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Carole – No thorny issues for Thornhill Players

Carole – No thorny issues for Thornhill Players

It felt like ages for this day to come at the end of October because it had been in the diary for so long – full marks to Thornhill for forward planning!!

With not one, but two plays in rehearsal the workshop plan was focussed on some specific issues arising within one of the plays for one half of the day and in the 2nd half the club were interested in exploring how to ‘do nothing’ on stage.

After some general drama stuff, a technical term, we got into the business of the scene.  The question concerned how to sustain a struggle between 2 characters while the scene continues around it.  This led to a discussion about the difference between being naturalistic or theatrical.  We agreed that in the context of this scene we needed to go for theatricality but even with theatricality there needs to be enough realism for the audience to buy-in to the fact that the character was actually being restrained whilst allowing the character to interact with the scene in a comedic way.  So what did we learn?

  • We needed to allow the text to drive the scene so that the struggle made sense.  There were necessary moments of stillness to allow the character to hear and respond to the actions of the other characters
  • We needed to absolutely choreograph the start and end point of the physical struggle for it to work
  • Many hands make light work – after watching 3 different versions created in small groups we all had a lightbulb moment that getting a group together to explore some of these sticky moments at the beginning of rehearsals is not only great fun but takes the pressure off the director to come up with all of the answers (something I also try to steer directors away from).

 

I think that there were elements in each version that could be brought together and I hope that the cast and director found it useful.

After a shared lunch we started to think about whether it is possible to ever do nothing – even if we are just quietly sitting somewhere usually our minds are still working really hard – sometimes random thoughts sometimes trying to figure out what to do next.  Does it make any difference to our outer stillness if our inner life is so active.

What did we discover?  You’ll have to book the workshop yourself to find out.

See you down the road!

Carole

 

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Carole -Onwards & Upwards to Orkney

Carole – Onwards & Upwards to Orkney

Travel arrangements made – check!

Information from the District about what they want me to focus on – check!

Bag containing a few items of clothes but lots of workshop materials, packed – check!

So I headed off to Orkney for a return visit on Friday 29 September and I was just as excited as I was this time last year.  Workshop number 1 focussed on Stagecraft.  We worked on the orientation of the stage and status of objects and people before setting up a scene and directing it.  A small group of about 8 people attended and we got through a lot in a half day workshop.  We kept the elements of devising to allow us to create scenes quickly without having scripts in hand.  I will reflect on this approach a bit more as I wonder if it did save us time and maybe people would have preferred to work on an existing scene.  Any comments would be gratefully received!

I always feel that we could do with more time when it comes to the end and I am sure we could have easily continued with the work we were doing well into the afternoon but there was a lighting workshop scheduled for the afternoon led by the technical team in the Kirkwall Theatre so we had to stop.

Day 2 and workshop number 2 – this time we looked at voice and character.  We limbered up our vocal chords and worked on opening up the space inside the mouth and throat.  Everyone then worked on a monologue, I had to make sure there was enough time at the end to see the ones from everyone who wanted to share which was most people. We had to time this with precision to make sure that everyone got their spot and I think we all really enjoyed seeing the same monologue done by more than one person as we could discuss the different approaches and accept the fact that there isn’t just one way to present something.   It was a really big group and a wide span of ages but I hope that there was something for everyone.  We could only get as far as we did by the focus and handwork of everyone in the room so well done to you all!

I love working with the folk in Orkney District – I am always made to feel so welcome and people are very openminded to consider new things – they also collaborate so well across ages and levels of experience.  Considering it was the first weekend of panto rehearsals and there was a Murder Mystery going up the week after my visit, I was very impressed that so many people still managed to come along to the workshop.

I hope that there will be a 3rd visit and leave it to the clubs to make that decision, in the meantime…
See you down the road

Carole

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Carole – Puss in Boots in Stonehaven

Carole – Puss in Boots in Stonehaven

It’s always a pleasure taking the train up the East Coast with so many great places to stop off.  My destination was Stonehaven where I was going to get to work with Ury Players.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to Stonehaven although I have worked with members of the club at Aberdeen District events.

Having been sent the script in advance I was able to prepare a bespoke workshop looking at voice projection and clarity.  I’m not a great lover of panto but reading it had me laughing out loud and made it much easier for me to think about what might be useful for cast.  After some general warm-ups we worked with the opening speech which introduces the whole play.

I believe that once you have done the physical work to free up the voice the focus needs to go onto the meaning and being clear what response you want from the audience.  What are the important words?  Is there enough variety in the tone to make it listenable?  Is there enough space through successfully using pauses to allow the audience to catch up?

