Archive for June, 2007

Saturday with Veronica

June 30, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another great day with Veronica. The Mac/Mac girls had 2 shows today, and Penny was with her family in London for the weekend, so it was the Canadians on a choreographic tear. We had a good day. And Djanet Sears was an enormous help. I know she’s here as a Creative Fellow, with combined duties for the RSC and Warwick University, but today she was a choreographic assistant: keeping rhythm for us on the jembe, pushing the button on Veronica’s iPod, and taking notes on some of the sequences that Veronica was setting on us. Talk about adapting your skills! Djanet is a real pleasure to have around. She has such remarkable warmth, and intelligence, and is so generous in her spirit. She is a great support. 

We finished the day at the Dirty Duck. This is the watering hole across the street from the Swan Theatre, and spitting distance from the houses where most of us are living. The food is appalling. But it’s the local pub, so that’s where everyone hangs out. And on a Saturday after rehearsals, there was a big glass with my name on it. And apparently a few other named drinks for the rest of the gang. 

Then home to find a stressed out Lisa Cox waiting for her husband to arrive. His flight had been delayed several hours because of the terrorist alerts in London, and the car explosion in Glasgow. And once he arrived there were huge traffic diversions, and it was a nightmare of a day for him. He was expected around 3:30pm, and finally arrived to a tearful Lisa at around midnight. But we are glad he is safely here, and I know Lisa will be so happy to have him with her from this point on. 

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Broad swords and Macbeth

June 29, 2007

Friday, June 29th, 2007

This morning we put a loose blocking on a couple of the big scenes from the end of the play.   This process always involves an intense discussion of the scene first. And then Josette reins us in and gets her job done. But she allows us to make offers into the process at all times, and hears all ideas, and puts them in her thinking cap. And then, I’m guessing, she talks all these things over with her amazing assistant, Ray.  Sometimes they communicate in secret in Swedish sign language. It’s great to watch them signing away, while we are working on something with Warren or Veronica. They can stay in the room and carry on a silent discussion. What a gift!

Lunch was spent with a young writer from Walrus. I hope he will forgive me, but I have forgotten his name! Terrible. Anyway, it was a fun yack. Nice to talk with someone from Canada who lives here. Shared experience is so gratifying. It was absolutely pelting rain outside, so I was happy to have brought my lunch, and to have someone new to talk to. And of course, to hear the intelligence that all the women in our group bring to our understanding of this work, and our work in general. Pretty great.

After lunch we had our first fight workshop with Allison. (At least I’m consistent with not remembering last names.) We began work with short broad swords. I think we were a little tentative after the warning that these weapons can actually kill you, and that someone had their head severed recently in a re-enactment. Yikes! That’ll bring out the girlie-girl in you in a heartbeat! So we bashed away at each other for an hour and a half, and got loosened up a little around dealing with these weapons.

A little music after the tea break, and then an early end to the day. We were all grateful, but especially the Mac/Mac women. You can really start to see their exhaustion. 

In the evening, I went to see Macbeth. Yum. God, I love the theatre!! This was an amazingly brutal production from start to finish: dark and bloody. Completely in keeping with the Jacobean sensibility of the play. It began with a sort of bloody prologue, where we saw Macbeth slaughter a room full of innocents, showing us the victorious soldier that is alluded to in the beginning of the text. From the bodies of these innocents rise the spirits of three young mothers, whose babies Macbeth has killed, and they become the witches… “when shall we three meet again…” Brilliant. And so the witches act like glue throughout the production, playing all the messengers and servants, until Macbeth is killed and they can release the souls of their dead children. 

The other thing that was made really clear in this production was Macbeth’s insomnia. Which of course ties into the Lady’s sleepwalking. But having seen Daniel Brooks’ Insomnia last year, and seeing this Macbeth struggling with nightmares of the people he has killed, and being completely delusional because of lack of sleep —  well, it made so many aspects of the text really clear. So bravos to the company, and the director, Connell Morrison. 

This is a special time for us girls from the colony Canada. A time to remember. 

Banking headaches and a Walrus

June 28, 2007

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Not much new to report today. Banking headaches for me. My PIN number and cheques have gone astray in the mail, so I had to cancel them and re-order. It’s a bit of a pain. It means I have to bank like we did in the seventies: actually carrying cash around! 

The scene work continues. With luck, and Josette’s determination, we should meet our Saturday deadline for having the play staged. We had a lot of fun with the dream sequence. It should be great fun for the audience. 

