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Monday, 27 February 2012

The Passion - Open Auditions

OPEN AUDITIONS FOR COMMUNITY EVENT

THE PASSION
Auditions Wednesday 14th March at 7.30pm
at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury.

·                     Roles big and small
·                     Community parts
·                     Singing
·                     Everyone is welcome to join
·                     No prior experience required.

Sudbury Dramatic Society is holding open auditions for the biggest show of the year – a huge community production of The Passion.  As well as the usual casting SDS is looking for a community cast to join the company, to add their voices to community choir and create the epic crowd scenes.  It’s a chance for anyone to be involved in performing this summer in the run up to the Olympics, helping to tell one of the greatest stories ever told, in one of the earliest pieces of English drama ever written.

Auditions are to be held on Wednesday 14th March at 7.30pm at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury.  Audition scripts are available from the Quay Box Office, or on request via email - contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk

Show rehearsals are on Tuesday/Thursday Evenings and on Sunday Morning/Afternoons from late May to Performances in July.

*****

Sudbury Dramatic Society Presents...
The Passion
Based on the English Medieval Mystery Plays
Adapted for the Quay Stage and Directed by Robert Crighton

Before Shakespeare there were the mysteries, the first great dramas ever produced in English.  The original mystery plays were based on stories from the Bible, telling the story of the world from the creation through to doomsday and written to be performed on city streets over the course of a whole day.  This specially prepared version tells of the life of Christ focusing on his betrayal and what follows.  A powerful story told for all peoples, involving storytelling, music, drama and a community company open to all comers.

Performing Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th July at 7.45pm
The Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2AN

NB:  All shots below are for pre-publicity purposes and do not reflect casting as we haven't held auditions yet.

NOTES ON THE PLAY

Below is a list of the Big Parts you might want to audition for – there are lots more small roles on offer, but these are the ones we will focus on at the audition.  As far as I’m concerned the auditions are not about whether you get a part, it’s about what part you get.
NB:  We’re going to allow cross gender casting for ‘evil’ characters to ensure there are plenty of roles for women – so Satan, Herod, Annas and Caiaphas etc are up for grabs.

PARTS OF INTEREST:  I’ve not gone into detail in many of the parts as most of the ‘good’ characters are self evident. 

John THE BAPTIST
ANNAS and CAIAPHAS – Male or Female.  The high priest CAIAPHAS is prone to psychopathic rages, ANNAS is older and the power behind him, calm and subtle.
SATAN – Male or Female.  Has a close relationship with Judas
GABRIEL – Male or Female
JESUS – mid-thirties ideally, but the primary importance is physical fitness.
JOHN, PETER, JUDAS and other DISCIPLES – any age
MARY – old enough to be the mother of Jesus.
MARY MAGDALENE
PILATE is an ambiguous role - a politician through and through.
THE FOUR SOLDIERS – must be physically strong.  The four soldiers are brilliant parts - typical workmen.  They look at a job, suck in through their teeth and say it’ll cost you. 
SOLDIER 1:  The foreman – orders people about, but does nothing himself if he can.
SOLDIER 2:  Like a leaf in the wind, flitters between following 1 and 4.
SOLDIER 3:  The young lad – inexperienced, answers back.
SOLDIER 4:  H & S officer, also the union rep, doesn’t quite get on with 1.
HEROD – Male or Female.  Unlike Herod the Great who came before him (who’s a big shouty Brian Blessed figure), this Herod is a good humoured dilettante, until angered.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Open Your Notebooks!

It's been a fragmented week, but I have made a start on the new stories for 2012.
This is how I started these stories and generally start most plays.

