All done!

On Thursday morning I felt ready for the day ahead and the show that night. We’d had a good dress and tech rehearsal the day before, the show was looking really good – we were ready! And then as the day went on, the nerves started kicking in. A lot of people I knew were coming to see the show that night and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I was suddenly afraid that it wasn’t funny and I should have put in lots more jokes. By the time I had to leave for the theatre, I wanted to run away and hide.

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When I got into Smock Alley, it was buzzing. It really felt like something exciting was happening and that distracted me from my nerves. We ran lines in the Banquet Hall, where there was one, maybe two other company doing the same. There were small groups warming up or having a quick bite to eat before their show. When we headed backstage to get set up, that was also a hive of -very quiet- activity. With four shows in each space, there were people everywhere! We ended up in a corridor while we waited for the cast of the previous show to finish up. We had a chance to run it onstage one last time (the advantage of having a very short show!) and then suddenly it was time to let the audience in!

I was very nervous as I sat in the dark and waited for the show to start. Then it started and my cast were wonderful and the audience laughed when they were supposed to laugh, which was a major relief. Not only did they laugh, but they listened and it felt like they were getting it. It was great. I had a pen and notebook in my lap but took zero notes. There was no need! I was on a bit high after that and in bar afterwards, I felt giddy and happy as I tried to talk to six people at once. People said lots of lovely things and I felt content and proud. Friday also went well – I was a little less nervous, though we also got less laughs. Mostly I was pleased and grateful to all the friends who came over the two nights. It was really kind of them and made me feel very supported. I was also so grateful to my cast who did such a lovely job with the script. They really couldn’t have been better.

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And now it’s all over but I’m glad that I did it. I was a fantastic experience, even the scary bits. Even the stomach-churningly terrifying bits when I wondered what the hell had I gotten myself into. Taking a play from page to stage has been enormously encouraging for my writing. Now I know that I can write something that makes people laugh! That makes people think! That makes them discuss it in the bar afterwards! I also learned a lot about editing. Listening to your own words over and over again makes you want to cut them down to the bare essentials. Everything has to be justified and the rehearsal process really puts that to test. I am hoping I’ll be able to write more sparingly in the future.

Mostly it was a joyful process of taking something that was just an idea inside my head and making it into a piece of theatre that I could share with other people. That was exhilarating. I want to do it again now!

AllDone

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Rehearsal process

Last weekend I had the immense priviage of seeing the 24 Hour Plays process up close and personal. I was Props Manager for the production so Sunday was a busy day of running around town, answering endless text messages and trying to find things on a deadline, but it was also completely fascinating. I loved seeing the plays come to life – how they changed from the words on the page as the script came hot off the presses at 7.30am on Sunday, to the first “stumble-through” with the actors by mid-morning, to the finished, polished production with lights and sound, costume and make-up by 7.30pm. Seeing the process condensed into a day was a great reminder of all the different elements that feed into a finished show.

It was also a reminder of the things that I’m failing to pay attention to in my own show. Things like sound and lights and costume. Things that I tend to ignore because I don’t have any real expertise in those areas and because it’s a small show with a non-existent budget, I don’t have any designers to advise me. I need to correct because I love shows where all those elements work seamlessly together. They can really add something to the story that you are trying to tell, giving clues to the audience about the sort of world you’re showing them and the characters that inhabit it.

Even in the very brief meetings the technical team had with each show on Sunday, and in the minuscule 20 minute tech time they had on the Abbey stage, time and consideration was given to each aspect of the production. And that’s because the 24 Hour Plays people are consummate professionals and total champs, but also because they are important! That’s the lesson I’m taking away from it – don’t forget the technical aspects of the show! Use what’s available to you.

Rehearsals for In Protest Of… are going well. I like getting other peoples input into the script and the actors seems to like the script and enjoy performing it. It doesn’t feel like a play yet, it’s still three people pottering about in a room. It hasn’t become a real piece of theatre but we’re getting there. There are only three weeks until our first performance, but after the speedy turnarounds I saw last weekend, that seems like loads of time!
Tickets are on sale here and you still have a week to avail of the Early Bird offer.

