I had decided to blog about the history of ‘theatrical superstitions’ this week, the ones that most people have heard of, not whistling in a dressing room, not saying ‘Macbeth’ in the theatre etc., but little did I know the weird and wonderful world I was going to delve into. It turns out there are many more superstitions I hadn’t heard of that quite frankly made me laugh.
Last week I went to the Hawth Theatre in Crawley see the 2019 tour of Cabaret directed by National Theatre Director Rufus Norris. It is one of my all-time favourite musicals, and on my ‘Director’s Bucket List’ to produce one day. I was quite literally blown away by this production! I have seen Cabaret produced professionally many, many times but this version shot to my number one spot in an instant. The choreography was second to none and totally awe-inspiring, the set and costumes perfect, the cast outstanding (John Partridge gave an excellent performance as the Emcee) and the lighting was superb. If you are a fan of the show it is well worth a weekend trip away to see it, I’ll put the remaining dates and venues at the end of this blog.
On 1st November 2009 I formed The Green Room Productions. Our first play was The Collector, based on the book by John Fowles and set in Lewes. It was a two-hander starring Tim Bond and Leah Mooney. Leah is still an integral, and founding, member of the company - these days you will find her in our tech box, lighting our productions.
My first task was to find us a venue. The (then) Headmaster of Willingdon Community School along with the drama teacher very kindly allowed us to use their school drama studio to perform and rehearse in. We cannot thank their staff enough for the support and generosity they gave us in those early days, which enabled the company to grow and flourish.
Theatre was invented in Greece, and so naturally there are many theatre-related words that find their origins in Greek. Our blog today looks at 6 of these words and where they began.
Greek Word: theasthai
Greek Meaning: to behold
The Greek theatres were large, open-air structures constructed on the slopes of hills. They consisted of three principal elements: the orchestra, the skene, and the audience. Behind the orchestra was a large rectangular building called the skene (meaning "tent" or "hut"). The skene was literally a tent or hut, put up for the religious festival and taken down when it was finished. Later, the skene became a permanent stone structure. These structures were sometimes painted to serve as backdrops, hence the English word scenery.
When I started secondary school my drama teacher immediately recognised my passion for the theatre and acting. During my time there she allowed me to take part in school productions (earlier than I should have done), she opened my young eyes to live theatre, she encouraged me, pushed me and let me hang out in the drama department. When I was 14 she took us to the National Theatre and I fell in love with the place - a love affair that still continues today. We returned there frequently throughout my school years and I saw some wonderful plays. Forty years later I still have clear vivid memories of some of those productions. She even arranged for us to interview some of the actors - no idea how she managed that!...
During our last production of Spine I was asked a few times what the role of the Director is. The answer is that it can vary from company to company, but in The Green Room Productions it goes something like this:
As the Director, when I read a great play it captures my imagination. Usually the story visually unfolds in my head and if I can see it working well on our stage I will decide to produce it.
The next step is to cast the play. The Green Room Productions has a pool of very talented actors so I will try to cast from them. If this isn't possible then I will hold auditions to find other actors to suit the roles.
Why do you like acting and what do you think you gain from it?
Theatre has always been one of my biggest loves. Being on stage and telling someone else’s story to an interested audience is an amazing experience. Observing the impact after the end of a play really solidifies in my head why I love acting. It can have such an effect and really brings people together. I have made so many amazing friends through acting over the years.
How do you feel taking on a one-woman play, and what do you think is the biggest challenge?
Following on from our blog in May here is part two of our interview with Kate Daly from Old Town Community Library in Eastbourne. This second part reiterates why these services are so vital to our community and how the role of volunteers in our society, who so generously donate their time, quite literally change people’s lives.
How do you feel the library makes a difference to people's lives? You’ve said that it isn't just about books?
Oh no, it's not. It's not just a reference service. I've got this wonderful quote that Angela Clark wrote (she's one of our supporters, and she's also an author) ‘I think a library is a place for the vulnerable.’ And that's exactly what our library is. You might get an elderly gentleman who comes in, and his only remaining human interaction will be with us in the library, he might not have anybody else, and men are much more difficult to get out doing things. Women, when they're widows, tend to go out and get involved. Men don't. We've got a few that come in. They'll get their books and then spend a while chatting with us and have a cup of tea. Then you might have young mums who want friendship or Rhyme Time. I think it's really important we do that, because there's a lot of young mums who relish that friendship.
