Christmas Theatre Events

There are a few Christmassy theatre things happening next week that could be described as “networking events”. For better or worse, you get a lot of the work in theatre through who you know so networking is fairly important for a career in theatre. This is not necessarily in a cronyism kind of way, but simply because nobody can hire you if they don’t know you exist or they don’t know what you do.

I am not one of life’s natural networkers and that’s ok – it’s not something I aspire to. In my mind, a good networker is a smooth-talking American business man, bullshitting everyone about how amazing he is and handing out business cards to anyone who looks in his general direction. I’m Irish and I’m a woman – two things that conspire to make me unlikely and unwilling to talk about how great I am. The idea of it makes me cringe.

networking

Through Cultural Freelancers, I found out that I’m not the only who feels like this. I lot of people want to run and hide at the idea of networking. I also discovered that networking doesn’t have to be an ordeal and doesn’t have to involve talking shite about how great you are. It can be about talking to people honestly about what you do and about what they do. I’ve found a new way of thinking about it – instead of “networking”, my aim is to make connections.

Where networking is all about selling yourself, connecting with people is more of a two-way street. Making connections is about finding people you have something in common with, people you get on with and who are interesting to you. It’s just having conversations. You don’t have to talk yourself up but don’t talk yourself down either. Another tip from Cultural Freelancers is to practice your elevator pitch – describing your work in two or three sentences. No bullshit, just who you are and what you do, said in a positive way with no apologising for your own success or down-playing your achievements.

Thinking about it like this makes networking less horrendous. It might help you get work in the future but that’s not it’s sole function. It’s just the social side of business. If we all worked in offices it would be the conversations at break or while you’re waiting for the lift, but because theatre is full of freelancers, we have to go to events to have those chats.

Here are some events to connect at!

TODAY: December 12th – Fringe Elevenses in Fringe Lab at 11am
A general gathering with cake. I’ve been to a few of these and they are well attended, chatty, informal mornings with treats. It lasts about an hour and you can drop in at anytime.

December 15th – Cultural Freelancers – Festive Get Together in Irish Theatre Institute at 11am
This is not a usual CFI meeting with provocations and themes, just food, drink and chats. It’s a nice one to attend as an introduction to Cultural Freelancers or if you just want to talk theatre on Monday morning.

December 15th – Fringe Fuse and Christmas drinks at Fringe Lab, Fringe Fuse starts at 7.30pm and the drinks happen after at 9.30pm
This is a scratch night as well as an opportunity to make connections. It’s also a nice one for those of us who don’t have an office Christmas party to attend. This is the freelancers Christmas party!

December 18th – Theatre Forum’s Tell a Good Story Event at Project Arts Centre, 4pm
I missed last year’s Tell A Good Story so I’m really looking forward to this on Thursday. It’s a really nice way to spend an afternoon because it celebrates the successes in theatre throughout the year, with a wide definition of success. It’s a different crowd as well, usually it’s more companies and less freelancers at Theatre Forum events.

You do have to be a Theatre Forum member to attend but it’s only €25 for a year’s membership as an individual and if you join now, you will be paid up until the end of 2015.

It’s well worth the money. Apart from the annual conference, the other big event is the funding meeting at the beginning of the year which is a great insight into where the Arts Council money is going – it’s a big chunk of information presented in a meaningful way. They also run sessions on tax and being self-employed and it’s another good way to connect with the theatre community.

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Update of scratch nights

After writing the piece on scratch nights last week, I only just found out that the Abbey are doing a couple of scratch nights of new writing this month. The first was last Tuesday and the second is at 8pm tonight. Apoligises for the late notice, but if you see this in time – it sounds like a very interesting evening:

The cast of ‘The Waste Ground Party’ will read works-in-progress from Darren Murphy, Elena Bolster, Jesse Weaver, John McManus, Lisa Carroll, Darren Donohue, Eugene O’Hare, Damian Kearney and a well-known special guest playwright, all directed by Resident Assistant Director Maisie Lee.

Peacock Scratch Nights are an opportunity for playwrights to try out ideas and get instant feedback. For audiences, they offer a sneak preview of up-and-coming work and the opportunity to support new artists and emerging talent.

More info here: Peacock Scratch nights

Also Fringe have announced dates and deadlines for the next Fringe Fuse. It will be on Monday 15th December at 7pm. To apply email emma@fringefest.com with a short description of what you would like to present and why you’d like to show it (min 250, max 600 words). The deadline for applications is Friday 28th November at 6pm.

Scratch Nights

Scratch Nights don't generally features kittens or claws. This image is pure click-bait!
Scratch Nights don’t generally features kittens or claws. This image is pure click-bait!

The practical modules of my drama degree always included a performance as part of the assessment. This meant that at the end of term, each class had a day of performances/exams. They could be great fun, particularly if it wasn’t your class that was being assessed that day! There were five or six groups in each class so the audience (other students and the lecturers who were marking the work) would move between the different performance spaces and see five or six short pieces over a morning or afternoon. The work was brand new, often experimental and the quality could vary wildly. The pieces could be playful or dark, some might be very wordy and others would be very physical. The work generally had an unfinished feel to it because we were all making it up as we went along. This, along with the fact that you saw a lot of short pieces one after the other, meant the days performance felt a bit like a scratch night.

