Scripts. When you’re in the theatre, acting, film, screenwriting and creative world you most likely have come across numerous of them. Whether you’re in college, an actor, director, producer or in my case have been all four, your shelf, laptop and desk (All the above apply to me, I find scripts in places I didn’t realize I had them!) are full of scripts. So I just wanted to share common things I would’ve seen in scripts and mistakes I’ve made in the layout.
Title Page and Page Numbering
One of the first things; this is a common mistake I’ve seen and made myself. The joyous concept that is page numbering! The thing is though it is needed. There’s nothing worse than coming into rehearsals to the following:
Director: Ok let’s start at Act Two!
Actor: What page is that on?
Take this as another example:
Stage Manager: So during that run Ed, you missed a line on (spends next few minutes flicking through the script to find missed line)
It seems like a simple thing but it makes a huge difference in the rehearsal room and it looks professional if you wish to send it to a publisher. Depending on your laptop/software there are simple enough steps. I for example use a Chromebook and Google Docs. In this case you click ‘Insert’, then ‘Page Numbers’, and then sometimes you have options to add a cover page, choose where your numbers will go (bottom or top of the page). It also gives you the option to add a title or cover page so the next page starts at page 1 instead of page 2 (This has given me so many headaches with my own scripts until I figured it out).
Copyright and Saving
Next and this is something I’ve just picked up in recent years is to make sure that you have copyright details on your script. In the unlikely event that a script should go astray or end up in the wrong hands it can end up being published by someone else. Most people are decent and won’t do that, but it’s still good practice. Some people add this to their cover page, though I read a script recently which had it at the border (top of the page beside page number) which I thought was a great idea. Not only does it look professional, it adds that little bit of extra protection to your script copyright wise.
This is more personal but if at all possible, I prefer seeing scripts where the last line or stage direction of a scene doesn’t take up one whole page. It’s bad for the environment and a waste of paper. There’s nothing more annoying when I’m writing something, I am almost done, I can almost taste that glass of chardonnay I’ve been saving for after… And then alas, I look up and see the last line/word taking up the next page! The horror! There is a way around this, whether that be altering the type of font you use, the size of your font, the size of spacing (side note: I’d recommend using 1.5 spacing) and or go through your writing. Maybe there’s another way of phrasing a line or stage direction.
We all learn from our mistakes, but this is especially true for those beginning a career in the arts. These are a just a few of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career in the arts.
There is no Right Way
A piece of art whether it be a performance, a painting or a piece of music can be created in many different ways and none of them are wrong as the piece’s value is up to interpretation. This makes studying to become an actor a complicated task, how do you know what’s right when there are supposedly no wrong answers. Several times during my early career I choose to believe mentors opinions on acting as facts as this made it easier to learn. This became a detriment to my performance as I placed un necessary restrictions on myself.
Learn from as many teachers, experienced professionals, mentors and friends as you can but don’t take advice as a fact, it will stilt your creativity. Over the years I have combined many techniques from my training and now I use a method that works best for me. I’ve learned that what works best for me may not work for another and vise versa and that is the beautiful thing about creating art, there is no one size fits all because artists are unique.
Get a Contract
When I began my acting career I completed several shows (paid and unpaid) without mention of a contract. I was fresh out of drama school and eager to work. Paperwork had crossed my mind but I was so grateful for the opportunity’s I was given I didn’t want to rock the boat. In those early productions there was a great sense of community and friendship. I feel this contributed to a lack of professional paperwork. It would be awkward to ask someone you considered a friend to provide a contract, it could somehow imply you didn’t trust them.
I can not speak for the entire community but I know these were my concerns at the time. This led to me being underpaid and having no leg to stand on when wanting to dispute it. When feeling awkward about asking for a contract or even asking about money I remind myself how much worse it felt to be underpaid and I suck it up. Contracts can also insure you are fully credited for your work, protect you against bullying, guarantee a safe working environment and make sure you receive adequate breaks.
