Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Fever, British Summer Time and the Fabulous PSS

The clocks in the UK sprung forward today. Unfortunately, I wasn’t made aware of this fact until after I had missed my movie. Daylight Savings Time took effect a few weeks ago, on March 8th in the US but on this side of the pond we move to British Summer Time on the last Sunday of March. I do wish it felt a bit more like summer time. I keep trying to will the warmth by wearing lighter clothes but inevitably end up freezing when I go out.

At present, most students are on what Americans would call Spring Break. Liberty House is pretty quiet right now. I won’t see many of my hall mates until after Easter. A few of my American classmates are headed back stateside. I’ve asked those New York bound to bring me back a Border Burrito in a spinach tortilla from Burritoville and a soy dog with kraut and cheese with a side of air fries from Better Burger but somehow I don’t think these delicacies will travel well. Ho hum.

This past week was my first working at the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. I’m there as an intern on what they call a professional placement. PSS is a fantastic organization dedicated to the development of new writings and new playwrights. They lead all kinds of initiatives to seek out new talent and cultivate that talent and their work. PSS sponsors an assortment of workshops and competitions. They have a play reading service where writers can submit scripts and receive professional feedback on their work. PSS arranges mentorships between established playwrights and emerging playwrights. They also arrange script development workshops where a playwright can work with actors and directors and hear their play read and worked out loud. This is extremely useful for the playwright to identify potential problems with the script and make adjustments before they submit it as a production ready final draft. Julie Ellen is the inexhaustible Creative Director of PSS. Wonder woman Claire Dow is the General Manager. And the super team is rounded out by the indispensable Sonja Lowe and the invaluable Claire Yspol. I have to say working with these ladies has been an inspiration and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store!

To find out more about Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland check out their website:

Tomorrow I’m off to see a new play and I’ll continue my Shakespeare homework.

Until next week, take care my friends!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jings! Is A Bonny, Braw Day Tae Blether In Scots!

That’s right my friends! It is a beautiful, fine day here in Scotland. I’m writing the ol’ blog this morning because after an intense weekend with my script writing project, I was simply dead yesterday. Or, deid yestreen, as they might say here in Scotland.

This weekend I did a crash course in the Scots language in an effort to make the speech of the Scottish character in my script more authentic. I didn’t think that I was writing a bilingual script when I started out, but oh yes, I was. In Scotland there are three languages and maybe a few more if you count what they speak on some of the rural islands. You have English (thank goodness!!), Gaelic, which is not the same as Irish Gaelic but similar and they speak Scots. Scots is definitely its own language but developed from a wide variety of influences. It might be described as a sort of fusion of several of the groups that have invaded and settled in Scotland over the centuries. There is a heavy English influence, of course, and Norse, amongst others. Many of the words have a Germanic sound such as a hard ‘ch’ as found in ‘Bach’. I spent Friday and Saturday listening to audio recordings of some of the language and accents and referred to several books. I looked at some scripts written by Scottish playwrights as well as some phrase and culture books. I read a dictionary cover to cover. Seriously, I read a 271 page Scots dictionary from front to back. And then I started my translation. I took what I wrote in my version of standard American English and translated it in to a mix of Scots and Scottish English. My Scottish character’s language is an attempt to capture what you might hear from the local people on the streets in Edinburgh. In the north of Scotland the Scots gets thicker and English gets thinner. I hope to travel up north this spring and hear it for myself. I’m sure my Scottish mentor will have some suggestions on how to improve the speech but I think it was barrie shottie on my pairt.

In other news, the Shakespeare plays have been cast. I am in both. I have a small part in King Lear; I’m a servant named Oswald. And four parts in Julius Caesar. I am Calpurina (aka Mrs. Caesar), Cinna the Poet, Titinius and a Servant to Antony. These are smaller rolls but all together they add up to a big responsibility. I am thrilled about all of these. I have some really great scenes including three death scenes! Cinna the Poet gets lynch mobbed! An actor couldn’t ask for a better way to go. We have two weeks before rehearsals commence. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do to prepare. Two plays to study and five characters to develop! Whoa, I have my work cut out for me. But I am excited!!

