Monday, 26 September 2016

Ch ch ch changes...

You may have noticed that his blog is a day late…I’m blaming one thing…a thing I have very little control over I’m blaming change…

My role involves an awful lot of helping people manage change – whether that be organizations, professionals, youth theatre companies or young people…I have become very good at offering advice and support as guidance in navigating the rocky terrain that is transition…for other people I have lots of ideas, lots of words of comfort, lots of strategies to share...

However during the last week I have been navigating my own change…with my daughter Amy going to university I, along with the rest of the lovely people in my household, am coping with an Amy sized hole in our home…and it’s hard… Until now I hadn't really realised how much dealing with a substantial change in your circumstances can diminish motivation and hope, create lethargy and a lack of joy.  In short I have discovered it’s an antithesis to the culture our household is centred on.  The blog fell prey to this lethargy yesterday…and for that I apologise…

There is however always a silver lining this chapter of my life has given me a heightened awareness of the change so many people I work alongside and with are dealing with pretty much consistently…and more importantly an empathy with the trial they are enduring…I’ve always been aware and empathetic to an extent but recent events have allowed me to get it more…much more…

Happily my final point is optimistic…the blogs might not have gone up on Sunday…but they are here today…transition is hard to navigate but it’s not impossible…it requires us to balance our need to feel and recognize our loss with the strength not to drown in absence and confusion…we need to be kind to ourselves and believe in our resilience…I’m just about managing to do that and I wish you every strength if you, like me are managing the kind of change that unnerves, undermines and at times undoes…at some point what is new will become what is established and that's something comforting to aim for...
This week at Gold Company we were well under way with our Christmas production of a fairy tale like no really, that’s what it’s called – “A fairy tale like no other…” Confusing, right? But do not fear, the clue is in the name, it is indeed a fairy tale like no other and I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m loving it. It’s looking and sounding hilarious.

We spent our morning making animal noise in some sort of wooden version of stonehenge…it was interesting to say the least *shrug* modern art. After getting over that we managed to create boats, loveable giants, cliffs of insanity and did character work for around 47 characters per person (okay, that may be a slight exaggeration but still it’s going to be challenging)

This week was especially enjoyable as we have an addition to Gold Company and having to explain our little antics and inside jokes made us realise just how crazy we are...Taylor handled it pretty well. Hopefully, he’ll return next week.

I’m looking forward to choreographing our sword fights and learning how to speak with a Spanish accent…I cannot roll my R’s. I sound like a machine gun. Oh well! Looks like Inigo Montoya will have to be Scottish.

Join us next week for some more epic fights, miracles and an old married couple. Man, I love The Princess Bride.

I think it’s only right that I sign off with – “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.”

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Remembering the Oaks

Thursday night was one of those nights that will go down in YTYT history…we performed Remember the Oaks for the last time in the Miner’s Hall at the NUM building in Barnsley.  The first thing that made this performance so exceptionally special was the venue itself.  The Miners Hall is beautiful…full of the colourful banners of the local mines, seeped in history and the site of so many battles of words, philosophy and values.  Just to sit in it is a privilege…the walls seem to hold an essence of all the room has witnessed and so the air has richness, an atmosphere of significance…it’s a wonderful place to make theatre.

Our performance of Remember the Oaks was the first piece of theatre to be performed there and considering it was built over a century ago that’s pretty significant too.  It was the perfect venue for our play that remembers the 361 miners who lost their lives in The Oaks mining disaster 150 years ago this year.  We performed it in a more conventional theatre space in July to high praise but the performance on Thursday was even better.  The venue definitely contributed to this but the real credit goes to the actors who stepped up to deliver a performance of integrity with generosity, talent and deep affection for the world of the play.

The audience also played their part – often our performances are watched only by friends and relatives of the cast.  One of the lovely things about this production is that we’ve been seen by a much wider community.  Each audience has been so welcoming, attentive and appreciative that it’s been a pleasure to share our work.  A mention needs to go to a gentleman in the audience whose great Grandfather was one of the rescuers at The Oaks disaster.  Thankfully he survived and went on to live to 90 years old and claim the title of being the longest survivor of the rescue party.   Afterwards he told me that the play I had written captured what was at the heart of the mining community in Yorkshire – where people worked together to meet the challenges life throws at them – to mourn, celebrate, comfort and inspire…it’s a compliment I will always treasure.

