Back to School

Since tomorrow is September 1, which means back to school for a lot of people, I thought I’d do a little round-up of drama-related courses for adults coming up in the next few months.

The main place doing courses is the Gaiety School of Acting. As well as the full-time acting course, they have lots of short courses in Dublin and Cork. The courses from now until Easter are now up on the website. They have a really wide selection from introductory acting classes to writing and directing classes, as well as acting for camera, stage combat, stand up comedy and loads more. I have done a couple of courses with the GSA before and enjoyed them. I’m not planning on doing any more right now because I don’t think I can commit to a three month term at the moment. When the classes cost so much, and you’ve paid for them up front – you don’t want to miss any!

I am considering a couple of the one-day courses – Directing with Paul Meade (who taught one of my Practising Playwriting classes and was very informative and easy to listen to!) and the Casting & Audition Workshop. I’m also tempted by the Shakespeare Workshop because that language is so much fun to work with but money is an issue!

GSA has courses for people who want to write for the stage – the introductory course Dramatic Writing, and the year long course The Writer’s Room. The one that I did last year was the second part of The Writer’s Room but that doesn’t seem to be an option this year.

Fishamble also run playwriting courses, which concentrate specifically on writing for the stage. Their nine-week evening course is full (though you can ask to be added to their waiting list) but there still spaces on the three-day October Bank Holiday course.

The Irish Writers’ Centre also has two-day course on Playwriting.

Actor’s Training Ireland may have some more voice, acting and singing courses coming up in the next couple of months. I didn’t get an e-mail announcing the new courses and I’m not sure if the dates listed are for this year or last year! I’m easily confused! But I’ve sent them an e-mail and will let you know.

Improv workshops

Dawson Drama Works are currently advertising their Autumn term workshops – Improvisation, The Craft of Character Acting and The Craft of On-Camera Acting. I did the Improvisation course a couple of times last year and really enjoyed it. It is a course that I could do again and again because I think with improv, you need a lot of practise to really get good at it. And you can’t practice it on your own!

The course does starts at the beginning with the basic rules of improv but even with 10 years experience doing improv at youth theatre and in college, I still found that useful. It’s good to remind yourself of simple stuff. The classes are a decent length. In the three hours, there is time to warm-up, get your brain working, learn something and have a bit of fun before it’s time to go home again. My classes were on a Monday night and I was often not in the mood after a days work, sometimes I was just back after a weekend away (my brain definitely didn’t work well those days!) but even when I had to drag myself to class, I was always glad I did and left feeling like I had accomplished something.

And, at the end of the six-week class, you get to go onstage and put all your new skills to use in put of a real-life, paying audience. It’s terrifying, but in a good way, and you feel great afterwards! There’s really nothing to worry about – you are well prepared for the night and you are not on stage on your own – you’re up there with all your other class-mates.

The classes are a little expensive but I really enjoyed them and felt like I’d learnt a lot at the end of six weeks.

More opportunities to get involved with the Fringe.

If you would like to get with involved with the Fringe Festival when it all kicks off in a couple of weeks time but you can’t commit to volunteering to the whole festival, or feel that getting naked on stage isn’t really your thing there are still productions looking for volunteers.

Macnas are opening the festival on the Saturday 11th September with “The Wild Hunt and The Sleepwalker – A Nocturnal Ballad”, a spectacular out-door event at Collins Barracks. They have lots of jobs for people who want to help out, including performers who have the ability to “follow directions and be enthusiastic in all weather conditions!” They are also looking for Stage Managers and Stewards, Fire Stewards and Float Operators.

There’s more information on the Fringe Festival website here.

And on the Gaiety School of Acting blog, Playgroup are looking for extras who can sing for their Fringe show Berlin Love Tour. More information here.

Corn Exchange in Edinburgh with Freefall

Corn Exchange, one of my favourite Irish theatre companies, are currently performing Freefall at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Freefall is their beautiful and moving show from last year’s Ulster Bank Theatre Dublin Festival. It’s a small story about an ordinary man but told with much compassion, gentle humour and a little bit of silliness. The narrative weaves and bobs over the course of the play, time and places change quickly and the cast play a number of different characters (or the same characters at different times in their life) but these transitions seem natural within the structure of the play and the audience never gets left behind. There is a lot going on in the play but Corn Exchange make it look easy!

I loved Freefall when I saw it at the Project last October and it is getting a lot of love from the people of Edinburgh as well. There have been 4 star reviews from Fringe Guru and The List, and a nomination for the Carol Tambor Award. (I follow Corn Exchange on Twitter and Facebook and they keep me up-to-date on these things!).

