Keep Calm And Carry On (Performing)

Keep Calm And Carry On (Performing)

Can community theatre survive COVID-19?

e8a8b137-ebea-43b7-8665-5fe07ccf23bbSUP co-chairs Alison Wells and Stephen Fenerty reflect on the last few months

We hope this blog finds you and your loved ones safe and well.

We’ve been co-chairs of SUP Theatre Company for three years now, and we love the group for many reasons – but mainly because of the people we get to meet, work and socialise with. We come together through a shared love of theatre, the arts and performing, to make new friends and have fun.

Pre-coronavirus and like most people, SUP’s year was pretty well planned. We had a great mix in our programme that included festivals, outdoor theatre, regular plays, murder mystery events and socials – all of which went immediately on hold, like most of the rest of the country, in late March.Cast_StephenBW

Someone said to us, ”Well, I guess that’s it for you guys, for a few months at least?” Far from it.

The challenge for us and the SUP Committee was how to keep our society ‘going’ when we couldn’t actually get together physically and do what we came together to do in the first place: engage in theatre as a collaborative activity.

How do you run an amateur theatre group when there are no theatres and no audiences, when actors can’t be in the same physical space?

Of course, this is a massive challenge facing theatre groups and venues up and down the country, in so many cases magnified, and some – sadly including our own Nuffield Southampton Theatres – have already stumbled and fallen. We have performed at NST Campus for over fifty years. The future is uncertain and we can expect a lot more of that. But, as they say, the show must go on, in some form or another. We must try to stay positive.

So that is what we have done. Like many others, from the National Theatre to stand-up comedians, we’ve taken it online. In fact, we’ve been thrilled to see the SUP community thriving online.

These days, we hold our monthly committee meetings using Zoom. Of course we do.

But we also planned lockdown social events via Zoom, hosting two well-attended quizzes that also involved friends and family, as well as online play-readings, scripts provided. The second play reading was open to the wider public if they wanted to join us. Yes, reading a play online as a shared experience does take a little getting used to, but once you get that flow and pace, it works extremely well. And it’s fun. It brings us together. And together, we are stronger.

As part of our community remit, we also used our lockdown quizzes as opportunities to raise funds for charities including the Alzheimer’s Society and Rowans Hospice.

On Facebook, for our members’ only group, we’ve run ‘Lockdown Challenges’ for members to provide short video clips or images that are, for example, associated with a famous scenes or dialogue from plays and movies. It’s creative, it’s a distraction, it’s fun.

Back in March, we were disappointed when we had to cancel our rehearsals and public performances for our new wartime anthology ‘For The Fallen: Home Front’ that presented voices from the Southampton Blitz, D-day and VE Day.

Instead, our fantastic cast members of all ages performed the poems, letters, sketches, monologues, first-hand accounts and songs from the safety of their own homes, recording their brilliant efforts on video, some using virtual backdrops and other effects. We’re all learning.

Volume 2. Page 70, Picture 6. World War II. 8th May 1945. Whitehall, London, England. VE Day crowds are in high spirits after Prime Minister Winston Churchill+s speech.

Many of these clips were part of Royal Victoria Country Park’s live stream for its VE Day celebrations. We were even interviewed about our “virtual VE Day performances” on BBC Radio Solent. Take a look at the video playlist on Facebook, some clips are a little over a minute, none more than three minutes – https://www.facebook.com/watch/SUPTheatre/841452699676177/

We’re continuing to try and think of new ways to engage with our members and reach an audience. Members can dip in and out as they like, and we’re delighted to see them when they do join in.

Our next challenge will be online auditions and casting for our next production, which will take place in a theatre – we just can’t be 100% sure where and when right now – and we’re also thinking about other online performances we can put together as a group. As our technical prowess grows, so do our ideas.

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It does take a bit of work, time and planning but trying to keep the group together and active as best we can, while the country emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, is a priority for the two of us and for the rest of the Committee. SUP has been around for over 55 years and we’re still going strong! In fact, we even welcomed two new members this week: Jan and Greg, it’s great to have you on board.

Why not join us?

Christie on Campus #7

Christie on Campus #7

The New Year brings new blood to the Nuffeld stage

The cast of SUP’s upcoming AND THEN THERE WERE NONE includes new faces

When we auditioned and cast the show, we were pleased to welcome some exciting new talent to SUP Theatre Company.

In fact, the 10-strong cast is an almost 50/50 split, comprising five new or new-ish members alongside five longstanding players. This has made for a genuinely interesting dynamic within the cast, as old friends have come to blows in character – and new alliances are forged.

So, it’s in with the new…

Anna Hussey plays Mrs Rogers

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Anna Hussey

Anna has mainly been working backstage for the last decade, specialising in costume since leaving university.

She returned to the stage in 2016 and is making her debut performing with SUP in this thrilling production, with a marvellous turn as the hectoring and put-upon housekeeper on Soldier Island.

