Wednesday, 28 December 2016

YTYT Highlights of 2016

There has certainly been a lot to say about 2016 and lots of it hasn’t been the happiest.  Reassuringly however the YTYT year has been packed with enough highlights to keep it’s status as a place to retreat to, a place to escape the uncertainty, disappointments and loss of the world outside…this blog serves as a record of my greatest highlights…

The first event in the YTYT year to qualify as a highlight has got to be our NT Connections performance, “Eclipse/The Darkness in the Light,” which had it’s local performances in February and the regional performances in Kendal in May.  It was the second time I had directed this Simon Armitage poetic play but this production was very different to my initial go at it.  It classes as a highlight for lots of reasons including the sheer scale of the production – a cast of over 20 creating a partner piece and 3 versions of the same play.  It also classes as a highlight due to the quality of the performances and writing it inspired from the casts and my final reason for it achieving the highlight status is how delighted I was with the final scene – the power of the poetry in the writing, the physical and vocal commitment of the actors and the unity of the actors created something unforgettable.

Second in the highlight list is, “Maybe this Time,” as a director who famously assiduously avoids any musical theatre I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying every moment of directing this play which involved not just acting and singing but dancing as well – surely the very definition of musical theatre.  Ossett Town Hall provided the perfect setting for this tale of gangsters, true love and aspirations and the performers were an absolute class act…

Third in this pick of the pops is, “Remember the Oaks,” if I had to describe this project in one word it would be honour.  To be commissioned to create a play by the NUM to remember the men and boys that perished in a mining disaster – to make history come to life and to do this with an entirely committed and talented cast was off the scale rewarding.  This reward and honour was amplified significantly by the wonderful audience we performed to…all in all a powerful and poignant thing to be part of…

The final flourish in this flashback of fantasticity has to be of course the Christmas shows.  It’s absolutely the best way to finish every year…a perfect mixture of nostalgia and newness – watching the performances of each company and seeing how far each actor has come whilst remembering how they were the year before…whilst celebrating the contribution of each new member we’ve picked up along the way…it’s the nicest Christmas gift available to a youth theatre director.

Just in case you were worried we already have a number of potential highlights lined up for 2017 – February will see us performing our NT Connections play – “Three.”  In March we’ll perform it at the Crucible in Sheffield.  In June Black Company will perform Macbeth at The Calder – a gallery of The Hepworth, Wakefield…and those are just the ones we know about now…keep your eye on us you never know what’s around the corner…so for now let us say thank you to everyone who has been a part of our 2016 –we appreciate each and every one of you and all you give and do and we hope you enjoyed your YTYT year as much as we did…
Lucy is our guest blogger!

Well I never thought that after 3 years I would be back at Yew Tree but here I am! I came to Yew Tree for 5 years from 2008 to 2013 and it completely shaped the person I am today. Yew Tree was where I discovered my love of acting and because of that I did a BTEC in acting at college and went on to study a degree in drama at university... For 3 months. I left uni after finding out I was pregnant. One year and one baby later I found myself really missing the stage when I happened to stumble across a post on Facebook asking for actors to come and be a part of Macbeth and I couldn't resist.
The thought of coming back after such a long time was a daunting one, would I be welcome? Would I fit into this new generation of black company? But I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Everyone was so welcoming and it didn't feel like I was starting in a new place like I though it would, it felt like coming home. 

I got to do my first bit of acting in over a year and played games I haven't played since I was 18, and though I may be a bit rusty I'm sure I'll be back on top form again in no time! And what better way to get back on the stage than by throwing yourself into a full length Shakespeare play? Go hard or go home I guess!

The faces may have changed but Yew Tree certainly hasn't and I can't think of a more supportive place. 

Thank you Sarah and Black company for making my transition back into Yew Tree such an easy one. It's good to be back.

Monday, 7 November 2016

This is an additional blog - the narrative of Scarlet Company's physical theatre piece for the Christmas shows...I was inspired and thought they might like to see their story in print...scroll down for my mainstream blog of this week - readiness...

