Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

TIP Youth

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

I have been working as musical director for TIP Youth for their 2016 – 2017 season. Tonight we had the final performance of My Son Pinocchio Jr. and tomorrow we will have two performances of Fame Jr. It’s been hard work, but I really enjoyed working with the talented cast and crew. I will miss them.

TIP Youth Flyer

Theatre Work

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

I’ve a busy few months coming up.  I’ve agreed to be assistant director for TIP’s May production of The Diary of Anne Frank.  This is my first time as an assistant director and I’m enjoying the challenge.  It is a heartbreaking play, but a story that is worth telling and feels horribly relevant at the minute.

Flyer for The Diary of Anne Frank

Flyer for The Diary of Anne Frank

West End Visit

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

I went to the the theatre three times when I was in London.  The first play I saw was Much Ado About Nothing, put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company, at Haymarket Theatre.  It was a beautiful version of the play directed by Christopher Luscombe, with a wonderful score composed by Nigel Hess.  I wasn’t expecting the singing and dancing but it really added to the play and the feeling of joy at the end.

I saw The Bodyguard, with Beverly Knight in the lead role.  It was a completely unsubtle spectacle with a minimal plot held together by as many Whitney Houston songs as they could fit in.  I did enjoy it, but it’s not something I could watch twice.  I loved the lighting.  A large part of the show was set in Rachel Maron’s house, and they managed to make it look as if the rooms of the house were being flooded by natural light from large windows.

The final play I saw was The Dresser.  The revolving set was stunning.  I was so jealous of their ability to create an intimate back stage setting that could turn to become the stage to perform their play within a play.  I was conflicted about the acting.  Both Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith were excellent but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the characters.  It was a much funnier version of the play, than the one I had been involved with last year, but I felt that the constant use of humour detracted from the emotional content.  It was strangely intense watching a play that I knew so well, but I did enjoy it.

Busy Month

Monday, December 12th, 2016

My last month was dominated by theatre.  I spent a week in November helping out with Tokyo Theater for Children‘s production of The Stinky Cheese Man.  It was a very funny show, which made it difficult to keep quiet backstage.  But I mostly managed to do that.

I spent time learning and teaching the vocal score of “My Son Pinocchio Junior” and “Fame Junior”.  I was surprised by the beauty and complexity of some of the songs in “Pinocchio”.  It will be a challenge to teach, but so far I’m really enjoying working with the children.  Both shows will take place in April next year.

At the start of December I performed at Body N Voice’s annual musical showcase.  I had mixed feelings about the music, but it seemed to go all right on the night.  I’m hoping that next year we can tackle a full musical, but I’m going to wait until the New Year to start working out just how much it will cost to produce that.

I’m still attending improv workshops and have been to 7 of those since I last blogged.  One of them was 6 hours longs, which was incredibly difficult.  Not sure if I am improving, but I am starting to understand the underlying principles.

I have no physical theatre training, so I agreed to attend a couple of corporeal mime classes.  It is difficult. I have no formal dance training and my body does not want to get itself into some of the required positions, but I will continue to attend in the New Year.

The Costumes of Macbeth

Monday, October 17th, 2016

So much work goes into putting on any production.  I was only involved in Macbeth for the past few weeks and it took over my life.  For the production team who have been involved since the inception of this project I imagine it’s taken up a huge part of this year.

The show was visually beautiful with a stark, clean aesthetic. I worked with a team of sewers, lead by costume designer Sara Ben-Abdallah, and made some of the garments she created.

Macduff vs Macbeth

Fight scene between Macduff and Macbeth – image by John Matthews

The pleats, that I spent quite a bit of time stressing over, looked great in the final pieces.

Making Pleats

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

I was recently asked to make pleats for a costume.  I had no clue how to do this so I tried watching instructional videos on youtube.  Eventually I could make pleat-like things but not something good enough for the costume.   Marty has never used a sewing machine before and never made pleats.  He watched one video on youtube and from that he was able to sew pleats.  He’s amazing!

Pleats and Pleater

Pleats and Pleater

He didn’t use a fork, like they did in the video.  Instead he made himself a plastic pleater using a badge from a linux conference.

Once he made the pleats, I attempted to iron them.  The material was more than 1 metre long and they were really hard to iron, but in the end I got the panels I need to insert into my costumes.

Ironed Pleats

Ironed Pleats


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Marty is going to be on stage for the first time in years.  He has a small part in Tokyo International Players production of Macbeth, which opens on October 13th.  I will be helping out with costumes and wardrobe, so hopefully I’ll still get a chance to watch the play.

I did see a scene, between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, acted out last night at the Improvazilla Mainstage Show and it was excellent.

Marty, about to fight with a big stick.

Marty, at rehearsal, about to fight with a big stick.

Quick Change

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

My friend, Christiane Brew, was playing the part of “Her Ladyship” in The Dresser.  She had the quickest costume change in the show, when she had 5 and half minutes to get from her King Lear character of Cordelia back to her civilian 1940s costume.  She decided to record the change, so that people could see what goes on back stage.  You get to see me frown a lot, but the change went smoothly and she made her cue.

More Costume Work

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

The Dresser opened last night at Black Stripe Theater. The play, by Ronald Harwood, tells the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant, who is struggling to keep the actor’s life together.  I have been responsible for costumes and wardrobe, which does mean I get to be the dresser at The Dresser.

It’s been a lot of work for everyone involved, but worth it, given how well the show went last night.  It’s the first time I’ve been a lead costumer and I was concerned about my fairly basic sewing skills.  I still get scared every time I have to cut fabric, sewing can mostly be undone, but cutting is permanent.  I was also surprised that I got nervous before the show.  I know that always happens when I have to perform, but it never occurred to me that being responsible for how actors looked would also feel like a type of performance.  Thankfully they all looked good and the costume changes happened as expected.

I enjoyed making the hats and head dresses.  My favourite is the wild flower crown, which looks surprisingly good for something made from materials bought from my local 100 円 ($1) store.

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

Tea Dyeing

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Underwear, when new, can be a bright glaring white.  I’m working on a costume that requires the underwear to look old and worn, and it was suggested that I dye it with tea.  This is not something I have done before so I bought a test garment, in the same fabric, and tried aging it yesterday afternoon.

I have read many online articles about this process and a chapter on dyeing materials in a text book.  All they really told me is that you use tea and water.  There is no way to know what colour the end product will look like, which is not good when you only have one costume and you can’t get another one if you mess up.  Everyone uses different tea, different amounts of tea, they are vague about the amount of water they use, or how long it will take.  Do you use salt in the water?  Does the garment need rinsed or washed first?  Do you add vinegar at the end?

I bought a black lipton tea and put four teabags and 3 litres of hot water in a large basin.  I added a teaspoon of salt.  I removed the tea bags after five minutes and then added the garment, which I had rinsed in warm water.  I let it steep in the solution for one hour and then removed it and rinsed it in warm water.  The garment certainly dyed but I didn’t like how it looked.  It’s much browner than I wanted and I think that the brown almost has a pinkish tinge to it.  The colour is also patchy, which makes me think that I will need to stir it during the dyeing process to try to get a more even colour.  Or I need a bigger container to dye it in, but I don’t think I have one.

Before and After Colours

Before and After Colours

Today I’m going to test strips of white cotton with a different tea solutions to see if I can get close to the colour I want.   I completely understand now why people use bottled dyes that mimic this process as at least then you will have clear instructions on how to use the product and a much clearer idea of the expected outcome.  I realise that my garment is not the same as a strip of cotton, but it’s the best I can do.