Monday 19th September 2016
Our first session for Industry week was with Lynn Whitehead. We firstly had an exercise where we had to match up job titles with in a theatre to their definitions. It was interesting to see just how many roles there are in a theatre and all of their positions and responsibilities. It made me aware that there are far more jobs in the theatre industry and paths you can take than just acting. Although we did this in small groups we still got some of the answers wrong. Bellow are the answers we originally came up with.
And these are the corrected version with the right answers.
After this exercise Lynn proceeded to tell us how she did a college theatre course in Yorkshire which lead to her teaching under 5’s theatre. Later in her life she also was offered work from a friend when seeing her husband performing at The National. It was to outreach to schools, this was perfect as she could do it from home and having two children this was useful. After five years of this job she decided she wanted a change so went to producing. This involved sorting out the budget and contracts which we had a go at doing today with a hypothetical scenario of a touring theatre company with at least four actors . It was surprising to hear how little actors can get paid and how much money goes into a show because of there being so many elements that require money. It was also interesting to learn about the Arts Council and different ways funding can occur for a show.
Our next guest speaker was Tim Welton, who after going to university proceeded onto attending RADA. He spoke about getting an agent at the RADA showcase and about the countless auditions he had to do. He said he was lucky that the majority of his life he has made the most of his money through theatre and has been in several productions. Although he started of acting, he went on to become a director and the focus of his session with us was on casting. We looked at the spot light which is almost like a catalogue of actors with their head shots, skills and previous performing experiences in. We got given a person to look at in groups and had to say if they were suitable for casting in different roles in the show ‘Blood Brothers’. It was really useful to be able to see from a directors point of view what was appealing and that appearance, experience and relevant useful skills were the most vital elements in casting someone for a role. It was a valuable activity and talk from Tim that I will be remembering, especially because his advice on being cast with having a variety of head shots and showing your range was helpful for what I hope to do in the future.
Our third and final guest speaker today was Danushia Iwaszko. Her job title is a playwright which she liked to describe as a ‘maker of plays’. She held an engaging question and answer session where we got some advice if we wanted to go into writing plays. Danny explained how the discipline of getting into a writing routine and that you should always finish a play are her biggest pieces of advice. ‘90% perspiration and 10% inspiration’ goes into making a play in her opinion and the important thing to have in depth knowledge on before beginning to write is the characters. Although becoming a playwright is not personally something I can see myself doing, it was still fascinating to hear about her writing process and also her collaborative part to the theatre industry. She also was clearly passionate and driven which was motivating and inspirational to hear. I also had a similar outlook as she did on the joy of theatre being something that comes from making a live experience that is unique to each night it is performed, this is one of the reasons I love performing so much.
Tuesday 20th September 2016
We started out today by getting our secondary research task. Our group was given the Ipswich Pulse festival and we began researching the event. We spent quite a bit of time independently researching all that we could online and then we came together as a group to share the most interesting things that we found. Together we had accumulated a sufficient amount that covered what Pulse festival is and then some of the finer details. Then Hannah Schofield lead a session where we talked about ‘the do’s and don’ts’ of presentations in preparation for our own. It was mainly ideas generated by the students which was good as it made it more fun as we were more involved and engaged than if she had just listed them out herself. It also made them more memorable for myself as an auditory learner to listen to peoples ideas that they contributed. All of the points that we came up with are really useful and I will be trying to apply as much of what we talked about as possible when we share our presentation to the group.
In our session with Paul Schofield, have gave us a run down of his life and how he got to where he is today. He is a professional MD and trained in classical music with a music degree. He explained to us that when doing a charity gig he met Ruthie Henshaw who has been in several huge shows such as Billy Elliot and Les Miserables. He became good friends with her and they made ‘3 Pin Productions’ together. They have been on 2 national tours and were asked to develop a show for a cruise ship that was fresh and new. Paul gave some good advice that cruise ship and hotel entertainment work is great when you are just starting out and it has definitely resided in my mind that maybe that could be an option for me. We learnt that cruise ships are normally very traditional and old fashioned with regards to their singers and dancers being segregated. We were challenged just as Paul himself was to come up with an idea for a 50 minute long show, using five singers and five dancers, was modern and could work for a cruise ship. Our group had a talk and came up with a musical that followed the idea of the play gone wrong where it showed and mocked the traditional cruise ship entertainment in a series of sketches that were purposefully choreographed to go wrong. We thought this would keep the targeted audience relatively broad as it could be for almost anyone. It also fitted with the amount of performers we had to work with. It was a really enjoyable task as it allowed us to be creative in coming up with our own concepts which I had a good time doing. It was also nice to hear what else other groups had come up with as all of our ideas were quite different from one another. One group had a mock peter pan show that was pantomime in style, another had a theme of guilty pleasures which I though worked well with the typically cheesy music you get on cruise ships and then there was a group who came up with a touching story line following a young boy and his passion for music. Although all these ideas were creative, some had flaws such as the number of cast and the equipment available on the cruise. Paul then showed us an overview of his idea which was a cabaret/jazz styled musical with songs from Kander and Ebb which I thought sounded brilliant. Overall his session was enjoyable and also made me think about the other places you can get work performing than just a standard theatre.
