Little lights

 

Post written by: Erin Walcon

23669204_1110190969118132_3246180481774305441_o.jpg

Tonight, I went to visit Charlie’s House – along with an audience of about 40, in a church hall in Torquay. This performance is taking place in such inauspicious settings in Torbay this week: church halls and residential care homes. The piece, at first glance, is unassuming and simple too. There are three musicians, a train conductor, a working tiny train track, and a beautiful dollhouse, bedecked with real working electric lights and unusual miniature ornaments (a tiny replica copy of The Daily Mail, unexpectedly, for one thing.)

23593328_1110190632451499_3092546900334138709_o

Behind the apparent simplicity lies a complex and thoughtful pattern of artistic process-work which has taken place over the last few months in Torbay, across three residential care homes.

The artists leading on this project have written about the process. They (Hugh Nankivell, Steve Sowden, Jade Campbell, Meghan Searle, Nathalie Palin) are musicians, theatre-makers and visual artists who all are participatory specialists too. They have worked together with childminding lead Lorraine George to bring early years children and their childminders into residential care homes in Torbay.

It sounds so prosaic and mundane to say it. Little children came to visit older people, in their residential care homes. And some artists were there too. That’s all. At its heart, it is such a simple idea – little children who are learning how to talk and to walk – and older people, who are sometimes forgetting how to talk, and losing their ability to walk. Coming together. The image that captured and held me tonight was a single shot of wrinkled papery hands holding tiny stubby toddler fingers on a scrap of film.

In this very simplicity is a flicker of radical hope.

In its very simplicity, is everything – grappling with ageing, death, finding words, losing words, learning self, losing self, remembering how to play, and the instinctive knowing of skinship.

23668998_1110190852451477_8575966316737253084_o

Watching the final 30 minute sharing tonight, I felt my breath catch in my throat.

I was not prepared for how unexpectedly moved I would be by the simple image of holding hands.

In a world that is saturated, it seems, with endless media streams, and isolation, and compassion fatigue, and screens screens screens, and 24-hour-news cycles that feed us the Worst Possible Tragedies and also corruption and injustice at tsunami levels, I sometimes (often) (almost constantly) feel an utter absence of hope. A tired and numb sense of apathy.

You would think that it would take a manifesto or a great speech to thaw that numbness. But the radical potential – the gobsmacking awesomeness of this thing is that what thawed it tonight, in a single breath, was truly, astonishingly simple. Human contact, connection. Respect. Empathy. An honouring of voices and stories. A mutual togetherness.

There have been a range of such inter-generational projects in the media recently. And for this particular project, the rich complexity of the work and its potential impact has been captured by researcher Claudia Blandon in the project evaluation – a worthwhile and useful read for anyone interested in this kind of inter-generational work. More of this research and documentation is coming, and that’s wonderful.

But what I was caught and held by tonight, and can’t stop thinking about afterward, is the role of the artist in that space.

23668793_1110190705784825_6544990956406643749_o.jpg

But not just any artist.

Exceptional artists, with a gift for the gentle nuance of participatory work.

And not just any participatory work.

Participatory work which glides, sings, soars, dances and plays with ease – with people who are pre-verbal and post-verbal. Participatory work with people who struggle to remember and who may not yet understand. Participatory work which is fluidly built with bespoke care to that setting, to those people. Artists who understand how to craft a session which cares for everyone in the room.

Artists who know in their bones and spirits that these (all) people have extraordinary capacities and astonishing potentials, stories, and gifts. Artists who are willing to be present and awake in the room with their 2-year old and 92-old participants – who know when to be quiet, when to be responsive, when to gently steer, and when to let what is happening, just simply, complexly, wonderfully, astonishingly… happen.

This is astonishingly rare, in my professional experience.

23592016_1110190745784821_1881200722470722971_o

I lecture my Applied Theatre students regularly about how to ensure that the practice is ethical… how to try to carefully navigate the complex web of facilitator agendas, grounded sites, participatory work, and community settings. What I have watched over the past few months in the Making Bridges with Music project is an absolute masterclass in this… but a masterclass conducted with such quiet humility that its exceptional nature is modest, unassuming, and gentle. Participatory work which has honoured the voices and stories of the participants, and worked to keep the final outcomes simple and genuine, sharing the work back to those who took part, and small public audiences too.

This is, of course, right.

Such work should be gentle and unassuming. Such work must be respectful to the complex contradictions of sited practice, and as such, is often invisible. Yes yes yes.

