Where have I been?

There have been very few posts to this blog for a couple of weeks, and for good reason. They have all been made to another (private group) blog of mine, which is currently charting the progress of work on a production with a group of acting majors in production on a play Mad Forest by the English writer Caryl Churchill. This play is based on the events surrounding the fall of the Ceaucescu regime in Romania in 1989.

My decision to get the student company members to use this blog as a research tool, and to share their findings, is another experiment on what I am discovering is being called “e-learning” “social networking” and (in creating their own blogs on process which I share as an invited reader) “personal learning spaces.” Results are relatively good; some students have taken to the reflective practice in their own blogs very well; others are either not used to the habit of reflection sufficiently well to make the blog work for them, or simply resistant to using the medium (lack of access at home could well be a problem for some). I’ll be keen to get their feedback at the end of the project as I’ve decided to write a conference paper for delivery later in the year on my own experiments in the field of e-learning.

I’m also enjoying trialling a new app iGTD which is in beta right now. It’s a handy-dandy, very nicely designed productivity tool right out of the GTD box. Each week brings new and better features, including excellent integration with that other beautiful Mac-only app Quicksilver. Part of me misses the Kinkless GTD/Omni Outliner app where I was processing my stuff, but I am liking iGTD very, very much especially how well it syncs info with my .Mac account on the home desktop, my G4 laptop and work machine (iMac).

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A Jolt Out of the Ordinary

Spending the week by the sea at Hervey Bay north of Brisbane, where the Shakespeare Festival has put down roots for its inaugural season away from home. The week has been full of media calls, watching the set emerge again (like magic, but really with the effort and expertise of the technical production team) from a seaside park, and generally going into the “fingers crossed” mode for audience numbers and a positive tick from the community. That way, we get to come back again next year.
The jolt out of the ordinary has been the discovery of a mass/pack/herd/flock (what do you call them) of bats, wonderful, hanging-upside-down, querellous, stinky fruit bats in a patch of forest by the ocean. They fly over in the most wonderful formation around dusk, out on their nightly raid of fruit and small insects. Wonderful atmosphere for the play Macbeth.

The other jolt was a walk along the ocean front this morning … how I love the feel of the sand and the little waves. Tomorrow morning it’s into the briny for a full swim. But first, there’s a show to do … .

Get Me Out of Here!

It’s “O Week” (Orientation Week) at university. Today was the first day. The place is full of new faces, and some more familiar, with the return today of the second-year acting class about to tackle a production of Mad Forest Caryl Churchill‘s terrific play about the 1989 Romanian revolution. It also happens to be my first directing gig for the year. The company and I spent three hours this morning talking and reading about the incidents in the work, and about the acting challenges for this production. Ah, good to be back and to flex the muscle of imagination.

And of course, I found it hard to work at the desk afterwards, and fled after rehearsals to the park, where the final day’s rehearsals for the SiQP (Shakespeare in Queens Park Festival) are taking place. There’s something wonderfully soothing about being outdoors, in the thick of all the creative fun happening there, especially on such a glorious day as it has been. Didn’t feel at all guilty. I guess right now for me my heart is where the work is. All appears on track for a fine week of festivity and good drama.

Getting People to Talk: Interviews

The blog for Shakespeare in Queens Park Festival (SiQP) which I’ve been keeping for a couple of years now has an addition: interviews with some of the key artists, creatives, and technicians. It’s been fun talking to them. What surprised me was that I didn’t have to prod them to reveal all. Once they got going, they took off, and the editing afterwards was pretty painless–a couple of repetitive “ums and ahs” here and there, a phone call that interrupted the flow (note to self, take phone off hook before pressing the record button), but nothing else. Really, to get people talking, all you need to do is ask them about their passion–in this case, what they’re doing for SiQP.

Girding the loins

I spent yesterday afternoon watching a run-through of a play for which I am voice coach. After the run I had dinner with one of the actors, and we talked less about the run-through, and more about the approach to prepping the body and mind for the act of artistic-athleticism, aka stage performance. Pacing across the arc of the performance, knowing the journey (as it is often called) of the character and of the actor-self is a vital component to ensuring a good performance. And so is eating and resting properly, and breaking through that thing called resistance, which as Steven Pressfield notes in his terrific book The War of Art is the chief block to creativity and artistic performance. Nice to remind myself of this as the weeks hurry by, and resistance becomes a partner in my daily activities. Got to wrestle this demon; it’s not a friend but a trap. Got out Pressfield’s book last night and will re-read it today, just as a reminder … and perhaps set it free in the rehearsal room.

Talk, Talk, and more Talk!

End of the academic year once again, and this week has seen us gather as a staff to discuss where we’re at and where we’re going collectively as a Department, and individually as workers within the group. Two and a half days of navel-gazing, planning and wishing on stars resulted in a surprisingly consensual assembly.

There is no doubt, after the costing exercise, that the practical courses are costing us. although the “loss” needs to be seen as an “investment” and panic ought not to drive us into cutting what we do best in order to meet the economic rationalists in the back rooms. Our call to action is a determination to continue to work in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way possible, though there must be an acceptance that in our sector of the creative arts locally, nationally, and internationally are not ever going to make money for their organisations.

During the staff retreat I found myself agreeing to direct a production of Carol Churchill’s fantastic Mad Forest in Semester 1. I’ve somewhat reluctantly agreed to this and traded off my second year classes and a production of Black Box Shakespeare later in the year. I should have driven a harder bargain and traded off some more, but perhaps that would have been a little less collegial than expected! Now I have to get into prep for another show, work on the sonnets, and bring Black Box: All’s Fair … back to life. Oh my, the life creative is a busy one.

On the personal creative front I’m enjoying learning more about digital photography and having fun with my new Nikon D-40. Took it along to the Faculty Christmas party on Thursday afternoon and grabbed a few happy snaps. So nice to have all those pixels to play with when editing; you can go w-a-a-y in, crop and still get the brilliant clarity that the lens provides. I’m going to have to spend the summer learning how to drive my newest toy, but given the locations I’m visiting, that should be neat!

Derek Story’s podcast on “The Second Shooter” was a nice thing; main shots filled in by the second shooter on the side doing reaction shots, views from the back etc. I think I’ll take this approach and work in tandem with Ed on the wedding shoot in Mexico. The combination of video and stills should work nicely on a DVD. Important though to prepare the shot list beforehand. Goody! My first assignment …

Oh yes, 10 days till Boxing Day and the shops are madness …