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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte's classic story of love and betrayal, adapted by Robert Johanson. Directed by Nicola Bond and choreography by Peter Kirkwood.

December 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 16th, 17th @ 7:30pm
December 4th & 11th @ 1:30pm

You should know the synopsis, if not: pick up a book (or google it) but this is a taste of what to expect in our production.

Madelaine Page plays a passionate and rebellious young Jane Eyre while Kathryn Riordan plays the measured but restless older Jane Eyre. Although both the actresses are roughly the same age, their height difference and Madelaine's fantastic ability to make herself seem juvenile, creates the illusion of the one young lady at different times of her life. So far these beautiful (good luck finding a genuine plain Jane in our cast) and talented women have demonstrated a lot more dexterity in their accents than me! Despite their very different characters they are still able to give the impression of continuity through their performances, which is very important for this type of production. They have so so so very many lines to learn and have them almost all down, with no complaint or excuses! I have been amazed at the dedication to this production that they have shown, among all their other commitments!

The rest of the cast is HUGE and there are so many characters that I will be up till morning introducing them all but some of the names you might be looking out for are below, including the tall, dark and perfectly sardonic Mr. Rochester, portrayed by the tall, fair and perfectly amicable Mr. Kenworthy! Just wait for him to say "boite!" It's actually my favourite word in the whole play because he says it so scornfully! Vickie Billingham plays Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Fairfax and she has no issue with distinguishing between her characters. She is such a beautiful woman to look at any way but when she is performing it is impossible to look away. Carmen Miles plays a deliciously nasty and haughty Blanche Ingram. Carmen Giadresco portrays Lady Ingram and, like mother, like daughter! Their disdainful and pompous presentation is delightful to watch! Mr. Brocklehurst is made properly unlikeable by Sam Holland who is actually very likeable and by the way, a very talented opera singer! When he is giving his scathing lecture to the Lowood schoolgirls, you can tell! Miss Temple and Rosamund Oliver are both played by Jessica Rawnsley. While they are both sweet and very likeable characters, Jessica has been able to separate them by their character motivations and interpersonal relationships. St. John has the honour of being portrayed by the great and very talented Christopher Lucani! That's right! The man that brought you the faithless and fumbling Bill in Perfect Wedding is now bringing you the fastidious and faithful St. John! He does a lovely Northern accent and somehow makes being a puritanical Christian missionary an admirable ambition. However, expect to laugh out loud at his attempts to woo the object of his... er... well, not desire, exactly. And hiding in the wings, ready to create a bloodbath or set fire to the auditorium in one fell swoop, is the crazy and sickly Bertha Rochester nee Mason, portrayed gleefully by Jo Sterkenburg!

Bookings are through BOCS 9484 1133
or through the members booking line 9433 6260
or through the Harbour Theatre email address, find it on the website (google it)!

The address (the physical one that is part of the Fremantle landscape, not the virtual one on the web) is:
70 Adelaide Street,

"Aaaah... Very passable, this, very passable."

I feel compelled to write this whoooole blog in Italian but I know that I don't have the skills to pull that off. Perhaps in a few months when I've revised my text books, I will give it a go.


I am cast in Harbour Theatre's production of Jane Eyre as Miss Miller and Mary Ingram in Act One and Diana Rivers in Act Two!
I am cast as THREE WHOLE DIFFERENT PEOPLE! Oh my goodness! I thought this would be a fantastic challenge and I was right about the challenge part!
You see, my dear, to play three different characters you must play three DIFFERENT characters.

(I realise I am overdoing the caps, I will stop now.)

As I explained to a friend that was silly enough to ask me about my characterisation techniques... Sorry, excuse me for a moment. (Fuck you, spell-check, I am spelling it with an "S".) Thanks, where were we, oh, that is right...
My friend was silly enough to ask me about how I find my characters. Am I method actor? Well, yeah, all actors are method actors in that they have a method that they use to act but I think he was asking me whether I subscribe to Stanislavki's method of acting. I couldn't remember everything that specifically comes from Stanisklavski (despite my other friend being AWESOME [oops, more caps] and giving me a book about it for my birthday a few years ago) so I deflected somewhat and just told him what I do so that he could come to his own conclusions. I shall do the same for you.

