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!

*

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.

*

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

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Final poster design!

The Melbourne Fringe Festival guide was launched on Tuesday and while I still haven't found a copy of the guide in print, the online version looks great.

And now, from the talented Sarah Walker, we've got the final poster/business card design ready to get off to the printers.

Tickets on Sale! Six Shows Only! BOOK NOW!

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Wooden Leg... Three Short Plays


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

Two plays by Keith Gow - "You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia" and "Sibling Loyalty"
One play by Hayley Lawson-Smith - "Immersed"

The Wooden Leg is the combination of producer/actor Wallis Murphy-Munn, writer/actor Andrew Dodds and writers Keith Gow and Hayley Lawson-Smith. They have gathered a great collection of actors and directors for a season of short plays at the Owl and the Pussycat venue in September.

*

In particular, may I present the directors and casts of my plays...

YOU WILL BE KISSED BY PRINCESS LEIA


Director: Christine Husband

Actor: Paul Knox (David at 35)


Actor: Tom Carmody (David at 15)

SIBLING LOYALTY

Director: Paul Knox
Actor: Brad Williams (Brendan)

Actor: Donna Pope (Maria)

I am thrilled we've gathered such talent at such short notice. Please come and join the Wooden Leg gang and this ensemble of actors and directors for a night of three short plays - performed throughout the Owl & the Pussycat venue.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Time & Space - shooting a short film in a day

Simon, Niniane and Chris: On Set
With less than five weeks until opening night, the production team of Richard di Gregorio: On Time spent a full ten-hour day yesterday making a short film.

Time & Space: A Love Story in Four Dimensions will premiere as part of On Time, a one-man variety show on the theme of time: how sometimes it moves too fast, sometimes it moves too slow, and occasionally it's just right - even though you rarely notice it when it does.

Yesterday, time moved just right. We basically stuck to the schedule Richard had planned, from meeting at 8am to packing up ready to leave the location at 6:30pm - thirty minutes ahead of schedule. Film shoots are notorious for running behind schedule. This one was so well planned, it went very smoothly.

I've made a few short films before, but all as part of competitions where you've got 15, 24 or 48 hours to shoot and edit - which means there is a lot of compromise to be made. I was always pretty happy with how those turned out, given the conditions they were produced under. But I can't wait to see Time & Space, properly edited and fully scored.

Abbey (Space), Richard (Time),
Simon (eating)
We shot on location at producer Ephiny Gale's home, which provided the perfect backdrop. I operated the boom and recorded sound for most of the day, while Ephiny was the living, breathing clapper board. Then later, my arms got tired from holding the boom (actually a long mop handle, hahaha) and Ephiny took over on boom and I just kept an eye on sound levels.

Richard's friend Simon was cameraman. Richard's partner Niniane made sure everyone stuck to script, when she wasn't falling asleep in a big pile of cushions. And Abbey George stars alongside Richard in Time & Space - doing a brilliant job with the ultimate three-dimensional character, Space.

Chris Broadstock is the director of both On Time and Time & Space - and he was keeping everyone's energy up, even as we were flagging by the end of the shoot. The sugary lollies also helped.

Lots of work still to do on On Time, with a short film introduction still to shoot - and obviously post production on both of these in the four weeks and five days left until the show premieres at the Melbourne Fringe on Sept 23rd.

Melbourne Fringe Festival guide is release this Tuesday, August 23rd. Tickets are on sale then.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Q: What is Project X? A: The Wooden Leg

Carrie Fisher. She says she never signed
a contract to stay looking like this for the
next forty years!
I don't mean to be obtuse about my upcoming project, but until I know it's definitely going to go ahead, I don't want to jinx it. But so far, so good. We've re-evaluated how the season will look. Now it's likely to be one week only, five performances, second week of September - 7th to 11th.

We have the plays chosen: "Sibling Loyalty" and "You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia" by me and "Immersed" by Hayley Lawson-Smith. We have most of the roles cast and one director on board. Because of the short turnaround time, instead of lots of doubling up, we'll try to spread the love across more actors so they can focus on one show at a time - and get a director for each play.

The Wooden Leg is the name of the group we've created for this project - and that's what we'll be selling the show under, once we hit the go button on publicity. And I'll be much happier calling it that than Project X. It's less mysterious, but still obscure.

24 days until opening night...

Update: Casting and director announcements for The Wooden Leg... Three Short Plays!

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres


Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale, clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story.

Saoirse Ronan as Hanna

Joe Wright’s film HANNA, screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests.

Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I throughly enjoyed, but would this new film bring anything new to the table. And what would this story be saying about children and violence?

Happily, HANNA may be influenced by both of those sources, as well as The Bourne Identity, but the fairytale and coming-of-age aspects make it a very rich experience indeed. It may be high concept but it never forgets the characters at the centre, as well as the relationship between Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her father Erik (Eric Bana).