Tonight I was lucky enough to bear witness to a gentle sharing of the outcome.

23675078_1110190925784803_170452710194042034_o

And as a witness, as an audience member, I was captivated, riveted by the wonder in the faces of the older people and the acceptance and curiosity and love in the eyes of the little children.

I wasn’t alone.

The piece ended, and the room was quiet – for a long slow breath – where each of us in the audience wanted to stay in that space. Wanted to live in the warmth of that kind of world. Didn’t want it to end.

The hunger in all of us, I think, is for the radical promise that this kind of project holds.

The idea that at the far polar extremities of our life, at our very first stumbling steps and in our final flickering moments of awareness, that we might possibly, against the current odds, be held with respect, with empathy, and with joy.

I was reminded tonight of the undeniable fact that all of us have once been 2 years old, and some of us, if we’re lucky, will live to be 92. And I was filled with hope, that given those two miraculous and ordinary and exceptional opportunities, we will be able to clutch other people’s hands and know that we are important. That people will come to visit us. That we will learn to visit each other.

I think we must keep this kind of participatory project gentle, humble, and unassuming. This is integral to its very nature. This is what gives the practice integrity.

But at the same time, I am certain that unless we describe such work, unless we name it, unless we advocate for it, unless we sing its praises loudly and with passion, it runs a risk of being unseen, or worse yet, diminished as ‘unnecessary’ or ‘trivial’.

And I can’t imagine anything more necessary and urgent than the work I saw tonight.

In a world where oppression and hate seem to be growing, I am adamant that we as artists (as people?) need to actively nurture and create and craft spaces where little children and older people matter. Where we all matter, and all our stories and possibilities are valued.

This is urgent, needed. It is radical. It is exceptionally difficult to do well.

We are working to try and fund a follow-on project to Making Bridges with Music.  Advocating for such work is difficult, but not impossible. It is sometimes challenging to storytell what it is. We are on our third grant submission attempt. We are hopeful we will be third-time-lucky. Meanwhile, after the project’s end, childminders are still taking children to visit older people at the care homes, of their own accord. This is the kind of heroism that I want shouted about. Gentle, unassuming, humble, embedded. Continuing. Taking place in rooms which most people don’t see or visit – the many myriad ‘Charlie’s houses’ where our oldest neighbours are living at the ending flicker of their lives.

23735948_1110190679118161_410692402949489651_o

 

Advertisements

Illumination: set design by Luke Grant

“Into the Woods/ Out of the Woods” Set Design Blog: written by Luke Grant

SONY DSC

The Journey:

I’m Luke and I playing a sort of crucial role in the dark fairy tale musical, “Into the Woods” as the ‘Mysterious Man’ who is trying to see that the ‘Witch’s’ (played by Taz) wishes are met and tries to accomplish this by giving as little as information as he can without disrupting his mission to lift the curse (SPOILIER ALERT!!!) he has placed on his son, ‘the Baker.’ (played by Ashley)

IMG_0191

Back along, I have always wanted to be more involved with the behind the scenes and try something that I have very little knowledge in. Around June 2017 when things were starting to come together and was now the time to make it become a reality, I asked the two most wonderful directors for a chance to do more behind the scenes stuff and I was given a chance. I still remember Erin and Polly saying that they would love it for me to more back stage work. I felt excited and a little scared at the same time, but like I always do, I play it cool as James Dean or Tom Hardy. This felt like my first step into the bigger picture.

After the summer break, we all came back together and was ready! This was the many mile sprint and we needed to not out run each other, but run together.

On Sunday afternoon, I met ‘Mair’ and ‘Nat’ who had been full on months before I came aboard with all the set and costume designing. Some much had to accomplished. Mair showed me on of the set design pieces which would remain on stage throughout the performance was a sort of woods design feature. We looked at inspirations and sketches of what Mair and Nat had drawn. We played around with many possible ideas of what we could do to make this look spectacular and cool.

SONY DSC

So, I was put to the work out what could be done. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make and show, so I started with the basics. This design was to resemble the woods and instead of the predictable trees and leaves, I wanted to create an illusion like design that was keeping in with the melody of the woods. I thought about using ‘MDF’ boards and cutting them and carving shapes into it so we could have light shining through it like sun light through an actual wood. As I wanted to create something different and strange, I had an idea of cutting a face shape into the MDF and illumination the face with design and lighting, but that was a little, well… very over complicating it than it really needed to be. So, I started back at square one and came up with a better design!  We talked to ‘Dom’ who is the technician for this production and gave us an insight about how we could make it work.