Tomorrow I report to my professional placement. This is an internship. I will be working at the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. Playwrights’ Studio is dedicated to cultivating playwrights and new works in Scotland. Some projects even cross the boarder and include the whole of the UK. They are a fantastic group of people committed to a cause I love. So, hi ho hi ho, it’s off to work I go. I’ll keep you posted!

Tune in next week for more Melanie madness!
Take care!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Heddas Rolled, Puppy Love, Salsa Saturdays and Paper Procrastination

Friday was the day when all the Heddas came out to play. We rolled out our scenes and presented them to faculty, undergrads and other guests. It was an Ibsen afternoon for those of us in the MA CCT at the RSAMD. I think it is safe to say it was a success. My group was very happy with our delivery and we saw some nice work from our classmates. The next few weeks are for research projects and professional placements (aka: internships). Formal classes and RSAMD sanctioned schedules to return after the Easter Bunny has hidden some eggs.

Friday we celebrated the conclusion of our Hedda scene work at a local vegetarian restaurant. I, being a veggie, was very excited by the food choices but some of my carnivorous classmates were less than thrilled. But there was beer so most were pacified for a while at least. Saturday night the good times continued. A handful of us went Salsa dancing! It was a lot of fun and really good exercise. I don’t have a clue how to Salsa but the ones who did taught me a basic step and I worked with that for the rest of the night. My friend Tony is a wonderful Salsa dancer and was tearing up the floor! It was a surprise and a joyous entertainment. I hope to pick up a little more and go again some time.

Tomorrow we have a major assignment due. For each section of the course we are required to write a summative statement; a paper documenting our work and experiences with that module. It is time to deliver the statement on The Globe. Well, naturally we wouldn’t want to get started too early on the assignment so Saturday afternoon I ran away to the movies…again. I have to say though, it was totally worth it! I saw “Marley and Me”. If you have ever loved a dog you will delight in this flick. It was funny and sweet and yes, very sad at the end. Bring tissues. It is a bio-pic of Marley, a yellow lab, and his family (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston). Seriously, dog lovers, go see it. I just wanted to run out and adopt a pup right after I saw it. Oh but I wish I could…

So procrastination continued today. I finally started my paper at about 1 in the afternoon. It took me about twelve hours. This of course doesn’t mean I worked on it for twelve hours straight. There were a series of interruptions; some self imposed and some were just my classmates trying to avoid working on their papers. Ah we are sad sometimes. But keep in mind, we are actors, we want to act it, not document it. But then again I’m a writer too, so what’s my excuse? Anyway it’s done now, ready to arrive at the office, stamped and signed for by noon tomorrow. Very official.

This coming week is all about my script. And that I am excited to work on. I have a deadline for the first draft on Sunday. I am ready to really get in there and build a story. Woo-who! Good stuff.

Okay my friends, I have had enough of this computer for one day!
Take care! And good night!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weathering Writer’s Hangover; Hedda-acheless Hopes

Writer’s hangover is not fun. Okay. So, writer’s hangover is what happens after a writer begins an inspired binge of work that keeps her up ‘till four in the morning for a few days in a row. The binge is awesome! You’re on a roll, you’re brain doesn’t stop; you’re cranking out pages and plowing through problems like never before. It is a fantastic high and you get so much done! But then, all good things must come to an end. Eventually, you crash; sleep deprived, mentally exhausted, deformed from sitting at your computer for so long and just plain spent. That stage is called the writer’s hangover. I arrived there about an hour ago. It don’t feel so good. But, I am so thrilled with all the work I have done this weekend. My project is rolling and taking shape and I’m really excited. So yeah, it was worth it.

The past week was the inspiration that brought on my wild writing weekend. We had two really profound classes with Lorne Campbell and a couple of meetings with him on the side regarding the research project. Lorne Campbell is a director who specializes in developing new writings. He introduced some new ways of thinking that totally turned our world upside down. I don’t even think I can fully explain what the process is because I still don’t fully grasp it all myself. It has to do with the approach to the script; with how we look at it and the goals we want to achieve. As actors, we spend a lot of time with the scripts trying to fill in the blanks and make decisions about character and story. Lorne was guiding us to do the opposite. When work-shopping a new work we aren’t looking for answers, we are looking for the questions. It ain’t easy for us actor types to resist filling in the blanks. Plus, it gets even crazier when you have to figure out what needs to be figured out!

