Megan Shorey (Interview 34)

Megan Shorey will never write a musical. Or so she tells me. But before I can wonder if I’m having a coffee with the wrong gal, she clarifies: “At Joymas Creative we write Music Theatre. Theatre with music, for theatre lovers; for people that enjoy a mental challenge, an emotional challenge; where the songs continue to drive the narrative.” So, if you’re looking for sequins and a kick-line, you’d better head elsewhere. Or stay – and enjoy something new.

Joymas Creative is a Brisbane-based, independent music theatre company that produces its own work, and has done so since 2009. It is headlined by the extraordinarily talented Megan Shorey – writer, director, producer, songstress, wife and mum.

I met Megan for the first time last week to chat about the launch of Joymas’ 2013 season. We covered kids’ illnesses, ballet school madness, starting prep and our mutual disdain for babies that don’t sleep, and then I remembered I had to do an interview. Not only is Megan one of the most delightfully articulate, clever and engaging women I’ve met, she’s also got her finger firmly on the pulse – and a good thing too – for 2013 will see Joymas embrace the often elusive, yet always intrusive Generation Y. Continue reading Megan Shorey (Interview 34)

Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

A few weeks back I found myself in front of a lot of the Harvest Rain interns at one of their regular Friday Behind the Red Curtain seminar sessions. On the panel (chaired by Artistic Director of HR, Tim O’Connor) were three other actors: Steven Tandy, Bryan Probets, and Cameron Hurry.  As you’d expect, the students’ questions and subsequent discussion revolved around the business of acting.

One of the questions put to us was whether, after training, taking work in an amateur theatre production would mean an actor would not be ‘taken seriously.‘  Was there, in fact, a stigma attached to doing amateur theatre? The response to the query was an emphatic ‘No,’ from all of us – with the caveat that an actor needs to seek out work with the best people – especially when getting started. This is what we actually said:

By the way, the Harvest Rain Behind the Red Curtain sessions are good value! Check out the others on their site. But, back to the question …

Each of the actor-panellists at the session had either begun their stage careers in amateur theatre or have returned there from time to time – for various reasons. Bryan speaks most eloquently in the video above about his experience, as do Steven and Cameron. As far as I was concerned, there was no local training when I left school, and the newly-created NIDA was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. I worked with Brisbane Arts Theatre for a few years before going on to train in London. The time I spent at BAT was invaluable to me; watching other, more experienced actors at work focussed my thinking, whilst spending hours and hours travelling by bus and tram to and from Petrie Terrace to Sandgate during the week and at weekends taught me how demanding the work could be. It also hardened my determination to go on. Continue reading Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

Songs for a New World (Review): Harvest Rain

With a few quibbles, I really enjoyed my first Harvest Rain-produced musical, Songs for a New World (1995) by Tony award winning composer Jason Robert Brown, directed by Tim O’Connor.  Four principal singers (Angela Harding, Luke Kennedy, Naomi Price and Luke Venables) are backed by a five piece band (Daniel Gibney, Daniel Grindrod, Marcus Parente, Jack Kelly and Matlohn Drew) and an acting ensemble of twelve – Harvest Rain’s interns getting some valuable on the job training.  The JWCoCA studio is a perfect space for small, ‘chamber musicals,’ and I fantasised as I drove home about how great it would be if Brisbane had a permanent small space dedicated to this kind of work, perhaps linked or associated in some way to music theatre training institutions around the state.  Anyway …

Songs for a New World is a play about relationships, and one of the more fragile of human emotions: hope.  It’s in the ‘small’ show musical class; the revue-style format is more of a mood piece, an essay as opposed to the full-blooded narrative book of most musicals, at least the blockbusters that many have come to associate with the American musical theatre.  Like others before and since, this musical work doesn’t rely for its success on big production values, but on the integrity and quality of the ideas, its music, and on the ability of a production to engage with the piece.  The play focusses on individual stories drawn from a cross-section of American society, people at decisive moments in their lives.  As a song-cycle, the work is also very much a musical-theatre actors’ piece, a meditation that explores a life’s realities set against its aspirations. Continue reading Songs for a New World (Review): Harvest Rain

And now for the 2010 Matilda Awards!

Last year Greenroom wrote about the Matilda Awards, since 1987 Queensland’s only awards for excellence in theatre production.  That post put a few questions about the nature, scope and range of work under consideration.

This year the award categories have been reduced from 12 to 10.  Best Musical Production has gone, with Best Technical Design and Best Design bundled together into the single category, Best Design – there had been a bit of a kerfuffle post-Matilda last year about this split in the design categories.

Like all smart arts organisations in this day and age, the Matildas now have a social media presence; theirs is on Facebook.  It was good to see some information on this year’s awards posted a week or so ago; FB fans had been asking when the nominations were to be announced.  Soon, it would seem, if the social media tom-toms are to be believed.  By the way, the 2010 Matildas will be held from 6.30pm April 19th at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art in the Valley, Brisbane.