I saw what room I had on the stage and where it will be placed. We wanted to create it to be three dimensional and not flat. Mair thought about setting it on an angle and that opened a whole new book of ideas.

What the design meant?

Me, Mair and Nat talked about how this design could be used to create an atmosphere. For e.g., the wavy and jagged holes in the design, we would be able to see the characters walking behind it and what if the ‘Wolf’, (played by Wesley who can chill you to the bone with his howl and laugh) could lurk behind and we as the audience would see mere glimpse of him.  You don’t need no ‘Freddy Kruger’ or ‘Twisty the Clown’ from “American Horror Story: Freak Show” to send a frosty chill through your body when Wesley’s acting as the Wolf and his little wolves does just more than they could.

SONY DSC

I draw a 3D visual of what I was trying to create and painted it that afternoon to show as a demonstration to the cast and directors. I elucidated what I was doing and what I was trying to attain. Form the reactions I got from the cast as my reaction was, “This is strange, but it’s going to be dope!” The next couple of nights, I went home with a rough idea of what needed to be done. I looked at different materials and how I could make it great. I had already decided that I wanted to use MDF for the design as MDF would be best suited structure wise and it’s an easy material to cut and work with. (It’s not the tools you use, it’s the tool using the equipment that makes it work.)

illumination_scenic design  illumination painted

Originally, I was going to cut and paint all of this at home, but Mair and Nat thought that if we did it as a team, we wouldn’t have to worry if I was to cut it at my home and paint it, that there will be no miscommunication about what it would look like. So, we cut it on a public highway… Health and Safety 101.  But we made sure we wore the right gear and we would cause havoc with the public and wouldn’t be attacked by fully loaded seagulls, if you catch my meaning.

The design was going to be two meters high and one side at one angle was going to be four feet and the other was eight feet. Mair and I said we would get two, two-meter MDF boards and cut one and use the other part for the other side. I used my drawing plans for what I wanted to do step by step.

_MG_0005

On Sunday 8th October 2017, me, Mair and Nat began outlining where I could cut and how many holes to cut into the boards. That afternoon, I began to cut the boards with a 24O Bosch Electric Jigsaw, and at first it was difficult as we only had two boards and we didn’t want them boards to be damaged. Taking great care and surly, we finished cutting out the boards and it was ready to be painted for next week.  I sanded it with Course Yellow Sand paper to smooth of rough edges to give it a nice finish.

It was Saturday 14th October 2017 … it was a chilly day. ‘Chelsea’ were playing against ‘Crystal Palace.’  I had just that morning went to the bank and the got my haircut. Kept the length on top with a trim up on split ends and refreshing the layers and the side would be cut with clippers… the side and the back were a three… I was thinking that we only had sixty-two days until the long-anticipated movie, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” would be released in cinemas for all geeks like me to obsess over…. We’re getting of track here… Sorry…

Anyway, that day, I put a layer of white undercoat on the boards and begun painting. We thought about where thing would be like leaves, trees, ivory etc. We spent the day experimenting with different colours and using them.

22553453_10159426538320635_1569712456_o

We diverse to see if we could make new and interesting colours. I have always loved drawing and colours. When it comes to colours and/or mixing them, I never want to really follow the rules as this to me limits your own creative take on your art. Make it your own. I wanted to define and add little details to things using the colour purple. Now, this may sound weird, but purple is to me is a lovely colour to use. To me, it has a richness and I use it, because I love animation.

22550851_10159426538500635_1788711277_o

The art direction that inspired me to embrace new and unusual animation ideas to improve my style growing up was ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King’ and I wanted to show my passion for the inspiration that those films gave me in this piece of MDF.  If you look closely into the animation in both of those films, you may occasionally see that purple was used to define and make objects, places and character pop from the screen. That concludes my love for the colour purple or other colours.

22550610_10159426536905635_407613062_o

22550667_10159426537545635_218072983_o

I wanted to come up with a name for my design and after many weeks wondering what I could call her, I finally had the answer when we finished it and saw it up on stage looking the business. I call her, “Illumination.”

on stage

We finished around eight o’clock Saturday night…

The outcome was more than I could have ever thought. I didn’t expect it to turn out what I wished, but never thought the way it would. Nat and Mair gave me guidance and support through-out the making of it all. The outcome? Well… What else can I say? Other than it’s cool.