Freefall is at the Traverse until August 29 and back in Dublin at the Abbey on 23 November – 4 December. I’m looking forward to seeing it again then!

Early Bird Offer for Fringe Festival

The Fringe Festival’s Early Bird offer ends tomorrow, September 25. Use the promo code earlybird2010 to get 10% off orders above €75 or 5% off orders below €75.

If you are having trouble deciding what to go and see, my recommendations are;

– The fantastic Camille O’Sullivan, for the last two years she has been a highlight of my Fringe. You will love it!
– The Company’s As you are now so once were we. The title is a bit of tongue twister, but check out the trailer!
The Pajama Men at the Fringe Factory – I haven’t seen them but I have heard lots of good things about them. Not to be confused with Pajama Girls)
Trilogy – tickets are less than €20 and the show is three hours long! That has to be some of the best value on the Fringe!

Booking opens for the Theatre Festival

Tickets for all Dublin Theatre Festival shows went on sale to the general public this morning and according to @DubTheatreFest there was a queue outside the Festival box-office at 9.15am this morning.

I booked tickets for The Author and the three Ontroerend Goed shows. I found the three show bundle under the Special Offers button on the website. A word of warning though – I booked tickets for the Ontroerend Goed Trilogy and that’s actually how it appears on my booking confirmation. There are no details about the date or time of the shows I’ve booked, and because I had to try a couple of times to get three shows that weren’t booked up – I have no idea what I booked in the end. Luckily I asked for the tickets to be posted out to me! Don’t make the same mistake!

There was no booking fee or charge for having the tickets sent out to you.

Fringe Launch

Tonight, at the Ringside Club on the South Circular Road, despite the wet and miserable weather – the Absolut Fringe Festival 2010 was launched. Much Absolute vodka was drunk (pear vodka is surprisingly tasty!), speeches were made, many, many flyers were handed out and the programme was finally revealed!

And it is fabulous!

Camille is back, which makes me happy. There’s no Speigaltent this year so she will be playing at the Absolut Fringe Factory (also known as Pravda on Liffey Street). It will be this year’s venue for music and comedy, and will be hosting Festival Club – late night events for a fiver, tickets only available on the door after 9.30pm.

There are so many shows that I’m excited about, I really can’t go into them all here! I’m away for the first three days of the Fringe and feel like I’m missing so much in those few days!

Dublin Theatre Festival (again!)

The launch party for the Absolut Fringe Festival is tomorrow evening, when they will unveil the programme for this year’s festival. The Fringe itself is only four weeks away – exciting!! But before we get all swept away with the Fringe madness, I thought I would have another look at the Dublin Theatre Festival.

A show that I am now really looking forward to seeing (if I can get tickets – on sale Wednesday at 9.30am!) is The Smile Off Your Face. It’s been getting great reviews at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and it’s sounds a little odd and interesting – the audience member is blindfolded and put into a wheel-chair before they enter the “performance”. Ontroerend Goed have three shows in the Festival and they are all a bit odd. Internal is performed to just five people at a time and has the warning “contains nudity”! The Game of You just sounds a bit tricksy from it’s blurb. All these performances are approximately 30 minutes long and cost €15 each. I don’t see it on the website, but the paper programme says that you can book a ticket for all three for €36 which is a little bit of a saving.

Personally I think that’s still a lot of money, but probably worth it for the experience!

The Festival does have some free work-in-progress performances and live art pieces, buried under the Special Events tab on the website.

The In Development strand has new plays from Corn Exchange and Fishamble. Sadly, for me and anyone else who works full time, a lot of them are during the day time.

Project Brand New is also there with The Magic If… on Saturday 16th October in The New Theatre, shows are running hourly from 2pm – 7pm. There’s no advance booking, you just pay €2 at the door.

Amanda Coogan’s Yellow is on in St. Mary’s Abbey (off Capel Street) from September 30 – October 5th. It’s a durational live performance and audience members can come and go throughout the performance which is between 6pm – 10pm each night. Each evening it will be performed by a different woman. And it’s free!

I really would recommend getting a paper programme rather than relying on the website. They are available free of charge from the Festival offices on East Essex Street, just down from the Project, or from the Abbey and Gate theatres. You can also request one from the website.

This week

On Monday evening the Absolut Fringe Festival launches it’s 2010 programme, tickets for the Dublin Ulster Bank Theatre Festival finally go on sale the general public on Wednesday morning at 9.30am and I’m hoping to see Vincent River at the Project before it finishes next Saturday.

