Tag Archives: rehearsals

Juggling productions – The 9 Fridas, Woman of Flowers, and Fun Palaces

It’s a phenomenally busy week – perhaps the busiest I have ever experienced with productions opening, rehearsals beginning, and deadlines looming all in the same five days..

'The 9 Fridas' last rehearsal before get-in at Wellspring Theatre

‘The 9 Fridas’ last rehearsal before get-in at Wellspring Theatre

It’s production week for ‘The 9 Fridas’ in Taipei. We have a group photograph at the end of the final rehearsal in Mobius Strip Theatre Company’s welcoming and creative studio – cast, crew, lighting and costume designers, company manager, director and playwright all squeezing into a final celebratory shot. Many take on their Frida Kahlo self portrait pose – including our fabulous stage manager, Knife (front row right), which tells a lot about our dynamic and sense of ownership of the material. The ensemble feeling and collective endeavour is inspiring and been very much my experience when working with the terrific Mobius Strip company.

Sandra, Knife and Jack backstage at the Wellspring Theatre. Bump-in.

Sandra, Knife and Jack backstage at the Wellspring Theatre. Bump-in.

‘Bump-in’ to theatres are notoriously tricky and stressful, but our stage management are full of energy and joie-de-vivre as the company start moving in, making the Wellspring Theatre our space, even for a short time.

Longshan temple, Taipei

Longshan temple, Taipei

Director Phillip Zarrilli and I make a trip to nearby Longshan temple, to make an offering for the success of the production. It is a beautiful space, filled with incense and flower and food offerings.  I could linger for a long time in such a vibrant yet peaceful place – but I have a rehearsal to go to.

Taipei is seven hours ahead of UK time, so when I finish my day’s rehearsal with Mobius Strip on ‘The 9 Fridas’, I skype into opening rehearsals with Forest Forge Theatre Company in England.

Kirstie Davis, director of 'Woman of Flowers' at first day of rehearsals.

Kirstie Davis, director of ‘Woman of Flowers’ at first day of rehearsals.

I don’t know how we managed before the marvellous invention of skype. Just as I skyped into the first read through of ‘The 9 Fridas’ in the Spring from Berlin to Taipei, I skyped into ‘Woman of Flowers’, my forthcoming production with Forest Forge Theatre Company, directed by Kirstie Davis. ‘Woman of Flowers’ tours the UK from mid-September and tour dates are here.

Attending rehearsals of 'Woman of Flowers' by skype.

Attending rehearsals of ‘Woman of Flowers’ by skype.

‘Woman of Flowers’ is a new text (which I will write about in future posts), and attending rehearsals to make adjustments and revisions is essential, especially as the script will be published. Miraculously the internet connection from Taipei to Ringwood is strong and I can answer questions from the actors and be a part of the process virtually, until I return to the UK and join the rehearsals in ‘meat space’ next week.  I’m grateful that Kirstie is such an open director, willing to incorporate new technologies into her rehearsal process – and for the actors for being unfazed at having the playwright present via a slim computer screen.

The final commitment of the week is my Agent 160 commission for the Cardiff Fun Palace. I’m proud to be one of the patrons of this company set up to address the gender imbalance in theatre (only 17% of produced plays are by women), and this project is special, commissioning 16 short monologues by women playwrights all across the UK. The work we make and the individual projects created by other pop-up Fun Palaces will be shown over the weekend of 4th and 5th October across the UK and the world. My deadline looms. Time seems elastic and my working day mounts to 16 hours as I swing between time zones, writing when the UK has yet to wake and sleeping while the UK working day comes to an end. I’m delighted to be part of the Fun Palace initiative set up by Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings to commemorate legendary theatre director Joan Littlewood and her radical vision.

You can read Stella Duffy’s latest blog on Fun Palaces – by, for and of the people here  and the fabulous treats in store for the Cardiff Fun Palace, set up by Agent 160 Theatre through their blog. All events are free, but you can support this initiative in Cardiff Bay through their kickstarter campaign.

This may be the last from me for a few days.

I’ve got quite a few things going on….

