Khaos

Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

Long Summer

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Life continues to limp on in Tokyo. The extreme heat and humidity is causing death and putting an extra strain on the health system, already burdened by the increase in cases of Covid-19. This is the longest period of time I have spent in Japan and it does not look as if I will be going anywhere this year. At the minute we are not even meant to leave the city. Every day we hear that people should remain on heightened alert, as the situation in Tokyo is still extremely severe. But like everywhere we are becoming fatigued and we may need more than a polite request to stay home.

I have finished teaching summer workshops for TIP Youth. I still find remote teaching difficult as there are always technology issues to deal with. Some of these are caused by the students switching off their cameras or logging out, which is not something they would get away with so easily in an actual classroom. Trying to find ways to deal with how differently people interact via Zoom is tiring. As we continue to do this we will find it easier but at the minute it is still frustrating and draining. That being said the workshops were still fun and I am glad that we went ahead with them.

The show I was meant to be directing for a November performance has been cancelled. Aside from the risks of rehearsing and having people attend there is the issue of making a socially distanced show commercially viable. The theatre we were planning on using is suggesting that we sell 35 seats per performance in a space that was meant to hold around 100! How can anyone pay for a show with such a reduction on the number of tickets?

Renting theatre space in Tokyo is very expensive and many spaces need booked more than a year in advance. Cancelling shows is also problematic because of the lost deposits or even having to pay the full price for the space depending on the contract. One of the groups I work with has already cancelled their February 2021 show as they couldn’t risk waiting as the cancellation fees keep increasing as time passes.

I realise that I don’t sound overly cheerful, but the current situation is difficult.

Year’s End

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

The years do seem to move faster, now that I’m older, and I am still coming to terms with the fact that it’s nearly Christmas. 2019 has been a very full year.

I started the year visiting family in Northern Ireland. I made it back a few times this year, and it’s always an adventure catching up with friends and family. This year I also managed to go on two holidays, one with a friend and one with M. I absolutely loved Canada. It was so beautiful.

Athabasca Glacier

I’m finally at the stage where I tell new people I meet that I work in theatre. This year I performed and was part of the production team of a professional show, I taught youth theatre, and I directed community theatre. I spend most of my weekends and evenings working on some sort of theatre production. I’ve also been in enough recording studios that I can say that I sing professionally.

Cast & Crew of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I continue to study and I hopefully by next summer I will have finished my vocal qualification. The oddest thing I learnt to do this year was rock scream. This is not something I plan to do a lot, but it was interesting to find out how this can be done without destroying my voice.

2020 is looking like it will be a busy year, but I’m hopeful that it will be a good one.

Cinderella Begins

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Autumn is starting to make itself felt in Tokyo. I was out of the country, during Hagibis, and I’m glad that the more recent storms have been mild in comparison. I have been watching the changing leaves, and the surprising pumpkin displays, and thinking of my May 2020 production of Cinderella.

The fields are aglow in autumn yellow, and the sky is a robin’s egg blue.

Rodger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Often, when talking about a show, we talk about the production dates, and not the large amount of time spent before that to create the show. The process started in the summer when I put together the proposal for Tokyo International Players. Cinderella was not my first choice, of a show to direct, but getting rights to musicals in Japan is difficult. Many of the well known shows have their rights on hold with large Japanese theatre companies and others don’t grant rights in this region. It is always disappointing to work on a proposal, only to discover there was never a chance of working on the show. But I’m excited to be working on Cinderella.

The auditions will be at the end November and I have already analyzed the show and put together many of the production team. I have also been creating art work to promote the show and the auditions. Yesterday, I met with a designer and discussed possible ways of creating a pumpkin that turns into a carriage, one of the many technical challenges for the show.

I have received the rehearsal tracks and I’m delighted with them. This is the first time I have used ROC’s rehearsal track system and I love the control it is giving me over the score. I will miss having a live orchestra, and the music director I have worked with in the past, but the ability to change keys and to give the cast access to all of their vocal parts is amazing. In the past we have recorded all of the vocal parts before rehearsals start and it takes a long time. And, yes, I could change key with an orchestra, but it means re-scoring all the parts or paying to have this done – so we tend to never to that.

There is no doubt that the show will take over my life in the months to come, but it’s going to be worth it. I will get stressed and overwhelmed but the show will bring joy to the cast and the audience.


Disturbance Interviews

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

The musical opens in two weeks! I’m starting to see a number of interviews regarding the show.

The Metropolis one is interesting as they have interviewed the Director and Composer.

Ultimately, we’re a creative team of artists, and I’d like that our presentation of this domestic abuse story help audiences reach their own conclusions, allowing them to form their own productive discussions about what is a highly important and complex social issue.