Here’s a photo of the 24 Hour Play team on the Abbey stage, shortly before they opened the house on Sunday night:
24HourGangThere are lots more photos here, from the Meet & Greet on Saturday and the finished shows on Sunday.

I finished a play!

I finished writing my play and sent it to a few people to get some feedback. I felt euphoria at having a completed script swiftly followed by the fear of what other people would have to say about it. There was no need for the fear because the feedback I got was all kind and lovely. I obviously choose well when I was deciding on the people to send my brand new script to because they all said nice things about it and were very encouraging and supportive! It was great to hear what other people saw in the script and that feed into the next draft.

The other really helpful thing was hearing it read by actors. The characters came into themselves more and it was really good to hear the actors’ thoughts on their characters and where they saw inconsistencies or confusion around the characters behaviour. Letting the play exist somewhere other than my computer screen was like re-potting a plant. The plant grow quickly to fill the bigger pot and the play got bigger and better.

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In Protest Of…

Wednesday was the Collaborations launch night and while I was delighted to finally get my hands on the programme, it was also really interesting talking to people about the show and hearing other peoples reactions to the subject matter. My show is about protest and I spent a lot of time at the launch waving my protest sign! I’m starting to look forward to sharing the show with an audience at the end of February. Tickets are on sale now from the Smock Alley website.

And you still have one more day to donate to the crowd-finding campaign for eternal gratitude, rewards and general good vibes.

My play has now moved on to the rehearsal stage and seeing it becoming more than just words on the page is very exciting.

I’m writing a play!

collaborations15I’m writing a play. I will try not to bore on about my process because no one wants to hear about that, as Hayley Campbell succinctly pointed out in “Attention, #NaNoWriMo Fans: No One Cares How Your F***ing Novel Is Going”. (And if you feel as strongly as she does, feel free to skip to the end and just donate the funding campaign!) I’m writing a play because last year I applied to the Collaborations Festival with an idea and a few pages of script. Of course when I sent off my application I hoped that they would like it, I wanted it to be accepted; and yet when I got the email to say it was going to be part of the festival, I was terrified. Now I actually have to make this happen. It’s not just a nice idea anymore, it was something that I really have to do.

This will be the first time something I’ve written will be staged and I’m excited to have the opportunity. I’ve written little bits for devised performances but it was usually something that was improv-ed during rehearsals and I just wrote it down later. I’ve studied playwriting, in college and with the Open University and the Gaiety School of Acting, and I have written a few short plays that never got off the page. This is the first time that something I’ve sat down and made-up in my head will be performed in front of a paying audience by people who aren’t me. I’m trying not to think about it too much because when I do, it seems like an absolutely stupid, ridiculous idea.

At Theatre Forum’s “Tell A Good Story” event before Christmas, Gavin Kostick talked about Dublin Oldschool and working with its writer Emmet Kirwan. As it was a Show in a Bag show, Gavin had regular meetings with him as the show came into being. He talked about how Emmet would come in week after week with a small handful of pages which were the first five minutes of the play. He was working and reworking the beginning to get it just right, and once he got that right, the rest of the script came very quickly. I can’t do that. I need to drag myself through the first draft and try to get some sort of ending before I can see the shape of the play. I’ve decided this is because of my previous life as a computer programmer. You have to finish the programme or at least finish the chunk of code before you can run it and see if it works. It seems that I write the same way.

I slowly, slowly got through the first draft. This took a surprisingly long time considering the script is only twenty minutes long. I tend to write too much. I will say the same things three times, just to make sure the reader knows exactly what I mean. It’s not hard to reach a word count like this but it can be very difficult to move things forward. Needless to say, with my habit of over-explaining things, I am terrible at sub-text. If it manage to sneak into the script, it’s almost certainly there accidentally and I will probably ruin it as soon as I notice it by making sure everyone notices it too. I’m basically a terrible writer. I mean, I write really terrible first drafts. Then I start again at the beginning and edit them. I make them a bit less wordy, flesh out the bits I skipped over the first time around and put in the things that I only figured out when I was nearly at the end.

