Crossing the pond for a bit

I’m heading to the USA for a couple of weeks. Despite the over-abundance of cold, white stuff over much of the country, it seems quite the right time to be going, I must say. I’ve set the alarm clock for 3am (AEST) later tonight to watch Barack Obama’s Inauguration ceremony. That is going to be quite a show in its own right. I arrive in LA on the first day of his presidency, and I imagine the joint will be jumping. I’m looking forward to being immersed in what will be some pretty joyful days as the nation celebrates.

And then there’s a quick trip up to Shakespeare and Company at Lenox … out in the wilds of western Massachusetts … there to see the work that’s been done with a troupe of actors during the annual month-long intensive program. Then Boston for some mostly colonial-trail following, but I’ll hunt down the theatre, trust me. Broadway next, to give my regards … and all too quickly, home again.

I’ll keep you posted here and on Twitter if you care to follow me. See over there in the sidebar.

Ben Kingsley in conversation with Charlie Rose: ‘We do our best work when we are happy.’

Sir Ben Kingsley at the premiere of Tennessee ...
Image via Wikipedia

I couldn’t resist posting Charlie Rose‘s recent conversation with Ben Kingsley … for a couple of reasons. Firstly Sir Ben talks about the nuts and bolts differerences between stage and screen acting … something we all like to sift through. But in the second part of the conversation, he opens up in quite an extraordinary personal way, providing an intelligent and insightful glimpse of how he works as an actor.

It proves to me, if I needed to be convinced, of what I reckon is the secret ingredient in good performances – the emotional and intellectual intelligence of the actor in the role.

Talking Theatre: Only Connect


I’ve just posted my latest prognostication on the theatre’s use of social media at the Utterli Talking Theatre site.

Matt Boothman, Travis Bedard, ‘Big Bear’ and yours truly have been chatting for about a week now on the theatre’s use of social media for reviewing and marketing, as well as the way audiences might continue and even extend that time-honoured and very sociable activity,  the after-show chat. What’s eventuated is a wide-ranging discussion ‘in our own voices’ using Utterli, a kind of mini-podcasting application.

If you would like to check it out, hop on over to the Talking Theatre group and have a listen to what’s going on. Add your thoughts in your own voice or leave a written comment. All up to you.

And what do you think? Is your group using social media at all? In what ways? Can theatre use social media in more creative ways? How? Dream big.

You might like to check out what I said here.

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Listening to books: Alan Bennett at the BBC

I can thoroughly recommend Alan Bennett at the BBC which is currently available from or the iTunes store. I’ve just finished listening to the inimitable Mr Bennett reading what is a miscellany of his work from the past 30 or so years, and all via the BBC. By the way I very much also enjoyed his reading of The Uncommon Reader which is all about HM the Queen’s discovery of the joys of books and reading. It’s a wonderfully witty little piece of fiction, and the reading is made all the more enjoyable by Bennett’s own droll performance style. He’s got a great line in character voices … have a listen to him doing The Telegram in the video above. This piece is also included in the collection.

With Alan Bennett at the BBC, we get pieces which range from anecdotes during interviews, pieces from his radio plays and television productions, diary entries and commentary on family, friends, and people he’s worked with; his portrait of Peter Cook, a colleague from Beyond the Fringe is especially moving.

I love Bennett’s work as actor and writer. He is a most English playwright whose brilliance lies in an ability to capture the poignancy and detail of the ordinary lives of his characters. His wonderful series called Talking Heads must be one of the finest collection of extended monologues ever written for actors. They are funny, achingly sad, wise … the whole box and dice that make up a good piece of actorly text. Talking Heads was written for the stage and filmed for television, and if you don’t know it, then treat yourself and do something about getting access now. You’ll see Bennett at work in Talking Heads in a piece called A Chip in the Sugar. You’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, but I still vividly recall Maggie Smith as the alcoholic vicar’s wife who found companionship and love with an Indian grocer in the extraordinary Bed Among the Lentils. Bennett  like Chekhov, writes plays which bob and weave their way between comedy and tragedy, wrong-footing their audiences at every turn, and the adroit Maggie Smith was perfectly cast in the role.

