Due Course rehearsals and tour

It seems like only yesterday that the 2012-2013 STEP UP Creatives ensemble met at NP HQ for the first time, and yet the intrepid group of twelve emerging performers, designers, stage managers and directors are nearly at the end of their time with us. As with last year’s ensemble, their year as part of New Perspectives’ STEP UP scheme has culminated in them touring a show they have created using the winning scripts from the DREAM UP writing competition we held earlier in the year. This year, writers were asked to respond to the phrase ‘starting out in the East Midlands’ and the ensemble chose four scripts to work with, all of which say something about what it is like to be in the East Midlands here and now. Over the past few months they have worked to combine these scripts into one piece of theatre, and written their own original material which expresses their feelings about the region. Due Course is the result of that work.
Last week the group joined us at New Perspectives full-time for six days of intensive rehearsal to put the show on its feet. As if creating and rehearsing a piece of theatre in six days wasn’t enough of a challenge, during the week the ensemble were also put through their paces learning Lecoq physical theatre techniques, and taking part in yoga, mindfulness, Alexander technique, voice work, script-writing/editing/dramaturgy, devising and improvisation. Our two designers have designed, sourced, built and painted the set from scratch; and along with our two assistant stage managers, bought and made costumes and props including everything from a wetsuit to various different realistic looking alcoholic drinks which get consumed in the show. With our very own composer in the ensemble we’ve also had original music created for the whole play.
Due Course opened at Create Theatre in Mansfield on Tuesday evening to a warm and enthusiastic audience response, and the ensemble had another successful and well-received show at the Assembly Rooms in Derby last night. After a day off today, the tour will continue at Manton village hall in Rutland on Friday evening, Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham on Saturday, and Thurgarton village hall in Nottinghamshire on Sunday.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see the work of talented writers and emerging creatives and performers from the region all in the space of 65 minutes!
Tilly Branson
Associate Director, New Perspectives

Rehearsal Diary | Charlotte Tomlinson, Assistant Stage Manager

This week we have been rehearsing our show Due Course full time, Monday to Saturday. As one of the two stage managers in the ensemble, I’ve been pouring various combinations of liquids (including black tea and soda water, apple cordial and very weak lager shandy) into several different receptacles to feign alcoholic drinks.

At other times, myself and Elanor have been resetting crates for the stage, helping the designers to paint flats and going on shopping trips – whenever we haven’t been in the rehearsal room on book, taking notes and acting as prompt. The week has been intense but enjoyable.

One of the most memorable moments for me was standing in for Ellen for a run through. I am not an actor, so this was a rather strange experience – and I was on the verge of bursting out laughing a number of times! I honestly don’t know how the actors do it, but I guess that’s they’re job!

I’m looking forward to getting started with the performances, and our tech day at Create theatre in Mansfield on Monday. It’s going to be another learning curve…

Charlotte Tomlinson, STEP UP Creatives Assistant Stage Manager

STEP UP Creatives Ensemble – DREAM UP Script Reading Day

The Turning Point

It’s safe to say I wasn’t in the greatest frame of minds for this, perhaps the most important of our sessions so far. You see, I’d had a show with Quirksome Theatre the night before, over in Leicester – a show that I’d been working on for quite some time and had me fairly preoccupied. So I wasn’t all that prepared – I didn’t make it home to Nottingham after the show, and ended up being driven to New Perspectives early in the morning by one of the actors (Quirksome had ‘lent’ some fabulous female actors to STEP UP for the day) without a clean shirt, shower or anywhere near enough coffee inside me. Still, I was determined to make the most of the day. Because today was the first official reading of the winning scripts from the DREAM UP Writing competition, and my own script, Mel’s Leaving Do, was amongst them.