Regardless of how much I looked forward to being a part of this production, even to the extent that I would have volunteered to be part of the crew (Can you imagine me managing a stage? The correct answer is "no".),  I haven't been in the frame of mind to sit down and explore my characters mentally. Usually, I will write a biography. My character's likes and dislikes. Her dreams, ambitions, regrets, fears, secrets and masks. I would share her pasts and envision her future. I would make up little hypotheticals to see how she might react if circumstances were different. I mine the text for some of this information, in this case I have the book but because the play deviates from the book, as much as I love the source material, my character is better served if I stick to the play for my background. A lot of it is poetic license and that's fine by my character, she doesn't mind. Also, I'm always honest. There is no point in making my character a paragon of virtue or a cliche` because that won't translate as depth onstage and no one benefits. It's not in the least bit creatively satisfying. But I cannot dislike her, whatever her faults. If my Miss Miller is a coward (and she is) and tends to crush a child's spirit, or two, then I must accept that as I would accept my own faults. It is easy enough to relate such parts of my psyche to hers, it's a bit like using a pitch fork and just amplifying or minimising aspects of myself until it chimes in harmony with my character. I think. I actually don't know anything about musical theory.

After a few minutes of going into depth about my characters, it occurred to me that I had spent a bit of time thinking for them and getting to know them, without being really aware of it. This motivated me to take some time aside and work on their profiles.

On stage the first thing that I started with was the physicality of the women. They are all diverse enough that this is the optimal strategy for getting into their skins. Unfortunately, I did make some judgments that come from a place of prejudice and I will have to amend this after I've considered the implications of my women's profile on my embodiment of them. Posture is one way that I transport my character back 175 years. People have pretty poor posture these days so it dates you when you have a straight back and tucked in butt. My ballet teacher used to tell us to squeeze our bum cheeks together and pull them in while sucking in our little tummies and pushing our shoulders back and down. She would say, "Pretend that you are a little puppet and someone has a long string from the top of your head up to the sky. They are pulling your head up. See how your chin is up..." and now I picture her every time I'm required to sit or stand with decent posture.
The next thing that informs my body is class. My teacher is a rod and a nervous wreck, because she seeks to improve herself and prove herself to others. My governess is required to model proper posture and professionalism through her gestures. My adolescent socialite and heiress has been trained in deportment classes and sees the examples of her mother, sister, governess and other ladies how a women must carry herself but when she is not under the watchful eye of her mother, she is likely to relax as she has nothing to prove to those ranking below her.
The gestures of my characters must all be subtle and contained because I am not supposed to be the centre of attention. According to direction, ladies would have sat perfectly still and repressed every urge to express themselves physically. This is reinforced by period fiction, film and television representations and advice literature of the time but, historically, women were capable of all the same passions and frivolous gesticulating as I myself am. Certainly in particular periods and places there would have been restrictions but other than the effect of mimicking stillness, there would be no inherent quietness in the body of the female of the 1830's, no matter how much Queen Victoria would like to think so. Not to worry, this restriction forces me to express my characters' unique traits in creative and subtle ways.
In terms of facial expression, I am trying to find a default expression for each of my characters as well as a key feature that defines them. When I find it this feature will be off limits to my other characters and will be my entry into my character's identity.

Other than make-up, hair and costume, the only other external feature that can be used to differentiate my characters from each other and myself is voice. This is why I met my friend. To try and master the elusive "accent."
Like the unicorn that can only be captured by a pure maiden with a hand spun rope of grass, my accents seem to be something that doesn't exist that can only be captured by something that is rare with something else that involves a lot of bloody time and effort! Because I have mastered the ambiguous posh/proper accent of the upper classes (I can only assume) I have my lovely heiress all sorted. I don't really know what I want my teacher to sound like. I've decided that she has a deep voice with a subtle lyrical quality to distract from the fact that she doesn't seem to have come from anywhere in Britain. But it makes sense that a student-professional that spends their days educating children would have developed proper breathing and pacing habits in their speech and would avoid monotony in an attempt to keep their students engaged. My governess is part of a family from Yorkshire, who works in Manchester so it turns out I have to learn a Manchun...mancun... Northern accent (I made that same joke in a text message to my dialect coach- good old recycled thoughts)!
Now, as I type, I am reading these words with a Manchester accent. Not a full-blown accent because m'cotch tolt meh thaht m'cluss woulda trite ta hite ther origins, bah puttink on a'accehnt. I don't think I transcribed that very well, but you get the drift. Basically, it's like learning a whole new language and alphabet and so you may not have gotten that my coach told me that my character's class would have tried to hide their lower class origins by speaking with an accent closer to the Queen's English. However, it would not have been able to be completely hidden and this is what I have to demonstrate. It's a similar philosophy to performing as a drunk person: you do not act drunk, you act like you are trying to be sober.