Separate movement and singing calls are always happening as smaller scenes are staged, and every day we get more confident with the music. And we start to sound good! That’s a relief, because, as Warren says, it is “contemporary” music. 

There was a reporter from The Walrus around today. And he will be here tomorrow. Sarah kept calling the magazine, The Wallaby. Maybe they should start an Aussie version?

I had a wonderful private session with Charmian Gradwell to finish my day. It’s a bit weird because we both have the same degree in Voice from the Central School of Speech and Drama. And I think there is a natural tendency to measure up ones peers. So I was a bit defensive off the top. But we did some fantastic work opening up warmer tones in my voice. And I think it will be very useful. This type of support in coaching and training is so fantastic. It really allows me, as an actor, to be fully on my game in all aspects, and to know that if I stumble, there will be a variety of enormously skilled people to turn to for help.

Celebrations and Remembrances

June 27, 2007

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

We began the day with great news, spent the middle of the day with a legend, and ended the day in grief. 

The good news is: Corinne Koslo won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her work in the Seussical at LKTYP. This is the second year in a row she has won for work at this theatre, and she took it all in stride. So many congratutlations to Corrine!!!

After warm-ups, and the introduction of another brilliant piece of music from Maestro Wills, we had a text class with Cicely Berry. What a woman. She has been with the RSC since its inception, and has been the Head of Voice here for many years. She has trained some of the finest actors and voice teachers in the English speaking world (and I’m sure beyond that). And what an indomitable spirit. And an infectious spirit. She has the uncanny ability to create relationships with words in an instant: to their vowels, and punctuation, and rhythm. So this was a fantastic way to spend our time until lunch.

After lunch, back to the play, and taking a first pass at the scenes as we figure out a basic shape. A lot of discussion about the scene where the play tips, and things start to get ugly. It’s a full company scene, and the first time the twelve maids are in a story-telling scene together with Penelope. So imagine sixteen women trying to come to a conclusion about anything — it takes time, listening, and occasionally, gentle tongue biting. But we have a good first stab. And the rest of the scene work continues. We are about 2/3 of the way through the play now, so the most difficult scenes are lining up, one by one. It will be tough slogging, that’s a given.

We heard of the tragedy when we arrived home. Kelly had heard from a friend at home that William Hutt had died. This stopped us all in our tracks. What a colossal loss to Canadian theatre. The man was a master. So as we ate our dinner we exchanged stories about our associations with Bill, his work on stage, his grieving family (my friends Peter and Bridget and their beautiful children Olivia and Adam are missing their Uncle Bill!), and the legacy he leaves to those who follow in his footsteps of a truly Canadian voice for Shakespeare. 

And then we raised a glass: To William Hutt.

As the Penelopiad turns…

June 26, 2007

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

It was winter today! The weather has been absolutely wretched, but this takes the cake. It can’t have been more than 10 degrees, and windy and raining. Blechh! And the building we are working in was impossibly cold. Good thing we are working physically so much, as that keeps the blood flowing. 

Nothing terribly special at work today. We continue to block the show, getting into relationships, and storytelling all the while. Josette has created such a team. So while we are blocking scenes in the main hall, there were split rehearsals for movement with Veronica, and music with Warren and Bruce in other halls. Always keeping everyone busy. It’s the only way with a production like this which incorporates so many performance elements. 

On the way home we stopped for a while to watch some Morris dancers who were entertaining on the Riverside. A little club, they must have been, as they had very nice green vests with dragons on the back. They were all over 60, I’m sure, most of them older, and there was a great fellow accompanying them on the accordion. 

We’ve become a right little family at the Old Ferryhouse. Once again we made and ate dinner together, and digested the days’ work. We will miss Lisa when she moves out with her husband this weekend. And what will the two men be like who will join us from the Richard/Henry cast? 

Tune in again. This and other questions will be answered as… the Penelopiad turns!

Difficult Wily Sea Captains

June 25, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

A good and much needed day off. We all spent the day around town. Resting mostly, and looking at the new script that we got at the end of the day on Saturday. Oh, maybe I looked around the shops a little. Yikes. Extremely overpriced clothing here in Stratford-upon-Avon.  So I didn’t buy anything. But it was a good way to get out for the afternoon. Jenny wasn’t feeling well, so I got her some ginger tea. Corrine is on the mend, by the way. She is still taking it very easy on her feet, but getting stronger every day. 

Today we were right back at it. Excellent classes to begin the day, with Veronica and Charmion. And then we got right into the rough blocking. We looked at the Chorus of the birth of Telemachus. We showed Josette and the Mac/Mac women what Veronica had created on us on Saturday. And we watched a short video of Pina Bausch’s work. That was fascinating. So we brought that flavor to the movement, and put a loose blocking on the Chorus. 