She knew it wasn’t going to be easy – committing to a career in dance was infamously difficult – she knew there were no short cuts…that every inch of progression was only achievable through hard work…but she was prepared to do it…prepared to work as hard as she could because of how dancing felt when she was truly absorbed by it…when she allowed herself to be entirely enslaved to it…

To move, to leap, to fly, to glide, to dance,
To connect with every living soul.
No feeling like it, all thought entranced.
Perfect placement, yet within the control
Such freedom unfettered, beyond compare.
Alive from finger tips to the ends of feet,
Ev’ry nerve, ev’ry sinew, entirely aware,
Knowing in that moment you are complete.
A gift to be taken, vital to teach,
To dance as if no one is watching you,
You’re alone in a place out of reach
And a deepened self-knowledge ensues
What you are, what you’ve been, what you will be
Awake to ev’ry possibility

It was only when she thought about what her friends were able to do…about the freedom they had that she felt any regret…while she grafted and sweated it out in the rehearsal room knowing her grades at school were suffering she knew they were at the cinema, out in town…with friends…carefree…they didn’t have to worry about the next exam, the next show, the next competition…it was all she had time to care about it…

At least Julian understood – he would wait for her to finish class and then walk her home – a few stolen moments of company, of freedom from responsibility…time for her mind and body to rest and her heart to be restored…somehow he seemed to understand that her priority would always be dance…she was lucky to have found him…

That night though she had shrugged him off – hardly noticed as he walked off sad and bewildered…as soon as she picked up the red shoes she had known that nothing in the world was more important than putting them on…

There was a voice in her asked her, "What do you want?"
"To dance," she replied
"And what will you give?"

As soon as she answered a darkness descended upon her in the form of the spirits of all the dancers that the red shoes had danced to their death…they began to impel her to dance - slowly at first – beautiful fleeting duets – she felt the grace and beauty of her partners and was inspired by it…then the dancing became more frenetic – she wanted to stop but she was powerless…nothing she did could stop the momentum…she was spun and twisted and turned…the shoes had a life of their own…their was no escape…after what felt like an eternity she was lifted into the air and then dropped to the ground – the spirits were about to consume her…when all of a sudden they were gone and in their place stood Julian…he had come back to her…chased the spirits away with his care and selflessness - he removed the shoes and took her hand…she was safe…


Today’s blog is inspired by Alice…who has blogged twice for YTYT at the tender age of 7 and who I spotted at the start of yesterday’s run of Aladdin, when most members of the cast were still chattering and settling, stood perfectly poised and entirely ready…she made me catch my breath such was her level of maturity and concentration.  She also made me think that readiness was a very useful thing to blog about…

I talk a lot about being ready in my workshops – in my school work I talk about being ready to learn…in my work with professional organisations about being ready to take on new ideas, to see things from a new perspective and in my drama workshops and rehearsals about being ready to work wholeheartedly and creatively…that actors should be ready to give themselves over to the process of making theatre…

It is of course like so many things easier said than done but it makes a big difference when readiness is present – whatever the context – it means that the people in the room are present…entirely in the room and in the moment…there is a level of focus, of openness of generosity that makes working together a great experience and in turn productivity goes through the roof…it means really listening…not taking in edited highlights…it means all distractions are evicted and everyone has a common goal.

The wonderful thing is that readiness can be learnt – it’s not something you have to be born with and if you can get good at it you’ll be a pleasure to work with and have such wonderful pleasure in return…just like Alice…
Alice Narey (not the little Alice of my blog - a slightly older but none the less delightful one) is our guest blogger this week:

It finally feels like November…Halloween and bonfire night is done, the John Lewis advert has aired and it's now socially acceptable to mention Christmas. But most importantly, Yew Tree’s Christmas shows are well under way. This week me and Tom finished choreographing our epic sword fight (and trust me it is epic, if you want to see me stick a sword through my legs and somehow make it look cool I'd advise buying tickets) and we also  had the pleasure of showing it to the younger side of Yew Tree – as well as getting  a sneak preview of their own Christmas production and I can tell you it’s  looking adorable!

Then, I was lured into helping out at Black Company at the offer of free cake…I’m a sucker for home baked goods. Turns out, that was a pretty good decision, I saw faces I haven't seen in way too long and it was so lovely to have a catch up. It still surprises me just how quickly Black Company manage to put together an amazing show. So it's probably not surprising to hear that I have now joined Black…I couldn't resist.

On to Gold Company, I just couldn't get enough this week, we have now picked apart the second half of our fairy tale like no other and it is feeling great. It was especially refreshing this week to have to think about going back to the basics and really thinking about the places that the characters are (if anyone knows of any cliffs of insanity or eel infested water could you let me know, I'm considering method acting this year) This has really made me think about my character more and now I'm comfortable with lines I'm looking forward to next week when I can explore his back story and trying to look convincing on a boat...