Learn to Say No
At the beginning of my career (and for an embarrassing number of years after) I was terrified of missing out on opportunity’s. This led to me saying yes to absolutely everything, without considering;
Will this further my career?
Do I have time for this? / Can I give this my all?
Is this worth the money?
Is the work environment safe?
Will this role negatively affect my physical or mental health?
Will this bring me happiness? / Do I want to do this?
On several occasions I stretched myself too thin, ended up exhausted and therefore unable to enjoy the work I was doing. Working on several projects at once also meant I was unable to live in the moment, I always had the next task in the back of my mind. The fear of missing out also meant I took on roles which in hindsight I didn’t have much interest in. The job could have been done with much more passion by another artist.
Eventually I burnt out physically and mentally after working on a total of seven different jobs at once for several weeks (from day jobs to shows). Since then I’ve prioritized my health and the work I feel the most passionate about. I still work several projects at once as I enjoy each day being different but I now make sure I have the time and energy before agreeing to taking on another role. This was the hardest lesson to learn and I still have to fight the twinge of “but what if it’s a great opportunity” when I turn down a project due to time or prior commitments. But it’s not good for you or the project if you can’t give it your all.
Don’t Be Intimidated
At the beginning of my career I was so nervous when it came to interacting with other artists, especially when I moved to Galway and knew no one (except Hazel). Looking back I had a very bad habit of putting other artists on pedestal rather than viewing them simply as other humans that made art. Through my eyes anyone working was a big shot and I’d be pestering them if I reached. I’ve been very fortunate to have learned this lesson through working with those I was originally so intimidated by. I’ve discovered that often the further toward the top you go the more down to earth the people are, at the top there is nothing to prove.
Story time example ; When I was 18 I went to see a live talk with Gary Hynes in Cavan and was in absolute awe, I then became obsessed with Druid wanting to learn everything about the company and focused both my undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on their work. Many years later I ended up interning at Druid and discovered all of these award winning artists (including the fabulous Garry Hynes) were some of the soundest, down to earth people I’d met and not so scary at all.
So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself at an event, send an email or ask a mutual friend to introduce you to another artist. The majority of my work in the arts has been secured through networking. Gaining connections through mutual friends, theatre events or through Theatre 57. Unfortunately it’s the world’s worst kept secret that it’s “who you know not what you know” when it comes to the arts in Ireland.
Every Production is Different
This was a bizarre but important lesson I had to learn quickly after drama school. It was drilled into our heads to always be professional and take the production seriously. Some rules that are always consistent; always be on time, treat everyone with respect, have your phone on silent and meet your deadlines. However every production is different and will therefore have a different atmosphere. Some directors have a very strict and quiet rehearsal room while others are relaxed and encourage laughter and improv throughout rehearsal. The later was confusing to me when I was straight out of college, I viewed the behavior as messing rather than actors having fun at rehearsal. I was confused about how to act myself, I had been trained to take everything super seriously at rehearsal for years. I had to learn to relax very quickly as not to stick out like a sore thumb. I learned to gage the atmosphere at a first rehearsal and meet the director/producers expectations going forward. It’s been quite fun working on such different productions in such different ways and I’ve learned no two directors will want to same rehearsal.
Happy August/September all! Hope everyone is keeping well in yet more uncertain times in the arts world. To anyone affected by the latest announcements and are left in limbo, I feel ye. This is why I thought this month I’d send you guys a reminder to look after yourselves, and each other.
When you’re in the arts world, it’s hard to find the line between separating the love of your craft and your ‘working craft’. There are days after where you don’t even want to look at a paint brush, a play, a laptop or an instrument. That is ok. Even as we approach ‘normal’ again there is still time to find something new and or set personal time for yourself. Recently, I was listening to a podcast called ‘Ready to be Real’ by Sile Seoige. She was talking to Dermot Whelan who said that we’re so generous to our work and being busy. He said that we should allocate a time each day for ourselves to do whatever we want. Even if you don’t know what you’ll do with that time at least you know it’s there for you. For example, have activities in mind that you usually have ‘no time for’ and do it (adult colouring, reading, walking, going outside, watching the soaps with your mam). If you want to do more of your craft during this time then that’s ok too.