1. I create a crisp new document on my computer and type out the title and that it's by me, in case I forget.  In this case: The Shakespeare Delusion. (Which I've also got round to drafting a poster for - for the tryout anyway - see right - tickets on sale soon.)
2. I dig out my notebooks from the last year or so and look out the notes I made on this particular story.
3. As I type up each section I place it in the approximate area of the story so that the bits go in order, followed by general notes of thoughts, feelings and ideas for the story at the end of the document.
4. If I'm in a good mood I expand on these gobbits of text as I go along, adding detail, chasing any logical thoughts and ideas that come to me as I work.
5.  This process is done spasmodically over a day or two, by the end of which I have got all the ideas for the piece on one document, the key scenes/sections written up and a word count of somewhere between 500 and 1000 words.  This is always reassuring as it means I've got something to show for myself and before I've even started to do something anyone could call work.
6.  Now I go through my notes and discard files for any non-specific dialogue, joke, idea or just damn fine bit of prose that hasn't been homed in any other stories/plays.  These sit at the end of the file for me to look at during each writing session to give my brain to chance to weave them in naturally.  If I can't do this they get passed onto the next project.
7.  I'm usually juggling writing projects at this stage so I move onto story two, in this case Attack of the Christmas Squirrels and repeat this process, with the odd cut and paste for step 6.
8.  While I'm doing all this notebook transcribing I dig out the text of a play Complicated Pleasures that I've been toiling on and add a few notes I've made since last looking at it.  Amazed to find the word count already over 13,000 words and could be well onto the road of the first draft if I pull my finger out.
9.  I then write a blog about writing stuff.

That's us up to date I think.
Both The Shakespeare Delusion and Attack of the Christmas Squirrels will be shows that need to run at some 10 to 12,000 words each and have separate deadlines and outlines.  The Shakespeare Delusion is a single monologue told by one Professor L. Ashborn, whose account of an alternative history of Shakespeare is hijacked by the fact he is completely doolally.  He knows he is hallucinating, he knows the world he sees doesn't match our own, but he carries on regardless - which would account for a fair amount of Shakespearean scholarship in certain climbs.  This is the first character driven monologue of length that I've written since Fantasy Terrorist League (c. 2005) and Keynote Speaker (c. 2009) and it's rather nice to create a voice and person, as opposed to standing as an anonymous storyteller.  I have only written the character parts so far, the testimony of this man's researches and the strange journey he is taken on.  I will start on the 'factual' part of his lecture next - I did start writing a spoof Shakespeare lecture a few years ago but have yet to find the notes on it - frankly, the difficultly in spoofing theories about Shakespeare is that the spoof element is driven out by the number of crazy theories people believe anyway.  Hence the accent on character rather than on the lecture itself.
Observant people will have noticed that I have used the name Ashborn before.  Several times.  He was originally one Lord Ashborn, who I played as an occasional character whilst devising short plays at Sixth Form with my good friend David Aldous.  We did three twenty minute plays and finally launched Milk Bottle Productions together with our first full length play Lord Ashborn: Life, Death and the Pursuit of Cotton Buds I'm very fond of it, despite being a piece of juvenilia, and I'm tempted, one day, to have a crack at rewriting it.  I probably won't.  Professor L. Ashborn isn't going to be the same character, though he may have a few nods here and there, but it felt right to give the name at least another outing.
The Shakespeare Delusion will be written for a tryout in May, performing in Lavenham on Friday 18th May, so is the priority piece at present.  It will then be worked on over the year for performance at the Christmas Festival at Barons Court.  Those who orbit Suffolk can reserve tickets for the tryout now via email (below) prior to tickets being released in March, just send a name and the number of tickets (it sold out and then some last time, so be quick) and you'll be at the front of the queue.
Attack of the Christmas Squirrels is going to be quite different.  It may have a rough tryout in the autumn, but I might give it a different title to avoid the unseasonal date.  I don't intend to perform the show myself, but have a team of storytellers for the London run.  I might do the opening five minutes, just to keep me off the streets, but no more - I have other irons in the fire performance wise - largely with Nicholas NicklebySquirrels is going to be made of five or so interlocking / overlapping stories.  Each covers a different character (probably), each leads to the final act of the story (hopefully).  I'll be opening auditions for this and other parts and activities for the Christmas Festival later this year.  Again, if you're interested in being involved it won't do you any harm if you send your CV, pictures, show reel, link to website, huge bribe to contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk anytime in the next few months.  Full details will follow later.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Seldom Plan