Researching for our next production Spine by Clara Brennan made us wonder what exactly a community library is, and what value do they bring. We set up an interview with the lovely Kate Daly from Old Town Community Library in Eastbourne (only a stones throw from our theatre) and were quite humbled at the answer. We are going to split this blog into two, as every word is worth a read.
How does a community library vary from a council library?
A community library is either a registered charity or a community interest company, or even a charitable incorporated organisation. We don’t get any funding so we had to become self- funding. In 2002, we were one of the first community libraries in the whole country. So we've been doing it a long time.
That time is here again - the madness that is pre-show week.
The last two weeks before any production are pretty hectic as every aspect of the play comes together. All members of the company are running around putting the final tweaks to their particular role, and in general preparing for the get-in. The actors are all in a state of panic that the lines and cues they have spent weeks learning won’t escape them, and for me the Producer, I have to make sure that no fish has escaped the net, and everyone is set to go.
THE TRUTH BEHIND THE TEATOWEL
Come Christmas there are always those cynics who decry infant nativities as pointless charades, championed only by hypocrites seeking to inoculate themselves against hedonism with a brief intravenous of 'meaning'. What lessons, they ask, are to be learned in the modern age from plodding formation of a tableaux by kids trying to work out what a 'virgin's womb' is and how not to 'abhor' it. The answer is 'numerous and trenchant' lessons for all concerned; not in the table itself but rather in the telling.
Living in Eastbourne, we’re very aware of the presence of the sea and can imagine how painful it must be to watch that relentless sea eroding away the land from beneath your house. As such, we decided to put on the play, Sea Fret, which addresses the issue of coastal erosion on the Suffolk coast and the effect it has on the people who lose their homes to the sea. Recent collapses of cliffs in Norfolk and, much closer to home, at Birling Gap have demonstrated why this phenomenon can be so heart-breaking and why we thought it was such a good choice for a poignant play to be performed here in Eastbourne.
Meeting Holocaust survivor Dorit Oliver Wolff was a fascinating but shocking experience for everyone at Green Room Productions. Dorit was a wonderful character and speaker who considered herself to be a survivor of the Holocaust rather than a victim. Despite her strong European accent, when people ask her where she is from, she says ‘Eastbourne’ and has the attitude that when her phone beeps at night and wakes her up, it is a good thing because it shows her she’s not dead. Here is her extraordinary tale.
What is your theatrical background?
I have been acting since I was knee-high to a Grasshopper. At the ripe old age of 24, I managed to gain a place at a drama school in London and train professionally. Deciding quite early on after leaving the school that the professional side was not for me, I took my learned skills and acted and directed my way up to eventually starting my own theatre company in 2009.
What is your theatrical background?
I have been performing since I was around 8 years old where I was always in the school plays and worked with local amateur companies throughout my youth. I studied literature and theatre studies at the University of Kent and after I graduated last summer I spent my year back home working with the lovely people at Green Room.
When Chloe Moss was commissioned by Clean Break theatre company to spend twelve weeks developing a play from working with inmates in a women's prison, she was initially daunted by the terms laid down for her by the company set up in 1979 by two female prisoners to explore the hidden stories of women prisoners through drama. By the end of the process, things had changed somewhat for the Liverpool-born writer.
Di and Viv and Rose is a play full of fun and laughter. It’s fitting, therefore, that the rehearsal period has been exactly the same. As Becky, who plays Di, Emma, who plays Viv and Casey, who plays Rose, are all such good friends in real life, it’s really added something to the production but also added to the giggle-factor. Quick scene changes and a plethora of costumes have provided challenges off the stage while emotional content, strange facial expressions and pronunciation issues have kept, Sandra, the director, and the girls working hard on the stage.
Di and Viv and Rose is a story of enduring friendship. Playwright Amelia Bullmore decided to write it in 2009 when she realised how much she missed an old friend. The feeling was so powerful that it inspired her to write a piece about the profundity of female friendships and the importance of these long-standing relationships. We chose it as part of our programme this year because it really resonated with us and we believe we have what it takes to do it justice.
At Green Room Productions, we put on plays that make people think, laugh and cry. Our mission is to bring the best modern plays to Eastbourne and play them with oodles of heart and plenty of polish. This season promises to be no different. We have selected three brilliant new plays for your viewing pleasure to move and amuse. In addition to our theatrical programme, we’re also offering a treat for the ears with a performance by our talented singing group, the Green Room Belles.