Finally Thursday was significant because for three of the cast it was their final performance with us…Lottie, Hannah and my very own Amy bowed out of YTYT as Remember the Oaks came to an end…so we’ll go into rehearsals for the Miners Memorial Service on Thursday without them…happily there are, as ever, new members waiting in the wings and on Thursday we will welcome new actors to our company who obviously can never replace them but will help us not feel their loss so keenly.

I’ll finish the blog with Chris Skidmore’s final words of the evening – Safe journey home, keep supporting us and be true to who you are…words to live by I reckon…
The lovely (and very YTYT busy) Ellie!

Hi! So today everyone at Gold Company was told Sarah needed a guest blogger, so being the great person I am, stepped up to the challenge!
My Yew Tree week often starts off at Orange company on a Thursday as a volunteer, and this year they're putting on a Christmas show of "When Santa got stuck up the chimney." But however unfortunately this week I had to miss this session, due to the fact I did some stage managing for Black company's "Remember the Oaks." Which leads me to my next point...

So astray from my typical Thursday night at Orange, I find my self on a car journey to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) hall in Barnsley, to stage manage for Black Company. As I got there I focused my attention to the actors, checking if they had the right props, costume and if they had any quick costume changes with need of assistance. The show was ran once through before the doors opened at seven and the audience began to filter in, the show cast all the way from 1876 right the way through to 2016, and each year had something special to it, for example '1886- grandads miners lamp' was all about people who had been affected by mining and what the mining industry meant to them. At half past seven we started the show, and I have to say it was brilliant! Each actor was better than the first time it was performed and I'm sure the audience loved it too! After we performed there was a short break, and then a man called Alan Wood, sang us a few songs he had written himself, all about things to do with the mining industry, such as a little trapper girl and the pit ponies, he was very brilliant indeed! Thank you to the NUM for having us!

The next stop of my week is on a Saturday morning at Gold company, and our Christmas show is called "A fairytale like no other..." It's filled with Heros, and villains, directors, special effects team, a debut actor, some very cross understudies, a miracle man and many more wonderful roles. 
To start off our session this week, we were introduced to Danny, who a lot of you may know, and he got involved with the games and the beginning and also looked on and gave us advise when we came to staging the first few parts of the show, he also introduced a "moo off" I'm sure if you play yee-ha! at any point after today you will get to know what it is (if Sarah keeps it haha). We started off with cast Bride and they set the prologue, then we switched over to cast Princess who them did the same scene but in their different casting. This continued until we ha completed the prologue, scene one, the first interlude, the second scene and the second interlude. Safe to say we staged quite a bit, and it is looking pretty fabulous if I do say so my self! 
Then my next adventure is my Saturday afternoons at the WY Performers show of Aladdin, this isn't a Yew Tree show, yet it is directed by Sarah so I can get away with writing about it. Today I spent the first hour of rehearsal with Sarah Thomas, staging our "Too darn hot" dance, and that is also getting better each time we perform it! Then we moved on to doing a full run of Act two, as we found it was our weaker area when we did a full run for show in our full day rehearsal around two weeks ago. Today it ran a lot smoother than the last time, yet it still has the potential to get better! And each time we rehearse it, in sure it will, it is not a show to miss!!
So to round off:
1. Look on the Yew Tree Youth Theatre page at the photos from Remember The Oaks. 2. Book your tickets for the Christmas shows! They'll be on sale very soon! 3. Book tickets for Aladdin! (A link is on the WY Performers page)
And that's all from me :)

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Head, heart and gut...

Thinking about performing in terms of heads, guts and hearts is not a new way of thinking at all – in fact it’s been around so long it runs the danger of being overlooked – but I was thinking about it last night and I woke up thinking about it this morning so I thought it was worth blogging about this week…

I love working with thoughtful artists – of any age from my youngest member of the youth theatre to the professional actors I direct – actors and dancers that use their head in rehearsal and performance …who look at the given circumstances, the character, the need, the want that lies at the centre of the material they are working on and think about the energy and intention – the quality of movement that will express all of that…they’re also amazing team players – their thoughtfulness translates into consideration and empathy…an exceptionally valuable combination.

