Saturday, 31 December 2011

Thank You, 2011: And everyone who contributed along the way


Rehearsing You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia for The Wooden Leg
at The Owl & The Pussycat


2011 was an amazing year for me and my theatre-making endeavours.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put on The Wooden Leg’s first season of shows at The Owl & The Pussycat in September.

Thank you to everyone involved in Richard Di Gregorio: On Time – my first foray into the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Thank you to Short & Sweet for continuing to showcase new works from emerging artists – and to Nicole Bilson for bringing Poems a Dead Boy Wrote to life.

Onward and upward in 2012.

Thanks to the creative team behind Painting with Words and Fire, which will premiere in February 2012.

Thanks to David Attrill and Sarah Connor, who are working hard on Like a House on Fire, for its late January premiere at Short & Sweet Sydney.

And more thanks to all involved with Richard Di Gregorio: On Time before we head off to Adelaide for Fringe in late February.

I’m already hard at work on shows that will hopefully see the light of day in late 2012: a full-lenth play or two and a short cabaret piece.

Thank you to all the amazing creative people I met this year, whose friendship and work inspire me. I hope to work with more and more of you!

And, finally, thank you to friends, family and theatre-going audiences who supported my work all year.  In the end, the work is for the audience – and I am so thrilled you seemed to enjoy so much of it.

See you all in 2012. Have a great New Year celebration!

Friday, 23 December 2011

My Favourite Theatre of 2011


With my theatre-going year over, here is a list of my favourite productions of 2011. The Top Ten, The Runners Up and the Honourable Mentions are all listed in alphabetical order. In years past, I’ve ranked my top ten or twenty shows. This year I decided I wouldn’t put myself through that kind of torture.

Without any further ado, my favourite shows of 2011...
  
THE TOP 10

Boxman – If Theatre

Daniel Keene plus Matt Scholten – an unbeatable combination. Again.



Christina: A Story with Music –Attic Erratic

This moving and haunting tale of lost love was beautifully realised by writer/actor/composer Tom Pitts and director Celeste Cody. And the set, the set! Amazing.



Clybourne Park  - Melbourne Theatre Company

A smart and funny satire on racial politics and real estate. A companion piece to the classic A Raisin in the Sun, it was fully deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.

Delectable Shelter - The Hayloft Project

After last year’s one-two punch of Thyestes and The Nest, this is the only Hayloft Project show to surface in Melbourne in 2011. It was a very strong post-Apocalyptic comedy and a reminder that no one quite makes shows like Hayloft.

The Economist – MKA

A thrilling and even-handed treatment of the real-life story of Anders Breivik. Writer Tobias Manderson-Galvin and director Van Badham – and the whole MKA team – should be very proud of this work. And MKA should be proud of their entire output in 2011.

Hamlet - Melbourne Theatre Company

After seeing a very strong production of Hamlet in DC last year, Simon Phillips’ production with Ewen Leslie in the lead blew every other version of Hamlet I’ve seen out of the water. From set to costume to some of the finest performers in Australia, this was an amazing night of theatre.

Little Match Girl – Malthouse

I have seen and loved Melissa Madden Grey and her alter-ego Meow Meow before, but this brilliantly ecelectic, wonderfully evocative show pushed her crazy cabaret envelope and was one of the absolute highlights of Malthouse’s 2011.



Skinhouse – Quiet Little Fox

What baggage do you carry with you when you retire from prostitution? And how does that affect the people you live with and your loved ones? Kristina Benton and Fleur Kilpatrick relived their real lives night after night is this warm and raw two-hander.

Tis Pity She's A Whore - Malthouse

Marion Potts directed my two favourite Malthouse shows this year and while I think Whore was flawed, it was so rich and multi-layered, beautifully designed and with such powerhouse performances, it has stuck in my mind all year. An incredible achievement.

Undine – Four Larks

After they won a few Green Room awards, I knew I had to find my way to Four Larks’ next show – which proved only as difficult as seeing a show in an undisclosed location can be! They call their shows “junkyard operas” but they are exquisitely rendered and beautifully composed an executed – a very, very long way from junk. Excited for their Malthouse show in 2012.


THE RUNNERS UP

The Bald Soprano – Threshold

A tight, on-the-ball production of Ionesco’s absurdist comedy.

Bombshells – Lil’ Frenchy Legs

A spectacular trio of female actors completely embodied Johanna Murray-Smith’s six sharply drawn monologues for women.

Circle Mirror Transformation – Melbourne Theatre Company

An insider comedy that lets outsiders in, this beautiful little script illuminated the question of when life changes and how we change with it.

Crossed – If Theatre

Matt Sholten brings Chris Summers’ wild and moving, energetic and confronting six-hander to life in an almost unrecognisable Courthouse Theatre.



A Donkey and a Parrot

Sarah Hamilton has penned a beatiful ode to her family and their history and brings to life many generations of their wonderful tale in this exquisite one-woman show.

A Golem Story – Malthouse

Proving to be one of the strongest young voices on the Australian stage, Lally Katz’s smart recreation of the Jewish tale of the golem in Prague received a stunning production that won’t soon be shifted from my mind.

Hairspray

From the sublime to the ridiculously fun, this musical based on the John Waters classic is a top-tapping digital wonder – with a really strong message in there about acceptance of all kinds.

The Hatpin

A dark, moody musical based on an horrific tale from Sydney’s colonial past, James Millar and Peter Rutherford’s show finally made its way to Melbourne this year. An absolute treat.

In the Next Room (or, The Vibrator Play) - Melbourne Theatre Company

What begins as almost silly – its premise really milks the cheap laughs in act one – evolves into rich and poignant study of relations and relationships on a set that slowly opens up to reveal hidden depths barely glimpsed at the start.



Prodigal

Dean Bryant and Matt Frank’s first musical is revived ten years later – reminding us that we all must start somewhere (in the play’s case, the NSW coastal town of Eden) and once we grow up and move out, we can become extraordinary. But that usually means going home again, a theme Bryant & Frank would again explore in their more recent show, Once We Lived Here.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Batt on a Hot Tin Roof - Adelaide Cabaret Festival

The Importance of Being Earnest – Melbourne Theatre Company

Shopping Centres and Gutters

Sleepyhead - MKA

The Terminativity – Bella Union


The Unexpected Variety Show

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And that's it for seeing theatre in 2011. There might be another post about making theatre before the year is out, but until then, have a Merry Christmas and see you in the theatre in 2011.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Three Shows, Three States, Three Months: Already Very Busy in 2012


In fact, from the opening of Like a House on Fire through the two week season of Painting with Words and Fire (formerly Three Women) to the end of Richard Di Gregorio: On Time – it’s less than six weeks. Late January to early March.