To finish off, I'm super excited to start rehearsals for this years connections play (just thought I'd drop that in here because the script is great) I just can't get enough of Yew Tree!

I must admit, it’s a weird feeling to get the bus to college at 8 in the morning knowing I'll probably not get home for another 12 to 13 hours. However, instead of making me dread the day, the thought of having a Yew Tree rehearsal could get me through any day.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Putting thoughts into words

Putting thoughts into words is tricky tonight as my head is overloaded…I’ve just finished an afternoon of dress rehearsals with WY Performers in preparation for their production of Aladdin which happens in less than a fortnight…it’s looking so good…as ever it’s a delightful process to watch something I wrote so many months ago taking shape into a production that will entertain, engage and impress the many people that will come to see it on the 12th and 13th of November.

It occurred to me as I watched today’s rehearsal that certain things set individual performers (of any age) apart in a production like this…the first is their desire to want to do well rather than an assumption that it will just happen…this however needs to be accompanied by graft as an actor and a dancer that is needed for them to know their lines and steps, understand what they mean and deliver them in a way that is true to the story and the character…this in turn has to be matched with a focus…an ability to keep concentrating on the most important thing in the room – the work…and finally they have to want it…they have to love it, they have to enjoy the process of making something excellent and being in the moment…

Watching the performances today there are lots of people who are well on the way to having all of these vital elements in place…there are so many absolute stars in every age group…from the smallest to the tallest…they are a pleasure to work with and a joy to watch…there are others who are almost there…who just have to spend the next 10 days really striving to meet the demands of the piece and the standard of the company…when they do they’ll have the reward of being part of something truly outstanding…
Emily is our guest Blogger this week!

Well this week we've been very busy at Black company with staging The Snow Princess and I can now happily say we are 3/4 of the way through it and it promises to be a stunning piece! Due to doing the Miners Memorial commitments throughout July, September and October, we started the term on a slight disadvantage against other companies in sense of how much time we'd have to prepare our Christmas show piece. Challenge accepted? Definitely. Black company had an extra rehearsal 12pm until 3pm on Monday to consolidate what we had done in the previous Thursday's rehearsal, catch up anyone who was missing then finally stage the second page of script. Everyone caught up with ease and determination so we could move on to our festival celebration dancing. Yes, you heard me correctly, dancing. With not all of us having taken dance classes before, we spent a lot of time devising our pieces by taking ordinary everyday movements of young people/children playing in a festival and incorporating lifts and set beats into it before we all join as a force to make a good old moving circle. Because it wouldn't be a Christmas show without one really, would it? Then it came to Thursday's rehearsal 5pm until 8pm when it started off in a pretty similar way with catch ups, consolidation and then progressing onto the third page of script. However, we had an advantage here as during our devising process, we had come up with a section of this so we worked that into the piece, making it look more effective and with smooth transitions too. Then we all became snow storms so we got split off into pairs to create a twirling, jumping, bustling snow storm. I got partnered with John, who is considerably taller than me (yay for the 5"3 club) therefore making me easy to pick up and throw around a little bit. Usually, I prefer to be the one who lifts someone up and makes sure they're safe in that aspect but I stepped out of my comfort zone and was actually nicely surprised how it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. That was pretty much our week at Black company, but not forgetting Helena's delicious cake that she made for us all! The next day, I was with Scarlet company preparing our version of The Red Shoes for the Wednesday performance of the Christmas shows. Due to the holidays, many were missing so we finalised any positions/arms/legs/movements that had changed throughout being made so we all looked the same once again. My week certainly didn't end there as it was jam packed of Aladdin rehearsals as we enter our 2 week countdown before our shows, be sure to buy your tickets as you won't want to miss it! The Saturday rehearsal was full of correcting and polishing which for me, being a Lady-In-Waiting and a senior dancer, meant learning a new dance alongside the wishes and practising anything we, as an ensemble, weren't sure about. This lead us swiftly into our first full dress run on the Sunday. Ooooo! Personally when you have your costume, it really brings the whole production to life and it's the point when you can really see the final preparations before it moves from the rehearsal room into the theatre a week on Thursday. No first run is ever perfect, but it was an extremely good start and I've so proud of the whole cast. Aladdin's gang were in the moment all the time, the constellations are as cute as always and I could go on forever and ever about all the brilliant things that happened today but I'd be here a very long time. Nevertheless there are things to be sorted next Saturday before our second full dress run on Sunday but I'm so excited to move into the theatre and share this production with everyone!