After lunch we looked at the next few scenes and blocked those, and then did some more music with Warren. This time The Wily Sea Captain. Lots of fun. But not easy, Warren!

The days here can be slightly longer than we are used to. The British Equity has different rules around repertory rehearsals. It takes a bit of getting used to. But still nothing like the women in our group who are going off to do shows every evening.  But that last hour of the day takes it out of you, and we were all pretty pooped when we piled into the house to make our dinner.

Oh! Another Canadian birthday today! Pam Matthews this time. So more cake on the tea break! Yippee. Very generous of everyone here.

A Day with Veronica

June 23, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It was a special day today. A whole day with Veronica. What a gift. I had a solo session first thing, and what a time of discovery. Veronica facilitated a physical exploration of character. She had me dance the back story of Eurycleia, the character I am playing in the story. It was such a liberating experience. It began with words and supported movement, and then moved to its feet and became less self-conscious, until these insights into her life simply erupted from my body through text and movement. You can’t pay for this stuff, man, it has to be given to you. 

What’s amazing about Veronica is that she keeps you on the edge of discovery, so just as you feel you might be comfortable with what you are thinking or how you are moving, she asks you to alter your thoughts or your movement or both. In this way I was kept right at my edge, the place where the best theatre is made, and never allowed to become self-indulgent or even comfortable. A truly remarkable experience. 

It was a difficult day. End of the week, and we were all pretty tired. But you see, Veronica can’t go home and do her work on paper. She needs to create her work on bodies in space. And so we plugged away, and even though we were tired, the work was so inspiring, and such a lot of fun. And I hope, at the end of the day, she had some material that she can utilise in the production. 

It was a day about Veronica, really. She and I even met for dinner in the evening and had a wonderful visit, and a delicious meal. This is an artist of the first degree and water. What a woman: a globally recognised dance artist, a filmmaker, a mother, a choreographer, and a gentle, sensitive, and intelligent soul. We are so privileged to be in her caring hands, and to receive her support and her wisdom as part of this work. Oh yeah.

The Dogs of Stratford

June 22, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

One of the other things I love about having a bay window looking over the Avon River is watching the dogs and their walkers. Since my view encompasses a long hedge and a large playing green, and the path beside the river that runs adjacent to both, I witness lots of very interesting dog interaction. Some owners cycle by with a couple of Shepherds running beside them. There’s one old Corgi who absolutely refused to go on to the grass when her walker took off across the field. She just sat down on the path until he returned. Lots of Jack Russells, and Border Collies, and a black Standard Poodle, LOTS of Corgies, and Westies. Highly entertaining. 

And speaking of entertaining, many of us went to see The Seagull tonight. Not, perhaps, as successful as King Lear, but nonetheless, an excellent production with highly skilled craft from the entire creative team. I love the way the two productions were linked by elements of design and casting, and subtle little elements that created these lovely echoes. And a really fine ensemble piece this one. Again, as with Lear, nothing overwhelmed the play. This is so important in interpreting the classics, and such a fine balance to find. So. Another great night at the theatre. 

In rehearsal we had another day of play. A person named Joey came in to give us a workshop on gender. Fascinating. It’s amazing to find out how arbitrary gender is. We did several improvs just to illuminate our own preconception. And then we applied some of this work to character improvs for both the male characters we play, and for the female. 

The afternoon was spent in music rehearsal, with individual voice calls spread throughout, and also costume meetings with Rosa, our brilliant designer. This is where the child in me comes out. How I love the costumes!! And there will be lots of dress-up for all of us to do in this production where we are constantly shape shifting to tell the story. I find it very important to my process, and a good part of the way I find character is from the outside in. So it was nice to get a first personal taste of how we will look. 

And that was the day. Josette flew off to Sweden to have some time with her family. And as I said, a number of us headed out for an evening in the theatre. It’s yummy to be here. So grateful. So engaged. 

Koslo goes down: overacting injury suspected.

June 21, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

KOSLO GOES DOWN: OVERACTING INJURY SUSPECTED. Remember how I said yesterday that Corrine was entertaining? Well, we came in today to find that Corrine has slipped a tendon in one of her ankles. I claim it was from the work she was doing yesterday, but she insists it’s an old injury that has recurred because we are rehearsing in bare feet. So, much of her day was spent wheeling around the rehearsal halls in an office chair. An interesting design choice for ancient Greece. She went to an osteopath who she says was absolutely brilliant, and will have her back on her feet in no time. 

