Flying Solo

One of the more satisfying creative projects I devised when training actors was an extended exercise which I called Flying Solo. This was designed to give student actors the opportunity to devise, author and perform a one-person showcase for their talents.

The experience of creating a piece of theatre from the ground up has a few advantages for those learning how to make their way as a professional performer: they learn how to devise their own material, they work on an extended creative project … this one covered about 8 months across two semesters of work … enabling sustained effort and revisioning. The actor finished with a play, a performance, and a sense of real achievement. I always thought that the real benefit of the project was the confidence this project would engender, as well as the knowledge of how to create something for yourself once you got ‘out there.’ It’s no small thing to devise, write, produce, and perform for 20 minutes … solo … on stage. Continue reading “Flying Solo”

As You Like It – a daily rehearsal and performance log on Tumblr

An image a day and a tweet or quote a day to sum up the passage of the next 10 weeks as I rehearse and perform in La Boite Theatre Company’s production of As You Like It by William Shakespeare. I get to play Duke Senior, father to Rosalind. This should be fun and a huge challenge – the best kind! Words probably won’t do it justice, so maybe an image or something brief and to the point that sums up the moment … Twitter is just fine for that. Continue reading “As You Like It – a daily rehearsal and performance log on Tumblr”

Live tweeting a performance – from the other side

Quite without planning it, I found myself live-tweeting on the opening night of a recent production of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business by Elizabeth Coleman (for Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre). I happened to be in my dressing-room doing a final email check of best wishes and ‘Chookas‘ when the Stage Manager gave the company stand-by call for beginners. That was me – I was a beginner – on first. I felt the familiar excited ‘tingle’ in my fingers; this is my own pre-show adrenalin-rush.

Impulsively, I tweeted that I was about to go on stage and mentioned the buzz out front and backstage. I knew many of my friends and theatre colleagues would be online at the time. They also knew I was in a show, and some knew it was opening night. I made up a hashtag on the spot, #secretbridesmaidsbiz, and off that first tweet went. At various intervals during the next two and a half hours I sent out more tweets. These ‘push’ tweets turned into a running commentary on what was happening at that performance and how I was feeling about it.

Whist I have live-tweeted shows as an audience member in the past – once at the request of a company during action on stage, but more often at interval or afterwards – I realised that, for the first time, I was live-tweeting a performance from my perspective as an actor. Now, this is not new, of course; Jane Fonda live-tweeted from backstage when she was performing on Broadway in 33 Variations a couple of seasons ago. It was, however, a whole new experience for me – live-tweeting from the other side. Continue reading “Live tweeting a performance – from the other side”

On the job on the iPad: learning lines

My role in the Empire Theatre Projects’ Company production of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business is a first in one respect. It’s the first on which I’ve gone entirely digital for script markup and lines-learning. I’m using my iPad 1.0. My apps of choice in the process have been Good Reader ($) and Rehearsal 2.0 ($)

It’s going well so far, and my initial anxieties about the efficacy of a digital working script and with missing out on the paper and markers and pencils experience were entirely misplaced. I wrote about the thrilling task of prepping a script a few years back when I was in full analog mode! This post is in the Performance Casebook series of which this is also a part.

The first thing you have to do is get the script on to your iPad. It’s a snap with both apps. With Good Reader it’s the normal sync process with your iPad; with Rehearsal it’s via email (in the version I have). In other words, you send your script as an attachment to your dedicated Rehearsal e-mail address, and it appears in the app.

Once you have your script on the iPad, you get an almost hands-free experience from the get-go. I have mine in its Apple cover – my hand fits neatly between it and the back of the iPad. There are no pens or pencils to drop, and you have a hand and finger free to swipe, or type or annotate and to manage props and make contact with scene-partners. Portability and ease of use and the brightness of the screen on the iPad is a bonus in darker places like coffee shops and rehearsal rooms – yes, there are such things – so I am very happy with my experiment and progress thus far.

I began with Good Reader and switched this week to a lines-learning app Rehearsal because I wanted to use the recording functionality and the emphasis on the scenes I’m in and, of course, with getting off book. Rehearsal does this. Good Reader is a really excellent all-purpose app for accessing and working on docs, and I use it all the time. However, Rehearsal is a niche app that delivers what its name suggests – it’s about getting the text off the page aka lines-learning –  between rehearsal sessions. This is where Rehearsal shines. I’m especially enamoured of being able to record and re-record my and my scene partners’ lines on the fly. The iPad on-board microphone picks up the sounds of movement as well – useful for timing. In playback, the screen scrolls like a teleprompter. If you have an iPad 2.0 you can video record a scene too.

I wrote a review of the Rehearsal app a little over a year ago, so I suggest you check that out if you are interested. The app is also available for the iPhone and is now in Version 2.0. Like all apps, it is available from the iTunes Store. Now that I am actually using it on a daily basis, I am more than happy to endorse the big tick I awarded it last year.

Emerging … again

As months go, March was rather special. It marked the ending of a significant period in my life’s adventures. I ended my tenure as Chairman of the Board at Queensland Theatre Company. Despite one or two little pangs, it felt absolutely right to be going now after nearly 8 years in the job and two before that as a Director. I’ve loved every moment of my time on the Board working on behalf of a Company that is very special to me. It is where I began my professional acting career and where I met the man I would eventually marry.

It’s no secret to my friends and colleagues that I’ve always wanted to return to the stage as an actor. Over the years many have asked me when or if I was going to make the leap and whether I missed it. I’d answer ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘Not right now,’ and ‘Yes, of course,’ but a full-time career as a theatre academic for over 21 years made working professionally near to impossible. It also just didn’t seem the right thing to do whilst I was still QTC Chairman – awkward.

When I retired from full time work at USQ in mid-2008 I just wanted to draw breath for a bit. I had enjoyed the experience of Cabaret for the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba that year, and, from then on, I would suggest to anyone who cared to listen that I’d be looking for acting work once my other theatre responsibilities were cleared. I’ve been lucky enough since retirement from full-time work to get back into the voice-over business, which I love – though I do miss the radio drama that used to be part of every actor’s life 40 years ago in Brisbane. As far as stage work is concerned someone must have been listening.

I got a call out of the blue last month asking if I would read for a role in a new play to be produced in Brisbane in August. It’s Water Wars by Elaine Acworth and is being presented by La Boite Theatre Company and Umber Productions in their Indie season. There is also an initial small regional tour in southern Queensland. I did the audition and was offered a role. I’m going to be working for the first time with two former students – a fine actor, Kellie Jones and director Shaun Charles. I’ll also be working with Elaine Acworth for the first time – looking forward to this!  A new play has its challenges but, for an actor, it’s nothing if not exciting to create a role for the first time.

And a week or so after that I auditioned for a part in Secret Bridesmaids’ Business being produced in Toowoomba for the Empire Theatre. To my delight the role of Colleen, mother of the bride has come my way. SBB is a tried and true and very popular Australian comedy, and I have a feeling it’s going to be great fun but also challenging – comedy is hard!

I have to say I feel a little overwhelmed and hugely thrilled by all of this.

First up is Secret Bridesmaids’ Business directed by Lewis Jones. Rehearsals begin in early May. Meantime, I’m loading the scripts onto my iPad and doing the read, read, read prep before it all begins. I’m going to keep a rehearsal log here as I did with Cabaret.

So, here I go again, and hello third age. I’m joining the ranks of ‘senior artists.’ Excited? MUCH!