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First up, as part of Short & Sweet Sydney, my ten minute ode to pyromania and sexuality, Like a House on Fire will play at the Newtown Theatre from January 25 to January 28 (8pm) and January 29 (5.15pm). Directed by David Attrill and starring Sarah Connor, I’m thrilled to have something on in Sydney – finally – and it’s a good excuse to go back after having been there so recently.

Actor Sarah Connor

Also, while in Sydney, I get to check out Griffin’s new production of The Boys – which should be suitably confronting in that small space. Also tempted to check out Hayloft’s Thyestes – which Belvoir is producing at Carriageworks, but I’m afraid that seeing it a second time might dilute its power.

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Next up, at Revolt Melbourne Artspace in Kensington, a tryptic of monologues for female actors culminating in a fourth piece where these disperate characters meet – Painting with Words and Fire is my biggest show yet and something the entire team is very proud of. Formerly titled Three Women, the show will play ten nights from Feb 15 to Feb 25 at 8pm in Revolt’s loading dock.


Produced by The Wooden Leg - which I co-founded this year with producer Wallis Murphy-Munn, writer/actor Hayley Lawson-Smith and writer/actor/inspiration Andy Dodds – it’s going to build on the company’s aesthetic for site-specific theatre, as well as being accessible, immediate and a bit in-your-face.

I’ve been working on this project for a while, after meeting actor/directors Christine Husband, Renee Palmer and Adrienne Sloan through the Cold Reading Series. We have developed the fourth piece collectively and the actors have been directing each other in their solo pieces, while building toward a show that will also combine movement, music, and beautiful design work by Andre Stefan White.

I feel lucky to have found such great collaborators and moving towards production is going pretty smoothly – with a press release put together and lots of photos taken last week for promotional and publicity materials. Note to self: at some point need a decent headshot for the inevitable program.

Look for publicity material soon on Facebook and on the Revolt website.

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Last, but certainly not least, the reappearance of Richard Di Gregorio: On Time at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  Tickets are already on sale online and we’re already getting promotional material ready. Including this snappy little promo video:


And, later tonight, there will be a podcast interview with me on the LinkAdelaide website. I can’t wait to hear it back – see if I said anything too embarrassing.

As I said in the interview, even in our post-Melbourne Fringe analysis of the show, the whole team was pretty happy with the show as a whole. But we’re still thoroughly excited to get a chance to polish it up a little bit and tighten it up in places, so that Adelaide gets the absolutely best show we can give it. (Also, for a show about time, the fact that 2012 is a leap year gives me some really immediate new material – especially for the Feb 29th show!)

Richard Di Gregorio: On Time is playing the Metropolitan Hotel in Adelaide for Five Shows Only from Feb 28th to March 3rd. Book tickets now!

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Meanwhile, of course, since these projects are basically all written, I have started work on new plays and new collaborations - trying new things, polishing old things and keeping the momentum going. For the second half of 2012.

Friday, 2 December 2011

FOURSOME: Thoughts on The Economist, Return to Earth, Boxman, Little Match Girl

Brad Williams, not in The Economist

Let’s hear it for new Australian work – from pop-up theatres to our mainstages, new work from established and emerging artists is flourishing across Melbourne. And these are only the ones I’ve seen. But it’s thrilling to have seen four new Australian shows in a row, even when the end results are mixed.

THE ECONOMIST by Tobias Manderson-Galvin, directed by Van Badham

There’s been a lot said of The Economist, even before its first preview on Tuesday night. It tackles the difficult subject of Norwegian terrorist Anders Brevik – slightly fictionalised here as Andrew Berwick. Local media didn’t like Manderson-Galvin’s criticism of the media in regards to the case, nor of his highlighting the fact that Brevik had quoted rightwing Australian politicians and pundits in his manifesto.

The play, as I expected, cannot be judged on the conservative backlash it has received. The play is an interesting meditation on how a man like Brevik and his worldview is formed, but it doesn’t really attack his political beliefs any more than it deconstructs his love of first-person shooter games and World of Warcraft. It does have interesting commentary on the media’s role in creating the madman they want rather than the cunning terrorist they have, but it’s the fusion of all these little pieces that make both the person (be it Brevik or Berwick) and the play fascinating.

Manderson-Galvin’s script is thoughtful and poetic and Badham’s direction keeps the whole thing moving like a freight train, which makes it all the more unnerving when the shooting begins. Though the question might be “too soon?”, the answer most surely is a thrilling piece of up-to-the-minute theatre that I think will grow over its season - and probably seasons to come.

Open until December 10


RETURN TO EARTH by Lally Katz, directed by Aidan Fennessy

As has been written in several places, Return to Earth feels like a transition play for Katz – from her anarchic beginnings to the more controlled and mature work that was on display at the Malthouse this year with A Golem Story. (I wish I’d seen Neighbourhood Watch at Belvoir this year, just to know where it fell on the Katz continuum.)

Earth is a few years old now, but exciting to see such a daring writer on the Melbourne Theatre Company’s main stages. Unfortunately, while I think the script is strong, the production didn’t seem to serve the text very well at all. It’s as if someone was scared that they were putting Lally Katz on stage in front of MTC subscribers – and everything was played with a heavy-hand or too literally.

The strength of the script to me is that reality abuts the bizarre here; it’s family dramedy mixed with magic realism. But I felt at a remove for almost the entire show. I didn’t engage with these characters, even though there were moments that I should have; moments that demanded passion and got nothing of the sort.
It’s puzzling that MTC would program such a daring script only to try to make it easier to digest.

Open until December 17


BOXMAN by Daniel Keene, directed by Matt Scholten

I first came aware of Scholten’s work when he directed a production of Keene’s play The Nightwatchman at TheatreWorks last year. The writer and director have a history of working together, though Scholten says this was the first play Keene wrote specifically for him. I have seen everything Scholten has directed since – it’s been a busy year with Crossed and Black Box 149, which were both strong scripts that Scholten took to another level. But the Scholten/Keene combination seems to make them both even better.

The story of a child soldier who nows lives in Melbourne’s western suburbs in a box – a home he has built for himself in a park – is both moving and joyous. It’s intimate and epic, almost at the same time. Ringo (his real name is hard to pronounce for Australians, he says) is played by Terry Yeboah, who held the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire seventy minutes. And the combination of writer, director and actor all working together from early in the development of the piece, makes for a very memorable night at the theatre (or in a shopfront in Footscray).