I have a few pages in my little note book full of my attempt at phonetizising (not a word?) the Northern accent so that I can refer to it when practicising my lines. Another friend is going to lend me The Last of the Summer Wine which apparently is full of the Yorkshire dialect. I will listen to this and hopefully pick some of it up, but I do think I learn an accent, and all it's cadences, by interacting with a speaker and being able to mimic and respond with the accent I'm trying to learn. Because, after all, practice maketh perfect.

Or something like that.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I was 12 when I realized what I want.

Twelve years ago I decided that I was going to be an actor. That was half my lifetime ago, now, and I still haven't quite attained my goal. 

I fantasize a lot about being an actor. I stand in front of a mirror and experiment with different vocal qualities and physicalities, making a new character out of my body and voice. I play dress-ups, seeing what costumes define the character I'm devising... just right. I daydream about immersing myself in a character. I make up dialogue and say lines out loud and in my head and sometimes forget that people can see or hear me walking around my back yard or driving in my car. It is only marginally better when I can genuinely excuse myself as busy learning lines for a play. It's still embarrassing being caught out all the time, revealing to everyone that I am make-believing. I need an audience to validate my drive to pretend, to bend and lend myself to the story. I can get so engaged in a story that I am creating in my mind for a performance that my emotional memory stores it as a genuine experience. I think I really have been stalked by a serial killer or that I really have confronted my cheating husband. I forget that that was just me, making it up again. I don't really know what it's like to be stalked or cheated on but I've pretended to know so many times that I feel perfectly qualified to portray such a person that has been. I never lack inspiration for a performance. Even though I can sometimes be unsure of my character when someone else has imagined her into life, after a brief acquaintance I know all her deepest, darkest secrets. I know what makes her tick and what she can endure without complaint. Sometimes she tells me things that the writer or director doesn't know and then it's just our little secret, it's my responsibility to help her hide it from the world while the rest of her story is being paraded around for the world to see. When I once betrayed a character, the repercussions were not good. She forgave me but only because I stood by her. I always love my characters, even when objectively I know that they are terrible personifications. I sometimes forget my characters' names but I don't ever forget what it felt like in their skin.

I also think about all the wonderful things I could do if I got money in a job that I actually enjoyed. To be a 'successful' actor in my own esteem all I want is to be able to live my current lifestyle but paying the bills with money I've earned through acting, not childcare.  I'm training to be a teacher and I work in childcare. It's upsetting that I have to constantly justify my decision to make acting my primary ambition and teaching my fallback. I know they say if you have a fallback you will fall back on it but I come from a slightly unstable background so being sensible and self-preserving is always my main priority. However, I am not so sensible that I just give up. In fact, I couldn't just give up, even if I did think it was the right thing to do. I am driven by some part of my psyche to be a storyteller through performance and I don't have a choice about that. If I gave up now, accepted that I don't have what it takes to be an actor and never pursued it again, or only pursued it half-heartedly, I would be consumed with sadness and emptiness for the rest of my life. I can't even explain why it's so important to me other than to suggest that it is a part of my nature. I've always been a daydreamer and storyteller.