GO TO BED!!! REST!!! LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! Even if you can’t nap, do take some time to rest if you need to. That application, draft of an email, script for proofreading or paint isn’t going anywhere. We are at such a heightened emotional time right now, some of you are back to ‘normal’, others are still in lockdown or somewhere in between. In order to be your best self artistically, you need to be at your best physically and mentally. The same goes for meeting up/video calls, if you need to say no. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
I can’t stress this enough. Talk to your peers and check in with your colleagues. Countless artists/arts organisations/arts teachers have been hit hard with the latest measures for workshops/classes. For some this is their steady income outside of show/exhibition season. If someone seems like they’re ok or if you feel there’s something off, check in with them. They could’ve had a rough night or day, are crippled with anxiety of the unknown. If you need to talk to someone do. If you’re feeling anxious or worried please talk to someone.
To end this I want to emphasize that now more than ever the arts community needs to come together and stand together. We are creative, strong, adaptable and innovative people who have faced many challenges and will get through this. Get involved, show support and let’s unite.
This month I thought it would be fun to give some acting tips for complete beginners. As well as being a theatre maker I’ve been a drama teacher for over ten years and I’ve noticed a lot of habits repeating over the years. Here are some of the first bad habits I correct in class.
Projecting is a difficult skill that is developed over time. When new to acting it is totally normal to have difficulty with volume. Often actors have difficulty remaining natural and in character while projecting as at first it can feel very unnatural. This skill can be developed through warm us and vocal exercises. For example I find the Radio Exercise very useful, you simply repeat a sentence over and over changing the volume from mute, to low (stage whisper), to medium (this is your ideal projection) to high (a stage shout). It’s important to learn how to warm up the voice and project correctly as to low the audience can’t hear you and shouting damages your voice.
Blocking is another skill that will become second nature over time but feels completely unnatural at first. On stage actors will be positioned as not to block one another from the audience’s view and they will turn their bodys in a way to show the most of their physicality. On screen actors will often have to stand much closer to each other than feels natural for close up shots, this however looks completely natural on screen. During filming actors must always precisely note their blocking to maintain consistency.
Sometimes new actors can feel totally engaged with the text, feel connected to their character and feel as though they are truly experiencing the scene but they aren’t showing us that. This again relates to feeling unnatural. Although it may feel as though we are acting un-naturally and exaggerating our expressions or physicality it reads as natural to an audience who are viewing you from a distance or framed on a screen. A common myth is that film actors act more subtly, it is a completely different style of acting but it is not subtle. Next time you’re viewing a great actor on screen, mute it and examine how often the actors change their expression and you’ll see how much they are communicating in their ‘subtle’ performance.
Dressing The Part
This is a very practical and simple tip that repeatedly pops up, dress appropriately for class or rehearsal. In my rehearsal room or class the following are no gos for actors; Jewellery that makes noise, high heels, skirts, very tight clothing and hair or hats covering your face. Basically anything that could restrict your movement or distract you or other actors is out. I suggest comfortable, breathable clothing that you can move freely in. It seems like a small thing but being unable to move freely limits the range of physicality for your characters and makes it difficult to warm up / cool down, hindering your progress.
Don’t be afraid to fail
This is the most important tip for any actor beginner or experienced. The rehearsal room or classroom is a space in which you can be totally creative, try anything you’d like, so don’t be afraid to grab that opportunity! It can be really difficult to come out of our comfort zones, especially for those new to acting. It’s important to remember you won’t look silly for trying, everyone else in the room has the same goal and is looking equally ‘silly’ together.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my top five tips for complete beginners. I’d like to take the opportunity at the end of this blog to make a special announcement. As you know we have postponed all Eva’s Echo production’s until a time when it is safe for us and our audiences. During this time we have decided to start a new adventure and launch Echo Acting and provide professional acting classes in Galway and Athlone.