More music rehearsals this morning. Always exciting. This time we were in the Music Room, which I’m quite sure is meant for tutorials. So when there are 12 women, 2 musicians,  a choreographer and an assistant director in the room, it’s pretty cosy. And we are making a lot of sound. So my head was vibrating by lunch time. 

After lunch we had a lecture on Greek history as it relates to The Penelopiad by Leanne Hunnings, a student of the classics. It was great. Just getting some details about the world from someone who has really studied it. And she had some wonderful ideas about the book. She said there were lots of her geeky classicist friends who were very excited about seeing this play. And you have to give her credit: she sat there in front of all these theatre professionals and acted out little sections of the book that she was quoting in her lecture. And she did a great job! And gave us great information about the gods, the myths of Penelope, and the status quo of the Maids. 

This inspired a good discussion of the play, which is more meat for us to chew on. Mostly to do with the Maids and what their sexual experience might be. Certainly the slaves of the time would have been subject, even sexually, to the whims of their masters. We are trying to sort out how this works in the play. Who does the ownership revert to when Odysseus is away and presumed dead? This is what we spend our days trying to figure out. Fun. And pretty nerdy. Yum.

Pronunciation was another product of the chat. Any takers on how to pronounce “Penelopiad”? Josette has asked Margaret Atwood, who basically said, “Well, how would you say it?” So Josette is reticent to make a choice. All these Greek names, and thirteen actors to provide innumerable pronunciations. Apparently we will have phonetic pronunciations which will standardize things for us.

At the end of the day we read the Arrival at Ithaca, and put a small part of it on its feet. 

A brief word about our stage managers: We have three great stage managers, Janet, Gabs, and Sally. Things are a little different here, and it takes a little getting used to the differences in practice. Janet is the Stage Manager, but is not in the rehearsal hall at all, and will not be calling the show. But she takes care of structuring the call, and I’m sure lots of other stuff that I don’t really know about. Gabs is the Deputy Stage Manager, and she is in the hall with us. She will be calling the show apparently, but not from the back of the house. And Sally, the Assistant Stage Manager, who is not with us yet in rehearsal, but will certainly be with us once we start running. She will be backstage with us. We also have a Company Manager, Jondon, who takes care of our other needs within the RSC. Basically he is the first person we turn to when we don’t understand how the phone works, or where to get Indian take-away. These are the folks that are our lifeline. Always. What would the theatre be without stage managers? We’d still be prostitutes, making theatre on wagons pulled by horses. Hmmmm.

Kudos to the Macbeth/Macbett Women

June 20, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kudos to the Macbeth/Macbett Women

We were tired this morning. Collectively. And if I was tired, I can’t imagine what the Mac/Mac women are going through. They are doing seven shows a week, and rehearsing a seven hour day. But they’re amazing. They’re still on top of it, and still bringing great energy and imagination to the work. I’d be a complete zombie. So many kudos to them. 

We started the day, as we do each day, with physical warm-up with Veronica. It is so important for keeping us all going. And it morphs so beautifully into the voice warm-up with Charmion. These are the gifts of a long rehearsal period, and of a director who values the tools that the actor has to bring to play in a process like this one. 

Then we talked for a while about the Maids. It’s difficult. Because we are not only playing Penelope’s twelve chosen Maids: the young ones, the pretty ones, the Hades maids. We are also playing the maids in the Spartan court, and some of us play other maids in Odysseus’ court before and after the choosing occurs. (I realise this may all be Greek to you…). In any case, it’s complicated. So we were trying to figure out some of the discrepancies we face in the acting because of these complications. Text work, basically. Asking questions, but not forming any answers. At least, not for now. 

This led to the development of characters for the Maids: the chosen ones. Where did we come from? Who were our parents? How old were we when we arrived? Did we arrive with any of the others in the group? Where are our allegiances within the group? Where are our animosities? So we took some time before lunch to do a little personal writing around our own histories. Always fun. Always inventive. Always opening more questions to be answered. 

After lunch, a little music review. And then on to putting a rough staging to one of the biggest scenes in the play, Penelope’s Wedding. It’s all quite silly, and so it was a lot of fun. Corrine, as Icarius, and Pippa, as the Naiad Mother, and Kelly, as Helen of Troy, were particularly entertaining. And we had lots of fun running the race that Odysseus wins in order to win Penelope’s hand. Huge scene. Nine pages. And that was the day.

Oh! Another birthday was celebrated on the “tea break”: Kelly McIntosh. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re starting to think all Canadians are born in June!