I am indebted in much of my work to Science Fiction and, on a day to day level, to the late Issac Asimov.  Not because my writing is obviously influenced by his (it largely isn't) but because one of his ideas has come to life as a way of assessing my work and the relative success or failure of it.
Asimov wrote a series of stories which were published as the Foundation trilogy.  In the Foundation trilogy and the various other books that followed, he expounded upon the idea of Psycho-history - the idea that in a future where there are countless billions of humans on thousands of planets it is possible to predict the future, a future history, which can be used to steer human progress.  The scientist who came up with this science of prediction instigated a plan to mould future history to steer civilisation away from total collapse.  This was called the Seldon Plan, after said scientist.  (Sadly Asimov's original stories came about prior to modern notions of chaos theory which renders this idea as mostly bunkum, but it made for some interesting reading.)
The plan was mapped out in mathematical equations and this would be worked upon, refining the shape of the future.  This map was called the Prime Radiant.
Why have I gone through the details of a fake science from a fiction of the future?  
Well, there is a place on my computer I call the Seldom Plan - it's where I put all the ideas, the projects, the plans I have made in the past and the future into one long timeline - my own personal Prime Radiant, if you will.  A timeline of events past into events future, all labelled in differing colours.  Events past labelled in blue have happened, events in red haven't; events future are left in black, or marked green if green lit (i.e. if the space is booked), or red if they have been already abandoned.  As time marches on the green and black it turns either blue or red, and as such I can see the rates of success and failure.  It's about 60 to 70% red, 40 to 30% blue.  Hence it is called the Seldom Plan, as the plans seldom happen.  One day I will exhibit my personal prime radiant as a work of art in itself.
Why do I bring this up now?  Because already my plans for this year have shifted.  Not massively, but enough to warrant a telling.  I like to think aloud and to some degree this blog acts as a sounding board for my plans and, as they're a good ten months away, I don't care if they cease to exist.  This blog is the voiced extension of the Milk Bottle Prime Radiant.  Looking back over my blogs from 2011 I can see several plans and actions that came to nothing.  And 2012 is no exception.
Storyteller 2012 has changed already - firstly, as detailed in the last but one blog, the readings of The Pickwick Papers is definitely and completely out.  It's just not working.  So, in with Nicholas Nickleby which is working.  Really nicely. Sorry to anyone who was looking forward to Pickwick, you can't persuade me otherwise.  Look, I've even changed the poster! [This production was, ironically, never produced - Rob 2013]
Also gone, or at least postponed until next year, is The Examiner of Beauty.  I'm not in a position at the moment to produce this show in the way I want, as the schedule for the winter run at Barons Court won't fit it.  It is an odd one out of the schedule.  So it will appear in 2013.  Probably. [It didn't - Rob 2013]
This means that the layout for the Christmas schedule has changed, stories being moved around and a new Selection Box show for Sunday nights, for which I'll be hunting for storytellers and material very, very soon. [This also never happened - Rob 2013]
I'll publish a full schedule for Christmas in a little while, as I don't want to create too much deviation in my Prime Radiant.  But an exposition on these changes can be heard on last weeks vlog, which appears here.  Till next week: ta, ta.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Adventurous Americans and a Shaggy Dog Story.

An odd trend has hit my blog this month - the sudden rise, and I think rise is an apposite term, of hits (viewings of my blog) from America.  Now, America has always been a steady source of hits and I'm delighted to hear from people all round the world.  The Germans, French and Russians are less avid readers, but still quite interested in my antics in storytelling.  But getting traffic from around the globe is not the odd trend as mentioned above; it's that, suddenly, there's been a huge spike in hits on one post. So many, in fact, that this last month more people have been looking at the blog from the US of A than in the snow drenched shores of the UK, which is odd, as I don't know anyone in the US, whereas I post a link to this blog to people I do know in the UK.  Which suggests that the UK is sick to death of me, whereas the US has finally succumbed to my charms.
So, I looked at the post, first put up in July 2011 and concluded that, as there was a mention of the US in it, then a search engine has pointed them in my direction out of computerised nationalist tendencies.
Then, I looked further down the post and saw that much of it was about a little manifesto I'd written for a season of plays in 2010.  At last, I thought, wise people in the US have caught onto my brilliant thoughts and are flocking in droves.  Yay!
Then, I looked at what these wise people had typed into their search engine to bring up that post.  And the real reason appeared.  It rose up before me, positively engorged with logic.