Wednesday 21st September 2016
Our first part of the day was working on our presentation. My group managed to complete the power point, the cue cards and the hand out so we are in a good place to present our topic on Friday. We then had a session with Erica Dupey who talked to us all about stand up comedy and improvisation. She was a part of a Cambridge improvisation group called improv factory but got into stand up comedy by accident. A two day workshop lead by Chris Head on stand up comedy was low on numbers so they persuaded her to do it. From there Erica found that she was not only good at it but also enjoyed it, this lead to her getting her own gigs. We learnt how the difference between improvisation and stand up is that improvisation is made up on the spot, whereas stand up is planned content which is performed to make an audience feel like its on the spot and not too scripted. Erica gave us some really useful tips such as interacting with the audience to help engage them. She also said that it is important to make sure your content is original as copying another stand up comedians material is not accepted. Another point that Erica talked about that I found particularly helpful and interesting was that your persona, status and the way you look dictates what you talk about. I think that it could be a good place to start if I wanted to look further into stand up comedy as it seems like a very logical way to find whats unique in yourself and what you can bring to stand up comedy. Erica then went on to talking more specifically about gender in stand up comedy. After seeing the top twenty highest earning comedians, only one was female which was Sarah Millican. Although id like to say I was shocked by this, after doing media studies last year for A level, where we focused largely on the portrayal of gender in the media, I already knew that less women were high earning comedians. A figure that did surprise me however was that only 28.8% of people appearing on mock the week are women. I thought it would be lower but not so low as 28.8%! We also learnt that there is tokenism for women in comedy in things such as live at the Apollo, where they have to have a certain amount of women. This lead to a feminism discussion but also a good point about if there are less women but still a certain amount required then if you are a female comedian who is good then it may be easier to get work. Erica also said it can be a fast track into acting because of the exposure it can give you, as acting is what id like to do most, this showed me another way of getting there. Overall it was one of the sessions in industry week that I have enjoyed the most so far. I have an interest in stand up comedy and even though it isn’t something I envision myself doing, it was another option for me and was good to learn more about that segment of the industry.
After our stand up comedy session with Erica, we then watched a few videos about the National Theatre. The first was with frantic assembly and how they did some of the lifts in ‘The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time’ which I have actually been to see. This was my favourite of the videos as I have always been intrigued about how they go about doing some of the more complicated physical elements. They said that a main part of doing the lifts is in building trust which they showed through a jet pack lift and a full body lift as if someone was flying. The next video was of Rufus Norris himself and about how he came to be the artistic director. He applied for drama school for four years before getting into RADA. In that time he was a painter and a decorator which is something I didn’t previously know and I thought it was really inspirational that he is were he is today after not getting into drama school first time and how he kept on trying. After drama school he got involved in theatre groups and one day brought a play along he liked and asked if they could direct it, however they said that he should direct it himself. He found his love of directing from there and applied to the royal court to become assistant director and has made his way up to the artistic director at the National now. The next video was about the casting office, this job appealed to me as they said you have to be very passionate about seeing shows so that you can spot talent and I adore going to the theatre. They said that they mainly hold auditions or are in the office and that ‘the more you see in theatre, the more you know’. It was also great knowing its a job you can get from starting out with minor roles and working your way up, making it sound more achievable. Next was a video on Ian Cooper who is a scenic artist who creates the set designs. He went to arts school and did painting and he had a fun story that he asked someone at the stage door who made the amazing sets and they gave him some phone numbers and that is how he got into it! This just proved to me how important curiosity and talking to people is because that opened up a whole new job for Ian. Finally was a video of Nina Davis who is a costume dresser for ‘Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time’. She discussed how her role included getting costumes ready and pre set and also quick changes. These are vital in making the actors feel prepared to go out and perform. She said that for the job you need to have a level head as some times the quick changes cause fast decisions to be made and you need to be able to keep calm. This again wasn’t an area of the industry I would have seen myself doing in the future, but it was still good to get a wider understanding of all the jobs in theatre.
Thursday 22nd September 2016
Today we started out by getting into our presentation groups to make sure we were ready for presenting them tomorrow. Our group is happy with what we have got so just spent the time reading over what we will each be saying. We then had a session with Gemskii who is a part of conscious theatre company and currently touring ‘Joan, Babs and Sheila too’ which we are seeing tonight. She started by putting us into groups and we were told to produce a list of all the reasons we wanted to go into performing. Our group came up with:
- The creativity it allows us
- Our enjoyment of being on stage
- We like going to the theatre ourselves
- To make people happy
- Meeting new people
- The atmosphere
- New places
- Always room for ambition
Our next activity was to fully budget for a hypothetical touring show similarly to what we did on Monday. We came up with a list for every expense we would have for a 10 day tour to three different venues and four actors. It was shocking to see how expensive it all was and you don’t always appreciate how much goes into touring shows. Also similarly to Monday was the fact that we looked at ways of getting some money to start up, such as with the Arts council. What was really useful was the advice Gemskii gave us on the application forms such as using bullet points, asking for less money than you need and also include that you will be going to schools and colleges as this is favoured by them. Gemskii also went on to talk about a piece of immersive theatre she acted in called CD Maxima which was full of subliminal messages, meaningful background and shocking experiences as she been actually water boarded each time to make it as real as it can be. We then rounded off the session by saying what we would be taking away from it. Personally I took away that you have to be performing because you love it and that you cant go into it half heartedly, you really need to not hold back and give it your all. Also that its important to have a unique selling point for a touring show to capture interest.