Boxman was part of the Big West Festival and closed on November 26


MEOW MEOW’s LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Meow Meow & Iain Grandage, directed by Marion Potts

Cabaret and Hans Christian Anderson’s bleak fairytale don’t seem – at first – to be very suited to each other at all. In fact, having seen Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl, it still seems incredible that it works so very well. Actually, scratch that. Given the talent involved – Meow Meow, Grandage, Potts and “guest star” Mitchell Butel, of course it worked. In the most wonderful of ways and for the most spectacular reasons.

While it’s hard to translate the Little Match Girl story to Australia, its subject continues to be universal. Homeless children is still a major issue all over the world and that is certainly discussed between the songs – spanning Cole Porter, Megan Washington, Noel Coward, Wagner and Meow Meow’s own compositions. But structurally the most important part is that the Little Match Girl tried to get people’s attention and Meow Meow tries her hardest to keep our attention, even when disaster strikes and the theatre loses power less than ten minutes into the show.

Potts directs Meow Meow’s epic imagination onto the large stage of the Merlyn and we are caught inside a dream, but reminded all along that were are there in the theatre with this force of nature, helping her to keep going, supporting her through every song, every moment and every piece of physical comedy.

Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl closes on December 4


Disclaimer: I know people involved in two of these productions, but I’m not telling you which ones. Unless you ask nicely.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Theatre Person


If you somehow missed me plugging this on Facebook or Twitter, there's a profile of me and my writing at Theatrepeople.com.au


And I'm in very good company on that list of Latest Content.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Poetry, Fire, Cabaret & Bombshells: Two Weeks of Theatre-Making and Theatre-Going


"Imagine if Rowling dropped with Goblet of Fire,
we'd all have lost the plot..."
Props from Poems a Dead Boy Wrote

The last two weeks have been a blur, so much so that I keep forgetting it’s November. And November is almost half over.

Short & Sweet Melbourne has come and is almost gone. Tonight is the Gala Finale, featuring 11 under-ten-minute pieces starring and written by and directed by some of the most talented people working in Melbourne’s independent theatre today.

Unfortunately, my piece Poems a Dead Boy Wrote failed to make the final – for which I am most disappointed for Nicole Bilson, who did an amazing job as Jane, a woman grieving the loss of her boyfriend. I am really proud of the piece – a monologue – and so thrilled Nicole was on board for the production. I got some really great (and useful) feedback from friends and colleagues through the five-show run – and as always, Short & Sweet is amazing for meeting new people and for putting on exciting short works.

I saw all forty-two shows across the four Short & Sweet programmes – plus squeezed in one night of Short & Sweet Cabaret, which showcased some incredible musical talent. Chapel Off Chapel has felt like a home-away-from home for the past two weeks – and I’ll miss it, but I’ve made some great new friends and contacts during the process, even if things didn’t go as smoothly for me personally as they did last year.

Highlights of the festival for me: Tim Mager’s Bot, Kathyn Goldie’s The Kind of Man, Mark Loder’s Surrender (featuring incredible performances by Vivenne Garnett and Kerry-Anne Haffern), Nir Shelter’s Life of Death, Tom Mesker’s Spinning (directed by the multi-talented Nicole Bilson), Gary Dooley’s Datenav (directed by Christine Husband), Fleur Murphy’s Shadows of Angels (featuring the  incredible Kara Stacey Merrin), Jane Miller’s A Taxing Revenge,  Mark Andrew’s Climate Change, Con Nats’ The Pond and A Stitch in Time (winner of Short & Sweet Auckland).

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Poems a Dead Boy Wrote was supposed to be produced as part of Short & Sweet Brisbane/Gold Coast last weekend, but due to personal issues, the actor had to pull out late in the rehearsal process and too late for the director to recast. It’s a shame.

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Meanwhile, another of my short pieces (and another of my one-woman monologues to feature in Three Women next year), Like a House on Fire will premiere at Short & Sweet Sydney in early 2012. I’m thrilled to, at last, be invited to be involved in Sydney – and can’t wait to see how that piece shapes up. The director and I discussed casting younger than I originally envisioned – and this excites me, purely because of the director’s commitment to the actor he has cast, as well as the actor’s personal connection to the piece.

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Last week I had the priviledge of seeing an incredible production of Johanna Murray-Smith’s Bombshells at the Owl and the Pussycat. (Note: Melbourne independent theatre practitioners, please lend your support to Save the Owl & the Pussycat at the venue tomorrow!) 

Produced by new company Lil’ Frenchy Legs, Bombshells was originally written for one actor – the amazing Caroline O’Connor. This version splits the work amongst three incredible actors: Madeline French, Stephanie Lillis and Tilly Legge. I was absolutely blown away by the actors themselves, presenting six wildly different women in six very strong monologues. I was transfixed and delighted by the performances and the production itself – directed by Jim French.

Sounds like the show has been very well received, with several sold out nights – including the show’s final performance tonight. I’d urge you all to see it, but there isn’t a single ticket left. But keep an eye on what these women do next – it’s sure to be incredible.

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I now have a week off from my 9-to-5 job, which will afford me lots of time to work more on Three Women, as well as see some more great theatre – including the last couple of MKA Open Season readings at their new pop-up venue in Abbotsford, and two shows in Sydney, where I’ll be spending next weekend, to catch up with a couple of friends and get away from it all. But it's hard to leave theatre behind.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What if this character was a woman? Making important writing choices


Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley -
a character originally conceived of as a man

“Write what you know” is a frequently repeated, important early lesson for novice writers. On the face of it, it seems like basic common sense; you can’t write about what you don’t know. You can’t write something that feels true, if you don’t know the truth of it yourself.

On a deeper level, it really means – write what you understand, write what you feel. Don’t just write about your life (that’s an easy trap to fall into and very difficult to make work as a young writer), but write about your experience through characters you create. Characters who are part you, part other people you know and part creation/reaction/relation to the world.

I wrote a short play once (it never really worked as a short; it might be a full length one day) about three people penning a speech for the commander of the first manned mission to Mars. The three characters were the White House Communications Director, a Media Consultant for NASA and a Pulitzer Prize Winner. At this point in time, I am none of those things.

But the story of Lords of the World (which I later wrote a full-length feature film treatment for) was about communication and being able to articulate things that are bigger than yourself. Sure, it was partly my attempt to homage Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The American President), but it was at its core about discussion and argument and passion for the written word. These things I know about. These things I can articulate.

One of the characters was from the Middle East and one of the characters was a woman. Am I also neither of those things, but as a writer, you learn to put yourself into other people’s shoes. I have read a lot about Middle East politics and culture in the last decade. And most of my closest friends are women. And one of the most important decisions I make when writing is how far away from myself I make my characters.

