Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Downhill All The Way

I see it’s nearly a year since my last post. Maybe I should make a habit of this, annual postings!

SO, where am I? In Brisbane. Still house-sitting, thanks to some lovely house-owners who are kind enough to let their animals keep me company while they travel.  What am I? Still a student, part time PhD candidate, and still a freelance voice and acting coach. A little bit less of the former, a little bit more of the latter.

I’ll explain. I have now completed a full draft of my thesis. It is sitting with my two very busy supervisors, waiting for them to read it and return it to me with their comments, and suggestions for refinements. Hopefully refinements. Hopefully they won’t want major rewrites. I’m now pulling together all of the ancillary material I can muster to put into the appendices, such as feedback from colleagues and audiences who attended the various work-in-progress presentations of the performance project, The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will). Then there are all the diary type notes I made along the way, since the project became officially part of my PhD.  I’ve been pretty slack in that area, but as I’ve been trawling through every external hard drive I’ve saved files onto over the past 4 years I’ve managed to find 23 pages worth of ramblings, some of it quite revealing.

So if any of you have any final thoughts in response to your encounter with June Bloom, and would like them included in the final document, now is the time to send them in to me.  Final submission – when I have to hand it down – no later than the end of June.

My teaching practice is bubbling along quite nicely.  I must be doing something right with the website, because I am now getting one or two calls a week from potential students who find me just by searching on the net.  I’m working more with non-actors at the moment, people from different walks of life who want to develop their voices and presentation skills. What fun!

When I arrived back in Oz last year, after a fabulous trip to  Phoenix, Haworth NJ, New York and Seattle, I vowed not to leave the country until the thesis was completed. Well, one way or another, it will be completed by the end of June, so I’m setting off again late July, back to Seattle to see Iain, Jessie, Owen, Natalie and Annie.  There will be a dash across country to the east coast for a conference or two and hopefully catch up with the NJ mob, then back again for more Seattle family fun.

Back in Brisbane in early September, I guess I’ll have to decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I seem to have discovered yet another string to my bow – composer! having tinkered, on and off, as long as I can remember, with song writing. There have been occasional forays into arranging, and then of course there was the Music Major as part of my BA. I keep forgetting about that.  Anyway…

To explain the photo up at the top.  I’m wearing one of the costumes for the Performers For Peace group, for which I have been commissioned to compose original music for their latest street theatre performance.  It’s been an absolute blast, tagging along as the group (from the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Brisbane chapter) debated and discussed, improvised and devised – under the most excellent facilitation of Anna Yen – the words that they wanted to sing.  I then went into seclusion to set it all to music. It’s just 5 minutes long, but we’ve managed to turn out a miniature agit-prop epic. Opening night is at the end of April, at the WILPF Annual Awards cocktail party.

Of course, I am not without ideas for stuff to get stuck into when September arrives. I’m pretty excited about a range of possibilities for getting more and more people of all ages, from very small children to senior, involved in voice work and play. Shakespeare will also feature in future plans, be prepared to be surprised on a street corner or in a car park near you.

Oh, and there’s a trip to Paris to run a voice workshop, that’s in early planning stages. It would be awfully nice to get a whole tour happening around that, early in 2013. Think about it! It could happen in your part of the world too. I’ve been riding high for some time now, and I’m heading down into the valleys to continue the journey.

OK, enough already. Until next time…

 

 

 

Post Fringe Ponderings

The final performance (for now) of The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) took place at 7 pm on Sunday night, 3rd April, at the Phoenix Fringe Festival. The house was just over half full, but it seemed more, it’s such a tiny venue Space 55. It only seats around 36-40, and a few empty seats here and there don’t seem to matter.

The big guns were in. David Barker, Professor of Acting at ASU, and two guys from the Fringe Festival.  Angela (our director for the Phoenix production) brought her mother, and Zack, the MFA student who had been at the VASTA conference in 2009, the one who suggested that the production would be a real treat for students if presented to them as a lecture, had come along all primed to come up when invited to do a short passage from a Shakespeare monologue. Sadly, when the moment came, I completely forgot to invite him up! Sorry, Zack!

One thing that has been relatively consistent throughout all the performances, both in Brisbane and in Phoenix, has been audience engagement.  For the most part people laugh, smile, or listen intently. The Phoenix audiences were larger than in Brisbane – I don’t think we ever had more than 12 people in the audience in Brisbane, whereas we had 15 to 25 in Phoenix, and in a smaller space so they would have felt less exposed.  The Phoenix audiences were also much more prepared to look me in the eye, and to respond. I could look at just about anyone, and they would look back, whereas in Brisbane many people (especially non-actors) either avoided eye contact or refused to maintain it.

