Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nine Months Over for Some and Nine Weeks Left for the Rest of Us

This past week we received more pages of the scripts for our contemporary plays and met with our playwrights, a bit of rehearsal was initiated and one of our classmates became a father for the first time. It was a busy week. For some more than others!

The contemporary plays are on their way, yes, but who cares about that; there’s a new baby! Our Eric (who recently played my husband; Julius Caesar) and his partner Imogen welcomed their little boy into the world on Friday July 24, 2009 just before 10:30pm. We got to see a photo and he looks just like Dad! Yea Baby Boy!! They are still debating names.

This week we will continue our rehearsals and meetings with playwrights. Final versions of our performance scripts should be locked in by week’s end. In September we will present our contemporary shows here in Glasgow and take them to London and Edinburgh. And in between I’m sure there will be plenty of baby talk! But we are on to the final push. It is nearly over!! We will be visiting the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh to see some of the shows offered and we will be doing a reading of a new script called ‘Smoke’, but that’s it folks! This train is pulling into the station. Many of us are looking to get a jump on all the writing assignments due at the end of term. We will have about four papers due and that won’t be fun to do while we are on the road with the shows plus many of us will be moving house! Those of us in student housing will need to find an alternative for the last two weeks of term as our contracts are up but the term continues. So there is much to think about and organize in the next two months!

What a year! Well, I shouldn’t jump the gun yet, we still have a few more things to accomplish! Is it wrong that I’m already thinking about what to wear to graduation? Yes, focus Melanie! Papers to write, shows to put up! Focus! Oh and a baby!! I can’t wait to meet him!! I wonder if he’ll be an actor when he grows up.

More from the nursery, I mean, rehearsal room next week!
Take care!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Inside Info and Counting Down to Commencement

Another week of professional input can be checked off the list. Finlay Welsh came in and talked to the MA CCTs on Monday. Mr. Welsh has been a working actor for thirty plus years and had wealth of experience to talk about, particularly in radio. We haven’t heard too much about radio acting so it was wonderful to get the scoop. Radio plays are not such a big thing in the States these days but here in the UK they are quite common. We figure that has something to do with the amount of publicly subsidized radio they have in the UK. In the US, most radio is commercial and driven by advertising profits. Bottom line: music is the biggest draw for American radio audiences so that’s what they are gonna broadcast to get the listeners. But, radio acting sounds like a lot of fun. There is no concern about the way an actor looks; it all has to do with what they express through their voice. Therefore, it can be incredibly freeing and allow an actor to play parts she may not normally get to play. I’ll get a sense of what it is like next month when the ‘Dead in Scotland’ team hits the recording studio to make a CD of my new play. So exciting!

Monday afternoon brought us actor/writer/director Skye Lonergan. Ms. Lonergan graduated from the previous Masters program they had at the RSAMD. They discontinued that curriculum a few years back and restructured it into the course we are on now. Ms. Lonergan is a real self-starter. She creates a lot of her own work. Hearing stories like hers is extremely inspirational. It just goes to show, you don’t have to sit around and wait for someone to hire you; you can get out there and make your own thing happen. It gives one a real sense of independence and control over one's own destiny. I like it!

Tuesday was a busy day with three guests. We started with Mark Thompson, Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. He was refreshing because we did some acting and story-telling exercises with him. We had a good laugh or two with the silliness we came up with for those scenes. After lunch we met with Alexandra Silber. Ms. Silber is a graduate of the undergrad program and an American. She had a very unique and blessed situation in that she booked a lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s then new production called ‘Woman in White’ which opened in London’s West End. This was a miraculous opportunity and fabulous to hear about. She also talked about what the market is like for Americans in the UK and some of the challenges that come with obtaining/maintaining a visa. Later on Tuesday we heard from actor/writer Nick Underwood. He has worked in a myriad of mediums and written a variety of scripts including radio plays.

Wednesday we were led in an acting technique workshop by our classmate Eric Robertson. For his research project he is exploring the different schools of acting technique and wanted to work with us using exercises from the assorted methods.

Thursday we met with another American actor working in the UK, Michael Goldsmith. Mr. Goldsmith graduated from the undergrad program last year and has been working the showbiz scene in London ever since. His was a very fresh prospective and a bit more of the typical direct-from-training experience. He has done a lot of hustling in London. Meaning; lots of auditions and working the survival jobs to pay the rent. He did land a part in a ‘Dr. Who’ episode which will air this autumn. But he is in the trenches and it is fantastic to get his input, because, let’s face it, most of us won’t book a big West End musical before we graduate.