Here are the entries in order of hits, highest at the top, typing errors included

1. cuckold
2. amateur cuckold blogs
3. amatuer cuckold
4. bizzare cuckolds
5. breeding wife cuckold
6. cuckold hot wife
7. cuckold men

Now, these could have been perfectly innocent enquiries into... I don't know... Restoration comedy or something, but I the last item

8. cum drinking cuckold

did rather confirm the worst.
The blog post in question did mention a play called Cuckold's Fair, which is about the above issues (including number 8, it isn't a piece for the faint of heart) but it wasn't a post aiming to assist in the practical propagation of infidelity.  These are not difficult to find, as I discovered when researching the above play.  My faith in humanity did diminish slightly.  My inner Bagpuss cried.
But the above eight were not all.  The list of sources of the hits on my blog concluded in two searches that hit different posts in my year long output.  The first of these searches was for a perfectly respectable actress friend of mine who was mentioned in passing this year, but who shares their name with a celebrated pornographic athlete from another country.
And no, I'm not telling you who she is.  I might even have already removed the name from my blog just in case. 
But worse was yet to come.
The second search was for this:

day old dogs for sale in cork

So, apart from my mailing list, followers and friends online and the usual suspects, all other hits on my blog has been for porn or a shaggy dog.
I can feel my ego whithering before me. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Happy Birthday Mr Dickens

Well, he's made it.  200 years and... well okay he is dead, but people still know who he is, that's pretty good.  Now, I've come to Dickens fairly late, only really working through the canon over the last few years, (I know, I've been busy with the English Renaissance, okay!) and over the last few months limbering up to performing an almost complete reading of one of his books.  Limbering up is a good term for the tongue has to get round some pretty robust speech.  I remember when I started working on the Sherlock Holmes stories finding them, at first, to be very difficult work.  Dickens, being another fifty years or so earlier, presents another verbal gap to jump.  My tongue is getting used to the longer sentences, the sentences that are sometimes so long that halfway through you lose a sense to where you started, and the structure of English used.  Once my tongue has wrapped its way round the idiom then I can really start cooking with gas.
I originally planned to do a reading of The Pickwick Papers - had even started to edit the text, and did a poster - but gave up after a couple of weeks.  The Pickwick Papers - episodic, jovial and humorous seemed the perfect text, but I found I couldn't structure the episodes into satisfying chunks for the audience.  Even assuming that the audience will return for all 20 parts (some will, many won't), each evening has to work as a one off, to be perfectly satisfying and complete and Pickwick just didn't fit.  It is, to be frank, a bit patchy.  (Sorry Dickens... what was that?  Oh, you're dead so don't care.  Fair enough.)
Nicholas Nickleby, on the other hand, is a perfect fit.  Of similar length, the plot for NN is very simple, but it does have one.  In a sentence, young Nicholas tries to make his way in the world, supported by friends and hampered by his wicked Uncle Ralph.  In a second - he prevails, his uncle fails and he (and his sister Kate) succeed in finding positions in the world, marry and live happily ever after - after meeting dozens of glorious characters good and bad.  Each episode (with occasional reshuffles of material) fits a neat hour plus segment and works on its own merits.  Having struggled for weeks with Pickwick, I have segmented NN into 20 episodes and have nearly finished editing the first 5 in but a few days.
There are edits made - but they are very minor.  Each episode needs to be around 12,000 words long, and when carved up NN tends to be 15,000+ words long per part.  Now 3,000 words an episode sounds a lot, but it really isn't.  For a reading I will remove, as a matter of course, extraneous 'he said, she saids' from the text and any description of voice or manner that will be obvious in my performance.  This usually amounts to a good 2000 words each episode.  After that I remove anything that isn't quite brilliant.  Some of the descriptions of the city of London tend to go on longer than the ear will bare, and often beyond that the tongue can make clear.  A sentence on a page, grammatically correct, can be utterly bamboozling to the hearer, regardless of skill or intention.  Minor trims here make these much clearer.  After that, if I haven't reached my limit, I will make harder choices, but so far this hasn't been necessary.
There is one exception of this hands off rule to the editing.  It's the coach crash in the early chapters of the book - written in, presumably, to create a good cliffhanger for the next instalment.  I have removed the whole event (an entire chapter) because it is quite frankly utterly boring.  Sorry Dickens, but I'm convinced you were hitting a deadline and recycled some old material to fill in that months copy.  The passengers, following the crash, retire to an inn and tell each other two not very good stories - very similar to the stories that punctuate Pickwick, but wholly unwelcome.
That aside, and having cut it it is very much aside, I love Nicholas Nickleby, it is a delight from the start to finish and I'm going to have so much fun performing it this Christmas.  I hope you will come and enjoy it also.  Tickets will be on sale soon.

[Since writing this blog entry all plans to do the above were changed.  For details as to why this happens to the best laid plans view the blog post: The Seldom Plan.]