 

 

Letting go…

Mandel ja merihobu_kodukassuur

It’s strange when your work goes out into the world and starts finding an existence of its own. I always expected to have a close relationship with productions of my plays were I fortunate enough to have additional productions after the premiere. I anticipated being as involved as I am with the first production – speaking at length with the directors and cast, sitting in on rehearsals, or working closely with the translators if the productions were using languages other than my native English.

At first I thought I’d be deranged and dangerous – ‘The Controlling Author’ – sort of late career Bette Davis, fag in mouth, martini in hand, screeching out from the darkened auditorium during rehearsals: ‘ It’s not said like that! Didn’t you see it was a four dot pause, not three?’ as actors and directors wept copiously and swallowed handfuls of diazes…

Thankfully it didn’t work out like that. I found it more instructive, creative and beneficial for all to have a loose hold on the script and see what the skills, experiences and imaginations of the director, cast and company brought to the material. If there were certain points where I felt my intentions weren’t being presented, I would step in and make my case, but luckily for me, by easing off from being ‘the expert’ on my script (and the only voice), I have learned, grown, made good relationships with my collaborators and had much better productions.

So far so good…. But things are different again when the productions are not in the country where you reside…

I’m currently working in Berlin, and have a show opening tonight in Estonia, and needless to say, I shan’t be at the premiere. It feels distinctly odd, this sense of something so intimately connected to me – which came from me – having its own place and existence in the world without my connection. I don’t know the cast, have no notion of how the director hopes to stage it, and didn’t liaise with the translator. In fact, I didn’t even know this production was happening until earlier this week and I suspect this then is a kind of rites of passage. There reaches a point when our work is published, or out in the world, and totally independent.

Early in the process, I control it. I write it, I decide who gets to see it, who even knows it is in development. When it is completed in early draft stage, I am the conduit through which it goes, selectively, into the world. As the work gets polished and ready to be seen by a wider audience than my selected ‘first readers’, the narrow stream widens, and it is my agent who is placing the script under noses and so the tap root expands from there. What I’m experiencing today is what happens when work is published and readily available to whomever wants to read it, across the world. Gifted translators transform my words into another language and so its pathway into the world grows even more.

I’ve had productions before in other countries where I couldn’t travel and so see the work. I’ve had readings and productions in thirteen countries across the globe and I hope the productions were creative and successful and that the experience was a happy one for all involved. I hope each made the work fresh, and truly theirs – without any sense of a controlling authorial eye, or a ‘thou shalt not’ limiting imaginations.

So this evening, I’m letting go, and raising a glass to ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ at Theater Endla in Estonia – wishing joy and broken legs, toi toi toi, and all those other superstitions. I will dream of what an Estonian Sarah, Dr Falmer, Gwennan, Tom, and Joe may be like – and hope that sometime over its long run in repertoire, I get there to see it.

Trailer at:  http://www.endla.ee

Tokyo Storm Warning

When Takayuki Kako, the stage manager of Babylon Theatre Tokyo asked us what our preferred procedure would be if there was an earthquake during one of The Llanarth Group’s performances, I knew I was a long way from Ceredigion.

'Told by the wind' get-in

‘Told by the wind’ get-in

Our safety was his priority, he told us, but tremors were frequent. Would it be best if he stopped the show if he thought any potential quake was dangerous, to lead us and the audience to safety? Yes please, I said, explaining that although I was running the show, I had limited experience of earthquakes and so might not be the best person to lead an evacuation, especially as I don’t speak Japanese.

Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland leading a session in T'ai chi

Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland leading a session in T’ai chi

We are here in Tokyo on a cultural exchange with Ami Theatre, sharing a repertoire of work at Babylon Theatre and exchanging approaches to training and performance work. It has been a week of intense exchanges – workshops with Ami and students of Sophia University, the get-in, dress rehearsal, and the Tokyo premiere of ‘Told by the Wind’. Throughout, we have been dealing with jet lag, never quite getting into the local timezone as our work has been in the evening.