Anyhow … Bennett can time a punch line to perfection. He tells a slew of jokes in Alan Bennett at the BBC … many of which are self-deprecating. However there’s one which is particularly pertinent which concerns the late Harold Pinter. We’ve all be appropriately reverential toward the great man and his memory of late, so it was a bit of a relief then to hear Bennett tell a Pinter joke.  On the occasion of Pinter’s 50th birthday, Bennett recalled being asked by someone from the BBC for an appropriate way to mark the occasion. He says he couldn’t think of anything at the time. Only after he’d put the phone down did he think of suggesting, ‘… perhaps 2 minutes’ silence?’ Delightful.

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Talking theatre? Try Twitter.

April 2011: Twitter … the little time-waster that proved them all wrong!

May 2010: An update for theatre lovers.  Check out and join in using the #2amt hashtag for some great theatre chat. The hashtag serves to focus the threads of conversation which then get further treatment on the 2amt website.   This post is from January 2009, but nothing much has changed really!

My social network
Image by luc legay via Flickr

I feel as though I have been embedded in my social media for the past month. The chat has been relentless but fascinating, and it’s coming via several channels, the principal one of which is Twitter.

The Twitter phenomenon continues to astonish with its ubiquity; just Google ‘Twitter’ and stand back.  I’ve had a Twitter account since mid-2007 but it’s taken off in an extraordinary way in the past 3-6 months. This means the number of potential contacts has exploded. Now this is a good, and a bad thing. My original dismissal of Twitter as a good-for-not-very-much-time-waster hasn’t been proved to be entirely wrong; yes it can soak up time and attention, but I have to say that the sheer size of potential contacts makes it wonderfully useful and really … well … sociable. It’s ‘on’ 24/7 as well, so if you can’t sleep and want to talk about something to someone, there’s always a kindred spirit ‘out there.’

Twitter’s greatest strength is also its biggest annoyance. I’ve been followed by a lot of Twitter users, but sadly many are on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Some are just stupid spammers flogging a product … and aren’t they easy to spot! PS Unless we have something in common I don’t automatically follow my followers as some do.  I know mine, and mine know me – eventually – at least that’s the way I like my social networks to operate. You can stop someone who wants to be a follower by blocking, but I tend not to do that unless they’re one of the aforesaid spammers or bots. The thing is, I know not all do, but I want meaningful (two-way) contact with the stream – and it makes sense if we have a couple of things in common, right? Follow me, then make contact, and we’re off.

Anyhow, where is this going? Fact is there are a lot of theatre folk, a diversity of digital groundlings from all over the world on Twitter, and they’re getting in on the chatter – the word of mouth stuff that we’re so fond of. I nearly said ‘gossip’ there for a sec!  In fact, right now in a digital stream near you there is probably some great gossip conversation happening: questions, quick reviews, references to terrific blog posts, videos, plus thoughtful discussion on more serious matters – acting, writing, professional development,  and wider ranging, web-related topics which include the birthing of online criticism, digital marketing and economics. If you love to talk about the theatre … of course you do … and you’re not on Twitter, then I suggest you hustle on over and join up.

The first thing you do after joining is to follow me (@Dramagirl) and something called @hashtags. Contact me and say hello, and I’ll follow you back.  It’s a good idea if your profile indicates your interests by the way; you set this up when you join. Get a picture up as well.  From then on, tag your theatre-related messages (tweets) with #theatre (that’s the Twitter hashtag group where any tweet tagged #theatre can be found).  Then you just wait for the inbound theatrical traffic to sniff you out,  or for you to sniff out some likely ‘adds’ from the stream as it rushes by. And of course you are not limited to talking about theatre once you’re on Twitter. It’s open season for chat.

Feel like joining the chatstream? The global bar is open groundlings!