What if this character wants to murder her parents? What changes if this character is middle-aged and not early 20s? What if this character was a woman instead of a man?

The first question suggests a story in and of itself. And I wrote that play, Sibling Loyalty, and it was well received – not only because it felt like a truthful conversation between a brother and sister, not just because it balanaces humour and drama, but also because it approaches mental illness honestly.

I was approached by an audience member after the recent production of Sibling Loyalty and asked if I had any family members dealing with mental illness. My first question was whether he meant I’d done a  good or bad job with the story. Luckily, he meant that it felt real enough to him – who has had to deal with mental illness in his own life. Unfortunately for him, it struck very close to the bone. As a writer, I was proud to have made that connection.

I have friends who deal with depression and I have seen how some deal both on and off their medications. These relationships are part of my experience, so I “write what I know”, even if it’s not always about me.

The second question – the question of what age a character can be – mostly suggests subtle changes to dialogue and touchstones and worldview. It’s not that you wouldn’t ever have a middle-aged character referencing Facebook or Twitter, but you should be aware of how they perceive social networking differently to a Gen-Y character who has basically had the internet all their lives.

One particular short play I wrote, Like a House on Fire, suggests in the character notes that the character is in her mid-40s. These were both important decisions to be made – the age of the character and their gender. A monologue about a pyromaniac to me suggests a male character first and foremost – and I began sketching this character as a man in my mind. I even wrote the first line of dialogue thinking the character would be a man:

“I set fire to a brothel once.”

Think about how different even the delivery of that line would be when said by a man and a woman. What’s the first thing it suggests about a man who has set fire to a brothel? What does it say if a woman does exactly the same thing? They might be very similar people, but the impressions it leaves an audience with would be entirely different.

When I started writing the character as a woman, I probably fell on my default “every character I write is my age” – until I start to think critically about how different ages affect the story. With this play, I decided quite quickly the story of a female pyromaniac who is frank, forthright, crude and sexual would be far more interesting as a woman in her 40s than a young woman in her 20s.

As part of the Three Women project I am developing for February 2012 – three female monologues and a fourth devised piece with the three protagonists of the monologues interacting – the actor playing the pyromaniac is in her mid-30s. And I have recently been approached with the suggestion of having the role played by a woman in her mid-20s. Personally, I’d be fascinated to see it played all three ways – just to see how it works from different perspectives, with different actors. With the script unchanged.

Just to reiterate – I am not a woman. Nor am I a pyromaniac.

The third question – a woman instead of a man – I find can mean either a profound change to the text or mean next-to-nothing at all, beyond changing the character name and the pronouns. I think a frank, forthright, crude and sexual male pyromaniac in “Like a House on Fire” tells an entirely different story – even if the words are the same.

In my full-length play, The Twelfth of Never, I noticed the large cast was weighted toward male characters and before redrafting wondered how the dynamics would change if one of the male characters was female. So I changed one of the characters from male to female by essentially changing the name and the pronouns. And that was it. Case closed. To me, men and women are not necessarily that different to each other. And in this case, I wanted to prove it to myself by not agonising over differences but by embracing similarities.

The biggest change was how that female character now related to the other characters in the cast. Her relationship to nearly every other character was different, even though the only thing I changed was the character’s gender. I think this is very telling, but completely beyond the scope of this blog post.

Very early on, when I was still studying writing at TAFE, one of the early lessons I learned was about challenging the status quo – questioning things that were the obvious/expected about my writing and trying something unexpected/different. 

Or, “Write what you know” but don’t make all the characters yourself. If you’re a white, middle-class, male writer, don’t make your lead characters white, middle-class and male by default.

Make them Middle Eastern. Make them female. Or make them an alien from another planet, as in my play It’s Not the End of the World. Just write from experience. Write who you know as much what you know.

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And speaking of writing female characters – and by extension, representation of women in the media – check out this extended trailer for the documentary Miss Representation.







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And speaking of writing for women, my play Poems a Dead Boy Wrote opens at Short & Sweet Melbourne tomorrow night at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne. Book now. 2nd, 4th, 8th, 10th Nov at 8pm, 6th Nov at 3pm.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Poems A Dead Boy Wrote – Short & Sweet Melbourne 2011


Nicole Bilson plays Jane in Poems a Dead Boy Wrote

Today was the first rehearsal I was able to attend for Poems a Dead Boy Wrote, the piece of mine that will be part of the Top 22 plays at Short & Sweet Melbourne, 2011.

I met director Flora Georgiou during auditions and, happily, I was there the day Nicole Bilson auditioned – because once Flora had cast her, I already knew we were onto a winner.

The audition process was much different this year to last – more collaborative and asked more of the actors. They read their audition pieces, took part in movement exercises, were encouraged to take part in “Hot Seat” – as a way of opening up about themselves, as well as reading their audition monologues for a second time under the direction of Anthony Crowley, the Festival Director for this year’s season.

Throughout the process, Nicole relaxed, opened up and the second reading of her monologue felt like a wholly different character to the first. It was amazing to watch. (A lot of other actors did great jobs, too - and I would have had a hard time choosing, which makes me glad it was up to Flora to make that decision!)

Short & Sweet is part-festival and part-competition, though the only real stipulation once a piece has been chosen to take part in the festival is that it runs no more than 10 minutes. As much as I try to keep my short pieces under the ten-minute mark, particularly when thinking of S&S submission, inevitably my plays run a little long.

As last year, my piece was running three minutes over. The Fidelity Act in 2010 was a three-hander, so it was easier to trim lines here and there and for the pace to be picked up with the rapid-fire dialogue. With Poems being mostly poems and monologue, it was going to be trickier to trim.

In the edit, we have lost three full poems – because with Short & Sweet, the piece has to be very focused. As much as all short plays should be lean, the ten minute rule really dictates no fat whatsoever. No redundancies. No tangents.

Scripts will nearly always get trimmed once actors get involved, simply because a great actor can convey as much with a look as another line of dialogue. This particular piece is more structured and not one where the pace can be picked up. I’ll miss those poems – a couple of which actually date back to my own teenage years – but it’s necessary this time around.

And a full version of Poems A Dead Boy Wrote will be seen next year. Details to come.

Flora has got the piece up and moving, with a simple yet elegant set design (read: well placed props, minimalism works best for Short & Sweet). Nicole already has a good handle on the character. And we were all able to talk about what the piece means to us and what I was trying to get across.