Friday was all about auditions. Each of us had a twenty minute slot to show our skills to Guy Hollands, the Artistic Director of the Citizens Theatre here in Glasgow. It was a general, meaning it wasn’t really for a specific show. But it was a chance to practice our audition skills, get seen by someone who could offer us a job one day and get some feedback on our delivery. It was a practical and very useful opportunity and Mr. Hollands was an absolute delight. One couldn’t have asked for a better adjudicator.

This week we return to the new plays by our professional playwrights. Showtime is drawing near and the grand finale will soon be upon us. Ten more weeks! That is all we have left until this term, this course, the amazing artistic adventure is all over. And then… who knows? West End? Radio? Film? Anything is possible!!!
Take care!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Industry Standards

What a week! The MA CCTs took in a heck of a lot of info in the past several days! As we are soon to be turned out into the world, the fantastic faculty arranged for us to meet with a myriad of industry personnel. Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to individual coaching sessions with actor John Kazek. We asked questions and performed auditions monologues for him and he gave us feedback and ideas for improvement and told us what to expect in some various audition room situations.

Thursday started out with Lorne Boswell from the Equity office. Equity is the trade union in the UK responsible for performers and other creative talent in the entertainment industry. They can be a great help when figuring out contracts and other legal issues and insure working conditions are fair and sensible. In addition, they offer various kinds of insurance a performer might need, job information, networking opportunities and much more. Mr. Boswell let us know what Equity does, its history and how we can join. Then we met Kahleen Crawford who is a casting director for film and television. She talked about what she does what she looks for and gave us tips on headshots, C.V.s (resumes) and ways to market ourselves. Amanda Howard a London based agent came in right behind Ms. Crawford and talked about an agent’s job and how to go about securing the services of one. Ms. Howard also gave us advice on our marketing materials. While we, the actors, were meeting with Ms. Howard the directors were off learning the ends and outs of running a theatre company with Matt Lenton, artistic director of Vanishing Point here in Glasgow. Some of us popped in to catch the end of that seminar when we were finished with Ms. Howard.

On Friday we started out the day with Maryam Hunwick an Edinburgh based agent to get her take and advice on things. She was followed up by another casting director, Anne Henderson who passed along more invaluable information. After lunch we visited with two RSAMD grads who are now working actors, Graeme Rooney and Paul Charlton. These two were hysterical and gave excellent advice and stories from the trenches with the actors’ point of view. I’ll take a moment now to plug Mr. Rooney’s and Mr. Charlton’s upcoming Fringe show. Check out their poster:

After those two fabulous fellows, the actors met with Matt Lenton of Vanishing Point and we continued our discussions about marketing material and audition preparation and etiquette. It was a very informative week. We are all armed with wonderful advice and tips. Now I’m off to revamp my C.V. (resume) and work on some monologues.

Coming up this week: more actors, directors and industry professionals will be coming our way!
Take care!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Photo Fun and Focusing on the Fourth and Final Term

Today we had a class meeting and discussed the schedule for productions, workshops and other activities that make up our final term of this amazing course at the RSAMD. We are all very excited! The first two weeks we will have an assortment of seminars with industry professionals that will prepare us for auditions and promoting ourselves as artists. The guests they have coming in are very impressive. No doubt we will gain a great deal from these sessions. After these first two weeks we will be resuming rehearsals with our professional playwrights in preparation for the platform productions of their new works at the end of term. Sprinkled in amongst these rehearsals, we will be visiting the International Festival and the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh to see some shows and participate in some workshops. The festivals are world famous and host hundreds of productions from all around the globe. There is a lot to look forward to in the coming months. I can’t wait!

As promised here are some photos from my recent trips to Paris, London, Edinburgh and a few more of good old Glasgow. Enjoy!

Paris- The underside of the Arc de Triomphe with the French flag waving proud. Situated opposite the Grand Louvre at the end of the famous boulevard Champs-Elysees, the arch was ordered to be built in 1806 by Napoleon I as a memorial to the Grande Armee and was completed in 1836. In 1920 the tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed under the arch. We were fortunate to witness the nightly ceremony that tends the eternal flame which burns at the soldier’s grave.

Paris-Tour Eiffel built in 1889 for the Paris Universal Exposition it is an architectural feat and was meant to be temporary but has endured over the years becoming a useful structure for scientific experiments and breathtaking views of Paris. You can stand in line for a few hours to purchase tickets for an elevator that will take you to the top or you can skip the long lines and buy a cheaper ticket to walk up 700 steps to the second level and then catch the elevator the rest of the way up. What do you think we decided? Let’s just say we didn’t need to go to the gym that day.

Paris-The building of Notre-Dame began in 1163 and still isn’t finished as they never did get the spires on top of the two towers. It is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world and was made legendary by its fictional resident Quasimodo otherwise known as ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’. The celebrated novel was written by Victor Hugo and published in 1831 and was later adapted into an animated musical feature film by Disney.

