless your club runs activities aimed at ‘protected adults’ it is almost certain that anything you do will be ‘incidental’ rather than ‘regulated’ work due to being open to everyone therefore not meeting the criteria for the PVG scheme.  However if you do have any doubts on this please contact Volunteer Scotland to get their advice.

Talk to your members – make it as easy as possible for them to let you know if you have any specific needs and share the information with everyone who needs to know (in agreement with the individual).  I think if we are sensitive and responsive that is the best practice and we don’t need someone else to tell us how to do that.

Take a look at the Legislation section of the website and you will find useful resources and templates on the PVG page.  These can easily be adapted for your club and will save you a lot of time.

I am always happy to get your comments and feedback so feel free to respond to this blog or email me on nda@scda.org.uk

See you down the road

Carole

 

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Carole – Aberdeen Antics

Carole – Aberdeen Antics

I love taking the train up to Aberdeen from Glasgow, it passes through some of the most beautiful scenery.  When we arrive on the East Coast passing through Carnoustie (I wave to my friends at the Dibble Tree theatre), Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose and, on this occasion, a misty arrival in Aberdeen.  After a few hours of sitting down I enjoy my walk up to the Arts Centre Aberdeen even if it is raining, there’s always a warm welcome waiting for me.

Unfortunately the planned workshop for Monday evening didn’t happen, we hadn’t taken into account the fact that we had scheduled it for Monday 31 October and apologies were received from people with young children who were trick or treating although by this time the rain was relentless so I think most people were probably quite happy to stay indoors.

Tuesday evening the Aberdeen district workshop was scheduled and I knew that Peter would do his best to ensure that we had a good turnout.  It’s always great to see people from different clubs coming together and alongside the regulars there were some new faces.  I had agreed with Peter that I would deliver a mask workshop which was ready to go – masks purchased.  I had however created a movement workshop for Monday based on a process used by one of the movement directors at the National Theatre and I felt that it may be more beneficial for attendees so I asked Peter if it would be ok to make this last minute change, postponing masks to a later date.

Following some general warm ups and group movement tasks we started working together to create a piece of ‘chorus’ movement working with everyday objects and choreographing individual movements into a cohesive whole.  We then built in some text and looked at dynamics, pace and playing with different versions to see what we liked and what we didn’t think worked so well.  We decided that I should film our ‘final’ version so that we could look at it critically together to allow everyone to see the overall effect.

I think that it gave everyone something to think about and with panto on the horizon I thought this would give a contemporary twist to chorus moments rather than having to only use more traditional ways of choreography.  As always I learned a lot and will definitely market this workshop with some tweaks so if this sounds like something you would like please contact me on nda@scda.org.uk to agree a date.

Unfortunately with me taking on such an intensive role of leading/choreographing I wasn’t able to take photos.  I don’t want to post the short film as it wasn’t performance ready and I haven’t got permission from the attendees – if you want to see how the process works you’ll just have to book a workshop!

Thanks as always to everyone for being so open and generous with me and each other and to Paula and Tom for their usual hospitality, it’s like a home from home!

See you down the road
Carole

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Carole – Off to Orkney

Carole – Off to Orkney

Hopefully you will all know that SCDA is a national organisation and that includes my services.  This resulted in my first ever trip to Orkney.  I had met some SCDA members at a Divisional workshop in Aberdeen last year and we had bumped into each other again at the Scottish final and the SCDA anniversary celebrations this year.  Each time we had chatted about the possibility of me coming up to deliver a workshop and the wheels were set in motion.

After settling on a a weekend at the end of September, our plans were for clubs to perform scenes from a play that could be performed as a ‘work in progress’ and I would workshop elements to explore alternative ways of performance and/or how to take the performance forward to the next level.  This was all to be done with the clear understanding that I was not adjudicating the performances just looking for opportunities to provide some new ideas and, where appropriate, some performance technique.