Unlike last year, where I tried to attend every rehearsal, I am happy for Flora and Nicole to take this piece away and really make of it what they will. I will attend another rehearsal before the show opens on November 2 at 8pm – Chapel Off Chapel. I hope to see you all there. Book now.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

On Time: three more shows, then Adelaide 2012

Richard Di Gregorio, rehearsing for On Time
"[Richard's] storytelling style and dramatisation allowed the show to be 
meaningful and somewhat philosophical amongst the jokes." 
- Chris Dewberry, Comedy Beast Magazine

If there's one thing that all my previous shows have had in common - productions have happened long after I've written the scripts and turnaround has been really quick. Six week rehearsals or two week rehearsals - or that one time I wrote a play in a weekend for a Sunday night performance. Good times.

On Time has been with me since December, through first draft, rewrites, short film shooting and rehearsals, it's the most time I've spent on a project before its production. And there's only three shows left? Really?

The other big difference is that Richard, Chris, Ephiny and I are already looking at a future for the show - having almost decided on a venue for the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2012. It's always been at the back of my mind that the show would and could tour. And it's always been at the forefront of Richard's mind - already plotting and planning a tour after Adelaide. We're going to film the whole show over these final three nights to send out to promoters and see where we can take this show on the road.

But, yes, sigh - only three more shows in Melbourne, for now. I'm sure it'll be back in its home town one day, but you'll be missing out if you don't come along this weekend. Of course, you all might see us in Adelaide or even Edinburgh - that's the Fringe evolution, right? Melbourne, Adelaide, Edinburgh? Because I know my readership is bigger than Melbourne and Australia - so I really need to bring a show or two to you, too.

Melbourne readers - see you there! Next stop: the world!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

DON’T MISS THE MOMENT: MTC’s 2012 Season

The amazing Robyn Nevin will star in Queen Lear
- Shakespeare's King rewritten for her 
The first thing that struck me about this new Melbourne Theatre Company season – designed by Robyn Nevin, Pamela Rabe and Aidan Fennessy – was how it has veered away from showcasing emerging local writers (Robert Reid, Lally Katz) but has been thoroughly generous with debuting exciting independent directors (Matt Scholten, Anne-Louise Sarks, Alkinos Tsilimidos) on Melbourne’s main stages.

Not so many World Premieres then (Australia Day, Music) but a rash of exciting productions from beginning to end – with two venerable Melbourne writers bookending the season with Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (a Neil Armfield transfer from Belvoir) and Ray Oakley’s brand new Music.

Though Australian classics don’t always fill me with confidence, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, always feels like an important Australian work to me – an important Melbourne work, in particular. Ironic then that this production with birthed in Sydney, but exciting to have a Belvoir show transfer to MTC rather than the Malthouse. With Steve LeMarquand, Helen Thomson and Robyn Nevin, the year is off to a good start.

Tribes by Nina Raine gets its Australian debut here, after winning the 2011 Olivier Award for Best New Play on the West End. Alison Bell and director Julian Meyrick described a fascinating familial portrait, at the centre of whom is a deaf boy who seems to listen more than any of the rest of the family.

Writer Kate Mulvaney draws on her own family history in The Seed, to write a piece on the affects of war on those who go and those who stay behind. A three-hander, starring Tony Martin (Wildside) and Sara Gleeson (the third actor as yet uncast), the premise doesn’t leap off the page – but I am thrilled that Anne-Louise Sarks (The Hayloft Project) is getting her main stage debut and can’t wait to see what she does with this intimate little drama.

2010 Tony Award Winner for Best Play – Red by John Logan – was a show I always regretted missing while in New York last year. And while the production (transfered from London) was a big part of its success, I cannot wait to see what film director Alkinos Tsilimidos brings to the work – especially with Colin Friels in the lead role of Mark Rothko. Amazingly, this is Friel’s MTC debut.

If Australian classics don’t always fill me with confidence, I bristle at Australian political satire – since it’s often too broad for it to make its point. Jonathan Biggins has been responsible for the Wharf Revue at STC the last couple of years, which means he knows his stuff – but I hope this play, Australia Day, doesn’t just feel like a review with more plot. That said, Geoff Morrell is perfectly cast here – but again, this play will be competing with his previous work on “Grass Roots”, which to me was a perfect season of television (and political commentary).

I have not heard of playwright Richard Bean, nor his play The Heretic, before tonight – but a comedy about climate change science sounds good to me. Even better? Noni Hazlehurst in the lead role and director Matt Scholten (The Nightwatchman, Black Box 149) guarantee a brilliant night in the theatre. Scholten assisted Aiden Fennessy on Life Without Me at MTC last year (which was penned by Scholten’s long time collaborator, Daniel Keene), so it’s great that he’s been able to move up the ladder after doing such great work on the independent scene the last few years.

Aiden Fennessy not only co-programmed this season, he also gets to direct his own play, National Interest – in a co-production with Black Swan Theatre Company. It’s a personal story about Balibo, East Timor – where his cousin was one of the five Australian journalists killed in 1975. Here is a reflection of a mother whose grief continues for thirty years after her son’s murder, reflected through Fennessy’s recollections of stories told over dinner tables across the years.

While Robyn Nevin co-stars in the first show of the season, she gets to take the lead role in this absolutely thrilling adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear – playing the title role as Queen Lear, in a production developed for Nevin with director Rachel McDonald. One of my great regrets is not seeing Sir Ian McKellan in this role when he toured Australia with it. Nevin in a gender-reversed production should make up for that ten-fold. This is the show I cannot wait to see in 2012.

His Girl Friday, a stage version of the classic screwball comedy of the 1940s, both excites me – I love rapid fire dialogue, large casts and Pamela Rabe – and scares me – I don’t particularly want to see classic films remade for the stage too often. The 39 Steps has a lot to answer for.

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, directed by Jenny Kemp (a director I’ve long admired) with a cast of seven female actors playing seventeen female roles, thrills me because I’ve read the play – years ago – and never thought I’d see it produced. It is so of its time – the early 80s – but feels like it could be a good way to see how far society has or hasn’t come for women in the corporate world.

I’m puzzled by Elling, but I think we’re supposed to be. The character is a misfit, the premise centres around an odd couple relationship – and the show is to be directed by Pamela Rabe, with the same actor she directed in the role at STC a few years ago. But in a whole new production.  Doesn’t exactly leap of the page, though Rabe waxed rhapsodically about the characters and the world they inhabit.

Music by Barry Oakley, starring Jane Menelaus and Richard Piper, rounds out the2012 Melbourne Theatre Company season – a four-hand, chamber piece, infused with classical music, sounds delicious purely from the structure of it.