Paris-This photo does nothing to faithfully express the incredible beauty of Sainte-Chapelle. Located within the walls of the Palais de Justice this masterpiece of Gothic architecture was built for Louis IX to house the relic of the crown of thorns (the one that was supposedly on Christ’s head at the crucifixion) which he purchased in Venice in 1239. There is an upper and lower chapel. The lower has a much shorter ceiling height than the upper which allows for good viewing of the magnificent gilded arches. Up a winding, narrow, stone staircase you’ll go only to arrive in the glory of the upper chapel. Jewel tones and gold cover what isn’t stained glass but this chapel is all about the stained glass. The stained glass will surround you and if the sun is shining, will bathe you in color. All while educating you with 618 square meters of 1134 scenes from the Bible.

London- Tower Bridge greeted us every time we came or went from our hotel in London. The most famous bridge in the U.K. was opened in 1894 but built in the Gothic style to coordinate with its neighbor, the Tower of London. The bridge opens to allow ships to pass and you can actually book a viewing of the bridge lift or for that special occasion, you can rent event space on the bridge!

London-Shakespeare’s Globe. I had to show Mom where I spent my amazing winter weeks! This is the interior of the theatre. We did the tour. Check out my earlier blogs for more on the Globe. Yea Globe!!

London- Big Ben and Parliament. This is the Palace of Westminster. It houses the British Parliament which is made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The building itself has been through much over the centuries. The original palace was built for Edward the Confessor who took the throne in 1042. However, there isn’t much here that Ed would recognize due to destruction and rebuilding after various wars, an assortment of fires and a myriad of renovations over the years. Gruesome factoid: Oliver Cromwell’s head rotted on a spike on the roof of this building for 25 years following the Restoration. Oh and Big Ben is meant to be the name of the bell chimes not the clock tower itself but I rather like calling it Ben. Think it’ll mind?

Edinburgh- Some of the interior of Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle is built on a big volcanic rock and there is evidence of settlements on this rock from as early as 900BC. It has been a royal home and a military strong hold for centuries. It hosts the National War Museum of Scotland, Mons Meg (an absolutely humongous cannon) and Scotland’s Crown Jewels among other exhibits and attractions. Bling factoid: During World War II Scotland’s Crown Jewels were taken from their displays and buried in secret hiding places deep within the rock of the castle’s base for fear that the Nazi’s would confiscate them should they have a successful invasion. And this was the second time they had to be protected from invaders! The first was when they were hidden during Oliver Cromwell’s reign. Cromwell had already destroyed England’s Crown Jewels forcing new ones to be created for the Restoration. No wonder his head was on a spike! Leave the bling alone!

Glasgow-Orangemen parade. This is a photo of an Orangemen parade we happened to encounter in Glasgow one day. The parade is made up of various lodge orders that are called Orangemen. They bring their bands to march and play, banners are flown, lodge members wear their sashes and badges and children are dressed up as William of Orange and his wife Mary. William of Orange was King from 1689 to 1702 and reigned with his wife Mary. Unfortunately some of the events of his reign are still wreaking havoc today. During the reign of William and Mary there was still a great deal of unrest surrounding the Catholic and Protestant divide that started when Henry the VIII broke from the Catholic Church. Two rivals for the English, Scottish and Irish thrones - the Catholic King James and the Protestant King William brought the situation to a head at The Battle of the Boyne (in Ireland) on July 1, 1690. Well, the Protestants won and there has been trouble over the issue in The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland ever since. The Orangemen celebrate the Protestant victory in Ireland and during the summer months they march in a lot of parades especially as the anniversary of The Battle of the Boyne grows near. Okay Mel, but what does this have to do with Scotland? Well… During The Great Famine, sometimes known as the Irish Potato Famine between 1845 and 1852, there was mass emigration from Ireland. A lot of the Southern Irish folk (many of whom were Catholic) went to America while a lot of the Northern Irish (many of whom were Protestant) came to Scotland to escape starvation. As a result Glasgow is sometimes called “Belfast Lite”. When the Irish came over to Scotland they brought their grudges with them and their decedents still to this day have issues with each other. So the Orangemen and their parades are a bit controversial.

Glasgow- Here is The Clyde Auditorium which is part of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center and is affectionately known as “The Armadillo”. See the resemblance?

Glasgow-And finally, The Finnieston Crane on the river Clyde is a monument to Glasgow’s past glory as a major industrial city and shipping center. With over 80 shipyards once lining the Clyde, Glasgow made lots of money when boats were the way to go. This crane would have once been responsible for loading cargo but these days it is an attraction and sometimes hosts a zip wire that will get you to the other side of the river, if you dare! These stunts are usually done for charity fundraising events.

Okay, there will be a history test next week so, study up kids!
No seriously have a great week and look for my report on all things RSAMD next week!
Take care!