Structured improvisation led by Phillip Zarrilli, Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Structured improvisation led by Phillip Zarrilli, Theatre Babylon Tokyo

At night when I fall into bed, my tiredness dissipates into a whirling brain matching the speed of the spin driers in the 24 hour laundry room directly below me. For some inexplicable reason the opening lines of Elvis Costello’s ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’ – which I haven’t heard for twenty years – plays on loop in my head.

The sky fell over cheap Korean monster-movie scenery
And spilled into the mezzanine of the crushed capsule hotel
Between the Disney abattoir and the chemical refinery
I knew I was in trouble but I thought I was in hell
So you look around the tiny room and you wonder where the hell you are

Joanna and O'Reilly backstage at Babylon Theatre Tokyo

Joanna and O’Reilly backstage at Babylon Theatre Tokyo

I’m happy to say my own experience has been infinitely better than that in Costello’s lyrics.  We aren’t in the centre of the metropolis, but in a quiet neighbourhood in the north of the city, passing the Shinto shrines and the temple on our daily journey between our capsule hotel and Theatre Babylon.

Temple close to Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Temple close to Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Yesterday, on a short break before the dress rehearsal, I wandered down to the temple and stood in the calm, breathing, marvelling that such peace could be found in such a large city. Around the small back lanes people glided by on bicycles and a company of fat, contented cats lazed in the sudden sunshine. I marvelled also about the people we are working with – the staff at Babylon and Theatre Ami are so generous, kind, and talented. We all feel immensely fortunate to be here in this collaboration.

Wall in cafe near to theatre

Wall in cafe near to theatre

It has been great working so closely with scholar and translator Mari Boyd here in Japan. She was an artistic advisor on ‘Told’ in its final rehearsals and was with us for the premiere in Chapter arts centre in Cardiff in 2010. Bringing us here was at her instigation, as she felt this piece, with its influences of Noh theatre and Quietude, would be fascinating to present here  – for us from outside the culture, and for audiences and academics within.

The responses to the work have been extraordinary, the audiences attentive and appreciative, but that will be content for a different blog.

Mari Boyd and Jo Shapland in the auditorium during tech rehearsal

Mari Boyd and Jo Shapland in the auditorium during tech rehearsal

And then suddenly the horrendous typhoon devastated the Philippines – and the weather warnings went up, as the storm seemed to be heading our way. After two successful performances in one day, we headed for bed and the threat of torrential rain and 100mph winds the next day. The Elvis Costello song on loop didn’t seem to be so funny now.
Dim ysmygu

Dim ysmygu

Then at 7.38am I’m lifted from my bed and deposited quite gently onto the floor. I sprawl, feeling everything move beneath me in a calm circling motion. It is not unpleasant – similar, I imagine, to a bird riding a thermal – and just as I am beginning to question whether the earth really should be moving like this, and the building swaying quite so seductively – it stops.
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Not one of the technical team mentioned anything about the quake when we went in for the matinee, but the Japanese Meteorological Society put the tremor at 3-4 on the richter scale, so it was not insignificant. But like our hosts, we just continued, Jo and Phillip performing, me calling the lighting and sound cues, and the audience attending, despite threats of typhoons and possible aftershocks, or any other form of storm warning.
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The Llanarth Group are in Japan thanks to Wales Arts International and the Daiwa Foundation.
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note: If any advertisement appears on any of my blog posts, please know this is not at my instigation or with my consent, but beyond my control, enforced by wordpress.

Rehearsal diaries: In Water I’m Weightless.

Back in the UK and at work on In Water I’m Weightless with National Theatre Wales. Lee and Kim, some young video makers, are documenting the process. Follow the link, below, to a rehearsal with the cast and interview with super-flid Mat Fraser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrXUcvEVtqg&feature=player_embedded

The Echo Chamber: second week in snapshots

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Ian’s shoes. 

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Reviewing video material of structured improvisation

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First punt at sorting order of sequences.

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Design meeting by skype with Ace McCarron

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Reviewing material before running a sequnce.

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A page of notation from my workbook.

All photographs KOR

12/1/12 copyright Kaite O’Reilly