The challenge of having three people program MTC’s 2012 Mainstage season seems to have been well met. And the “Don’t Miss The Moment” theme is general enough to accommodate this variety of stage shows, whose productions will sing with their eclectic group of directors – even if young, local voices (and some MTC regulars) miss out.

My first reaction? I want to see all twelve. On reflection, maybe ten. I’ll sleep on it.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The December Photo: from inspiration to a Melbourne Fringe show

Keith Gow, Writer. Richard Di Gregorio, Actor.

Look at us. Look how young we look. Look how full of hope and creativity and smiles we are.

We’re in Richard’s office, sitting in front of his Mac, generating ideas for the one man show that would eventually become RICHARD DI GREGORIO: ON TIME – which premiered at the Melbourne Fringe Festival last night.

(And check out the online story which got published in the hours before opening night.)

Richard and I met when Richard was cast in my play, “The Fidelity Act” – part of last year’s Short & Sweet Melbourne. (Thanks to Ephiny Gale for picking my script and to Yvonne Virsik for suggesting Richard, when Ephiny was having trouble casting the part of Charlie. This year would have been entirely different for us without those two people.)

During rehearsals, which began in October, Richard asked me what else I’d written. He asked if I had ever written a one-man show. It’s a great feeling as a writer to have an actor ask for more of your work – whether to find a part already written that they would be perfect for, or to be asked specifically to write something for them.

Richard had never done a one-man show before and I’d never written one. And while there was a part of me that wondered if I could do it, that whole part about a writer being flattered to be asked to write something for an actor won. And on the drive home from rehearsals, I began turning things over in my mind.

Something I learned about Richard really early on – he can tell a great story. The first great story he ever told about his life, during rehearsals, is actually a part of ON TIME. In the script I refer to it as “The Cigarette Story”, but it’s got much more to it than a story about Richard smoking – it’s about the early days of his relationship with Nin, it’s about freezing cold Ballarat nights and it’s about Braveheart. He made an intimate story seem epic. He made a small moment feel big enough to tell on stage.

Early on in the process, when the page is blank, I could write anything. What can Richard do? What is he interested in? What does he want to say? Does he want me to create a character for him? Or, should we play to his strengths – Richard telling stories about his own life?

As we sat there, in Richard’s office, for our first proper meeting – we’d met once earlier at Blue Train for dinner and drinks, but December was when we got down to business – Richard took the above photo. That was the beginning of a brilliant working relationship.

Getting to know him – remember, I’d only met him in October – and getting to know his strengths as a storyteller and other skills he had (very early on, I asked him if he could sing – this became crucial to the show), Richard told me a lot of stories about himself. Enough stories that there could be a sequel, although perhaps with another overriding theme. Or maybe we cherry picked the very best for ON TIME, ones that flow beautifully from one to the next, with some nicely crafted tangents to make a whole show.

Early on, we decided we didn’t want the show to just be stand-up. We wanted it to be a proper theatre show, even though it has elements of stand-up in it. I still don’t think I’m comfortable with the idea of writing an hour of stand-up material, but collaborating with Richard proved that I could definitely write a one-man show for the right actor.

It might be in the Comedy section of the Fringe Festival guide, but it’s a variety show. There’s stand-up and storytelling, a song (or two) and a sitcom about Time & Space dropped into the middle. And, after finally getting to see the whole show last night (my 9 to 5 job kept me away from rehearsals), it achieves a good balance of humour and contemplation; laughs and reflection. Comedy/Drama – you know, those old standards.

We had a first draft by March and a director (Chris Broadstock) soon after. Then our producer, Ephiny Gale, came on board. And the team was off and running.

Not a lot of changes happened to the script after March. We rearranged where the stories sat in the running order and we changed the tone of a couple of them, one rehearsals had started; when Richard and Chris could see how things flowed and anticipated what the audience reaction might be to the stories and to the – slightly fictionalised – Richard Di Gregorio.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve all done and thrilled with the finished product. I hope many of you reading this can come along and check it out over the next two weeks. And for those of you not in Melbourne, we’re off to Adelaide in March – and planning a little trip to Edinburgh later in the 2012. Look out world, Keith and Richard are ON TIME.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Reflections on when life changes: MTC's Circle Mirror Transformation

Circle Mirror Transformation: Deidre Rubenstein as a snake,
Roger Oakley as a bed, Kate Cole as an elm tree
Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation is a gentle play which slowly excavates the characters' lives from beneath the most deliberately false of facades - acting. In fact, it pokes gentle fun at the art of becoming someone else by setting the story in a community college in Vermont - far away from the bright lights of the New York stage and far away from what the young character of Lauren (Brigid Gallacher) thinks acting is about.

The danger in play that uses acting as a metaphor - and acting classes and exercises to lend weight to the material - is that it might feel a bit too "inside" for most audiences. Even theatre audiences, who are used to live theatre, might not be aware of these tricks of the trade - how actors learn to be present, learn to trust themselves and each other, how they learn to open up without exposing themselves.

And yet, this show sidesteps that problem quite effectively. Yes, there were definitely some knowing laughs in the audience (pick the actors and a writer who has attended enough rehearsals and participated in enough acting exercises to understand) but I think the characters other lives are deftly drawn in amongst the business of learning a craft.

What I adored most about this production is that on every level from script to performance to direction, things were very understated. There were no large dramatic moments, but a series of very effective smaller moments which - taken together - formed a very successful whole. Somehow, through these various exercises and classes, we do learn more about teacher, husband, divorcee, lapsed (professional) actress and teenage dreamer.

The cast is excellent, with Deidre Rubenstein and Kate Cole as standouts.

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The ending of Circle Mirror Transformation is also very effective. No spoilers here. But it did get me to reflect on moments my life has changed - both recently and in the past. Sometimes it feels like so many things have happened to bring me to this point in life, but there are one or two moments that I know have had changed the course of my life - even if they felt small at the time.

Thinking particularly of my writing - and I had several teachers in high school that encouraged me to write creatively - the best decision I made early on was to not take up a place at University (in a generic Arts course) but to go to TAFE to study Professional Writing & Editing. It was there I got a taste for performance writing - for film, for theatre - as opposed to writing novels, which is what I expected to be doing as a creative pursuit. It seemed crazy, after University was instilled as the important next step after high school, to give away that place at Monash for a spot at Holmesglen. But I'm glad I did.

More recently, let's say almost twelve months ago exactly, I had a short play of mine chosen for production at Short & Sweet Melbourne. I'd had another piece performed at S&S Malaysia a couple of years before and was involved with a couple of groups that slowly helped me with my writing and networking, but getting into S&S Melbourne last year introduced me to a couple of people who have been a big influence on me this year.

