What a night in the theatre should be like …

One of the audience members summed it up precisely. You should feel as though you have done a couple of rounds in an emotional ring after a good night in the theatre. This new production of War Horse at London’s National looks just the job: a boy and his horse, WWI, great puppets, and a fine, fine story. Wish I were there.

Design Really Does Matter

Stumbled upon this vidcast from Canadian educator Dean Shareski given at the 2007 K-12 Online Conference. Dean’s nicely produced 25′ video discusses the importance of design in education. He’s even produced a teaser trailer on YouTube. Now that’s innovative!

Dean roams across design principles introducing some innovative ways of thinking about classroom space as well as working with multimedia. He also includes brief interviews with other educators with views of their own on design and education. He’s a minimalist at heart, and a Mac man too, I see. His own presentation is a very good example of the principles he espouses.

I like his emphasis on the importance of white space, constraint, and elimination, and his urging to avoid templates in the interests of innovation. His take on branding is well-timed also in these days of the ‘read-write web.’

I’m taking away these four key checkpoints for my own educational productions:

Does it work?
Is it beautiful?
Is it powerful?
Is it inspiring?

What is a groundling?

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Southbank, London
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr

Those wonderful one-penny ticket audience members who stood in the yard of Shakespeare’s theatre. They were a rowdy and indiscriminating lot by all accounts. Hamlet had a few words to say about them. They were, “for the most part, capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise.” But hey, they bought the ticket, and supported the company.

Today the groundlings at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London pay considerably more than a penny for the privilege of standing in the yard. They love theatre just as much, but maybe aren’t as hardy as their ancestors. Whenever possible, they attempt to find somewhere to sit. Sadly the eagle-eyed stewards are on the job and keep the groundlings where they belong … standing on the ground.

To begin at the beginning …

Welcome to Groundling. This is the first post of what I hope will be many.

I wanted a place to write about my love of theatre and good acting with others. Since I was introduced to theatre as a child, I’ve never found anything more thrilling than spending a couple of hours in a big, dark room with a bunch of strangers, ‘dreaming out loud in front of ourselves.’ I think Groucho Marx and Martin Esslin said something pretty similar about the theatre experience. Even if they didn’t, watching great acting (preferably live) beats the heck out of anything else for me.

I plan to post fairly regularly, and as the mood takes me. It’s a reflective (maybe even chatty) spot for me to drop by. I hope you will join in.

A week of transitions

Actor's POV
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr
A week of moving from classroom to performance space with the students; selling a home; seeing a child step out. Flying Solo drew breath for the first time this week in public. It’s the umbrella project for the one-person shows the third year acting majors have devised, written, and are presenting as readings for a live audience. It’s always been a thrill to be there at a first reading of a new play; good or bad, there’s an expectation and delight in what will emerge. Some of the work is very good indeed; all will develop further as the weeks go by. The final staged presentation in October will give us some indication of the future of these little dramatic gems. All will give the actors a neat showcase for their work. How nice to be able to say, “Yes I have written a play.”

Spent a day interviewing estate agents on the sale of my parents’ home. Now empty for over 18 months, it was time to let go. Had a mixed reaction to the agents’ taking on the job; wanted to see who would give the best service–bit of an audition really. Only one failed his, so no go. Am hopeful that my sister and I will get a sale soon. Sad to let go, but the memories are locked where they can’t be got at.

Last night my son took to the stage for the opening night of a great production of Beauty and the Beast at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre. Refurbished exactly 10 years ago, the Empire is celebrating its status as the largest regional theatre in Australia, and arguably the most beautiful. The production of Beauty and the Beast was designed to showcase the theatre and the talent in the region. Under professional production direction, it provided the opportunity for the city and region’s musicians, actors, dancers and creatives to do what they love most. It is a splendid show across the board, and I was as enormously proud to see my child step into the challenge of singing and acting a lead role, and do it so magnificently. As I watched him last night, on stage and speaking with colleagues, guests and others at the after-show reception, I realised that he is ready for his transition now from student to professional actor.

So, a week of transitions. What next I wonder?

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Web 2.0 enters the live performance arena

Web 2.0 has arrived in the performance space. A current class of acting majors is working on a one-person show with me right now. They have devised, written, and are developing the first phase for public showing in a couple of weeks. The work is being collaborated on with me (Google Docs) and we meet for live updates via performance every couple of days. Great to see how people who thought they couldn’t write, actually can. Fascinating also to see how we tend to write for the ‘eye’ and not the ‘ear.’ We’re into the phase of drafting where the focus is on stripping back the dialogue so the good actor can show, and doesn’t need to tell. Writing dialogue not narration …

But one really interesting show–the actor could choose any theme as a focus–is all about people and their engagement with social networks, on-line gaming, and obsession. It’s sad, funny, scary, and amazingly dynamic. My Space and Twitter appear on live A-V feeds in the show, along with by live action. More on this as the show develops; for now, serendipity all round.