Working in small groups everyone came up with so many creative and interesting approaches and worked so hard in a short space of time that I didn’t even take any photos which is a real shame as there were countless moments that would have made great photos.

With a mix of workshop veterans and people who had never been to a workshop it was great to see everyone working together and helping each other to try new things.

Good luck to everyone involved in the panto and see you down the road!

Carole

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Carole – Edinburgh Makars making merry

Edinburgh Makars making merry

Challenge number 1 – finding the venue.  With the help of Google maps I negotiated the roadworks and headed down in the direction of Leith (I was a pedestrian so it wasn’t too bad).  When my phone announced “You have arrived at your destination” I knew I had to head down a small lane with cobblestones. Luckily Anthea was looking out for me, she took me through the blue door and up into 2 rooms – a kitchen with some enticing biscuits and cups that we would put to good use later on and a large rehearsal room.  Furniture from various decades was placed around the edges of the room, photographs from recent productions were proudly displayed on the wall.  It was a welcoming space with plenty of room for a workshop.

Edinburgh Makars have decided to have a club night on Mondays which they hope to theme in different ways.  In addition to workshops they will hold play reading evenings and other similar activities.  I really like this idea, often groups say to me that one of the things they want to do more of is to create a club environment bearing in mind not everyone is directly involved in each production.  Many of the challenges the Makars face are common amongst groups I visit – having sufficient people who want to be involved in front of house, behind the scenes and as office bearers.  In addition it is increasingly difficult to find affordable venues to perform in – audiences like the familiarity of a regular venue if possible.  I had never considered this before – it is easy to assume that a city like Edinburgh is filled with suitable venues.

The group wanted to focus on physicality.  This area is relatively new to me in terms of delivering workshops and I find I am continually learning each time I deliver it.  The group fully engaged with every exercise we did – I checked in with them as we went through the evening as I had left allowed lots of space for feedback and discussion as we went through the evening and I was worried that the pace wasn’t quick enough.  It seemed that the group appreciated the chance to mull things over and to think about how to use some of the things we experimented with not just how the techniques worked.  Everyone felt that it had the potential to create a further dimension to characters and the more I work in this area the more convinced I am of the benefits.

Taking the spoken text out of the equation is very liberating rather than restricting and the group could pinpoint times when they think this approach would have helped them in previous productions.  We talked about the fact that this could be difficult when time is short and it is important to be convinced that investing time into something new requires not only a degree of bravery but a belief that the benefits will make it worthwhile.

The time flew by and it was soon time for me to get the train back to Glasgow. I don’t think it will be too long before I am heading back to the Edinburgh Makars as we started talking about “what next” which is always a good sign.

Thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.  See you down the road.

Carole

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Carole – Fun in Fintry!

Fun in Fintry!

Sunday 10 September – raining and a bit cold I headed up into the hills to Fintry – hoping that people would still come out despite the horrible weather.  The final number of participants totalled 9  all willing and open to trying anything,

I gave the group the choice about whether they wanted to focus on text or movement – the resounding answer was ‘can we have it all?’.  We finally agreed on on keeping the first half of the workshop open withs games, some warm-ups a bit of voice work and we started thinking about movement.  After a brief comfort break this was where I took my biggest gamble and challenged the group to represent a whole story just with our bodies (we used Snow White as our inspiration because that will be the panto for Fintry this year – see if you can identify the relevant moments from the pictures below).

I cannot say how rewarding it is to work with a group of adults who are willing to throw off their inhibitions and tap into the inner child that allows you to just ‘go for it’.  The quality of the work and the discussion was fantastic with everyone seeing the benefits of attempting to tell a whole story through pictures.  With people being prepared to be characters and objects there was plenty of hysteria (the sofa with the sagging seats and the contemporary painting will stick in my memory for a long time)

We thought it would be good to perhaps have a day at the beginning of rehearsals when you could bring the whole cast in and  get them to create a picture for every scene.  Stage 2 is where you focus on the transitions between them, perhaps give them captions along the way. A great opportunity to build a team and also to get ideas from the whole cast.

There were the usual regrets that more people hadn’t come to the workshop but there is a saying in drama that you always have the right people in the room because we are the ones who turned up!

We created our own bit of sunshine with lots of laughter and food for thought.

Until next time Fintry, see you down the road.