I’d had the phone call from Tilly a few months before to say I was a runner-up, and I think I just about managed to disguise the true level of my excitement over the phone (I’m quite good at that). For someone who considers himself to be, first and foremost, a writer, yet has never had any real recognition in this capacity, it felt like a real coup. Also, out of the three scripts I entered for the competition, Mel’s Leaving Do was probably my personal favourite. Being involved as both an actor and a writer has made me even more excited about this project, and I was very eager to hear my little piece read aloud by some actors who I’ve got to know pretty well over the last few months. I’d also read the scripts by the other winning writers with great fascination – I was really interested to hear how they sounded, and what the writers made of it all.

It is fair to say that when I arrived at the New Perspectives office, the atmosphere was one of vaguely controlled chaos. The ‘production team’ for the day (Charlotte, Emma P and Elanor, who did a spectacular job of holding things together) were scurrying around printing scripts, while actors gradually trickled in – Sylvia, one of the actors who I was supposed to be bringing, had got lost in the snow and I had to try and guide her to the office over the phone (naturally, I was no use whatsoever). There were a lot of new faces in the building – actors and directors who had been drafted in to help out, and despite the initial frenzy, it was clear that everyone had a shared goal – to rehearse and perform seven great scripts in the space of a day. It was one of those beautiful moments you sometimes get in theatre when you realize that something is happening which can’t possibly be stopped.

Before long we all made it to our respective locations, and started rehearsing the plays we’d been given. I was part of a small group along with Theresa, Debs and Kath (from The Gramophones, who had kindly given up her time to assist with the day’s festivities), reading Until Then, a play by Rick Briggs. I was reading the part of Liam – a far more dramatic role than I’m used to in a fairly intense, serious play. I have to say I really enjoyed working with a piece of new writing, as I always do. It feels like a privilege to be the first person to explore a character, especially when the writing is this polished and subtle. Afterwards I read the part of The Assistant in Michael Pepper’s The Audition – this was a much smaller part, with only a few lines at the end – but it was great fun to be so delightfully impassive, and watching Ellen and Debs get to grips with the horror of ‘Cyril’.

So, that was the morning. After a delicious buffet lunch (the caterers somehow managed to forge a path through the blizzard), the rest of the writers started to trickle in* and introduced themselves to an increasingly nervous ensemble who were about to perform their beloved scripts. Before long we got started.

The afternoon session was a long one (we had seven plays to get through!), but it seemed to be over in a flash. I put this down to the quality of the scripts and the following feedback sessions, which were extremely easy-going and helpful for everyone concerned. Everybody in the room (and it had grown to a mighty throng over the course of the day) had some useful insights surrounding the plays they had just seen (and, in some cases, spent the whole day working on), particularly Jack, New Perspectives’ Artistic Director, who had formed part of the judging panel for DREAM UP. I suspect the writers were every bit as nervous as the actors when it came to having their play performed (I know I was a bag of nerves when Emma H, Chris, Jen and Sam stepped up** to read Mel’s Leaving Do), but all the readings were so well executed that I doubt anyone came away disappointed – I certainly came away with lots of helpful feedback and plenty to think about. In fact, the whole day was so flawlessly executed that things are looking very promising for our final show in July. I can hardly wait to get started.

Dickie Garton, performer and writer, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013

*Although two of them were sadly unable to make it.

**Pun sort of intended.

STEP UP Creatives ensemble: Gareth Morgan (dramaturg)

Gareth Morgan

I have eye-fugg.

Eye-fugg is the pseudo-medical term for the greying vision and head blur caused by reading too much dialogue in a short space of time – leaping from imagining the lines in the photocopy in front of you being spoken by an African American Airman, a university student believing himself to be Richard III after a freak weather incident or a woman in love with a cuddly stuffed monkey. Eye-fugg was invented by lazy artsy intellectual types to help them argue with hod carriers and tree surgeons that their job is ‘tiring too’. Like you would believe Kimi Raikkonen had sustained an injury whilst driving (I only picked him to prove I can spell his name, or at least google it), please believe me – I am, allegedly, a professional.

Now to tell you why.