Ephiny Gale directed "The Fidelity Act" and cast Richard Di Gregorio in it and, even as S&S continued, Richard and I began turning over ideas for a one man show he was to star in. Nearly twelve months later and we are a week away from opening Richard Di Gregorio: On Time (produced by Ephiny Gale).

Now my involvement with the Cold Reading Series last year has led to other major connections this year, that's true - but my S&S involvement certainly cemented a quick connection with Christine Husband and Renee Palmer when I met them at CRS this year. And that has led to Three Women, which will premiere in February 2012.

Theatre is - as is most drama - about big dramatic moments. But sometimes, it's little things, small decisions or fateful meetings, that turn out to have a huge effect on our lives. Circle Mirror Transformation finds a way to make small moments lifechanging.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

You Can Take A Picture: Meeting Alan Ball and TV as (bad) influence

Alan Ball (writer, director, Academy Award winner) and Keith Gow (fan)
It used to be cringe-worthy to say I was inspired to become a writer by the television I watched. I was a voracious reader as a child and I was exposed to theatre and was a film buff as a teenager, but the lasting narratives in my life were television serials. Often soap operas. But TV was a constant with me as a child. It's where my lasting love of continuing stories comes from.

It's no coincidence then that one TV show I could point to as a great influence on me - when I was studying writing and had to articulate what made me love long-form television narratives - was Twin Peaks. It was soap opera and detective series and Gothic melodrama of the highest order. And it was one of the very early examples of feature film auteurs putting their stamp on the small screen.

I used to say Twin Peaks was my favourite television series. And certainly in the context of TV shows that changed the face of TV - and my opinion of the medium, David Lynch and Mark Frost's cult television series remains a great influence. It made me see what TV could do. Unfortunately, it took television a long time to catch up and prove it could keep doing it.

At some point, I started thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my favourite TV series - mostly because it combined the high school drama with vampires, werewolves and never forgot the heart of the human drama. When I saw Joss Whedon speak in Melbourne (and got his autograph), I was almost struck speechless - though I did thank him for Buffy and asked him his favourite Sondheim musical.

Tonight, I saw Alan Ball speak about his career. I was enamoured with American Beauty after its release and captivated by Six Feet Under from its premiere episode to its very final episode five years later. Later, his series about the Fisher family and their funeral business became my favourite television series of all time - and now I've met its creator, too.

He talked of growing up in a small country town, of writing plays in New York, taking a job on Grace Under Fire so he could start a proper writing career, moving onto Cybill - and finding himself feeling like he was on the assembly line of a factory. No wonder American Beauty is about a writer trying to find passion in his life again.

After winning the Academy Award for best original screenplay, he was taken more seriously as a writer by other people (though he insists his views on his own abilities never changed) and this led to his creating Six Feet Under - a show for whom HBO had a single note on the pilot: can you make it more fucked up? He was up to the challenge!

The Q&A with Alan Brough was illuminating and the talkback section beckoned me, though I remained shyly in my seat. Luckily, someone else asked about the final montage of Six Feet Under and Alan talked about writing the script, then choosing the song ("Breath Me" by Sia) and then shooting with the song in mind.

Afterwards, he was signing DVDs - but all I wanted was a photograph. And I got one. And I got to thank him for Six Feet Under - one of the most profound and moving television shows I've ever watched. He seemed quite appreciative of the comment. And for the rest of the night, I was floating on air.

Television is in a golden age right now. Six Feet Under helped to usher it in. Mad Men has probably taken up its mantle as my favourite show on air. But Six Feet Under remains my favourite television series of all time. Meeting Alan Ball can't make me love that show any more than I already do, but maybe I might try watching True Blood again?

Or do my other favourites-of-all-time - Twin Peaks and Buffy - cover the supernatural melodrama genres well enough?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

News from the world of Keith

It's been an amazing - and ridiculously busy - week. I won't ever talk much about my day job here, but it's also gotten insanely busy just as one of my shows opens and the other opens in less than two weeks.

THE WOODEN LEG season of short plays at The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond had an amazing opening night - full house and some great feedback from the audience after. I've been to all three performances so far and I think the show is getting stronger and stronger every night. I particularly love the intimacy of the three spaces and how that is helping tell all three stories. The audiences are quite confronted by "You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia" - especially as they circle the actors, like people surrounding a schoolyard fight. And of particular interest is the moment when Paul throws Tom against one wall - forcing the audience to move or get crushed in this great moment of physical theatre. (I was on that wall opening night, so it seemed staged. Last night my mother was against that wall - and it was fun to see her reaction!)

My other play, "Sibling Loyalty," is easier to enjoy - it's a lot more lighthearted, even though it's a pitch black comedy. There are more obvious laughs, even if the subject matter is pretty serious by the end. (That said, "Leia" elicited a lot more laughs from the audience last night - of which I was very glad!) The space "Loyalty" plays in is even more intimate and on opening night, Brad had to climb over audience members to come into the room - and find a small amount of space to perform in. I always love sitting front row to watch shows. In this case, it's very close quarters for everyone involved and everyone watching.

The Wooden Leg as a group has come together quite quickly, but we're all so thrilled with what we've been able to achieve in such a short amount of time, we'll be sticking together to see what we can achieve with more time at our disposal. To that end, we'll be having a post-production/look-to-the-future meeting this week to see where we head next.

But don't be surprised if you see another Wooden Leg show before the end of the year.

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RICHARD DI GREGORIO: ON TIME is less than two weeks away from opening as part of Melbourne Fringe. The short film pieces are almost done, all the practical stuff like hiring equipment and last minute arrangements with the space are mostly dealt with. We're still looking for a lighting tech to crew the show, but I think that's close to being confirmed, too.

I've also been taking every opportunity to hand out our business cards which Ephiny had printed up for the show - they look great and are very practical. I'm getting lots of great feedback on using business cards as advertising, too - since most shows use postcards or flyers, which often get chucked or disappear into bags never to be found (until after the production). Business cards can go in wallets, diaries, mobile phone cases and are easy to find and reference.

Will be talking a little bit more about the show closer to its arrival. But excited for it to open and thrilled to see the finished product myself!

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SHORT & SWEET MELBOURNE announced their script shortlist for their November season and one of my short plays was chosen! The final program will be announced in a week, so cross fingers that by next weekend there will be another production of my work under way.

Now you see, I thought with The Wooden Leg show closing, I'd be able to slow down - but no! Well, it depends who is directing my piece for S&S as to how involved I am in that production. On the plus side, it's a monologue for a female actor, so there will be many actors to choose from in auditions - and it's far easier to organise rehearsals for one actor than many.