Carole

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Carole – Friends at the Festival

Friends at the Festival

9 August 2017 – I make my way to Edinburgh using public transport – small case on wheels in one hand containing SCDA related materials and stationary.  Slung over one shoulder an SCDA banner I walked all the way to Venue 2 by George Square for my workshop ‘Why do we need Amateur Theatre?’

In common with a lot of activities at the Fringe I wasn’t expecting a large group but was very heartened when I arrived to find that 10 people reserved tickets.  Unfortunately the weather was fantastic and I think that some people changed their minds as they would rather by outside or the timing didn’t fit into their programme of performances.  This is no complaint however as the small group of 4 (5 including me) created a lot of energetic discussion and questions.

In addition to one of our very active member and supporter, Martin Butler, we had a representative from Sardines the amateur theatre magazine, and 2 of my friends who I have know for over 20 years.  One of them is an individual member of SCDA since she moved back to Scotland and the other lives in the south of England but was just up for the festival – lovely reunion for me.  Although I created a structure for the day I was happy to be flexible and let the group dictate the way in which we got to some of the issues that we were all interested in.   Here are some brief notes of the discussion

 

We talked about the challenges of being brave and taking risks both in terms of choices of plays and staging.  Factors influencing these choices were demographic of the club and audience expectations

This led on to talking about age and gender blindness when casting.  One person talked about a production of Romeo & Juliet with 2 older actors taking on that role and the disapproval of the families coming from the grown-up children.  There is also a trend for gender blind casting which may help when there is such a body of work that is produced for all male or predominantly male casts.

We talked about production reviews and Chris from Sardines filled us in on the fact that they review by invitation and have reviewers all over the UK.  We had a chat about expectations and I updated the group on my conversation with Thom Dibdin resulting in a couple of resources recently making their way onto our website

There was a general feeling that there is a gap in knowledge for office bearers and it may be useful to consider offering this to clubs,  All agreed that getting people in general onto Committees can be challenging but the role of Treasurer seems to be the role that is most difficult to fill

Something we are aware of is the challenge of finding suitable plays and agreed that the ‘community’ could help more by sharing information about the plays they have done

Everyone talked about the lack of directing skills that can result in people not feeling valued.  One of the participants said that he is now not willing to take part in a production where the cast are not involved in the creative process.

We touched on the perception of amateur theatre being white middle class and how that is reflected in the professional sector.  We also acknowledged that this can be geographic.  If you live in an area that isn’t particularly diverse your group is likely to reflect that.  We shouldn’t be complacent however but this is a much bigger issue than we were able to address in any depth within this forum.

We did talk about how clubs are run being a potential barrier to members.  This includes time and location for meetings and rehearsals and the feeling that sometimes it’s always the same people who get the parts’  This took us back to point number 1 where we talked about making braver choices where possible.

Perception is a problem however and we acknowledged that some amateur groups at the Fringe do not declare themselves as amateurs as they believe it will put people off.  We agreed that the term ‘Community rather than ‘Sector’ felt more appropriate.  We talked about the attempt to reclaim the word ‘amateur’ as a positive umbrella but there is still some way to go in this area

We talked about the issue of VAT on theatre hire for charities and wondered if there was anyway this could be claimed back.  (SCDA are looking into this)

There is a trend, particularly in London, for people to pay a membership fee and then have to pay a performance fee.  We were uncertain about whether this was a good idea.  It can be a barrier particularly if you don’t have much money but on the other hand if everyone pays the same fee to be a member of a club lots of people are non-performing members. We think this is more common in musical theatre groups.   Anyone reading this have a view??

We wondered if it was helpful to differentiate between youth groups who are led by paid professionals and amateur theatre led youth groups and decided that whilst we wouldn’t want to be rigid there is a bit difference, not necessarily in quality but in the fact that a lot of youth theatre is devised whereas amateur groups tend to use scripts more often than not.

  1. It was a interesting and inspiring event that I think we all enjoyed.  Who wouldn’t want to get together to talk about something they are passionate about with like-minded individuals.  The debates were really good with lots of different opinions but everyone respecting those differences.
  2. One very important thing that came out of this discussion is that the people living in England would love to have an SCDA equivalent and they were very jealous of the resources and the willingness for SCDA to open up discussions and continuously try to find ways to develop.  They were very impressed with the new workshop brochure and amazed that people can have a local workshop for a very small fee.

Please get in touch if you have any thoughts about the subjects discussed on anything else that you see as a pressing issue for your club or for the amateur theatre Community in general.

See you down the road.
Carole

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Carole – Dynamic Dunoon

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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Carole – 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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Carole – Super Stornoway

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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Carole – Braemar Re-scheduled

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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