For this month’s blog, three members of the Jungle Door team share their experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Edinburgh Fringe Storytime by Sabrina Kelleher
Edinburgh Fringe Vlog by Rena Bryson
Edinburgh Fringe blog by Hazel Doolan
It’s been a month since Edinburgh and I’m still processing it. When speaking to anyone, my words have been ‘It’s an experience’ and or ‘It’s like the Galway International Arts Festival on steroids.
At times being a producer got in the way of being in the moment, taking in surroundings and at times giving my best performance. Especially day one and two. That being said, it was certainly a learning experience with wonderful memories, great works to be seen and people who were absolute gems.
What stayed with me was the regained confidence as an actor (once the first two days were done), as a person and the gratitude for the people who were with me. Whether it be playing games, flyering covered in ivy or in a wedding dress on the Royal Mile and exploring the breathtaking Edinburgh, I couldn’t have imagined doing all that with anyone else.
Anyone going I’d advise you see as many things as you can, enjoy it, and pop into the cat cafe!
This is a busy time of year for artists of all disciplines for sure. Reason being, applications! Whether applying through the Arts Council, upcoming festivals, bursaries or any other type of funding, the summer months seem to be peak times with numerous applications opening and deadlines assigned by the new time. Here are just some of the stages of completing said applications;
Optimism: You get a notification, another application is open. You take an in-breath and… It actually doesn’t look so bad. Seems straight forward, you have all your info easily ready and the deadline is in two weeks! It’ll be done in a day, for sure!
Confusion: Wait a minute… You stumble upon a section with complex wording/a question that can mean one thing or the opposite (may not affect the application, but it just might) or just something you swear is written by an alien. You ask around, get advice and hooray! Problem solved! Moving onto the next section.
Procrastination: Pubs are open again, the sun is out, you wish you could go but you’re just soooo busy with this application… In reality, you’re messing with your hair, your bestie is distracting you with funny animal videos, you’ve found out that new series has started and have now started to scrub the stubborn stain off the mantelpiece. You PROMISE you’ll get back to it when you’re done… Yeah…
Panic: You’ve been at the laptop for 3 hours, you can’t remember when you’ve last showered never mind eaten (a real meal) but that’s ok you’re nearly there. You’ve just one more section then… Where is it… Where’s the draft?! Where’s the form?! WHERE IS IIIIIIITTTTTT?! … Oh wait it was minimized, phew!
Post Submission: That’s it, it’s sent! Aaaaand now you’ve passed out.
The bottom line is to mind yourselves when doing these applications. Break it down into small chunks, get help from a friend, ask other people in the arts community for advice, and do not, I repeat, do not stress. Get out and away from it when you need to, let your friends know if you’re struggling and please please please, eat something that’s not Koka noodles!
The clothes line is down, the costumes in storage and the stage/screen empty. That’s curtains for Uniform, something I somewhere deep down didn’t think I’d ever be able to say! For several reasons, check out the video above for the full story. Such a big chapter deserves a proper closure, so for this month’s blog I thought I’d reflect on the process of creating digital theatre, what I learnt and how the experience has affected my view of digital theatre. I hope this article will be useful for other artists creating digital work.
The right story to tell digitally
Overall I think the method of digital theatre worked, not as a piece of theatre but as it’s own thing. I think this was because of a few reasons. Firstly Uniform was a contemporary play, I feel this translated better to screen. For example our previous production Starseed which was more abstract would not have worked in the same way. Audiences in a physical theatre are very accepting to a change in lighting signifying a dream scape. Screen audiences are used to seeing these themes conveyed in hyper realistic manners through the magic of film. As there was nothing otherworldly or abstract within the world of Uniform I believe it suited a digital presentation better than other texts.
Lights camera action!
Once it was decided that Uniform would become a piece of digital theatre I found myself at a crossroads. Do I decide to lean into all that film can bring and begin storyboarding and have Hazel switch from theatre to film acting? (They are two very different things!) Or do I continue directing Uniform as it was intended to be, a piece of theatre on front of a live audience. I choose the traditional theatre root, but some compromises had to be made. I wanted the show to be captured all in one go in order to keep the essence of a live performance. This was not always possible due to different technical issues that naturally arise during filming. In this case it was mostly the mic being affected by the costume changes. However, we were very fortunate that our theatrical lighting did not have to be changed to suit the camera, this had been our most preempted issue. The multiple camera and editing showed the audience the full stage and close ups of Hazel. The capturing of these close up moments was a real unexpected treat and something that could not be seen by an audience in such detail during a live theatre show. When viewing it on the night I was pleased with my decision to keep Uniform as close to a traditional theatre piece as possible. Although I could not help wonder how the performance would have changed if given the energy of an audience to play off of.
