Brisbane: Wanted – a cultural reality check

I heard a great interview this morning on ABC612 Brisbane with Sam Strong, the ‘newish’ (since last November) Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company. Among other things, Sam sketched out some of his ideas to make QTC a national theatre leader. Anyway, it was exciting and refreshing to hear Sam hint at his plans and talk up his ambition for Queensland theatre.

The perception that Queensland theatre is ‘less good’ than that produced elsewhere raised its head again in the interview … the damned cultural cringe beast never goes away, does it? Nothing riles me up faster than the appearance of this nonsense whether at state or national level. I hunted down an angry post I dashed off nearly 6 years ago.

Here it is – from March 20, 2010.

#killthecringe Continue reading “Brisbane: Wanted – a cultural reality check”

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”

Steve Jobs, my First Mac and how I became a geek

Steve Jobs died this morning aged 56. I learned about it via Twitter on my iMac. We knew it was coming probably sooner rather than later. He had been sick for years and, at each public appearance, was looking more and more gaunt. Still, when the news broke, it did come with a jolt. Within minutes the Twitter stream was flowing fast with the news, and websites were paying tribute; the US President, Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates, his great rival and friend, have said their piece. There will be millions more words written about this man, someone that pretty much everyone concedes was one of the world’s most gifted human beings.

My little contribution to the great innovator is to share this video from Steve’s first launch back in 1984. Suited and nattily bow-tied – before the later jeans, black turtle-neck and New Balance joggers became his signature – and with barely contained delight, he introduces the first Macintosh – what we all came to call the Mac years afterwards. The crowd goes wild – I mean really, really wild. Apparently there was a 5 minute standing ovation.

 

This version of the Mac turned out to be my first computer and, in the years since then, others have followed on to my desk and lap along with iPods and iPhones into purse and pocket. I have never forgotten the design principles which informed the creation of that Mac and the Apple products that followed.

The genius of Steve Jobs realised in that first Mac was the recognition of the way human beings interact with their world and create stuff and then to incorporate this understanding into a design principle that was executed with finesse and beauty and, yes simplicity. It was this ease of use that blind-sided so many over the years who saw Macs as toys and not real computers. They missed the point. Like small, simple can be powerful and beautiful too.

Images and gestures led the way with the point and click and use of symbols or icons. Desktop and folders were words we understood. We had to learn about floppies and disk drives and bytes and words that began with the i- in years to come, but it was never hard with a Mac. I always loved the little ‘Hello’ or ‘The adventure starts here’ messages that were included in the box of a new Apple product – those and the stickers – they always set off a little thrill and reminded you that using this technology could also be fun – should be even – that was the magic.  Yes, I’ve been a fan girl since that afternoon in the computer shop in Armidale in 1984 when I was hooked. It sold me on the spot, and I took the Mac home in a bag. It changed my world.

Vale Steve and thank you for changing not just my world, but the way the world sees itself.

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.

Warmest Wishes for the Season

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It’s a quiet time for family, celebration, and reflection.

With that in mind I want to wish you the quiet joys of the season and a time of peace, happiness, and relaxation.

I’m taking time out to do much the same, and will be back in a few days’ time. Thank you for visiting and for your engagement with my little blog over the days and months. I appreciate your presence.

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