Now I have a script that I’m pretty happy with it. I think it does what I want it to, I’m just not sure if it does it particularly well. I need to hear it out loud. I need to know if it makes sense to other people. Writing a play on my own made me really miss devising. Making theatre is less fun without other people to bounce ideas off. I feel like the whole thing would be better if other people were contributing to it. This might be because of the type of show it is, but I think it’s my brain as well. I am looking forward to working with other brains when I start workshopping and rehearsing the script.

The Collaborations programme will be launched on the 22th of January and I will share all the details of where and when you can see my play then.

Help fund the festival:
In the meantime, the festival is running a crowd-funding campaign with some very nice festival-related rewards. If you’d like to check it out and maybe donate a few euros, you can do that here.

Of course, please don’t donate the money that you need for food or bus fare but if you are doing Dry January and would like to donate the price of a night out, that would be very nice. There will be a nice festival reward for Future You in February. And if you don’t have any spare cash, maybe you could share the campaign with your wealthier friends!

MA Showcase

On a course called Drama and Theatre Studies, it’s probably not surprising that most of my MA classmates like being on stage. The course itself is a mix of theory and practical classes and most of the class took the practical classes – Ensemble Acting and Vocabularies of Theatre Composition. There was also a lot of involvement in NUIG DramSoc and six of the eight One Act plays were written, directed or performed by someone in the MADT class.

The idea to do a showcase for casting directors and agents came about when Maureen Hughes was speaking at the Town Hall Theatre’s Drama Day at the end of February. One of my classmates asked if she would come and see us if we did put on a showcase. Her advice was to book somewhere in Dublin, put on a lunchtime show and invite as many industry professionals as possible. That seemed possible; it even sounded like it might be fun. We were still considering the idea when we asked Mikel Murfi after a workshop if he had any suggestions of suitable scenes or plays. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and that helped us think that it was a good idea. As usual with things like this we had to push to get it started  but once we got things up and running, it started to take on a life of it’s own. (I usually find that happens around the time you book a venue and start inviting people. Putting down money is also a really good incentive to make things happen.)

We contacted a few venues and got a great price from Bewley’s Café Theatre. Our lunchtime show became an early-evening show. We held a cake-sale to raise money, got a bit of sponsorship and the university pitched in a little bit as well. We had a date and a venue and guest list. We even had money to pay for the whole thing. We just had to put together a show.

The trickiest part was figuring out which scenes to do. We needed things that could stand up on their own and also show our actors to the very best of their abilities. The cast consisted of nine women and four men and we had to find something for everybody. There were a couple of long sessions with piles of scripts, passing the books around, reading little bits, considering and rejecting and trying it different ways. Eventually we got twelve scenes with something for everyone. We juggled rehearsals around essay deadlines and slowly the show started to come together.

Last week it all became very real. On Tuesday we did an open dress rehearsal in the Bank of Ireland Theatre in college. It was the first time we did the whole show together and it was great to perform in front of an audience. It was also lovely that people took time out to come and see us and stick around to give feedback afterwards.

On Thursday we headed to Dublin for our busy day in Bewleys. They let us get in to the space at 10am in the morning, which was great because it was the first time a lot of people had been in the theatre. We had to leave at 12pm because there was a lunchtime show on but we were back for our get-in at 2.30pm for a show starting at 5pm. It was a little bit hectic!

The event itself was a huge success. We had a lovely audience who all seemed to enjoy themselves. Bewley’s looked after us very well. I really cannot fault their hospitality, even when there were 13 people warming up on the stairs they were lovely about it. The show went really smoothly too – no hiccups and everybody definitely upped their game on the night! There is a whole lot of talent in my class and I’m delighted that we got a chance to show it off. This was something that the class came together to do ourselves; it had nothing to do with our course. We all worked really hard on something that was entirely ours.

Afterwards we went out for dinner and then there was dancing and drinking in the hostel and a little bit of sing-song and it was a really nice way to end the year. Our first class trip was to Dublin in October for the Dublin Theatre Festival and this felt like a nice way to bookend the year.

I don’t know if anyone will get any work because of the showcase but it felt like a success to me. We’ve already got a good return on all our hard work!

Theatre Week at NUIG

Theatre Week is over. It was fantastic. It was also stressful and exhausting and very busy but I loved it.

