Thursday, November 27, 2008

Romeo and Juliet - Tempest Theatre Group

Okay okay okay . . . I have been MIA . . . but again I have an awesome excuse! The production of Romeo and Juliet that I was co-directing (and playing Lady Capulet in), went up last week and while it was all consuming . . . it was totally awesome. I am now suffering a bit postpartum depression since it closed, but I thought I would post some pictures from the show to share with you all and maybe also help make me feel a little less sad!

We set the show in an Edwardian Music Hall (because we happened to be performing in an Edwardian Music Hall) - and we had just the most fantastic sets and costumes. The acting was terrific, the fights (as always) spectacular (we had an amazing gun that shot blanks and when it went off in a cloud of smoke and fire, literally, someone would scream in the audience every time). Even the dance in the party scene was just gorgeous, with Paris and Juliet dancing together, and the rest of the boys partnered with dresses.

Anyway, here are some pics from on stage and off . . .

Steven Burley as The MC (an amalgam of the Chorus, Prince, Apothecary, Servant, Friar John)

Me as Lady Capulet

Casey Hudecki played Juliet, but because she is also an awesome fighter, she was a boy in the opening brawl. This is her in her "boy costume" hugging some roses sent her by her significant other. Aw!

Lesley Livingston (the Nurse) hanging out in her makeshift dressing room, aka the shower. Don't she look purty!

Patrick Whalen (Paris) being punched by Luc Forgeron (Romeo), while Casey looks on.

Chris Sironi (left, Tybalt) and Scott Moyle (right as Benvolio), just chillin' by the sinks.

Luc at fight call practicing with the gun: "This shall determine that!"

Fight call on stage. Todd Campbell (left, Mercutio), Chris Sironi (Tybalt)

Death of Mercutio

Jonathan Llyr (left, Lord Capulet) and Patrick Whalen (Paris) watching fight call from the side.

Casey Hudecki (left still as boy) and Alex MacDonald (Balthasar - or as we liked to call him, Thasar) in the opening brawl.

Paris arresting Romeo in the tomb.

A nice picture of the stage just before the show starts. Yes, it is meant to look that disheveled.

The Prince and his kin - left to right: Patrick Whalen (Paris), Steven Burley (Prince), Todd Campbell (Mercutio)

Capulet Family - left to right: Me (Lady Capulet), Chris Sironi (Tybalt), Jonathan Llyr (Lord Capulet), Lesley Livingston (Nurse), Casey Hudecki (Juliet)

The boys - left to right: Scott Moyle (Benvolio), Luc Forgeron (Romeo), Todd Campbell (Mercutio), Alex MacDonald (Balthasar)

left to right: Louis Adams (Friar), Lesley Livingston (Nurse)

Most of the cast cozy together at the cast party - left to right: Stevie Baker (our gloriously fabulously sensational Stage Manager), Alex MacDonald, Lesley Livingston, Patrick Whalen, Luc Forgeron, Casey Hudecki, Chris Sironi, Me.

Me and a couple of my boys, Luc and Chris.

Friday, November 07, 2008


thoughtful |ˈθôtfəl|

• absorbed in or involving thought
• showing consideration for the needs of other people
• showing careful consideration or attention

On the night the first African American President of the United States was elected, hopes were beyond high for his acceptance speech. We had learned much of the man over the last two years, his policies, his background, his hopes for the future, and the thing that stuck out most for everyone was what a wonderful orator he was. So it was that when Barack Obama stepped onto the stage and crowds around the world cheered, the anticipation of his following words was palpable.

What he did next surprised some. The man who had rallied millions with his rousing orations, spoke soberly, calmly about America's future. Even the repeated rhetoric of his now signature phrase, "Yes we can", was spoken quietly, and plainly stated each time. No rising to a crescendo, no final point delivered, each word punched as if it was its own sentence. No. He spoke of the challenge ahead, of this not being an end but a beginning. Of a need for everyone to work together.

In his first press conference today he spoke of a need for "deliberate haste" in forming his cabinet. Of an understanding that speed was required, but not at the expense of putting careful consideration into the decision making process.

And that is what has inspired this particular blog post. Oh there are many things I could write about today that this man has inspired, not only in me, but around the world. But this particular issue is rather near and dear to me. It is possibly not quite as grand seeming, but it is of incredible importance, at least, in my opinion.

There is a word I have found myself repeating more and more these days. You have probably read it in many of my posts, typically the posts in which I offer what advice I can on the various industries in which I am involved.

And that word is "thoughtful".

I have always firmly believed in this idea of thoughtfulness. Though I must admit to having as passionate displays of emotion as the next person (probably at times even greater than the next person), the concept of thinking things through has always been one of the utmost importance to me.

Being thoughtful encompasses so many wonderful ideas: empathy, intuition, logical reasoning, but most of all it represents just sitting back for a moment and taking pause. Not rushing to any decision in the heat of the moment.

Thoughtfulness is understanding subtext. It is not just reading a law, but interpreting it. Understanding why something exists in the first place. It is looking at the submission guidelines for an agent and understanding why that agent felt she needed to create them. It is understanding the rules of writing, why they are there, and how they help make a story stronger. And in this understanding comes an ability to see where the rules were meant to be broken, how and why.

