Dinner and No Show

12th of March 2020, it was a Thursday. I went into work as normal looking forward to date night when I got home. Rehearsals were great the previous weekend too, there’s still two scenes to be blocked but we had a show. I showcased a scene at an International Women’s Day event where people came up after saying ‘What are the show dates?’ and ‘I’ll definitely be checking it out’. Anyone I spoke to I said to tell their friends and follow us on socials. I went back to Sligo happy and looking forward to the following weekend already. 

Fast forward to Thursday, we were getting the kids ready for dinner when our manager came down. She informs us that Vradkar has made an announcement that all creches, schools and colleges were to close at 6pm that day until the 28th of March… My first thought, rehearsals. How will we manage? Will we find another location? Will I have to sit feet away from people on the bus? As I walked home that evening I rang Rena to devise a plan. We decided to postpone rehearsals that weekend, hold a virtual rehearsal the following weekend hoping for the best. This should be fine, I thought. Last weekend went well, no matter what we have a show.         

It’s Wednesday the 22nd of April 2020. Last week should have been show week for my one woman show ‘Uniform.’ The weekend before would’ve been our last rehearsal, ensuring all props and costumes were sourced, that I was off book, that the characters were nailed down and all was set for tech day on Wednesday.  We would’ve celebrated 3 years of Eva’s Echo amongst crew and friends on the Saturday sensibly ensuring fresh heads for the next morning. This week I should be in work with the kids daydreaming; ‘This day last week was our tech rehearsal. It has gone by so fast. I can’t believe I actually did a one woman show. When can I go back on stage?’ I’d then remind myself that rehearsals for Jungle Door are due to start in three weeks time and that I must get off book again. All of this is not so, with exception to the later which we still have to wait on.  

Although Uniform was postponed due to circumstances out of our control, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of worry, defeat, anger, loss and hard done by. I spent a whole weekend perfecting the final script, I’d started a diet to get into shape (cringing at photos from the production just gone) and ensured I was well rested after work each night. I went into 2020 full of ambition and anticipation; ‘2020 is my year’, ‘This is the year I get back into acting’, ‘I’m going to show everyone how good I am.’ Sometimes I feel all the above but then other times I feel ok. I know that it will be ok and the show will go on. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe the world isn’t ready for ‘Uniform’ yet, as well as the global pandemic obviously but still.  

As an artist and producer all I know is that I want to give back to the community as much as I can  now and when all this is over. To start that blog, to teach drama like I’ve always wanted, to get that play published, to get new plays on stage, to get upcoming artists on board for future productions and so forth. As I’ve said to friends and family, if 2020 has taught me anything is that nothing is permanent. Life is too short to be worrying about things which is a lesson I’ve tried taking on for a long time, but it has fairly sunk in this time. You only have one body, one family and one chance. 

The Artist verses the virus

By Rena Bryson

These are uncertain times for everyone, nationally and globally. With social distancing and self isolation many have struggled with work, not all can work from home. Especially artists who are often collaborative, social creatures used for working together. I’ve been missing teaching like crazy and we’ve been missing our rehearsal room and will be rehearsing via skype, a new challenge we’re looking forward to facing (virtually) alongside our amazing team. Here are some tips for the enclosed artist.

Hit the books

I’ve been using some of my new found free time to pick up some acting books I haven’t tackled properly since college. I’m currently reading Stella Adler’s The Art of Acting and re reading as a more experienced actor is a completely new and valuable experience. Next up on my list are Sanford Meisner On Acting and Secrets of Screen Acting.

Keep moving

Actors should always be moving and keeping in touch with their bodys. A great way to do this when out of the rehearsal room is yoga. I personally love Yoga With Adriene on youtube and try to do at least one video a day. This will keep not only your body fit during inclosure but your relation to it active and ready for when you return to the rehearsal room. 

Keep in touch

Just because we have to be enclosed doesn’t mean we can’t catch up with friends, family and collaborators. Why not still keep up that weekly coffee catch up with friends, just move it from your local cafe to an online space. With video chat there’s no excuse to not reschedule plans with friends. 

Self Tape

Many casting agents are still accepting self tapes for their upcoming projects. If none appeal to you you can still record self tapes of monologues to have prepared for future castings. 

Reflect

Due to canceled rehearsals and rescheduled shoots most of us will have a bit more time on our hands. This offers a great opportunity to really reflect on our ongoing or upcoming projects. So often we’re moving too quickly to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Take advantage of this time when you have it. 

Create

Although collaboration is often key artists can still create alone. Why not pick up a pen or an instrument and create a new piece. You could make a short film, write a new play, learn a new song, finish a painting the opportunities are endless.

I hope these tips will be useful for you and remember to take care of yourself and loved ones during this time. 

As many of you may know we had planned a Clothing Swap fundraiser for our upcoming show Uniform but unfortunately had to cancel due to the coronavirus. Due to this we are asking for support online through our Go Fund me. If you can offer any support it would be greatly appreciated.