When I was little I was much too shy to perform formally, I would blush whenever it was my turn to make up a skit with my friends but I would go green with envy when my friends had the courage to show off to our parents and I had to sit in the audience, passive and suppressed. I couldn't talk to males that were unfamiliar, I was too bashful, but you couldn't stop me from talking to friends or random ladies or children. I was overly friendly and extroverted with everyone and I would take every opportunity to modestly exhibit some self-perceived skill or talent. I wasn't allowed to be stuck up or show off but I could walk around wearing a skirt on my head as a nun's habit and pretend to bless people and tell them I was Mother Mary. Mother Mary, from what I could gain from my protestant mother, was a very good lady that gave birth to God and was a virgin until after he was born. As Mother Mary I was perfectly free to think of myself very highly and to tell people exactly how good and holy I was and let them know how much God loves them. It didn't matter that I was a five year old child in reality, all that mattered is that when I put on my skirt I became Mother Mary and no one would dare contradict me. This is a strange episode in my childhood because I was sure I would grow up to be a nun, despite the discomfort my mother had with Roman Catholicism.

When I was about eight I started school and my first performance was in the year two school assembly. I was the crow that chases the Damper man (an Australianised version of the Gingerbread man) and I had one line. I had looked forward to this part (which the teacher had appointed me during one of my many absences) for about three weeks. All I had to say was, "I can catch you Mr. Damper Man!" and then flap my bird wings and chase him around the stage. I was so excited and thought I looked spiffing in my black Lycra crow costume with crepe paper feathers. But I got so caught up in trying to actually catch the Damper man that I forgot to flap my wings and when I came off stage I burst into tears because of my failure to properly characterise a hungry, flying bird. Yes, my character motivation was great: I think I displayed the right degree of desperation. But I really let myself down when I didn't keep my performance consistent with my character's nature and the implied purpose of costume! It took me years to recover from the shame and the blow to my confidence!

I took TEE drama after years of drama in high school and extra curricular drama courses and groups. Since I was 12 and started a drama class because my grandparents wanted me to show an interest in something other than being depressed and anxious, my dream had been to graduate from high school with a good enough Drama score to guarantee me entry into WAAPA or NIDA! Laugh out loud! I was a fantastic drama student but somehow that did not translate into fantastic grades and I scraped through with a C for crappy. (I honestly  do not know how he justified giving me that grade but what does it matter now?) I auditioned for WAAPA and they said, "Come back when you have more life experience." Which roughly translates into Molly-speak as, "You're shitty and should give up. You can't offer us anything and we've got nothing to work with if we do let you through. We hold the key to success in the industry and we've said 'no'."
...So I enrolled in a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degree majoring in History and Italian at UWA.

I dabbled in drama groups after graduation but I pretty much had resigned myself to being a teacher. I didn't really like my job in childcare. I love children but I don't like the person I have to be when I'm looking after them in that environment. It's very stressful looking after other people's children and being answerable to a massive organisation. But it was an alright job to get me through uni until I would take up teaching. In 2009 I did a 6 week long teaching practicum and it was a really negative experience. If I am not cut out to be an actor, I am certainly no more cut out to be a teacher. My classes were boring and ineffective and my content knowledge was sub par. I had to wear office clothes everyday and had to say Amen at the end of staff meetings. URGH! At the end of that practicum I was resolved to find something else to focus on. I searched and I searched and I failed. All I could think about was acting but I had already convinced myself that this dream was a waste of time and would just make me feel like a loser. Then I failed at uni and was literally a loser. And a suspendee.

In 2010 I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and I decided to give acting another go. The first community theatre play I did was not a good example of what I can do, I'm afraid. Watching a recorded performance made me acutely aware that I have to work on my voice (still doing it and not much improvement to report, though, it's a bit like working out, not a lot of fun even when I try to remind myself of the benefits). I used to think I was great at accents but holding an Irish accent through a whole play proved a challenge and then I discovered that every accent I attempt basically boils down to some dialect of Irish! Another blow to my self esteem. This time, however, I chose to seek opportunities to improve myself and develop my craft. I auditioned for a few more plays and investigated what it would take to get representation. I decided that I probably need more experience before I could get representation and I was finding it difficult to get a second community theatre role. Things were not looking promising and the year was rounding up and I had only completed one play and played with one character!

But, once more, my resolve hardened and I chose to seek opportunities and not excuses.