The difference at the final performance was that David Barker, who arrived about 10 minutes late and sat in the front row, just looked at me impassively throughout the whole performance.  He never smiled (that I noticed), nor did he ever give any indication that he was interested in the discussion, or the ideas expressed.  This only became truly relevant to me when I met him the following day at the Phoenix Film Festival schools workshop.  He came up to me and thanked me for working with Lauren (one of his students), asked me how she was to work with, and whether I had written the script. That was it.  In my book, that is code for “I didn’t like it much, and your performance did not appeal to me either”. He probably only came because of Lauren, which is fair enough, and was only interested to check that I hadn’t been taking advantage of her, or teaching her bad habits.

So there you have it.  All the people who stopped me on the way out after each of the three performances to thank us effusively, to congratulate both Lauren and me on our performances, to admire the production and the ideas expressed just evaporate into the “foul and pestilent congregation of vapours” that hovers, uninvited, close by, while the one mean-spirited response (or lack of) lights up like a ‘brave o’er-hanging firmament fretted with golden fire”.

What IS that?  You’d think I’d be able to control it better, after all these years.  I claim to be non-competitive yet I am unable to accept being anything less than the best there is. I know I’m not, by a long chalk, but I keep on hoping that somehow, some day, I will suddenly emerge as this great actor!  Of course, I work at it. I don’t expect to get any better at it without actually putting in the hard yards, doing the training, exploring, experimenting, engaging with the craft, developing my skill set.  The problem seems to be an old one. I get above myself. I don’t realise I’m doing it until I find myself being cut down to size.

From New Album 14/03/11 2:21 PM That’s Angela Giron, me and Lauren Dykes, the Phoenix division of Thunder’s Mouth Theatre.

So what does that mean – to get above myself? How is that even possible?

I think I am playing the good old Aussie game of hunting down the Tall Poppy. The rules are that nobody must stand out, or appear to be higher, smarter, richer, prettier, or anything-at-all-er more than anybody else. If they are, they must be cut down.  I refuse to play this game against other people, but boy am I terrified of being perceived as being a Tall Poppy myself!  Hence my real claim to fame, my actual expertise that qualifies me as a genuine Tall Poppy, is in the area of self-sabotage.  I’m the Best!

Dunedin – Seattle in miniature

This is my third visit to Dunedin, and on this occasion, having spent several months in Seattle last year, I am struck by the similarity between the two cities. Not only that, but whenever I mention it to a Dunedin local, they agree with me, because they all seem to visit Seattle on a regular basis!

View from Opoho

I can’t say exactly why it is, but it’s something to do with the geography of the place, the hills around, the Sound (long and thin in Dunedin, wide in Seattle), the mixture of residential and industrial, the docks at the heart of the city.  There’s also something about the easy way of the people, a smile as you pass on the street, helpful bus drivers. Today, waiting for a bus, a lovely woman actually stopped and offered me a lift down the hill.

I’ve had a glorious time here, three weeks in all. The first week I taught The Shakespeare Class, here at the University of Otago. That’s it. One class. BLISS!  The rest of the time, I slept, ate Suzanne’s glorious food, drank some fabulous New Zealand wines, read several chapters of The Life of Pi and watched some really crap television, courtesy of Foxtel. I think this qualifies as a holiday.

The second week was spent taking part in the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) National Shakespeare Schools Production week. This involved staying the week at the Otago Boys High School Hostel, sharing a dormitary block with some of the participants, which meant sharing a bathroom with a bunch of 17 and 18 year old young men (some of whom didn’t quite get the concept of privacy, as in shutting the toilet door when using it!).

But what a wonderful week it was. My job was to direct 15 of them in a condensed version of The Winter’s Tale, take a workshop, sit in on all their other activities, and be available to mentor and coach them the rest of the time. So basically, 6 1/2 days totally focussed on Shakespeare. What. A. Blast!!!

As well as glorious young New Zealanders passionate about Shakespeare, there was the ‘mystery tour’ arranged by the totally amazing Dawn Sanders, CEO of SGCNZ (as well as being fund-raiser, secretary, treasurer, tour coordinator, butt-kicker and chief cook and bottle-washer).

Dawn Sanders with the 3 directors for 2010, Damien, Sylvia and Flloyd
looking North
over the horizon - the South Pole!

Finally, today on my last day, I was invited to do a voice-over for a colleague in the music department at the University of Otago.  When the project is ready, I’ll post it for you to hear and enjoy.

"Only you can save us, Dr Glam!"