The experience has taken me and us through many emotions. Sometimes, I have thought, “Why did I think I could do this?” But, like I say, “Worse things happen at sea.” And in the end, all the unaccounted was nothing.

Finally:

SONY DSC

What is left to say? If you have made it to the end of this blog, well… novel, then I thank you for following us on this small part of our journey. There are many stories to be told about the production and like you, I would love to hear someone’s personal journey about going Into the Woods. I hope to take this away and use this experience for my own written project coming 2018…

IMG_0089

I really hope I have proven myself to Doorstep Arts that this matters so much to me and even though I am no Bram Stoker, Tennessee Williams, Gary Oldman or August Rodin, I have a deep connection with the arts and this is what I want to do more than anything. If I have never shown it, I want them to know that I am grateful to them all. From set designing, writing, performing or lifting a heavy object, I will always do what I can for them.

I want to thank everyone in the cast, crew, tech crew, make up, costume and the companies that have given us them to us for our show, the University students keeping the order back stage, as that is never an easy job and their patients with/for us have been sensational. I just want to thank everyone overall.

I don’t know what I can say or do for Polly and Erin for giving me this opportunity. They both have been so amazing and without them… there is just not enough words I can say other than thank you and love you loads.

Soup

It’s getting colder and I’ve been making soup this morning. My soup is always a bit of an unknown. I’m not great at following recipes nor do I shop for specific ingredients. The mixture in the pan is usually the food that either needs eating up or I think might be an interesting flavour. The soup of today is Meg’s Slightly Too Garlicky Mediterranean Tomato. I think it tastes nice though!

Soup is an odd choice of topic for a drama practitioner’s blog but today as I sit down to reflect on the sessions I have been running for the last few years it strikes me that breaking down the ingredients of a good drama workshop is really similar to what makes a delicious soup. We know it tastes good, it warms the soul and satisfies our appetites but what actually makes it work? I am increasingly being asked to teach teachers or those in training how and what I do. These soupy reflections are an attempt to break down some of my thoughts.

My own kids had a book that they loved me to read to them at bedtime called Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. The basic plot was that a group of friends regularly make soup together and each of them is in charge of a particular ingredient. The recipe is simple and the soup tastes good. One day, however, they swap around their responsibilities without understanding the timings and the quantities and the soup tastes awful. It doesn’t take much to change the flavour but it makes all the difference when it goes wrong.

I am often asked to explain what I do in my workshops and how I know what will work especially when our drop-in groups* dynamics shift and change all the time according to who is there. I have to admit that most of the time I’m not sure. It’s an instinct and the years of experience I have working with children and young people. Like a chef who is well trained in the art of preparing fine food, you begin to learn what elements are fundamental to the workshop. Good themes, fun games and teaching acting skills are all part of the sessions but without thoughtful planning, can remain fairly meaningless and at the end of it all, you can find yourself asking what’s the point?

I have an education background and so my number one motive in everything I do in drama is to create a space where youngsters can develop their own abilities to become great learners. Now for some of you reading this, you may think that’s an odd starting point especially as I don’t work in the school system anymore. However, this is like my stock in the soup. It’s the basic, fundamental ingredient. If there is no stock, you can’t make the soup. If you are not creating safe spaces for children to explore, question, and experience the world around them, then why drama? Where else is there such a wonderful medium to practice being a human being?

A recent project that the Little Doorstep Theatre* groups were exploring was based on the book Peter Pan by JM Barrie. We all know the Disney versions and most of us are aware of some of the themes in the original story. It’s a great novel but in the hands of the children becomes a wonderful vehicle into their imaginations and dreams. The final show had very little of the story left and instead they had designed sets and costumes, directed themselves, written music, imagined fantastical worlds faraway from Neverland. They had encouraged each other, climbed over obstacles and solved problems. They overcame fear and confusion and ended up celebrating their achievements as parents came to see what they had cooked up and delighted with them.

All from a simple ingredient. The stock of a safe space and a little story.

Yes, perhaps like my soup of the day, it could be a bit too garlicky. A bit far fetched! A wild and windy version. But the soup itself tastes amazing and doesn’t food taste better when you’ve worked hard for it?

Meg Searle

*Little Doorstep Theatre runs on Saturdays during term time. It specialises in creating devised theatre with children from 4-14years old. Please see our website for more information:

doorsteparts.co.uk

Who tells the tale?