The Taming of the Blues

By Hazel Doolan

Post show blues, I’ve been aware of it since my youth theatre days but never really understood what it was. All I knew was that sinking feeling of sadness, fidgetiness and worry the day after closing night. Will our next show be as good? Will I get as good a role next year? Am I ever going to see my friends again? Would it be worth my time going back next year? Oh how little I had to worry about back then.

Hazel in The Way It Is

It was only when I stepped into the professional world that I grasped a real understanding of post show blues. After my first leading role in ‘The Way It Is’ (which didn’t get the best turn out), it hit me really hard. We ran for just one night and I put everything I had into that performance so it was a rapid high to low. The next day I went into work daydreaming of the show, wishing I was still in the theatre and not in the shop as my colleague snapped me out of it to attend to customers. This happened again after our most recent production of ‘Jungle Door.’ We went through such a roller coaster of a journey between intense week rehearsals, changes, line runs, script analysis, movement workshops, hilarious encounters and an all round great show. After our intense week of rehearsals I was back in work for only two days but I even found that hard. I was looking at the clock on the wall and thinking ‘*sigh* We’d be doing script work/warm ups right now…’ Two days later we were on the road to Naas which went by as quickly as it came around. 

Hazel in Jungle Door rehearsals

Given the amount of work that went into the production and the positive vibes from the team, this was the hardest production to walk away from. Those two weeks felt like I was living the life of my true authentic self, working with people who shared similar values and pursuing what I truly love. If you asked if I’d rather be grinding through paperwork or hot seating three times a week, I’d choose the latter any day. That is the hard truth as I would have said before being a working artist. You’re scrapping to pursue a life in two conflicting universes. Many weeks have gone by when I would breeze through it all like Samantha Jones, but then other weeks I’d be in a tissy like the White Rabbit. From talking to other artists I know that this is a common reality for many, which is a comfort all the same but doesn’t make it right. 

Going back to post Jungle Door, I just did what one would do after a major event. Be grateful that it happened and be proud of what we achieved. Now we do have Uniform coming up and it is advised to not jump into another show if you’re also working full time, but we had this booked since Christmas so that doesn’t count! Besides, we already have Jungle Door scheduled for June in Galway (Town Hall Studio 10th-13th of June!!!). While that it came as much excitement and relief that the experience won’t be quite over yet, a sense of anxiety and fear emerged… What if it won’t be as good? What if something bad happens? What if I get fat(ter)? What if-… This wasn’t good either. I realized that yes it’s nice to look back (now ironically Don’t Look Back in Anger is now playing on my laptop) on the experiences, the friendships, the wins, and the losses but it can’t define the next run. I even thought of ways to recreate the experience and rent an entire apartment in Galway, this was not smart and my pocket wouldn’t thank me for it. Instead, I choose to be present in everything I do while looking forward with hope and joy. As with artistic purpose and life it is meant to be experienced to the fullest.     

Traveling through the Jungle Door

By Rena Bryson

Images by Catriona Bonner Photography.

Revisiting Jungle Door was a journey completely different to what we had expected. It was a play that had stuck with us in a very significant way, the representation of queer characters in a storyline unfocused on their sexual orientation was a mission I felt we achieved and I was very proud of this accomplishment. The team gelled together like a family when bringing the play to Sligo and Galway audiences. We felt comfortable in the world of the play knowing it and each other like the back of our hands. This was all about to change as we and the characters were thrown out of our comfort zone with the help of a new version of the script and a new director.

New Script

The new script further highlighted Michelle’s struggles with her body image and societal pressures, allowing us to view one character without the other for the first time. As both women are constantly playing what we in the rehearsal room simply titled ‘the game’ this shared the vulnerable side of Michelle she is scared to share in front of Louise for fear of losing. I was excited to get the new script up on its feet, especially this additional scene which featured a new character Sharon, played by Sabrina Kelleher. Other than this, the rest of the play would resume as it was previously, or so we thought..

New Director

Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts our original director Elizabeth Flaherty was unable to join us this time around. She was very missed and we so appreciate her making Jungle Door what it was, but we were excited to see what a new director’s view would change. We would soon learn it would change quite a lot. Cornelius Dwyer focused heavily on text analysis encouraging us to dissect the play fully, line by line. This process completely changed the dynamic of the two characters and opened up dialogues about the characters issues and why they are the way they are.

An interesting element of the script that had previously gone unhighlighted was Louise’s internalised misogyny enforcing her to mock or disregard anything feminine, wishing to be a ‘cool girl’ or ‘not like other girls’ not for male approval but because she genuinely views femininity as a weak characteristic. Through a mixture of script work and hot seating more and more was revealed about Michelle’s relationships or lack thereof with other memebers of the LGBTQ community. Michelle felt rejected by the community for not presenting as ‘gay enough’ and would prefer to maintain the heteronormative aspects of her personality than fit in. This concept was based on the discrimination sometimes faced by bisexual people, who are believed to be experimenting, especially in a college setting which is were Michelle and Louise met. Louise being accepted by the community during their relationship and Michelle being accepted by the larger community in present day created a great dynamic of status to work with.