Adventures in Playwriting

This time last year, I signed up to do an Open University course called “Start Writing Plays.” It was a year since I finished college and I missed studying; I wanted reading lists and assignment dates and homework. I also wanted to learn more about play-writing because I want to devise my own performances. I have always done devising with a group and I have no idea how to start devising on my own. I thought an introduction to play-writing would help with that.

I wrote my first when I was 8 or 9. I know it was set in a forest and that it involved bears, it might have been vaguely based around the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, but I can’t remember the title or even the plot. My cast were my sisters and my cousin, and it was very much written around the props and cast available. It was performed after my birthday party and I remember getting upset that the audience (my mum, my aunt and my uncle) weren’t taking it seriously enough. The production was not a great success – lines were forgotten and the set didn’t live up to my expectations (the “forest” was a single paper tree hanging from the light shade in the middle of the room). It was so far from how I’d imagined it that I didn’t even attempt to write another play until my final year at university.

It was for a module called Writing for Performance. As an introduction to writing, it wasn’t great – we spent hours exploring why people wrote and doing exercises to find a subject to write about. In one class we were partnered up and one person was blind-folded and lead around the building for half an hour by their sighted partner, and then we swapped. I’m still not sure what that class had to do about writing plays.

I read lots of plays and books about play-writing during that course, mainly because I wasn’t getting that much from my classes. The end of term assignment was to write a script. I learnt a lot about what not to do from my first draft and made a half-way decent attempt at the second draft. It’s hard to write realistic dialogue that also keeps the audience interested and also keeps the plot moving along. My attempts at play-writing ended when I handed in my assignment at the end of term.

Until last year, when I decided to try again! The Open University course gave me a much better introduction to play-writing. It was an online course with loads of exercises, examples and regular feedback from the tutor and the other students. I learnt a lot about creating characters and structuring a play, what you are trying to do in each scene, as well as remembering that theatre is a visual medium, as well as an aural one. There were extracts of plays and interviews with playwrights describing their working practices, how they outlined their work (or not), creating characters, using dialogue to make a character come alive. I found it really useful and by the end of the course I could definitely see an improvement in my writing. Even just having lots of exercises to do forced me to write something and it was great to get positive feedback from the other people doing the course.

(The first time we had to submit a scene to the forum for other students to give feedback, I really tried to give everybody some constructive criticism. By this I mean, I tried to point out the problems with it and the things they could have done to make it better. I wasn’t a total bitch – I said what I liked about each piece, and what really worked for me as well, but I just thought it would be more useful to know the problems with the script. If 8 people all say, ‘that’s nice. I like it’ you don’t learn anything. But I did feel mean when I read their feedback on my piece and everybody said really lovely things about it!)

The OU don’t do that course any more, but I would definitely the Open University in general. I think it’s one of those things that the more you put in, the more you get out of it. I didn’t always have as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to the course – to go through every exercise, to read and response to everybody else’s work, to really utilise the forum as a place to try out new ideas, etc. The only thing that would put me off was the price. It’s expensive to do it as an Irish citizen. If I ever find myself living in the UK again, I think I would like to do a few more courses.

The course satisfied my need for study and learning and it also got me really interested and enthusiastic about play-writing. Before the OU course ended, I signed up to do another play-writing course with the Gaiety School of Acting.

The real-life class – Practising Playwriting – was very different to the online one. Online, I was really just doing the work, getting on with the exercises and doing my assignments. The Gaiety course, with real people in the same room was so much chattier! I got to hear other peoples ideas and ways of looking at the world. The OU course was more like studying – I got a grade at the end of it and was given formal feedback. At the Gaiety the feedback came from the people sitting in the room instead of a teacher, but it had the advantage of hearing your work read out-loud. And hearing other people’s works in progress being read for the first time.

I got different things out of both courses and I have two half-finished plays as a result. Sadly, I haven’t written a word since the Gaiety course finished last March. I would like to work further on my two plays. Though they were both written as class assignments, and I don’t really see a life for them beyond that, it would still be interesting to finish and polish a play or two. I think I would learn a lot from the work and it is an area that I’m interesting in learning more about and getting more experience in. I want to get good at it!

Play-writing is not something that comes easy to me but I think it would be something that would give me a great deal of pleasure if I could do it well. I would really like to see something I’d written on stage. Someday, maybe I’ll be able to make that happen. In the meantime, I am thinking about setting up a play-writing workshop. It would have all the advantages of the Gaiety class – people to talk to about your ideas, a chance to hear your work read aloud and get feedback on what you have written, and a weekly meeting as motivation to write.