Post written by: Erin Walcon

This weekend, Torbay is teeming with cultural activity. On top of our usual weekly, consistent, grassroots Doorstep work with children, the bay is hosting the International Agatha Christie Festival, the wonderful team of Mark & Sarah Bell have opened their new speakeasy venue the Lucky 7 Club, the White Rock Festival hosted loads of local talent & traders, and we are also being presented with a one-off special event called The Tale, which has been created by Bristol-based Situations. It’s all happening.

I’ve written in the past (several times) (plus a few more) (and in a journal article) about the challenges of working in an area of deprivation. And one of these challenges is that Torbay can sometimes be seen as a likely spot for arts organisations to get funding – because it’s a high priority area with fragmented infrastructure. So the Doorstep email regularly gets barraged with young up-and-coming theatre-makers who’ve heard from a friend of a friend that their first Grant for the Arts will scrape through approval if they list a few ‘deprived regions’ in their tour… and they come a-knocking to see if they can bring their work here, or at least list us as partners.

On the surface, this isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes (often) we say yes with enthusiasm. It can be really hard for young people growing up in Torbay to see outstanding theatre year-round, and anything we can do increase the high quality opportunities seems like a good thing, right? Plus, we really like to learn – we’re curious about new work and new ways of making work, and we love the chance to expand our own aesthetic palette and skill sets. It’s fascinating to see new work, and to learn new things from amazing visiting artists. All good, right?

It’s complex, though.

The work that’s visiting has to have relevance to the local community.

And organisations leading that work need to have respect in their engagement practices.

Otherwise, the ‘bringing of good art’ to a place like Torbay starts to become ethically precarious, in my view. Like a big red bulls-eye exists over the poverty here, which makes artists feel like they can get paid to work here, at times when work can be scarce in more affluent areas (like Bristol).

(I’m aware I’m poking some sensitive material here. Please feel free to disagree – we need to have dialogue about this stuff.)

Art? It’s subjective. Different strokes for different folks, as we’d say in the USA. Your cup of tea might not be mine. This weekend’s activity is a great example of that. On Saturday, I went from dropping my 8-year old off at Little Doorstep drop-in drama club in a church hall in Torquay, to driving over to Paignton, where I chatted with other local mums at the White Rock Festival (which was heaving with local families rain-dodging and buying plastic key-rings). And then last evening, Jade and I took a group of 22 young people down to perform at the Agatha Christie Festival, where they did a youth exchange with Beyond Face, another young company from Plymouth. When I woke up this morning, my Facebook feed was full of young singer-songwriters buzzing with excitement who had performed at White Rock Festival,  and it was clear from friends’ joyfully exuberant photos that the Bell’s Lucky Seven Club Launch had been a huge glittery success.

Each of these cultural events drew a different crowd – and each has its place in providing a unique cultural experience for local people, who have diverse and disparate tastes.

So generally, I tend toward an enthusiastic puppy-dog-like enthusiasm for everything – a hearty yes-nod toward any new artistic work coming into Torbay, and a wholehearted handshake of support for any organisations wanting to do work here. The more the merrier – welcome all. The need is huge here. We need as much wonderfulness as we can get.

Except.

Occasionally, projects or events are parachuted in without adequate local engagement, buy-in or support. And if you live and work in an area of deprivation, sometimes the power imbalance is quite problematic between a big, robust, well-funded arts organisation based in a city (like Bristol), and Torbay with its socio-economic challenges, fragmented history of territoriality and short-term fixes.

Two years ago, the Doorstep team first started having conversations with the team from Situations about local engagement for The Tale. And I won’t go into the specific details, but in summary, after a period of research/development and consultation, we decided that this was not a project we wanted to be involved in.

The Doorstep ethos is about embedded working – long-term sustainable work which builds trust through consistent quality, warm open-armed invitation and good partnership collaborations.

One-off, parachuted projects which are ‘done to us’ without respect for local voices and local expertise are not part of this ethos.

We decided, two years ago, that the best thing we could do was just stand aside and hope that the project would be a success. And then we watched, as a number of other local SW organisations that we love and respect made the same decision… had initial conversations with Situations, and then stepped away, feeling that the project was not set up for real local engagement. In essence, that local expertise was not being listened to or respected. That the large amount of public money (A £300,000 Ambition for Excellence award) from Arts Council England which was funding this project would not meaningfully impact or enrich local people or organisations.

To put this financial figure in context, the same amount would fund ALL Doorstep core activity for the next 3 years. At the time, the decision to pull away from the project meant that we were saying no to a promise of some financial support – a major decision for a small, precarious, fledgling organisation which could barely afford to pay ourselves. (We sometimes didn’t pay ourselves at all, if the funds weren’t there.)