On Monday night I got to perform ‘My Angry Vagina’ (one of my favourite monologues) to an appreciative audience. I heard that Tuesday night’s audience were even more appreciative and over the two nights, we raised €1,300 for V-Day and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. Well done to DramSoc and the Feminist Society for a great production.

The One Act Play Festival started at lunchtime on Wednesday. I had one play at lunchtime and one in the evening on Wednesday and Thursday. Then on Friday, there was the omnibus edition with all eight plays back-to-back to an almost sold out theatre. I thought it would be a long hard night but it actually flew by. I watched some plays and hide backstage with my nerves during others. It felt like it was over all too soon!

Over apart from the clean-up and the award ceremony! I like award ceremonies. I don’t know why, I just do. I like celebrations of work well done. I like seeing people happy and thanking the people who helped them along the way. I especially enjoyed Friday’s awards ceremony because so many of my hugely talented friends were recognised for being awesome. The last award of the evening was the writing award for Best Play, which was won by Mr. Patrick O’Byrne for Ahhhh Lad!!. He was shocked and surprised and I was proud as punch to have been involved. I loved my cast, I loved the script, I loved working with all these talented people.

Well done to everybody involved. There was a lovely atmosphere backstage and at the after-party on Friday. It was just a great group of people to hang out with and I had such a great time. I’m sorry it’s over and I have to come back to real life and start worrying about my coursework again!

The full list of awards can be found here.

Busy Week

Theatre Week has just begun at NUIG. The first day included rehearsals for two different one act plays (I’m directing one and performing in another), and a performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Yes, V-Day is also upon us again! This year I am helping to raise money for the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. My performance is done, but you can still see the show at NUIG tomorrow at 7.30pm. Tomorrow night I will be seeing Rhinoceros in the Town Hall Theatre. The One Act Play series kicks off on Wednesday and there will be performances at lunchtime and in the evening, Wednesday – Friday. And to round off the week, on Saturday, I’m going to see Carthaginans at the Town Hall. It’s going to be a busy week and I know I will be wreaked by the end of it, but I also know it’s going to be a lot of fun. And because shows are actually opening this week, I think it will be less hectic week than last week.

Last Monday I had four separate rehearsals for three different shows, and a directing workshop with Garry Hynes (which I will write about soon, promise!), and the week continued like that! By the time Saturday rolls around, I will be more than ready for it!

Gay Theatre Festival

The Gay Theatre Festival started last weekend in venues all over Dublin. This weekend I am in one of those venues – tomorrow I am taking part in a rehearsed reading of Moving On, a brand new play by a brand new playwright Paul O’Beirne. It’s on in the Front Lounge tomorrow and 3pm and tickets are free! In fact, you don’t even need a ticket, just come along.

The Irish Theatre Shorts in the Cobalt Cafe have also been recommended to me. They are on every night from 8pm; four short plays for €15. And look out for Grace Kelley, who was part of The Vagina Monologue cast, in Saliva.

V-day minus one

I meant to write a lot more about The Vagina Monologues while we were putting the show together. I wanted to write about the auditions, the fundraising, the rehearsals, but I was too busy to write about it while it was all happening. Now the show is almost here days away and all the tickets are sold. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll head down the The Sugar Club for some last minute preparations and before we know it, the big night will have arrived! I feel ready and excited and happy and tired.

I wanted to write something before the show because however things go tomorrow night, I am really glad I did this. I’m proud of my cast, who are amazing and have worked really hard, and I’m a little bit proud of myself too.

I had planned to submit an application to the Dublin Fringe Festival last month. I went along to the pre-application talks and workshops and then, about a week before the deadline I got a bad dose of The Fear. It completely paralysed me and meant I couldn’t do anything. I felt untalented and unimaginative. I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in anything that came out of my brain. As well as doubting my creative abilities, I had no faith in my practical skills. I just didn’t believe I would be able for the work involved. I wouldn’t be able to organise a cast or crew, I wouldn’t be able to sell my show, I wouldn’t even be able to get it to the stage where it was ready to be seen by the general public. I felt I was too old to be submitting work to the festival, too old to be working in the arts at all. This idea of making new things was a young persons game – you needed to be young and optimistic and a little bit native to take that leap of faith and believe that you will be able to cope with the consequences.