Lynn then went through with us about being freelance, as most actors are. We were told about agents and that they get 12.5% to 15% of all you earn and they look for auditions for you. Although we would all love to be working in acting all the time, I already knew this is highly unlikely, so the discussion we then had about other part time jobs you can have along side it to keep you going when you’re not performing was helpful. The list we came up with is bellow.
Lynn told us that temporary work is what we would be looking for as they expect you not to be working with the company too long. It was one of the sessions in industry week that I think will directly help me the most as I previously didn’t really know the options I had for jobs along side performing.
Our last session for the day was also with Lynn and we talked about voice acting. I hadn’t considered this as something I might like to do but after today I am definitely keeping it as an option! We watched and listened to a voice demo reel for Amy Pemberton and also Richard Tidings, I enjoyed seeing how you would get into this side of the industry as the whole area really interests me. We then got into small groups and had a go ourselves at doing some voice acting for an advert of our choice. My group chose to do a toothpaste advert which we scripted ourselves. I am happy with our result and really enjoyed making it and learning all about getting into voice acting.
Friday 23rd September 2016
Today we had audition skills with Sarah, we learnt a character dance with the understanding that we will likely audition for pantomimes at some point in our lives and they like to see people dancing with character at auditions. I have always wanted to be in a pantomime anyway so I had a good time learning the short energetic routine. We came and performed in groups and I learnt that even if you mess up on some of the steps then if you still keep an expressive face and stay in character then you may be just fine.
We then had a session with Birgitta Kenyon who was highly inspirational to me. She talked about how she constantly looks for new skills she can learn and if she didn’t know how to do something she would find a way to learn. I could see from just the short time we had with her that this is the attitude im going to need if I want to go into performing. Birgitta is currently a singing teacher, accompanist, choir leader, cabaret artist, an MD, singer at wedding and funerals, and an actor musician. I thought it was brilliant how shes always looking for new things to do and how much she does with her time. She told us how she started out wanting to be a classical pianist and how she went to a classical conservatoire to study piano and voice. She then did some work with prisoners as the arts can be a form of therapy. I found this part of her talk extreamly interesting as it is something that I might like to go into one day. On top of this she did piano and vocal coaching and managed to set up her own choir and also a performing summer school which have both had great success. Birgitta got into cabaret by attending a two week cabaret workshop and then fell in love with how much it broke the 4th wall, allowing you to build more of a connection with the audience. Her cabaret performing name is now ‘Fred’ and she has gotten work in a variety of bars, theatre rooms above pubs, jazz clubs and open mics. Not only has she done this but she has booked them all herself without ever having an agent which I thought was admirable and impressive. Her advice was to use social media such as Facebook to our advantage because the industry is all about connections which I though was brilliant advice and something I will be trying to do more and more. Birgitta has definitely taught me that you shouldn’t limit yourself as a performer and that with enough hard work and commitment you can do amazing things.
Hannah Schofield then told us all about the modelling side of the industry as she used to model in her teenage years. We looked at some of her shoots that got into magazines and I really appreciated them artistically. Although I don’t think I have the appearance for modelling, a really interesting thing that I learnt was that you can have people who specifically do hand modelling or feet modelling which I think is probably something I would try if there were jobs available. We also were told how resilient you have to be in modelling just as you do in acting. It is a competitive industry and only the top 1% become well known.
We then went on to showing our presentations from the topics we were given near the start of the week. They were really interesting to listen too and I gained a lot of wider knowledge about the industry which is always useful as you can never know too much about theatre in my opinion. The first group covered the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I learnt that it was formed in 1947 meaning it has been running much longer than I originally would have thought. Another surprising fact from their presentation was that there are 50,000 performers which is more than all of the people in Bury St Edmunds! Another group was given ‘The National’ which in my own time I have already spent a considerable time looking into because its so huge and also interesting if you want to go into acting. Another presentation I particularly enjoyed learning about was about a national theatre company called ‘Perfect Pitch’. They aim to celebrate lesser known artists and they are an amateur non profit company. Overall it was good to see all the research people had done and to see what everyone had found out. Our presentation on the Ipswich Pulse Festival also went well and you can see what we did on ‘Task 2’.
Industry week have overall been a valuable week where not only have I learnt about the different career options in theatre but also have had a go at doing some of the things we will be doing. The people who have come and talked to us have given me some useful advice which I know will help me not only now but also in the future too.