I have, along with Tilly and Daniel – of New Perspectives staff fame/notoriety *please delete as appropriate*, read the 49 submissions for the DREAM UP writing competition. And they were good. Tantalisingly tiring, evocatively exhausting, alliteratively annoying (1)Œ; we have been thrilled, shocked, moved, surprised, wowed and amazed by what came through the letter box. Who knew that “How can I remember things I never knew?” would stimulate so many different interpretations and approaches? There were some really touching accounts of loss, deceit, growing old, being ill and/or unemployed. We had jokes about maps – I love jokes about maps – Renaults, imagined train stations, bananas, Kylie Minogue lyrics, internet dating for psychics, the correct retail establishment to buy grandparents from and cardboard Michael Parkinsons made us chuckle. There was a high incidence of death in the scripts, although no one actually killed any of their ‘three characters’ allowed by the rules but we did have quite a few ghosts. No one tried to quote the titles of all of Shakespeare’s plays in their script (2) or to have an Elvis impersonator on a gap year in Africa sing Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain to end a lengthy drought whilst under fire from local militia (3)Ž but we have had a truly awesome intake from a really talented crop of regional writers. Decisions are being made and writers will know very soon who’s won the big prize. Whilst the competition rules say this will be paid by bank transfer I’m still petitioning for it to be presented in the form a giant cheque.

To tell you something of myself, I am a writer, theatre-maker and dramaturg. I only do this because my batting (4) lets me down in being England’s answer to their Spinner-All Rounder problem and I am as yet to make a living selling chutney. Dramaturgy is difficult to define but looks at composition, structure, staging and audience within theatre and tries to assist in the bringing of these elements to stage as part of creative team. I have an interest in both new and existing scripts – initially focussing on the latter. In fact, I only began reading new scripts when I realised I’d go screwy if I carried on researching the methods used to stage old ones. This also coincided with a work placement with Theatre Writing Partnership, an organisation that will be missed in the coming years (5). A quick glance over projects I’ve been involved in over the last few years and the compiling of an accompanying spreadsheet reveals that 79.31% have been new writing based. Someone (6)‘ once referred to a dramaturg as an in-house critic and outside eye on a process so that’s what I’ll be doing here. And reading scripts.

We, the amassed STEP UP Creatives ensemble, plus the wonderful Gramophones (The STEP UP Company being mentored by New Perspectives for 2011-2012), also had a brilliant session from Daniel and Kayleigh from New Perspectives about making, marketing and touring shows based on the model they use at the company. According to my notes you shouldn’t blow the whole marketing budget on bookmarks (this is the sort of mistake I usually fall foul of, thanks team for pointing it out) and a nice letterhead is key to getting ahead.

Would anyone like to make me a nice letterhead? I’ll make you some chutney as payment.

Π1. My writing that is, not the submitted scripts.

2. Always a bonus as I’ve read 3 plays that have done that in the past

Ž 3. This is still one of best ideas and scripts I’ve read over the last few years. So bonkers it was brilliant.

4. Currently averaging 3 and batting at number 10…

 5. TWP lost its RFO status in the last round of Arts Council cutbacks (grrrrr, Arts Council)

‘ 6. Michael Pinchbeck, of being associated with Ollie Smith fame

Follow Gareth on twitter: @gm6016 – or the whole STEP UP Creatives training ensemble in one handy list.

DREAM UP Winners!

We’re delighted to announce that our DREAM UP readers and judging panel
have finally finished working their way through the many entries into our new monologue competition and that the winning entries/writers are as follows:

FIRST PRIZE
Everybody Says It, Everybody Knows
by Mahsuda Shah (Leicester)

SECOND PRIZE
Always In The Afternoon
by Cathy Grindrod (Derbyshire)

RUNNERS UP
Irena by Monika Johnson (Nottinghamshire)
Flying Billy by Imogen Joyce (Nottingham)
Into The East by Paul Kelly (Leicester)
The Decisive Moment by Linda Kempton (Derbyshire)
My Boy by Laura Lomas (Derby)

In the coming months we will be working with winning writers to develop, rehearse and record this vibrant selection of East Midlands dramatic writing for broadcast via http://www.newperspectives.co.uk during Autumn 2009.