Basically I let the little, doubting voice in my head convince me that submitting anything would be a colossal waste of time.

I mention this here because I had all those fears about The Vagina Monologues last January. I was really nervous signing up to do, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to look after all the different aspects involved – finding a venue, fundraising to pay for that venue, auditioning a cast, organising rehearsals and rehearsal space, organising publicity and ticket sales, etc. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I was afraid.

I’m not saying the last three months have been easy – they have been really hard work – but I managed to made things happen. And people were kind and supportive and helpful all along the way. I managed to surprise myself and that’s always nice. And once or twice a week, I got to hang out with an amazing group of women.

So maybe I’m not too old after all. In the future, I will ignore the doubting voice and have a little more faith in myself. It’s a lesson I needed to be reminded of, even though it’s one I know and have seen in evidence before. But it was a good reminder and one I will cling to in the future.

Tomorrow will be an exciting night and a happy night and the end of tiring three months that have made me very proud!

Trilogy reflection

Trilogy finished over a week ago now and it has taken me that long to write about it coherently enough to post here. I had a busy week catching up on real life, but I was also busy trying to unpack all my thoughts on Trilogy that have been stacked on top of each other inside my brain for the last week or so.

I volunteered for Trilogy for lots of reasons – I like being onstage, I wanted to challenge myself to be onstage naked and I wanted to be involved in this life-affirming feminist performance. It became about more than the performance though because so much of the experience happened off-stage. Our dance lasted less than 10 minutes each night but we had four three-hour rehearsals to prepare for it. These sessions were more than just dance rehearsals; they gave us an opportunity to get to know each other and to figure out what had drawn us to this project in the first place. It was a chance met other brave women and maybe find another way of looking at the world.

And it did change people. All week, when we sat down to talk about how we were feeling on that particular day, women talked about the revelations they had had since starting the process and the way it was changing how they saw the world. I didn’t feel changed. My biggest revelation was that I was surprised how easy it was to dance naked once you got over the initial shock.

Then on the Friday night, I saw the show and something shifted for me. I was really hyper after the performance, I wanted to talk to everyone about everything, I was excited and giddy.

Troligy is a very feminist play. Part One begins with some quotes from The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer and ends with that naked, celebratory dance by women who aren’t embarrassed or ashamed by their bodies or the ways they jiggle! Part Two is a reaction to Town Bloody Hall – a debate in 1971 between leading feminists and famous misogynist Norman Mailer. They play lots of clips from the recording of the debate and I loved the passion that was displayed by those women from long ago. What was going on onstage in the present was also wonderful. There was lots of beautiful movement sections, and some really moving monologues. The third part is an introduction to Make Your Own Herstory, a web-based project that is taking feminism into the future.

This wonderful feminist play made me feel that all my thoughts on feminism aren’t out-dated and out-of-step with the world around me, that there are other people who feel the same way, that are looking for a community and a way to move things forward. And that made me happy. At one point, my over-whelming thought was ‘I love theatre!’. It just bubbled up in me and made me grin. I felt happy to be there experiencing this wonderful work that these people had spent so much time and care into creating. I felt lucky to be there to see the work, and lucky to have experience working with the people onstage and be involved, in a very small way, in creating it.

The next day I felt like Trilogy had started me on some sort of journey. I’m not sure where it’s going to lead but I feel like it’s going to be more of a creative journey than a purely feminist one and I’m really interested to see where I end up.

My Trilogy experience wasn’t “life-changing” in some big, dramatic way, but I think that week did change me. Since then, throughout the last week, I have had moments when I feel like I can do anything I want with my life, that there’s nothing stopping me having the life I want. Nic talked about the play having an effect on those we saw it, and that it would go on to cause ripples in the wider community. I hope that’s true but I think for the women who took part, it will have a slightly bigger effect. I feel like Nic has lit a power-keg under each of us; we don’t know yet how long the fuse is or how much gun-powder is loaded but eventually there are going to be lots of explosions from all these wonderful women.

If you would like to experience it all yourself, and if you happen to be in Belfast, you can! Trilogy is on at the Waterfront as part of the Belfast Festival and they are looking for volunteers. More details here.