I don’t think this is me being precious? (Just sitting with inward tensions and frictions about that – trying to decide…)

I’m trying to weigh up how it feels, this weekend, to watch colleagues who have never engaged with Torbay before, suddenly descend on the region to see international visiting artists perform here – and then leave again.

I suppose this brings in money, and casts a spotlight on Torbay in a positive light. Which is a good thing. But we’ve been slogging away here for four years, working in small-scale and grassroots mediums to slowly, gently, support the arts infrastructure here. And we are only being visited by the Great and the Good, the Academic and the Artistic Elite, because of a visiting project, which is rated as ‘Good Art’.

A visiting project, which in my view, has profoundly problematic ethical framework with regard to community engagement.

I guess I’m sitting with my own aesthetic taste – my own subjective response to art.

And I know this… I would much rather watch a group of young people from a small, under-funded youth arts organisation in Plymouth, who got here in a van because their facilitator Alix drove them over.

Beyond Face, who visited us last night, drove for an hour to share their monologue work which the young people had written themselves. The pieces were gentle and beautiful – about how to be a good neighbour. And the writing was thoughtful, nuanced, intelligent. In a tent, on the beautiful grounds of Torre Abbey, two youth companies shared work and chatted and got to know each other. We’re excited for future collaborations and exchanges next year – making the boundaries around Plymouth and Torbay more permeable, enabling them to see work in each other’s regions, and to share work they are making themselves.

The artists who work with these two young companies are embedded in their communities. Often they’ve grown up there – and they know first-hand how difficult it can be to access high quality arts opportunities when you’re growing up in rural Devon. They know that those young people have to catch two buses, or hitch a lift with their facilitator, or another parent, in order to get to an event at all.

The visiting folks, who have descended here for the weekend, on their ‘Wanderer’ tickets, are loving the the ‘novelty’ of seeing The Tale, navigating Torbay through ferry and bus.  But they don’t have to deal with local infrastucture and access issues on a daily or weekly basis. For them, this weekend is a tourist jolly… a chance to have a place shown to them through (visiting) artists’ eyes.

In contrast, the local Torbay people who are engaging with The Tale this weekend are paying for a ticket to have streets that they grew up on, that they know like the back of their hand, ‘shown’ to them by visiting artists who have done several weekends of research. And if this is done in an artistically beautiful way, in a way that changes how we see our local place, that is of course a very good thing.

But many of the young people we know we engaged with this project felt frustrated, unheard, disrespected in the artistic development process. That their participation and engagement was tokenistic at best, and exploitative at worst. Many have left the project, or half-heartedly seen it out, feeling limply impotent to change anything – like their contributions have been taken, used, and exploited, to make art for the Great and the Good to come and see. In the name of ‘participation’.

And that makes me angry.

I’m sitting with my frustration – but ultimately, deep down, I’m at peace. Because I know that after next weekend, the Tale will be over, and our Doorstep work will continue long-term. That we will keep on walking our talk, providing regular consistent offerings for local families. That parachuted projects may continue, but Torbay’s core infrastructure is strengthening… its growing. And so is our power to speak up, speak back, and stand up for ourselves. To receive wonderful visiting work… but on our terms, and with strong voices of local engagement.

I would like to think that the story – the tale, if you like – of this place – this Torbay, is much longer, more vivid, more inspired than a single parachuted project.

A story of change that is genuinely authored from a sense of embedded integrity, with an unshakable belief that social justice is possible here, on our doorstep, for the children who are growing up here and who deserve better.

That’s the tale I want to contribute to.

 

Sketches

Post written by: Erin Walcon

Our first Sunday full-day rehearsal for The Woods took place on 3 September. It was, in a sense, a refresher day because we hadn’t seen each other for a month. And coming back into the studio from beach-surf-chill-summer brain is always a little bit of a grind. It was also D-Day for scenic design decisions and the original script – so a big tasky deadline day at the same time.

Sunday 10.JPG

The company were buzzing as we sat down to do a read-through of the draft original script for Out of the Woods (the original second half of the show).

This script has been a labour of love in August for Hugh and Chloe and I – and it is a genuinely collaborative document – the product of many writer’s pens during the July Intensive rehearsals and during the Summer Term scratch stages.

