Khaos

Start of Year

I started the year by going to the theatre and by attending a 5 day musical theatre improv course.

I got to see Hamilton, The Ferryman, and The Play That Goes Wrong.  All three shows were incredibly good, though very different.  Hamilton lived up to the hype and I would go and see it again tomorrow. It was visually stunning.  I had heard a lot about the score, and nothing about the scenic design, lighting, and choreography, all of which were beautiful. I loved the ensemble and think they should feature more in the reviews.  Whilst the actor playing Hamilton was great it’s easier to stand out and shine when you are constantly being supported by an amazing ensemble.

I was a little concerned about going to see The Ferryman as anything set in Northern Ireland can be difficult for me to watch. Jez Butterworth’s play dealt with issues that happened in my life time, and though at times it did head towards Irish family caricature territory it worked well.  I was not expecting to see a baby and a goose on the stage and was surprised by how much they pull focus.  We are certainly fascinated by the things on a stage that appear true and real.

The Play That Goes Wrong was funny from the moment we sat in the theatre.  It has some great set falling down effects, which would make it difficult to put on a version of the show, but the things that made me laugh the most were the things that are easier to reproduce.  It’s incredibly funny watching actors stand on the hand of another actor who is supposed to be playing a dead man and seeing him try not to react to the pain. (I imagine it’s a fake hand, but that doesn’t take away from the humour.) I also enjoyed the fake fighting, probably because I had spent the morning before the show in a slapstick workshop learning how to do things like looking as if you are smashing a persons head off the table.

The Showstoppers improv course I attended was excellent.  I got to work with great teachers and generous improvisers.  It wasn’t easy, as I’m still not comfortable with improv, but I’m glad that I went and would study with them again.

It was a good start to another year that I hope will be dominated by theatre and by being creative.

 

. . .

Songs for a New World

Next year I will be directing Songs for a New World for TIP Second Stage.  The show will run from the 21st to the 24th June at Hope Theater, Pocket Square  The first musical from Tony Award winner, Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Bridges of Madison County), it contains a beautiful collection of powerful songs that examine life, love, and the choices that we make.

I have loved the show since the first time I worked on parts of it with Chris Levens of Body N Voice Studios.  It has taken me more than a year but now I have the rights, a theatre, and a great team of people to help me create the show.  I’m nervous as there are still so many things for me to learn, but it’s going to be a great journey.

. . .

TIP Youth – Season 8

I’ve just started work as music director on this season of TIP Youth.  We will have two shows that run in mid-April.  Our younger group is working on “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland”, and the older group has “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”.  The music in “Beauty and the Beast” is well known and beautiful.  “Alice” is a lot quirkier and contains a rather strange version of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, which I’m hoping grows on me.

I enjoy teaching ensembles and one of the wonderful things with teaching a younger group is watching how much they improve.  Everyone can improve, but the children are much more open to the concept.

. . .

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd

After months of rehearsal we finally made it to the theatre.  Playing Mrs Lovett wasn’t easy, but it certainly taught me a lot and showed me that I could perform a difficult role.

Mrs Lovett, Tokyo International Players Photo Credit: John Matthews – john-matthews.net

It was an experience I won’t forget and I’m thankful to have been given so much support by members of the cast and crew.

. . .

New Role

I was appointed to the board of governors of Tokyo International Players (TIP) at their AGM in August.  For the past year I have been a TIP advisor, working on their volunteer committee.  I’m looking forward to continuing that work and to being more involved with the English language theatre community in Tokyo.

. . .

Sketch Writing Workshop

Last night I attended a 3 hour sketch writing workshop,  run by DUVAL, an improv and sketch comedy duo made up of Bex Marsh and Eddie Mujica. It’s been a long time since I have written a sketch, but I am interested in using improv to improve my writing.  We started the workshop with some simple “yes, and…” improv games to get us used to agreeing with suggestions and extending them.  It’s incredibly easy to have self-doubt when writing and to spend so much time editing yourself that nothing ever gets written.  Using these exercises we just went with whatever idea we came up with and saw how far we could run with it.

We spent time discussing sources for ideas, identifying the premise and game of a scene, and ways in which to heighten the game.  We also discussed pitfalls such as not being able to start, cliches, low-hanging fruit, and imitating others.

I’m glad I was able to attend.  I have so many evening and weekends rehearsals that it’s become difficult for me to attend workshops.  I’m enjoying my rehearsals, but it’s nice to get the chance to do something a little different.

 

permalink | Improv, Writing | No Comments »


September 1st, 2017
. . .

Still Rehearsing

I’m working on the part of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.  I don’t have a good process for learning lines of dialogue and find it easier to learn songs.  It’s easy enough to find recordings of songs and I have made a playlist of all my songs, and a rehearsal track playlist.  I was alarmed to see that the songs I’m involved in take about an hour.  That’s a lot of singing.

I have been trying various things to learn the dialogue lines.  I record them, listen to them, write them, recite them, and oddly at times I dream them.  Every morning I wake up with the lines or a song stuck in my head.  I have until the 17th September to be off-book so I need make sure I work on this every day.

Tonight we begin the fight choreography.  Should be interesting finding out how Sweeney is going to throw me in the oven.

 

. . .

Summer Study

During the rehearsal break for Sweeney Todd, I decided to attend a couple of training courses.  The first one was a Level 1 & Level 2 Estill Vocal Course.  This was a wonderfully practical course that was very well structured.  I imagine it will take me a long time to master the things I was taught, but I will practice once I get back to Tokyo.  I am very happy that I went as it’s been a long time since I felt that anything I was doing vocally was going to significantly improve my voice.  It also gave me insight into what I need to do in order to help other people with their voices.

I attended a course on Directing for Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  This course was not as structured as the vocal course and there was a lot of it that I already knew.  It was good, however, to consolidate the information I had learned before and to get to see other people direct.  Directing does seem to be one of those things you can only learn from doing and from watching others.  I have plans to direct a musical next year, so hopefully I’ll be able to use some of the things I learnt.

. . .

Packing!

We are moving apartments.  After being in Minami-senju for over 8 years we decided it was time for a change.  Shinjuku is certainly going to be that.  It’s loud and busy, but it’s also much closer to all the places I spend my time.  Google maps claims it will take me 22 minutes to get to Our Space by train, instead of the 55 minutes it was taking me.  I can also walk in 45, which is amazing.  Our Space is the rehearsal space used by Tokyo Comedy Store, Tokyo International Players, and TIP Youth, so at times I feel like I spend my life either at Our Space or travelling to Our Space.

Packing was a bit of a disaster, and far too much of it has been left to M.  I won’t be at home during the actual move, as I arrived in the UK this morning to study for a month.  It’s going to be strange when I arrive back in Tokyo as I’m not quite sure where the new apartment is.  Shinjuku is a big place.  I did see the apartment once, but I have no sense of direction so won’t find it again without help.  Life certainly feels strange at the minute.

permalink | Life | No Comments »


July 23rd, 2017
. . .

Difficult Music

I’ve spent the weekend running vocal rehearsals for TIP’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd.  Although I had listened to many different recordings of this musical there are still songs that I’m not overly familiar with.  “The Letter”, sung by the Quintet, is really beautiful and I wish that is was heard more.  And even the songs I know well are difficult because of the discordant harmonies and contrapuntal phrases.

I both love and hate the complexity of the musical.  It is difficult to teach and at times I feel that it is overly precise.  The are places where each bar of music is in a different time signature and I would have preferred if some of this expressive writing could have been left for the performer to interpret.  And then there are the are the places where each part has a different time signature for the same bar… I had never seen that before in a score.

My Latest Musical Challenge

. . .