Along with performing, Anna enjoys board games, sci-fi and fantasy TV/film and attending rock gigs. She also hopes to return to another of her university pastimes in the near future... skydiving!

Gavin Costigan is Justice Lawrence Wargrave

Gavin’s first public performance in 1972 received mixed reviews from the critics.

Some thought that a loud solo rendition of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” may not have been entirely appropriate for a Nativity play – and perhaps even less so since he was in the audience.

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Gavin Costigan

His acting skills have progressed since then, although sadly his singing is much the same. He has appeared in a variety of shows for different groups, and before the current production his favourite part was Charles Condomine in BLITHE SPIRIT.

Gavin is returning to the stage after a break from acting due a combination of work and children – but both of these are now somewhat more under control. His Wargrave is watchful and controlling. When not acting or trying to earn a living, he writes poetry, drinks whisky and walks up Scottish mountains, though not all at once.

Hannah Harrison plays Dr Elizabeth Armstrong

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Hannah Harrison

Hannah likes to think that her revolutionary gender swap makes her the TRUE first female Doctor!

She trained as a professional actress at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts alongside fellow cast member Jess Capes. After following her friend of six years to Southampton, Hannah decided that she had to go one step further and join SUP – to further annoy Jess with her constant company.

Hannah is also an avid snow globe collector and has a thing for pineapple shaped objects. Her Dr. Armstrong is a joy to behold.

Alex Mawers is Anthony Marston

Alex is a qualified accountant working at Southampton General Hospital. As his amoral playboy character in the show says – repeatedly and annoyingly – he’s a “triffic!” addition to the team.

He’s only just returned to acting and this will be his first stage performance since his GCSE performance of Alice in Wonderland in 2010!

Although not seen on stage with SUP yet, Alex did appear as the Inspector’s assistant at two SUP Murder Mystery Dinners in 2018.

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Alex Mawers

Jess Capes plays Vera Claythorne

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Jess Capes

Jess trained at drama school with fellow cast mate Hannah.

She is very excited to be tackling this role alongside an amazing cast: if rehearsals are anything to go by, her performance in the climax of the play will have audiences on the edges of their seats.

Jess used to compete in ice skating, loves her brass music and once owned 13 gerbils!

Please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10

Concessions and group bookings also available

You can book your tickets here

ATTWN

 

 

 

 

It’s Murder – Take Two

It’s Murder – Take Two

Great Scott!

This week’s blog is from a real diva… famed actress Ophelia La Bobo (aka real-life SUP performer Naomi Scott) who finds herself tangled up in A Jolly Sinister Jape

My public want to hear from me? Well, I suppose that that’s no surprise. After all, I am the famous Ophelia La Bobo. You’ve probably seen me in films such as ‘The Attack of the Killer Jelly’. And of course I have another one just around the corner. I can’t wait to start work on ‘The Curse of the Human Dung Beetle’.

Working in film is so thrilling. The lights… the people… the fame! And my characters get to have such marvellous adventures.

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I’m an adventurer at heart – so long as I don’t get muddy or break a nail.

Can you believe that some people actually go to far-off lands where they traipse through forests and mountains, sleeping outside and drinking from rivers? How ghastly! Some even jump out of aeroplanes! How silly.

But it’s true that I yearn for more excitement. It’s not my husband Biffy’s fault that he’s such a bore. But of all the men that I could have married, I really would have imagined someone more interesting – perhaps with an exotic accent?

Oh, the show? Well, it’s a bit of a step backwards appearing in theatre rather than on the silver screen, of course, but it’s good for one to remember one’s roots. And of course I know that my public will appreciate being able to see me in the flesh. The Rose Theatre, you say? Where’s that? Eastleigh? Never heard of it. No matter. I’m sure that it will be positively ripping!


You can see Naomi in person as Ophelia in A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE –  on a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2018. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable. Click here to book tickets

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It’s Murder – Take Two

It’s Murder – Take Two

A Jolly Sinister Jape: a director’s journey

This week’s blog is by Kevin Bowers, director of SUP’s upcoming A Jolly Sinister Jape by Elliot Strange. A longstanding member of SUP, he’s appeared in productions including THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, MONSTROUS REGIMENT and DIRK GENTLY. This is the first time Kevin has directed for SUP.

My first task was to find a play, based on the following criteria:

1. One-act play only.
2.
It should be funny.
3.
It should connect to the other play on the double-bill, and SUP’s January 2019 show.
4. And h
ave a relatively small cast.

AJSJ logo

19-20 October at 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – book at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

A frantic online search later and I’d found it! A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE is set in the 1920s and takes place in a large empty house… which may not be as empty as it first appears. The play has four protagonists: businessman Biffy and his actress wife Ophelia, on their way to a film set, plus Lord Stubbs – on his way to a party – and ‘Fatty’, an old school chum of Ophelia.