On the production side of things the most difficult part was not interacting with the audience. We don’t know how many were in the audience or what they thought. As it’s a digital ticket there is no way of knowing how many people were actually watching the one link, I’ve heard of five people watching one ticket link together and for all I know that could be the case for each ticket bought. I’ve also gotten apologies from people who bought a ticket but something came up. So the number of tickets bought for digital show doesn’t reflect the amount of seats filled. After attending or being apart of a live show you can feel the energy in the room following the curtain. When Uniform ended I didn’t clap but I was delighted with how the show went and wondered how it had been received. I couldn’t tell and that was a bizarre feeling.
Overall it was a great experience and I always love experimenting with different approaches to art. I’m now diving straight into directing a very different piece of digital theatre ‘ It’s True I Love You All So Much’ by Jenni Nikinmaa. The upcoming play is presented as a theatrical digital experience, it was written with intention of being presented digitally and could not exist any other way. Through this process I’ve become very interested in the relationship between the performer and audience within the digital realm and how it differs from live theatre. I’m excited to explore this and many other themes within the world of the play.
I’d love to hear from Uniform audience members to gain a better understanding of the digital theatre experience from an audience POV. If you attended Uniform and have a few minutes to spare I’d really appreciate it if you answered this short survey.
So, last year I wrote a play. For the reasons of the events after writing it, I shall no longer call it by name until post-production. Now I shall refer to it as ‘The Clothes Play’. Anyway, after writing ‘The Clothes Play’, we set out our rehearsal schedule, meetings, key dates, and any other things that go into production. We were all set and then these things happened;
Rehearsal 1: The Storm
Due to a sudden storm, we no longer had a rehearsal space. We resorted to rehearsing in a team member’s house as we could only watch the trees bend like rubber throughout. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long and we were back in the rehearsal room the following week. It was an interesting start but we thought nothing of it.
Rehearsal 3 – 6: Ever Changing Rooms
Whatever it was, whether it be simple mistakes with the booking systems or something else, we were constantly moved to alternative rooms throughout. I made a joke that ‘This is the show of moving rooms, it’s like Alice in Wonderland!’
Rehearsal 3 – 6: Too Good Rehearsals
Rehearsals at this point seemed to be going too well. We were half way blocked, I was half way off book and everything was great. I didn’t want to jinx it (maybe I did!) but I couldn’t help but feel that this would be a great show. I went home happy that weekend looking forward to the next week.
Rehearsal 7: End/Cancelled
I think we know how the rest goes. The 12th of March 2020 will always be a date that will stay with me. After getting the news at work my first thoughts were of ‘The Clothes Play’. Rena and I talked that evening, we were confident that all will be fine and planned for online rehearsals. We didn’t even get that far in the end.
With 2020 going down the rabbit hole, we were hopeful and planned our programme for 2021. ‘We’ll be well over it’, we thought. ‘Theatres will be open’, we said.
Why is The Clothes Play cursed?
Similar to The Scottish Play, a string of strange and unlucky events occurred throughout. Thinking back, I’ve asked myself why and how is it possible?
The Faces of Eve
Using this trope, I narrated the lives of numerous women. I portrayed them all at different stages of their lives; Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Firstly, they say things come in threes and – Well ok, more than three things happened but three things did happen before the 12th of March. Secondly, perhaps I enraged a deity or possibly Hecate for using this trope so they facilitated these events. I’d rather not make a third point, see point one.
‘Uni-’, I mean ‘The Clothes Play’ narrowly revolves around the women who all happen to attend this religious secondary school where nuns would’ve had a close connection. Whether they be passed/present teaching staff and or fellow residents with the borders in the convent. Maybe some nuns’ spirits didn’t like what I wrote?
For these reasons and more, I have strong thoughts that ‘The Clothes Play’ is possibly cursed. Once we’re in the theatre I won’t dare say the name, or light three candles on stage or wear blue. Wait, one of the costumes is blue. Dang.