New Moves

Following the intensive script analysis Louise and Michelle had transformed, while still maintaining the core of the characters they had become fleshed out, wanting to leap off the page. So we began to leap and jump and flex all thanks to Choreographer Jessica Bruen. Cornelius and Jessica worked together to lead us to discover a method of transforming our characters subconscious thoughts and feelings into individual movement pieces. This was a beautiful and powerful process that not only gave us agency as actors but produced authentic and unpretentious movement pieces that reflected the world of the play. Cornelius adored these pieces so much they made the bold decision to cut all projections from the show, not risking any distraction from the movement. Instead a song accompanied each piece ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to Jade Bird. Have a dance along to the full playlist here.

New Music

We realised a monologue Louise expressed during a projection scene no longer fitted the new shape of the play. This was initially a voice over or the actor speaking but it was an expression of the subconscious rather than something Louise says during the play. Much like a Shakespearean actor will perform aside, letting the audience know their feelings but is unheard by the other characters. For this to now work within the pre established rules of the play it must be a song like the others. So with the script in front of me and some backing tracks from a band I was in years ago I began working on the original song Jungle Door. As if it was meant to be the lyrics blended perfectly with an acoustic track created for a different song in 2013. Adam Conboy generously donated his time to re record the track in Sligo and I added the lyrics on top of it in Galway and hey presto we had ourselves a song, a first for Eva’s Echo.

New Roles

On top of a new script, new movement and a new song Sabrina Kelleher landed from England to receive various new roles. Always a trouper Sabrina went from the shows Designer to the Designer/ Stage Manager/ Sound Operator and took on the role of Sharon, Michelle’s mother. Each night Sabrina performed through a live mic in the tech box, simulating a phone call with Hazel on stage. The live aspect to the performance allowed the actors the freedom to react authentically each night, playing off one another.

New Theatre

We absolutely loved our time at The Moat Theatre. The technical aspects of the theatre allowed Cornelius and Sabrina so much opportunity regarding design and the staff were more than lovely, a special shout out to Conor who made us feel so very at home. It was exciting to perform in front of a new audience and challenged us to not rely on the safety of our regular audiences, pushing us even further outside of our comfort zone. Although we did receive a few surprise visits from familiar faces, which we so appreciate, it made us feel all fuzzy inside and still does.

New Adventure!

After the first show the four of us sat in a lovely Italian in Naas and decided this could not be the last stop for the new Jungle Door. It desired a longer life span and we didn’t want to let it go just yet. So we are bringing the show to Galway’s Town Hall Theatre Wednesday the 10th of June to Saturday the 13th of June . See you there for all the botox, brides and booze you can handle!

Breaking the ‘Block’ Wall

Whether writing play, scripts or completing funding applications it is inevitable that at one point you will hit a ‘wall’. The daunting phrase is more commonly known as writer’s block. This, I must say, is my greatest adversary when it comes to any form of writing. It has always been the biggest challenge when attempting to write, what I’m hoping would potentially be on par with Derry Girls… Love that show.

Writing Space

It is advisable to set up your own relevant writing space to complete your piece. It varies from writer to writer whether it be at a desk in their own home, a bustling cafe or even outdoors in the sun. My writing space has varied especially when doing crazy commutes around Galway and meeting tight deadlines, I wrote at any chance I got before meeting friends, before or after work, in between meetings/rehearsals you name it. When it comes down to it though, I like a quiet space at a desk with a podcast/classical music in the background. This is your space and your practice of writing you need to find what works for you. 

Distractions

Distractions and not being in the headspace does not help with writer’s block, quite obvious but they don’t. When you’re trying to write a monologue or complete a festival application form and you get distracted when Friends is on in the background, you won’t get anything done. The same goes for if your phone is constantly buzzing, you’re gossiping with your ‘writing buddy’ (ye are really meeting for the ‘bants’, admit it), your adorable pet is looking for cuddles and so forth. Before even sitting down to write, get rid of every distraction and ensure that you have a clear head before starting. If at any point you feel you’re not in the mindset, it’s ok to step away for a moment and then come back.     

Direction

Once you know what direction you want your piece to go, that’s half the battle. If however, you have no idea where Act Two is going it may be time to step back and map out the direction of the narrative. I have found mind mapping, spider diagrams, key words and story boards the best tools to use at any point of writing. Sure it’s better to begin your writing with these but they’re always readily available at any point you may feel stuck and remind you of where you want the play/piece to go.

Inspiration

To gain an insight into the kind of piece you want to write, there is nothing wrong with seeking inspiration from external sources. Odd to say but since starting blogging this year I have found reading other blogs, content from influencers, relevant articles and even Stellar Magazine (guilty!) to enable me to find my voice for each blog. Even when writing plays I have found inspiration in real life scenarios, quotes from classical texts, old scraps of writing and the odd ‘aha’ moments. You guessed it, find the inspiration that resonates with your artistic mindset.

So when writing that next play and or poem find your own space, get rid of distractions, map out the direction of your piece while keeping in mind what inspires you. Thank you for reading our blogs all year I’ve enjoyed it so much and hope to do a lot more next year… Shhhh!!!!!! Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!