I also love working with instinctive people who have the courage to go with their gut.  Who are brave and glorious in their art – who throw themselves into it, who respond and react in the moment bringing an excitement and unpredictability to their work and their play.

Finally I love working with invested artists – people that immerse themselves in what they are doing – who are heartfelt and soulfelt, who are honest and committed to the moment, the work, the art…who lay themselves bare and open and make magic with their words and their voice and their physicality…

But sometimes you have the privilege of working with people who in that moment are all three – thoughtful, instinctive and heartfelt – and it’s a thing of joy! I often get asked by performers what they have to do to become really good…or a request that they are pushed to become better.  It’s difficult to know what to say as the process of developing as an artist is so complicated  - but if I was asked today I would say know whether you are naturally a head, gut or heart artist – and use this attribute to it’s best advantage and then work hard to open yourself up to the others…so you can be someone who makes working with them rehearsal room and on stage a privilege.
We had a last minute goodbye's Hannah Clifford! 

After almost 12 years of pure enjoyment it is time for me to move on and start my new adventure in London. It all began in the back room of Drury lane library, where we would all nervously introduce ourselves and continue with sharing our best and worst news from the previous week. One of my favourite shows (aside from playing of the iconic Disney characters Snow White) with Crimson Company has to be “Say Something”. This very moving yet uplifting performance was to commemorate and remind the public of the events of WW1. The brilliant thing about YTYT is not only do we perform in theatres but also public spaces from outside garden to art galleries. Last year to celebrate Halloween, I was fortunate enough to play one of the spooky witches from the classic play ”Macbeth” at the Hepworth art gallery situated in Wakefield. This was a delight to do as I got to work with different members and create a twist on the traditional. The lovely thing about Yew Tree is that depending on how old you are you get to move up through the groups and experience new and exciting projects. Due to college and other commitments I had to leave for a short period but was welcomed back by Sarah Osborne and her company.

Black company has allowed me to prepare myself for university and mature as a person. “Maybe this time” was my latest show with the company. I had previously performed this play with yew tree many years ago so it was very interesting playing a new part and thinking back on the last version. I have been able to share his opportunity with some of my oldest friends and it's sad but lovely too see that they are also leaving and starting a new life at university. From Saturday afternoon game sessions to Thursday night devising physical theatre pieces, I would not have changed it for the world! I don't get much to time to reflect on my yew tree life but it's heart warming see how long I have actually been there and what wacky and off the wall experiences I have had.  

Now the grown up part, I honestly cannot believe I am tackling university so soon! I had prepared myself to get a job in September and audition next year giving myself a bit of time to rest, yet here I am packing up all of my belongings, throwing things in to boxes and saying my goodbyes. It's honestly been a pleasure to work with some amazing human beings at Yew Tree Youth Theatre, making life long friends and I wish you all the best of luck in everything you do! London, I'm coming for you!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A cheeky extra blog from Hannah :)

On Tuesday 30th August, I was invited by Sarah to go with Amy and Tom to the residential home in Lofthouse and show them a few of our dances. These included the Foxtrot, Waltz and the residents’ favourite, the Jive. Nervous and excited, we headed to Lofthouse and were greeted by the very welcoming carers and an especially enthusiastic lady who was staying at the home. She even got a turn at dancing the foxtrot with our very own Tom who did really well leading her through the basic steps. Even more residents were seemingly impressed with Tom suggesting we have a raffle for him…Maybe next time ladies.
We performed the dances twice, once indoors for one half of the care home and once in the garden for the other half. It allowed us to chat to some of the residents about their dancing days, remembering where they used to dance as young people and what they enjoyed most. One keen lady spoke about how she used to be a ballet dancer and connected with Amy, who also has a love for ballet, recalling the dance school she attended and strict teachers.
The highlight for me was talking to all the residents about dance, their experiences of going every week socially. One lady I chatted to, talked about how she loved the waltz and rock and roll, the two go hand in hand, right? She was very lovely, giving us some sound advice to stay fit and keep the dancing up, even getting to her feet and dancing when we started the jive. It was great to see them enjoying themselves, and made it all worthwhile even if it was just for a couple of hours. Hopefully this will prompt more conversations between residents about what they liked/didn’t like about our dancing as well as reminisce about their own.

Thank you to the carers at Lofthouse for welcoming us so brilliantly and the residents for their kind words. I would happily visit again!