I visualize the process of a new script as a ladder. At the top of the ladder is a writer at her computer in a writing frenzy. That process has all kinds of issues of its own. Many with which, as a writer, I am somewhat familiar. So all that is way up at the top of the ladder; the birthing of the idea. And at the other extreme, all the way down on the ground is the show; full production, audience comfortable in their seats, actors on stage in costume, fully confident, delivering the goods. So what happens in between? How do the writer’s ideas and concepts make their way down the ladder to reach the audience? Let’s work backwards from the ground up. We know that before opening night there are dress rehearsals and technical rehearsals. And before that is the actors’ rehearsal process where they learn lines, develop character and figure out where to stand. Before that a table read with the entire company where everyone reads the script together so they know what the story is all about. And before that there are auditions and meetings where a producer may hire a director. Moving on up, you may find a submission of the script by the writer to the producer with the producer sitting at his desk reading the script for the first time and thinking, ‘This is good, let’s add it to our season.’ But what in the life of the script happens before that? Did the writer finish the first draft, whip it off the printer and rush it to the producer’s inbox? Highly unlikely. Something happened in between the writer finishing the first draft and it landing in the producer’s hands ready for production. And that area on the ladder is a place where many of us have spent very little time. That is the work-shop stage. And that is where people like Lorne Campbell work their magic. Actors and directors working in this area need a specific set of skills and a specific way of thinking. Things at this stage are not certain and are constantly changing. It is not solid ground and it isn’t always clear. It’s not a comfortable place for many actors and directors to work. But it is the childhood of the script and to be a part of its growth and development into maturity can be very rewarding. I admit I spent much of my time this week in a confused cloud as I tried to train my brain to look at things from a much different prospective. I certainly do need to spend more time in this area of the ladder before I fully understand this way of thinking. But I can tell, when the clouds part, it’s gonna be a beautiful view!

Next up is our final Hedda hoopla. We present our scenes on Friday, so it’s all about polishing up the work we have been doing. I am seriously hoping this writer’s hangover has moved on by tomorrow. I need to be sharp and crisp and ready for the Gabler gab in the morning.

I’m taking an Alka Seltzer and going to bed.
Good night kids!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

Hello! So sorry to be tardy! I try my darn-dest to get my weekly blog entry posted on Sunday or Monday at the latest but we here at Liberty House have had major problems with our internet. A power outage that occurred on Saturday evening seems to have affected the internet service. Power came back within a few hours but the net has been AWOL for days. It appears to be settled now and we can move on with our cyber-life.

Now, I want to just take a moment to mourn the economy.


Thank you. Seriously though, I don’t like to dwell on negative things and I certainly don’t want to get into any kind of debate about what caused/is causing the problems but, I recently learned that some of my former friends and co-workers in New York have been laid off. Hard times may be ahead for us here in the UK and back home in the US. We must stay strong and hold on to hope. I’m sending out positive vibes to my former colleagues and pray that as one door closes in their lives, another one will open and very soon.

In less depressing news; Hedda is going well. Everyone seems to be enjoying their time with Hedda the Head Case (read the play, you’ll see, she may have benefitted from a good shrink). My group is making “Hedda” way. I know, I’ll stop; it’s just so easy…
Anyway, we present our Hedda Gabler scenes next week for faculty review.

Tomorrow we have an all day workshop with Jacqui Crago. Ms. Crago is an expert on the human voice and will no doubt get us to make some noise. And Thursday and Friday we will be working with Lorne Campbell. Mr. Campbell is a director and alum of the RSAMD and is particularly skilled in the practice of developing new writing. He will be showing us some approaches that may help us with our professional playwrights and the scripts they are writing for us. Mr. Campbell will also be mentoring my research project. Yea! My project partners and I are very happy to have his guidance.

Well, I hope those of you on the Eastern seaboard who were hit by the recent blast of snow are digging out and staying warm and dry.

More adventures to come…
Take care my friends!