To learn new skills, make discoveries, gain confidence, and dive into the world of acting! Simply click on the link below.
These words still ring through my ears since I, like many others, discovered the horrific last moments of George Flyod. How could this have happened? Why was this allowed in this day and age? Who are these people in uniform? From the outside looking in, I naively believed the world progressed in equality and acceptance. Seeing the election of Obama at the bright eyed age of seventeen, I had thought that the U.S. had come so far. The events of the last few weeks have proven that premature.
Of course, Ireland also has so much to answer for when it comes to racism and direct provision. Céad Míle Fáilte? 5 out of 6 acts of racism are unreported. This week, a secondary school is undergoing an investigation of racism complaints made by past pupils. Imagine that. There are approximately 6,000 people living in direct provision, 30% are children. They have an allowance of €38.80 a week. They have no right to work, no access to higher education and live up to 2 years in direct provision. You could get a Masters in that length of time.
Ireland is no stranger to oppression and tragedies (not at all similar) throughout history from the troubles to the maltreatment from the Church. My grandfather was forced to flee Omagh Co. Tyrone during the early 1900’s troubles. My grandmother and her siblings were almost taken away as the priest believed her father and uncle couldn’t raise them. It does make me wonder have we moved past it or is it hidden from us now? This made me reflect on our own canon of oppression. Irish theatre and arts have explored historic brutalities, whether rebels or women. Christ Deliver Us! by Thomas Kilroy echoes the power of the Catholic Church over the young, especially young girls. Winnie is stripped of her innocence by Michael’s sexual advances later leading to her tragic death while birthing by the river. This is not ancient history here, but sometimes feels further than we should let it feel. It is saddening to think of those young girls in their last moments who couldn’t ask for help and or were sent away. This would’ve been the world our grandmothers grew up in and I can’t help but worry if our granddaughters will grow up in a similar world if we do nothing to sustain the hard earned rights to agency. The same applies to Steve McQueen’s Hunger (commendable performance by Michael Fassbender). Bobby Sands was treated like a criminal prisoner rather than a political prisoner. This resonates with the ill treatment of U.S. protesters who are being painted as ‘thugs’ to criminalise them and ignore their argument.
My co-founder Rena Bryson explores the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ communities in both Jungle Door and Vlogger. Through Jungle Door, the question of how equal are bi sexual people are to their gay or lesbian counter parts. For example, it is suggested that Michelle is not fully accepted in the LGBTQ+ community as she’s bi sexual and is marrying a straight man. The same is true for Mia from Vlogger who is labelled as a ‘lipstick lesbian’ which can be often ridiculed. She is also often harassed with inappropriate messages about her sexuality and appearance from her YouTube audience again making an objectified mockery of her.
Although Uniform is yet to be performed, I do hope that it sparks a fire in at least one person to use their voice for the greater good. That was the objective of the play, to give a voice to numerous women of various backgrounds. I had an interesting conversation recently where the following question was posed to me: what if my own writing was performed by a woman of a different background? How would that translate and what would that actor bring into the play? I guess time will tell if it ever comes about but I would love to see a woman of colour feature or star in one of my works. In writing Uniform, I was inspired by the Faces of Eve and the Hecate Sisters tropes to branch my own understanding of femininity in the modern world and the masks we must wear. To work with someone of a different background, religion, country or creed may reveal to me many more women that I didn’t know about or couldn’t see before.
Like so many, I’m looking for recommendations on any plays, books, films relative to these times. If anyone knows any I’d love to hear them. Also, we’re always looking for new artists of all backgrounds to work with so please get in touch and apply when we have our next casting call or script call. I also want to pass my sympathies onto anyone affected by these current times. Finally, if you can please donate to these worthy causes.