In case you don’t have or want a Facebook account here is some information from the Matildas’ fan page.  Perhaps it will also encourage a bit more of a conversation and address those questions which remain unanswered:

  • What is a mainstage production, and how is it different from an independent production?
  • For that matter, what is Matilda’s definition of community theatre which is excluded from consideration? (see Voting Procedure below)  Is amateur theatre meant?  Some self-styled community theatre in the regions is pro-am – like a lot of independent theatre elsewhere – and that leads on to
  • Why the Matildas are still called ‘Queensland’ awards, whilst regional professional and independent theatre is excluded?  Why not be proudly Brisbane, and be done with it.

Good on the Matilda judging panel/committee/board/ and the terrific Playlab Press (sponsoring again) for working hard on an event that profiles, supports, and celebrates the work being done in the Brisbane professional and independent theatre community.  PS Did you know that Playlab is Australia’s second-largest publisher of theatre and new work for performance?

Award Categories

There will be ten commendations in the following categories:

• Best Mainstage Production
• Best Independent Production
• Best Direction
• Best Actress In A Lead Role
• Best Actor In A Lead Role
• Best Actress In A Supporting Role
• Best Actor In A Supporting Role
• Best New Australian Work
• Best Emerging Artist
• Best Design (set, lighting, sound or costume)

However, if the judges see something they feel is outstanding but does not fit into any of the above categories, for instance a musical, they will be at liberty to give an award to it. These award winners will receive a framed certificate.

  • Another question: Why doesn’t a musical fit into any of the categories cited above?  Compensation perhaps for dumping the award for Best Musical Production?

As well as the commendations, there will be five Matilda Awards.

These are the premium awards and the winners will receive trophies.

A Matilda is awarded for outstanding work in any area of the theatre industry.  Awards may be given for a body of work, or for a single work.  Receiving a commendation does not disqualify a theatre worker from receiving a Matilda in that same year.

The 2010 judging panel

Voting Procedure

The judges compile a comprehensive list of all the productions that are eligible for that year adhering to the following guidelines:

For an arts worker to be nominated for work on an individual production that production must comply with the following guidelines:

  • the production was either a fully professional or a pro-am production – no community theatre
  • international and national touring productions are not eligible
  • the play must have been seen by at least 50 per cent of the judges.

If there is no category for a show that amazed everyone, then a category should be created to award that show. Further, if half the board saw a show and rated that show the best they had seen, then that should be seen more favourably than a show everyone saw but thought was mediocre.

Guidelines

For each category, committee members should award two points to their first choice and one point to their second.  This ensures that a board members’ second preference also gets counted.

There should be at least four nominations in every category to form a shortlist.

Judges cannot vote in categories where they have a conflict of interest, for instance if they or a family member have been involved in a production in any way.

Working on text – the early phase of rehearsal

UPDATE – this is an out of the archive post reworked a year or so on. If you’re a regular here or to my other blog Groundling, from which this is taken, you may have already read my rehearsal and performance posts for the Empire Theatre’s 2008 production of Cabaret directed by Lewis Jones.  I played the role of Fraulein Schneider. You can find these posts elsewhere on the site. Just type ‘Cabaret’ in the search pane, and stand back. I’m revisiting some of my posts on actors’ process, which I hope you may find useful. This one looks at text analysis.  As always, I would love your commentary.

Sunday’s rehearsals swung into a first shuffle-through of the play scene by scene. This was table talk about character, backstory, and relationships followed by a work through of a couple of scenes in which my character first appears.

First appearances are critical for character revelation. For a start, an audience starts to make up its mind about how it relates to a character. First appearances are also where a play’s obligatory exposition is revealed. A good play will give out the information on who, what, were, why and so on via character interaction and dialogue that hopefully doesn’t beat you over the head, as well as through other subtle clues in the script. These are things the actor needs to pick up and feed the character.

Text analysis for the actor is a bit like the forensic analysis of a crime scene. However, there is something you also need to bear in mind, and that is to balance what the character knows with what the actor knows … or as it’s often expressed, don’t play what’s on the ‘next page.’ I got a bit carried away myself today wondering how significant the first mention of Jewishness in the play would be to my character. Of course the audience is going to prick its collective ears at this point … ‘Uh oh, we’ve got an issue here that is going to come back later!!’ but the characters themselves are at this stage, blissfully ignorant of the fate in store.

This is what I like about these early turning over the text rehearsals … playing with possibilities and making choices, and seeing where they lead. It’s good to have a director like Lewis who allowed me to stumble my way around the set, getting its geography and furniture layout into my head, getting the feel of ownership that the character would have; it’s my house after all – it was once a large home and where I was born and where I grew up. Alas, nowadays it’s been converted into a boarding house. Yes, this was one of the creative choices I’ve made, along with what has brought Schneider to where she is right now … New Year’s Eve 1929.

I’m really going to enjoy the next phase of rehearsals, and it’s going to include something I’m not all that familiar with … making the transition in and out of a musical number. I’m sure it’s going to be all about finding the right energy level and bridging from speech to song, though handily all of my songs tend to do this with quite a bit of ‘spoken in rhythm’ appearing on the score. Although we are not singing within scenes yet, this finding the right heightened energy was something the director worked on quite a bit during the final run-throughs of the scenes this afternoon.