As always when selecting a play, it’s important that you love it: you have to be able to see it, feel it and know it inside out and back to front. If the play is a comedy it needs to make you laugh, hopefully out loud. You then move to a reading so you get to see if others are laughing as much as you do, and then… Auditions!

I was away for the first round of auditions so handed duties to a friend, an experienced writer and director, who’s assisting me in the staging of the show. Peter gave me notes on the auditionees and following a mop-up session that I could attend, we got our heads together and came up with the four actors that will bring our story to life.

Plotting the moves the characters will make on the stage – blocking – can take a lot of time but allows you to quickly get the actors in the play and on to the development of their roles. The director has an idea of how they feel the part is played but, until the actor steps into the rehearsal room, you never know where it will end up. The cast I’ve been lucky to acquire have already challenged my original ideas and brought their own perspectives to the characters they are playing, and are already a team in a collaboration. As the director, I get the final decision – but I also want to make the process as fun and as interactive as I can possibly can.


A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE appears on a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2018. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

You can book tickets here

Herding Cats – Directors Blog – Auditions

Herding Cats – Directors Blog – Auditions

Well, in true X Factor / Strictly style, we’re on a ‘journey’ and I guess it starts in earnest right here, although, of course, in reality, it started months ago! But more of that in blogs to come.

So, why ‘herding cats’ as a name for this blog?

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve been part of the RSC Open Stages project and at a workshop in Stratford (get me, la-di-dah) someone described directing Shakespeare much like ‘herding cats.’  I think what they were implying was that it’s tough directing large casts and keeping everyone following the same artistic vision.  Either that or he was attempting a very experimental production!  Anyway, for want of a better name, that’s the reason why.

Next week, after the AGM, which I’m assured you’ll all be attending (!) we’ll have a read through of the play, which will give me a chance to hear if the editing of the sacred script has worked and to meet you all, most for the first time.

Then, the following week, THE AUDITIONS!!!  Gulp!.  For those attending, bring along a piece of Shakespeare .  It doesn’t have to be from The Dream.  Find something you’re fairly comfortable with.  And if you can learn it that would be great.  Auditions are notoriously nerve wracking and even more so if you’re not that experienced doing Shakespeare but fret ye not.  I’m not expecting the next Gielgud or Dame Judi.  We’ll have a bit of fun.  Infact, that’s what I’m aiming to do with the whole production.  Have fun, make it as accessible to EVERYONE as possible (actors and audience) and to produce a fabulous show.  And let’s not forget …. IT IS A COMEDY!

All the details you’ll need are here on the website but if you have any questions please get in contact with me on chrishawley8@gmail.com

I’m really looking forward to meeting you all and super excited that I’ve been asked to direct this production.  It’s going to be AWESOME!!!!

Chris

PS  I’m also looking for musicians as well as technical bods who might be able to help out with some pretty ambitious audio visual stuff.  Also, anyone interested in helping with costumes and makeup?

Director’s Blog: Auditions with #doodle

Over the past two weeks I have auditioned 36 brilliant people for 6 roles and now I need a lie down.

I find auditioning hard, I know some directors run auditions by letting people use any audition piece they like but I  am not that skilled or brave. In order to know how someone would be in the part, I have to hear them reading the actual part and usually 2 or 3 different snippets from different scenes particularly if they are portraying different emotions. This makes for a long session, actually it ended up being four evenings which is the most I have ever had to do.

I know from auditioning myself that it gets boring hanging around waiting and that when you do audition you want your fair shot at everything you may have read through at home. Quite right to, so I need to organise an evening where people don’t get bored but also everyone gets the time they need.

This year I came up with a secret weapon, a doodle poll. In past years, auditionees have all completed an audition form on arrival stating which roles they want to audition for. Usually most people want to audition for more than one. This means that at the start of the evening you are presented with a big pile of papers that you have to immediately sought into order and work through in as much order as possible. This is where things go wrong, a big pile of papers in my world tends to spread all over the table, drop on the floor, and get completely mixed up and cause stress and delay. No more. this year by the wonder of the internet and a doodle poll, everyone signed up in advance to say which evening they were coming and who they were reading for. One piece of paper replaces 36.

I did get it dreadfully wrong in one case. I was working from left to right on my doodle poll taking one character at a time and trying I thought to be efficient. It was only at 10.15pm that realised that one person had only chosen to audition for the part furthest right on my page. If I had done that part first she could have gone home, rather than spending 2 and a half hours sitting waiting. I did feel bad.

Seeing people on different nights is not easy, memory problems get in the way, so my learning for next time is to video on an ipad and watch at home one after the other for comparison purposes.

At the end of the day what I can report is I saw some really great auditions and met some really lovely people. I am so happy with my wonderful cast and at the same time quite sad that I couldn’t offer roles to a number of people who were also excellent but perhaps slightly too young or old for the roles.

I hope everyone who auditioned will keep involved in some way. Backstage, Front of house, sourcing props etc, There is so much to do.