Sunday 12.JPG

Reading dialogue aloud for the first time is always revealing… it shows which beats will be working and which are awkward – it draws laughs in unexpected places. Certain song lyrics worked beautifully and others not at all. This is what I love about making an original show – the mistakes often prove to be the most magical, and the certainties are never certain.

While we were stumbling over mistakes and certainties in a circle upstairs, the design team was hard at work downstairs, sketching, shaping, creating scenic design elements in the craft room.

Sunday 8.JPG

This is absolutely my favourite part of the process – the manic middle bit. Where all the pieces start to fit together (or not) and you have to scrabble around to figure out solutions.

Sun 10.JPG

It’s also where the team really gets to know each other. We figure out where the strengths lie – who we can turn to if we need an emergency fix on something. Who will hold the room while we’re trying to work through the trickiest bits. Who can rescue the scene that isn’t working…

SONY DSC

Here’s the best bit. The person we turn to? Quite a lot of the time, they are a young person on the project. Our company of young performers (artists!) are exceptional, and they’ve been surprising me (again!) this week.

Sunday 1.JPG

People stepping up into roles they’ve not taken on before… or younger members of the company showing exceptional potential and real leadership.

SONY DSC

This is what the manic middle brings – unexpected gifts.

Sun Luke drawing.JPG

Next weekend, we’ll be performing short excerpts from Out of the Woods at the International Agatha Christie Festival, alongside another young company, Beyond Face.

We are so excited to get the first scenes up on their feet. We’ve scratched this show quite a lot now – once in April, once in July. But this will be our first time sharing the final script form.

SONY DSC

We’re entering the final stages of this process… on Sunday, we’re right back in the rehearsal room, working music and songs. It’s going to be all go until this production goes up in mid-October. I’m loving every minute of it. 🙂

SONY DSC

July to Sept: A Flurry of Days

Post written by: Erin Walcon

Autumn leaves are drifting down – which means it must almost be time for The Woods, our big mainstage production for this year. In the summer flurry of activity, we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog-front, so this is a catch-up – on all we’ve been up to and where we are now.

We finished up our summer term with some wonderful July performances by the DAS and Little Doorstep groups.

SONY DSC

We saw wolf packs of 7-11 year olds do contemporary dance, contact improvisation and physical sequences (incredible!)

SONY DSC

We saw parents get up and dance with their children – fueled by Polly’s contagious enthusiasm.

SONY DSC

There were wonderful devised and original stories, songs, dances, and some teaser hints from The Woods too.

SONY DSC

 

Our oldest group, Doorstep Youth Theatre, performed a scratch of Out of the Woods at the TYPify festival in Exeter – a gathering of SW youth theatre groups, organised by Katharine Stevens and Lucy Hirst from The Young Pretenders.

What a wonderful event! We were so inspired by the work we saw, and really hope this becomes an annual affair.

Our Saturday drop-in drama groups performed a final combined sharing in mid-July, along with an indoor picnic.

SONY DSC

This was an emotional day, as we said goodbye and good luck to Doorstep Co-Director Meg Searle, who is relocating to Bath.

 

SONY DSC

We know that we’ll be seeing lots of Meg this year, but she will no longer be running the Saturday morning groups, which have been her special project since Doorstep began. There were a few tears, and lots of happy and proud smiles, knowing that her legacy is strong and vital.

SONY DSC

Doorstep Co-Director Jade Campbell will be taking the Saturday groups over (beginning 16 Sept 2017) and we can’t wait to see what exciting new projects they take on!

lds-jade-is-wolf.jpg

And no sooner was term over, but we fell right into 3 intensive rehearsal days for The Woods. This was the first time that the Sondheim score was brought together with the raw, developing material for the original second half. The intensive was a buzzy, jam-packed, productive, and hard-working three days, with some incredible artists supporting.

3 ash and mary.JPG

Kate Graham from Soundlaunch has joined the project as a music mentor, and she jumped right in, songwriting with groups of young people from the first moment.

3 songwriting.JPG

We welcomed our new Foot in the Door production interns Sophia & Ethan, who will be stage managing and operating LX/sound for the show.

SONY DSC

Production Leads Mair George and Nat Palin took up residence in the Palace Theatre basement to get the scenic design and costume ideas mapped out.

SONY DSC

Erin & Hugh turned the cafe/bar into a writer’s workshop space.

SONY DSC

The Palace Theatre staff are wonderful and they let us have the run of the place – so we filled every nook and cranny with young people working creatively. We wrote songs in hallways and stairwells.