Opening in the frozen wilderness of Finland, where Erik has taught Hanna how to hunt and how to “adapt or die”, we soon get a sense of Hanna’s limited knowledge of the modern world – while also learning how well trained she is in primal, instinctual survival games. Soon contrasted with the clean metallic surfaces of CIA Headquarters and the particularly clean and sparse furnishings of Marrisa Weigler’s (Cate Blanchett) home, Erik has decided it is time to let Hanna see the world – and drag Marissa out into the open. His exact reasoning remains oblique until late in the film, but rather than the complex justifications of a man seeking revenge, we find a simple and pure explanation that turned the film (for me) from thoroughly enjoyable into a story that really resonates.

The science fiction/conspiracy twist that is the backstory catalyst to all this is somewhat predictable, but it’s almost a maguffin. The film delves deeply into what makes Hanna tick – and there’s a strong undercurrent about what makes us who we are and how the stories we are told shape our outlook on life. And occasionally the thriller conceits and tropes take a backseat to Hanna meeting a British family on holidays in Morocco – and the bonding she does with Sophie (Jessica Barden) is truly touching.

Saoirse Ronan proves adaptable in the role, finding humanity trapped beneath the shell she has been trained to live behind. Eric Bana underplays his role as father and operative, while Cate Blanchett has an accent that is almost outrageous – suiting the fairytale aspect of the “evil stepmother” figure, while not quite tipping into camp when the thriller part of the film is considered. Her evil Aryan henchman, brutal skinhead thugs, somewhat ground her.

Thrilling thriller and captivating fairytale, Joe Wright’s HANNA is an incredible experience.

*

Meanwhile, also on the “combining genres” front – I keep seeing the trailer to Cowboys & Aliens and have no idea whether to expect some kind of camp genius or something terrifyingly terrible. I want to see it for Daniel Craig (tide me over until Bond 23 next year) and Olivia Wilde (Olivia Wilde!!!) and if anyone can make it work, it’s Jon Favreau. But I’m not sure what the tone of it is. Am I supposed to be laughing at it? With it? Not at all? Or should I just be clapping my hands together at how ridiculous it seems?

Friday, 5 August 2011

My 3 Projects: On Time, Three Women & Project X

It’s seven weeks until Richard Di Gregorio: On Time opens at The Space Dance & Arts Centre in Prahran. Two weeks ago, Richard, director Chris Broadstock and I went out taking some publicity shots with Richard contemplating time in front of some of the famous clocks of Melbourne. First stop, the giant pocketwatch that hangs inside Melbourne Central and bursts open on the hour every hour to the delight (and dismay) of passers-by; second, the clock tower of the Melbourne Town Hall; and, finally, the iconic clocks at Flinders Street. If the weather had been better and, errr, time more on our side, we could have wandered further down St Kilda Rd to get a pic in front of the floral clock.

Richard Di Gregorio contemplates time...
The photoshopped piece on my On Time page is almost the same as the image we’re using in the official Melbourne Fringe guide – and similar imagery will be reflected in the business cards and posters we’ll be using to promote the show. (Business cards instead of postcards with the thought that people will keep business cards, where flyers and postcards might get lost in people’s bags?)

The clocks series will be attached to press releases and others will be available here in due course.

The next major step in pre-production for On Time is to shoot the two A/V sequences of the show: one, which introduces Richard and the themes of the show; the other, a short film that is partly an act break and partly an excuse for Richard to take a breather. But both pieces still need to be shot over the coming weekends, giving Richard enough time to edit them well before opening night. Behind-the-scenes photos from both shooting days will also be available for publicity.

*

Three Women had a very important meeting this week to discuss limited venue options for November and how we want to proceed on numerous levels. The show is a particularly collaborative one from the get-go, since the second half will be workshopped with the actors before I write the script. We’re also tossing around suggestions for production design and music before we bring on board people to help with our vision. And, most discussed of all our decisions, was the choice to invite someone in for “directorial input”, rather than having a director. We’re either mad or we’re... well, we’re probably mad. But three actors, a writer and a possible stage manager/producer all seem to be almost on the same page, so we might be able to pull it off.

We’ve decided to put off production until early February, 2012 – but there will be a presentation version in November. Still settling on which venue to use (since two that take our fancy are available in February, but not-so-much in November), both have their advantages and their disadvantages – but we are beginning the workshop process this Sunday and looking forward to trying parts of it out in November to see how it’s looking and to get some support behind us for the February season.

*

The Letter X has no real bearing on the project...
Finally, Project X is something that appeared on my plate about a week and a half ago from an actor/producer friend of mine who wanted to grab a particular theatre space in early September to present a season of short plays. It’s still in the early stages, though the fact opening night is only four weeks away means we’re really in the late stages, as well. A meeting tonight pretty much settled the structure of the season (6 nights over 2 weeks in Sept) and what it will consist of (2 x 10 min plays of mine; 1 x 20 min play of another writer). Meeting with producer on Wednesday to talk about casting, though sending scripts to her tonight and suggestions of casting as soon as I put my thinking cap on.

It will be interesting to see what we can do in so little time. Excitement for the quick turnaround time has already created momentum toward the season – and since we know we haven’t got enough time to scratch (or pinch) ourselves, we also haven’t got time to second guess things. The pieces will be pretty sparsely produced, but we’re eager to present pared back but polished versions rather than just a season of script readings. Enough with the readings, let’s get on with the show!

And I’ll sleep in October.