Thoughtfulness is being the devil's advocate. It is understanding another perspective, no matter how much you may disagree. It is being empathetic to another's problems no matter how distant from your own. And forming decisions based on all the facts.

It is listening to the opinions of others, and not dismissing them as foolhardy no matter how much they may appear as such to you initially.

It is thinking.

There is a danger, of course, in too much thinking. There is always the danger of inaction. But in my opinion the truly thoughtful people out there understand that there is a time for thought, and a time of doing. That there is a time to be careful and a time to be spontaneous. To be moderate, to over indulge. I once told a friend, "Everything in moderation," and she added onto that: "including moderation". I really love that idea.

No one is perfect, and no one will make all the right decisions. We have yet to know how well or poorly Obama will do in office, and I would prefer not to make any judgments quite yet (considering he isn't exactly even the President yet). But I would like to offer up the suggestion that at least in this we could try to follow in the example he has set. I truly hope the time ahead of us is one of consideration and intelligence. Of empathy and understanding. Of thoughtfulness.


It even takes some thought to say it. You really have to use your whole mouth to articulate it clearly.

Good word that.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Becoming an Actor

In response to my last post, djpaterson asked the following question:

My 17-year-old niece's ambition is to become an actress, and as such she is thinking of going to University (here in the UK) to study theatre and drama. What would you say are the practical steps to becoming an actress if you want it enough?

I thought the answer might be of some help to others so I'm going to answer it now in this blog post.

Fact is, there is no one true tested path in becoming an actress, especially in the world of tv/film - people actually do get discovered on the street.


I have always felt that if your goal was to truly become an actor, as opposed to "famous". If you truly want to play different characters, say fabulous words written by fabulous people, be directed and keep learning every time you do a new production. . . If being in the presence of great directors/actors/writers is enough for you that you would be happy to be second servant on the left. . . then I believe you should have training.

There are so many skills that an actor needs to learn, so many tools to bring to the table. You don't want to go into a production and have your director feel he/she has to teach you the basics. So many actors I see today have no concept how to literally just stand on a stage. To be fair however, learning how to stand on a stage is actually very very difficult.

So. To answer the question.

It all depends of course, but I would highly recommend one of the three year conservatory schools. In the UK, in particular, that would be RADA, LAMDA, Bristol Old Vic etc (there are actually many more than just those three, all of which are quite excellent). The tradition in the UK with theatrical training is fantastic, it is almost a prerequisite and creates, in general, a very high level of professionalism in the acting community. In attending one of these schools you learn about all forms of theatre, as well as have film/tv training. You learn dance, singing, stage combat. You work on your physicality and your voice. It is intense, it requires a great deal of self discipline, but can be very worth it.

However, some find such institutions constraining, too much like highschool. For others it makes more sense to take independent courses, or to learn by watching. This requires in effect even more self discipline to practice on your own. Unfortunately the time of the touring rep companies in the UK is now gone. There was a time where an untested young actor could join a company as a stage hand, learn by being in the presence of great actors and slowly work their way up the ranks. This really doesn't exist anymore.

There is also the option for those who while very devoted to acting, still would like to attend University and study other courses as well. This is actually the option I took. I went to a University where I got an Honours BA in theatre. It was intense, though not quite as intense as a conservatory programme, and to be fair mixing academics with the arts is VERY time consuming. After I finished at University I did a one year programme in classical theatre in London at LAMDA, which was just perfect for me. This in fact is another option, attending a University, studying the subject of your choice, and THEN going to a conservatory programme with a bit more maturity behind you.

In the end though, there simply is no true path. After all the training is done, no matter how you did it, you all still have to get an agent, still have to go to auditions. Going to these schools does give you an advantage in that you will also meet very important people in the industry, you'll make some great contacts. But even that might still not be enough. At the same time some people find that they did horribly in drama school and then flourished upon leaving it. It truly depends on your upbringing, your personality, how best you work. You have to understand yourself and what you need to get where you want.

However I will say after having gone through auditions now as a director casting a show, I will tell you that training makes a world of difference. So many people came in who might have had some nice raw material, but there was simply no way they were ready to stand on a stage and do Shakespeare.

It would be really nice if prospective actors saw their future careers as a real art form. Dancers work hours everyday to perfect their technique, what on earth makes actors so different from that? The problem is so many people look to television and see people desperately seeking their 15 minutes that they want to fast track the process. If all you want is to be on television, then apply for reality tv. But understand that to have a career with longevity you are going to have to have skill and abilities beyond looking pretty in front of a camera. And don't think being a host for a tv show is a quick easy way either, I have many friends who are on-air hosts, and I can tell you that takes a great deal of ability as well.

There are quick ways of getting your 15 minutes, but if you want that 15 minutes to extend to a lifetime, you need to put in the effort. Heck, even Paris Hilton keeps working out new ways to keep herself in the public eye.

It ain't easy, is the point. But man is it worth it when you finally do get that job.