SONY DSC

We tried out make-up ideas in the lobby on the floor.

SONY DSC

We side-rehearsed dance routines in the vestibule.

SONY DSC

The cafe/bar was full of writing pockets and instruments and laughter.

SONY DSC

And Polly ruled the script rehearsals on mainstage with an iron fist, an unyielding schedule, and a heart of gold.

SONY DSC

At the end of the July Intensive rehearsals third day, we were ready to fall in a heap – but there was one last surge of energy on Friday afternoon as we trooped down Palace Avenue in a long walking parade toward the Paignton Carnival on the Green.

Fri Carnival 2.JPG

In the pouring, blustering, sideways July rain, the young people from our Tuesday DAS Junior group and the principles all performed at the carnival.

SONY DSC

Special bravery awards are due to the parents, carers, family and friends who stood supporting them with rainjackets soaked and saturated, hoods pulled tight around faces – broad smiles shining in spite of the weather.

SONY DSC

After this epic feat, everyone enjoyed a well-deserved month’s holiday. (Although Polly and Mair did also run two wonderful Play-in-a-Day workshops in August).

These August workshops were such good fun – staging a full production in a single day, learning songs and dances and parents arriving at 4pm to watch the performances. It was great to have Lee Thomas from the Palace Theatre providing technical mentoring for these!

20841985_1055659967904566_2184331271721722522_n.jpg

Other than the Play in a Day summer activity, August may have seemed quiet… but that serene surface was deceptive. Behind the scenes, a flurry of quiet prep activity was happening. The Out of the Woods script was being written by a small devoted writing team, costume plans were being drawn up, and the music score for the Sondheim half of the show was intricately detailed and planned by Harriet, our wonderful DAS Assistant Lead.

With all this quiet, underground activity, it felt like the summer month break passed in a blink of an eye – and now we’re in the midst of a new flurry – preparing for autumn term. We’re already in mid-flow – The Woods company has already had their first Sunday rehearsal – where we read through the original script. We’ve spent the last week making last changes to the script based on the read-through, and this week has been full of songwriting… expect another blog post about that! This early start is because we’re performing a couple of excerpts from the show at the International Agatha Christie Festival on the 16th of Sept. So it’s a mad dash to be sure we’re ready! More about all that to come.

Summer update complete!

 

 

 

 

Work Experience: by Morgan

Post written by: Morgan Waters

I have found this week at Doorstep Arts to be very beneficial to my understanding of what goes into the running of a theatre company and there are a few things that have surprised me this week.

19983472_1033085996828630_7467540376890532630_o

The first thing that surprised me was how collaboratively creative business etc. work. At the Torbay Culture forum I met a great amount of people who worked for different parts of the community and they were all largely there in order to meet new people. With whom they could collaborate synogetically in order to achieve their goals or further whatever it was they were working on. I found this to be very interesting, as it showed how communities can work together in order achieve things, without necessarily having to search for help from outside the community.

From the different people I talked to at the event, it was clear how hard they all worked in order to get where they are and how much harder they were willing to work in order to achieve more and to have a greater positive impact on their community.

Another the thing that has surprised me this week is the talent of young children. On Wednesday at the youngest DAS group, consisting of three children, I was hugely impressed with their dancing ability and how confident they were in introducing the games. It was really inspiring to meet such confident, happy young performers and showed me that there is nothing to be ashamed of when performing and that we should put energy into everything do. I was also very impressed with how kind they were and how quick they were to accept us into the group.

SONY DSC

The second DAS group on Wednesday were also very energetic and kind to us, as well as each other and Polly. I loved watching Polly with the younger groups, as they all seem to adore her and take her direction on as much as possible.

The final thing that has surprised me is how much work goes into getting a leaflet made. We were asked to create a rough design for the Doorstep leaflet for autumn. This was difficult in itself, as it was hard to fit everything in and to decide which events or shows should be highlighted more than others, as I didn’t know much about the shows and so it was hard to gage which were likely to be the most popular.

We were then asked to begin working on the leaflet brief, which was to be sent off to the graphic designer. This was surprisingly difficult, as we had to find the information for each show or event, include the dates, ticket prices etc. and make sure we filled in the table, stating what was to go on each page of the program. The hardest part of this task was making sure that everything was included and that we hadn’t forgotten any important information.

19944251_1033086103495286_7242180592808958605_o

Overall, my Work Experience this week has been very informative and I have had a great time learning what goes on behind the scenes at Doorstep Arts.