Scratch nights are made up of short work-in-progress pieces. Over the course of the evening you might see a 10-minute snippet of a devised piece, a rehearsed reading of a play, an improvised dance piece and a short monologue. They are an opportunity for theatre makers to try things out in front of an audience. For devised work, which might just be a collection of ideas and maybe a couple of scenes, knowing you have to show it to an audience helps you to focus those ideas. You are forced to figure out a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as the transitions between those moments.

In the same way for playwrights, having a deadline means the work gets written! Personally, I’ve found that having a deadline is often a necessary motivator in making theatre. When you know that there will be an audience sitting in a room, waiting to see your work on a specific date, it gives the work an urgency and a momentum that might not be there otherwise. Scratch nights are a relatively low risk way to get that urgency.

Putting a piece of work in front of an audience is also the only way to find out if it works or not. Does it make sense? Does it do the thing you want it to do? Theatre is all about communicating your ideas to an audience. Of course, this can be terrifying – showing your baby to the world for the first time – but in my experience scratch audiences are pretty generous. They understand that it’s a work in progress (possibly because a large portion of the audience is made up of other theatre makers!). A lot of scratch nights incorporate an element of feedback, formally or informally so at the end of the evening, you will go home having learnt a lot about your piece, for better or worse!

I really enjoyed those performance days in college because it was a free and easy way to see lots of work and you came away with your head full of images and ideas. There was a heavy lean towards live art on the course, so often you had no idea what the piece was about, you just decided if you liked it or not. It was a way to learn about your own taste in theatre, and you could also learn a lot from other people’s triumphs and failures.

Scratch nights are usually cheap; Fringe Fuse, for example, costs €3 to attend and includes refreshment. For this bargain price, you’ll see a mix of things. You won’t like everything, but there’s always the chance you might see something you love. You could discover that you love dance or spoken word or something you’d never considered before. Scratch nights let the audience try something new, as well as the artists.

I’ve already mentioned one Dublin scratch night – Fringe Fuse, which is held monthly in Fringe Lab in Temple Bar. They take a break during the festival and haven’t started up again yet, but join the Fringe mailing list or the Fringe Lab group on Facebook to keep up to date.

TheatreMachine4
The Theatre Machine Turns You On, Vol. 4 is accepting applications until November 14th.

There are also two festivals at the start of next year which will show work-in-progress pieces. The set up is a bit different to a scratch night, but they are an opportunity to see new work on the cheap. Collaborations will take place in Smock Alley Theatre from February 20th to March 7th 2015 and will included finished pieces as well as works-in-progress. The THEATREclub curated festival The Theatre Machine Turns You On is only looking for work in progress pieces this time around. The festival will be in Project Arts Centre from the 22nd – 26th January 2015. It’s also still open for applications until November 14th if you have an idea that you are dying to try out.

Over the years, work from both these festivals has gone on to full productions in the Tiger Fringe Festival, in Bewleys Cafe Theatre and on tour around the country. That’s the other really important aspect of scratch nights; they can be a great spring board for new work so it’s important to remember it’s the first and not the final performance of your show.

I think scratch nights can play a vital role in helping artists create work. For lots of other thoughts and opinions on the usefulness of scratch nights, I recommend this report from Devoted and Disgrunted.

January Fringe Fuse

Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
In the last year, Dublin Fringe Festival have moved into Sycamore House, which was the home of the Gaiety School of Acting. It’s a beautiful building with fantastic studio spaces with big windows over looking Meeting House Square. And last Monday it was full of people eager to see the new work that was being made there. It was the night of the first Fringe Fuse, a scratch night run by Fringe for theatre makers to show new work. Tickets were €3 and for that you got four short pieces of theatre and some refreshments! It’s going to be a monthly event, on the last Monday or each month and I would definitely reccomend coming along.

The first piece we saw last week was a new piece by Sonya Kelly (of Wheelchair On My Face fame) called Anywhere Else But Here about going to Austrailia to meet her in-laws. It was performed as a monologue, and was funny and endearing. It had a similar in tone to Wheelchair and Sonya performed it with her usual charm.

The second piece was a work-in-progress play called St. Patrick – The Lenged from The Gonzo Theatre Company. It was a play about the writing of the history of St. Patrick and contained some religious stories that I had never heard of, so I actually learnt something from it!

The third piece In Dog Years I’m Dead, all about turning 30 was written by Kate Heffernan and performed by Marie Ruane. It was performed as a monologue but there are plans to include a male performer as well. (As I said these are works in progress.)

The final piece was That Don’t Impress Me Much by Xnthony. It was performed with a whole lot of enthusiasim and was great fun. It was very difficult from the other pieces and it felt like the audience were just getting into it and then it was over.

The thing that struck me most was that the work was very traditional. There were three plays, with writers and actors (one performed by the writer) and a song and dance routine. This was the first Fringe Fuses so maybe people were playing it safe. I wonder if there were many applications or if people were waiting to see what happened with this first night. The four pieces were definitely in different stages of development but it’s a great opportunity to get up and test out new work in front of an audience. It’s also a brave thing to do and I appreciate the artists generousity to show us their half-finished masterpieces.

The next Fringe Fuse will be on 25 February and the deadline for applications is 15 February. If you would like to apply, email Róise and Emma at emma@fringefest.com with a short description of what you are working on and why you’d like to show it (min 250, max 600 words). More information here and on the Fringe Lab’s Facebook page. Dublin Fringe Festival are also taking applications for the 2013 Festival and all the details are on their website.