Join us for ‘The Clothes Play’ at the Town Hall Theatre from the comfort of your own home May 22nd at 8pm → https://tht.ie/3586/uniform
I’m about to ask a big and complex question, which I have no intention of fully answering but I would really like to ignite a conversation on the topic. Are the arts classist? For the purposes of this short blog, I’m going to focus on the Irish theatre industry as it’s the area I’m most familiar with. I’ll also be discussing the issue through my own personal experiences within this blog but in the future will explore the industry from a birds-eye view. I would like to discuss other Industries in the future to gain a fuller picture (music, visual art, dance, film etc.). For both of these future pieces, I will need to do further research.
I asked this question in FB in September and I received an influx of nuanced tajes on the subject. The main points that frequented my comment section and inbox were:
Elite Drama schools can only be attended by those who can afford it and those who manage to attend from lower-class backgrounds feel ostracized.
Funding and opportunities are given to the same names again and again.
People are pushed up the ladder because of their connections, it often comes down to who you know not what you know.
Theatre itself can be viewed as an upper-class activity from the outside, even if theatre artists are not.
The starving artist narrative has been dangerously romanticized.
Many of the comments I received impacted me personally. My mind was spinning with memories of feeling on the outside due to my background. I’ve also often expressed my frustration that opportunities are often not advertised but given to artists the company/casting agent/ festival already knew.
As an artist, my eyes were really opened to this issue when I studied for my Master’s at NUIG. I realized very quickly that my upbringing and background were very different from many of my peers. I had studied my undergrad in an I.T that did not even have a drama soc while many of my classmates had attended well-funded universities with fully funded drama societies. I had never previously been aware that universities in Dublin were producing shows with resources I could never dream of. I was even envious of many recalling their experiences at drama summer camps or musicals their schools organized. They cut music from my school, so the drama was definitely never on the cards. I did attend summer camps but the ones focused on drama were always too expensive or far away.
The location in which a child is brought up will inevitably have an impact on the opportunities they’re exposed to. I just didn’t realize how much I may have been missing out on until I was older. I would like to add here that I still was very fortunate, I had parents who supported me, especially my late mother who really believed in me. Even though there were no opportunities at school my mum saved and borrowed money to send me to music and drama lessons in another county every weekend as a teenager. Meaning I could still take music in the leaving cert even if the school didn’t teach it.
Many of my classmates were baffled by the idea of running a show without a full team (Production manager, SM, ASM etc.) While my training had focused on creating small-scale productions without the necessity for extra hands. I feel this was a result of the west having a do-it-yourself attitude due to a history of receiving less funding than Dublin. Our point of reference for professional work in Sligo was the Blue Raincoats, who operated with a small team but created high-quality work. This highlighted the difference in our approach to the theatre from different places in Ireland. Originally this made me feel insecure about my education and approach to my craft but I later realized I had been better prepared for working with small budgets.
During the Master’s programme we had a weekly workshop or guest speaker. This was an amazing opportunity and I learned a great deal from each guest speaker about the craft. However when asked how to get to their position? Eg. “How did you get your start?” or “How did you get this job?” The answer was never there was an open call or Job Advertisement and it was usually “I knew so and so and they asked me to”. This always made the inspiration I had just received shrivel into hopelessness. Especially as I learned many successful theatre-makers did not have relevant degrees and I was putting myself into debt to complete my Masters. This is not in any way to state these people do not deserve their position or are not good at their job, they are. I just think it’s important the discuss the variants of luck, connections, and privilege in someone’s career path.
The reason we set up Eva’s Echo was that we felt there were no auditions in Galway even if there were shows. This is why we are dedicated to holding as many open casting as possible. After being in the industry for a few years now I understand the why behind this issue. As a small company paying artists a profit share, it is feasible to continuously hold open castings. However, if you hope to move up and pay your artists a wage you must apply for arts council funding. For most production awards you must list your full team and that includes the cast. This means you must have the show cast before applying for funding. So companies that work with the same actors over and over again are not closing their doors to emerging artists out of snobbery. They are making this choice strategically as an actor with a strong track record on an application is more likely to result in funding. It would also be time-consuming and possibly pointless to hold auditions and cast a show that may not get made. It’s easier to put a name that you know on the application. This applies to all arts organizations that are not strategically funded. I thought this was an important area to discuss when exploring classism within the arts. By looking deeper, we realize lack of castings is not always because arts organizations don’t want to work with new artists. Which I feel is a misconception that hurts both companies and emerging artists.
In conclusion. This blog is impossible to wrap up, as the issue of classism in the arts is much larger than a short blog can cover. But I hope that this piece can open up a conversation around class within the arts industry.