Mark Ferris, Composer

As a director, I can use musical theater to be unpredictable and use techniques that reflect the reality of [victims] of domestic abuse as a kind of social message. A lot of victims suffer in secret and, although everything looks fine on the surface, they are concealing a lot of layers of pain and struggle. The music in “Disturbance” is often very beautiful and some scenes begin almost comically, but as we invite the audience into this world, the darkness under the characters’ facades begins to unravel.

Rachel Walzer, Director


Disturbance

Friday, June 7th, 2019

I am working on a new musical called Disturbance that is being adapted for the stage by Rachel Walzer. The production is based on the book of poems by Ivy Alvarez, with music by Tony Award-winning producer Mark Ferris. 

The book is based on a true story of domestic violence where a man killed his wife and son, before killing himself. The poems feature various family members and those involved in the aftermath of the tragedy, such as the neighbours, police officers, and estate agents.

Disturbance Logo

​I have been working on vocal arrangements and on teaching the songs to the cast. This is the first time that I’ve worked directly with the composer of a musical and it’s been an exhilarating experience. I will also be performing as part of the ensemble.

The musical premieres at Musicasa in Tokyo on 2 July 2019, and runs to 4 July 2019.

Chitty’s End

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

It’s almost a week now since the final show of Chitty. It was a more tiring experience than I was expecting, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It was the first time I had attempted to direct such a large show and I know that once I get over the tiredness I’ll be happy with the achievement.

I am grateful that the performance was well received and that we had a good audience. The cast and crew put in an amazing amount of effort and I was very fortunate to get to work with them.

Cast and Crew of Chitty
Cast & Crew of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Tokyo International Players – Photo Credit: Rodger Sono

As a volunteer organisation it’s not surprising that everyone ends up having to do more than one job. I sorted out most of the costuming for the show myself, and given the time and budget constraints I ended up borrowing as much as I could and buying pieces overseas. In the end I was happy with how the cast looked, though it was not an easy task, nor one I want to do again anytime soon.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

It won’t be long now.

Flyer for the Tokyo International Players production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Flyer for TIP’s Production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Auditions!

Friday, October 5th, 2018

I will be directing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as the season finale, for Tokyo International Players.  The production will run from May 16-19, 2019 at Theater Sun-Mall in Shinjuku.  I’m nervous and excited about the production.  And the auditions are happening in November!

Back in Town

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

I do like to get back home, but it will take me a while to adjust to the climate and the time zone.  Today my brain is fuzzy, but I’ve started to work on my plans for next season.  My life now revolves around our theatre season which, after a summer break in August, is back with a vengeance.

In the coming months I will be working on the music for Tokyo Theatre for Children’s (TTFC) Big Bad Musical, TIP’s production of the Good Person of Szechwan, and TIP Youth’s two musicals.  I’ll also be performing in the TTFC show.  The first rehearsal is tomorrow, so I had better try to get to sleep before 4am.  The joys of jet lag.

Songs for a New World – Finished Production

Monday, June 25th, 2018

I can never work out what I feel when a production ends.  It’s one of the questions I get asked, “how do you feel?”, “how to you think the show went?”, “are you pleased?”.  But at the end of a performance I feel exhausted and flat.  All the energy and focus I have for the stage must drain me and leave me devoid of any recognizable emotion.

This was a difficult show for me as I was both directing and performing.  These are two incredibly different jobs and it’s hard to jump between them in rehearsal.  There were times I was so engrossed with one of the cast members performances that I completely forgot that I had the next song to sing.  I also needed help from other directors with my performance as you can’t see yourself on stage and I wanted to make sure that I had outside opinions that I could trust.

There were other difficult aspects of the show.  The music is technically challenging and each song is a different story sung by different characters.  There is very little time to prepare to be the next character for either the actor or the audience.  The change in musical styles is also a challenge.  Their harmonies are complex and the discords at times felt impossible to get right, but in the end we had a show that sounded beautiful.  I was also concerned about over singing, as some of the gospel style songs in the songs can end up sounding like a vocal competition and I didn’t want that.

The cast were amazing.  People say that a lot about their shows, but I was very fortunate to have so many professional singers and performers involved with the show.  My production team also made sure that things ran smoothly and I’m incredibly grateful for all their work.  There is a lot of focus on directors and actors, but there are so many other aspects to theatre that are required for a show.

Congratulations and thank you for a stunning Opening Night! You and your outstanding cast filled the theater with beauty, passion, joy, spirit, tears, reflection, sensuality, playfulness, awe…and also hilarity and hoots and hollers! A brilliant mix of all things human. — Rachel Walzer