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And when I say I was looking forward to slowing down, what I meant to say was - spend more of my time focusing on THREE WOMEN, which we're still aiming to do in February 2012. Things are coming together well for that show, too - with a production designer on board and finally finding a space that's within our budget and suits our needs. Will post more once our next meeting is held - which is proving difficult as we head into Fringe Fest season.

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Alan Ball: film about death, show about death, show about the undead
And today I'm having a lazy day... sending emails about possible future shows, etc. Which is relatively lazy. Tonight, Richard and I are off to see Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under, True Blood) speak with Alan Brough about his career. Can't wait!

Then, off to celebrate Donna (Maria in "Sibling Loyalty")'s birthday.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Wooden Leg: Dress Rehearsal Day!

I took some photos during the rehearsals/run-throughs before the dress rehearsal today because at dress we ran the shows one after the other to see how the night flows and I didn't want to distract actors with a camera. Flows really well. Here's one shot from each play. Opens Wednesday at Owl and Pussycat in Richmond.

Book now!

Paul Knox as Thirty-Five, Tom Carmody as Fifteen in
"You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia"

Brad Williams as Brendan, Donna Pope as Maria in
"Sibling Loyalty"

Paul Knox, Wallis Murphy-Munn and Petra Elliott in
"Immersed" by Hayley Lawson-Smith

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Shooting Everyone! Making the intro for "Richard Di Gregorio: On Time"

Keith Gow, actor (alleged)
Look at that pained expression in my eyes. That's the writer in me wanting to run away from the greasepaint make-up and the indignity of standing out in public - having people stare, even as I hid behind this mask of character. Or, you know, I hate having my photo taken even when I'm unrecognisable!

There's definitely a frustrated actor in me wanting to get out, but usually I leave it up to the trained and the professional. Today, I shot a cameo for the introductory sequence for Richard Di Gregorio: On Time - on sale now! End plug.

(If anyone out there knows about the character I am playing, can you keep that to yourselves, thanks :-)

In fact, most of the people already involved in the production are taking part in front of the camera for this introduction to the show. Producer Ephiny Gale, Director Chris Broadstock will be front a centre for a line or two - as well as Richard's partner, Niniane LePage, and Chris Broadstock's mother, Joan. Nick Brien (who starred alongside Richard in The Fidelity Act last year - written by me, directed by Ephiny) joined us today to help round out the cast of characters.
Richard explains to Nick the next shot

We shot on and around Chapel St, close to The Space Dance & Arts Centre where the show will be staged in Sept/Oct. I was on location for about five hours, while Richard, Chris (and Richard's cousin, Tony - professional photographer and cameraman today) went a little longer, trying to get the last shots before they lost the light.

Nin had to leave early but before she did, she applied my make-up - which meant I had to do a little travelling between there and where we actually shot my scene. I was trying to make it from point A to point B in back streets, but Richard was intent on getting people to look at me! I am hoping I was unrecognisable enough, even though I could feel the quick glances and stares as we made our way down Chapel St in my car and then on foot. This is the exact opposite of what writer Keith likes. But I think the actor inside me kinda liked it.

You can see Richard on stage, as well as Ephiny, Chris, Niniane, Joan, Nick and myself on screen at Melbourne Fringe from Sept 23rd to Oct 2nd. Two weeks and six days to go!


Monday, 29 August 2011

The Wooden Leg is coming to life

We all make plans. We all talk about the plans we have made. But do we all get what we want out of life in the end? Do we get our happy ending? Brand new theatre company, The Wooden Leg, performs three short plays over 5 nights at The Owl and Pussycat, Richmond from 7-11 September.

The audience will be guided through three different spaces where they will find themselves immersed in three different worlds in which the characters live, love, question, and make decisions. Or try to make decisions, about what it is they need to go on living their lives.

With a talented cast of upcoming actors these dark comedies from New Australian Writers Keith Gow and Hayley Lawson Smith, are brought to life with energy and truth. Lauren Hopley, Christine Husband and Paul Knox took on the immense challenge of directing these plays, with only 2 weeks to rehearse and the hectic work schedules of all of the emerging artists involved. With the pressure on, the result is honest, passionate and real performances that are stripped bare.

Three short plays; "You Will Be Kissed by Princess Leia" & "Sibling Loyalty" written by Keith Gow and "Immersed" written by Hayley Lawson-Smith. Produced by Wallis Murphy-Munn through The Wooden Leg.

Don’t miss the inspiring work of establishing Melbourne artists and The Wooden Leg!


More details at the Facebook Event Page!

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And with the press release out of the way, some thoughts on yesterday's rehearsal - the first I've been able to catch.

The Wooden Leg have been lucky to be able to rehearse at The Owl & The Pussycat space in the very short time between final casting and now. Since the production now revolves around three performance spaces at the venue - it was important that the actors and directors be able to get in there and find how to make each space work for their pieces.

"You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia" will open the evening in the gallery and it's an exciting space for David at 35 to face down David at 15. The way the audience will circle the action, a boxing ring effect is created. But who will come out on top?

Director Christine Husband is doing an amazing job at helping both actors find their character - their similarities and their differences. Paul Knox feels like he knows 35's story (both he and I lived variations on the character's backstory), where young Tom Carmody bring a great youthful energy to 15 - even if he can't quite relate to the life his character is leading.

But the last run through, though, the passion and anger and excitement on the floor was remarkable. Both the director and the actors were finding exciting ways to bring out the best in my script. And I can't wait for people to see it!

"Sibling Loyalty" is only similar in that it's a black comedy, not that it's autobiographical at all. Both actors - Brad Williams and Donna Pope - have the lines pretty much down; yesterday it was all about using the space and director Paul Knox bringing out the comedy and the drama and keeping a balance throughout.

Both plays are very much structured around power games, who is and isn't in control at various times will hopefully make for the funny and the confronting. And, again, the actors are making a script I wrote several years ago feel fresh and funny to me. This will hopefully translate to the audience on opening night, Sept 7th. Nine days away!

Hayley Lawson-Smith's "Immersed" rehearsed upstairs while I chatted with Christine about "Princess Leia" (and our other project, "Three Women") and with Christine & Tom about the differences between 15 and 35. I am excited to see how Hayley's play looks - and I'm deliberately holding out to see the finished product on opening night. Having heard the script read several times now, I can't wait to see what director Lauren Hopley and her actors bring to the piece.

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Where? The Owl & The Pussycat - 34 Swan St, Richmond
When? Wed 7th Sept to Sun 11th Sept, 8:00pm