As the weekend grew closer it because apparent that this approach was not going to be suitable for a number of reasons so we reverted to 2 standalone workshops.  I was asked to deliver something similar to the Aberdeen workshop for one workshop and the other was left to me.  I didn’t want to repeat a workshop so I designed something new based on the central theme of ensemble working.  As I knew that the age range could be from 11 to 111 workshop 1 focussed on some general drama techniques leading to a short devised performances in smaller groups which produced some interesting, and sometimes hilarious results.  The play that had originally been under consideration had elements of choral speaking so I decided to design the 2nd workshop around this with some voice and text work followed again by small groups working to on choral speaking – this also linked the 2 workshops as both required a  high level of collaboration as well as technique.

After a relatively smooth journey my host for the trip, Margaret Sutherland, met me at the airport and the game was afoot!  After dropping my bag Margaret took on the role of tourist guide and we headed off to the first of Orkney’s many interesting attractions.  The light rain didn’t deter us, nor the long queue for the very tasty fish and chips cooked fresh in the portakabin by the water.  I don’t want you to think that my workshops visits are all about the downtime so I will just say that Margaret filled up every spare moment with interesting and informative sights and I cannot thank her enough.  If she had any time spare I know that she would make an excellent tour guide but as we all know, people involved in drama are often the mainstay of many voluntary endeavours and I think she is probably busier now than when she worked full time!

The workshops took place on Saturday and Sunday in the Kirkwall Theatre.  Both days there were around 25 participants – not everyone could come for the two days but it was lovely to see that some people who came on the Saturday weren’t sure if they could make the Sunday but most of them juggled things around as they had such a good time on the Saturday.  I can’t take all the credit for that as I have to say that I think one of the main reasons was the openness, generosity and warmth of everyone who turned up.  I have spoken in earlier blogs about the challenges of working across a large age range in terms of trying to meet the needs of everyone and I am honest about that from the start but it was lovely for me to observe everyone supporting and learning from each other.

Only the participants themselves can tell you what they learned individually from the workshops but every day is a school day for me so here is what I took away from the experience

  •  – people are more than the sum of their parts.  What do I mean by this?  Not only it is a privilege for me to see people working so well together to produce really interesting and entertaining work in the workshop, but as a District I gained a real insight into how they communicate and schedule their productions taking into account potential shared audiences.  They also share resources really effectively (thanks for the guided tour of the props and costume stores as well as workshop and rehearsal spaces in Kirkwall)
  • – geography and timing are important considerations.  As some performers can be affiliated to more than one club, a lot of people do have to travel quite a lot.  I am so grateful that people were willing to come quite a long way for the workshops and to give up their weekend to attend.  I also found out that within a farming community it’s not just a question of considering which day to schedule but also trying to avoid the busy times in the farming calendar – I had been pre-warned that the harvest may be affected by the weather which may have a knock on effect on attendance.  Add tourism and local community events into the mix and you start to see that this is quite a balancing act
  • – age is merely a number.  In the feedback session I asked the group to consider the impact of the mixed age group.  I may include more physical tasks within a youth session and perhaps have gone a bit more deeply into some exercises with an adult group – I asked the question ‘if I were to come back would you change this structure?’  The overwhelming answer was no.  This workshop provided an opportunity not only for different clubs to create something and learn together but that they all enjoyed learning from each other across age.  One of the youngest participants mentioned that he couldn’t think of any other time they would be able to do this.  The most likely opportunity would be a panto rehearsal but with the emphasis on getting the performance ready there would never be the time to exchange ideas and experiment in the same way.  I suppose this all comes back to trying to establish what people want to get out of the workshop in the first place and with such a strong emphasis on community I don’t think I was completely surprised by these comments.

Every time I visit a new club or district I hope that this is the beginning of a relationship and we have already begun considering ‘what next’ so I think this won’t be my last visit to Orkney.

See you down the road.
Carole

 

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