Archive for June, 2018

Interviewing Director: Liz Bacon

Posted on: June 15th, 2018 by artsAdmin

I spent a very 70’s induced lunch time in the local caf with the delightfully creative, Liz Bacon, director of one of this year’s MA Shows, 1972: The Future of Sex. From first watching this play performed by the creators, The Wardrobe Ensemble, I was excited to discover what Liz and our MA cast would bring into the mix!

T: Hi Liz. You are currently at the early stages of rehearsal and you are devising extra scenes for 1972: The Future of Sex. What is your process for that?

L: We’ve already decided our three devised storylines, and we got to this point by playing around with pieces of the script and then worked out where our big questions were. In the play, there are big question marks that need not be answered, because it’s the audience’s job to go away and answer them. But there are still some storylines and characters that need more exploring, which was only enhanced by the research we did into the era. Our big question was: Why are we putting on a play about 1972 in 2018? What do we want to say about it? What do we want the audience to go away thinking? What actions do we want them to take? How can we pull out more threads from the story to serve that purpose? But from a more practical angle, devising gives everyone the chance to have more of an equal part in the play, so it’s come from the casting process as well – who naturally fits into the roles. We decided to work on the characters already in the script, as the thought of devising new ones was a bit too much in the time given, so instead we have focussed purely on expanding the storylines.

T: Ultimately, this is a very physical piece; what has inspired you when it comes to physical direction?

L: I honestly don’t know how to work any other way. The reason why I love working physically is that it creates a breadth of possibility and freedom that allows us to make decisions about the play. For me, the fact that we have a really tight ensemble of twelve people, it’s such a moving and engaging thing to watch. 1972: The Future of Sex is about adolescence, it’s about sex, it’s about physical bodies and beings, so to tell that story in a passive way would be nuts! In the reality of the play, there’s a band made up of seventeen year olds. These teenagers are probably not very strong musically, but they have the soul to perform something raw with energy and guts, and I feel like that’s how the whole play should be told.

T: How are you finding tackling the comedic dynamic coupled with the serious themes of sexuality?

L: My main focus, after reading the script was creating characters that the audience could connect with. I’ve been working on the authenticity of the piece, so I think the comedy will come naturally with that. The play is unexpected and surprising in its format, which really lends itself to the comedic side of it. It all comes back to play – throughout the whole rehearsal process, we’ve been playing around, and I think that joy will show.

T: What are you enjoying most about working with our MA students?

L: They’re so enthusiastic and they’re so hungry to learn stuff and try new things. The positivity and support that they give one another is incredible. Also, the fact that MA students are a bit older really helps with discussions in the play around permission and identity, because they bring their life experiences into it. They’re a really smart group. Their real challenge is trusting themselves – the MA course is only a year, but it’s important that they give themselves permission to move onto the next step and trust that they’re qualified enough to move into the industry.

T: What are the main challenges you have faced so far?

L: Devising the new storylines has been a challenge, as they need to evolve at the same pace as the rest of the world within the play. It takes a lot of faith, timing wise – it is one thing rehearsing a play that’s already been written, but when you’re adding new devised scenes to it, it suddenly becomes a much longer process. We’ve also got a live band on stage, so we have to compose and create songs; it’s a lot of fun, but timing crops up again as a challenge!

Get involved in the 70’s madness from 4-7 July and BOOK NOW.

ArtsEd Gets Green Light for Major Refurbishment

Posted on: June 15th, 2018 by artsAdmin

ArtsEd is delighted to have been granted planning permission from the London Borough of Hounslow on 14 June for the reorganisation and refurbishment of Cone Ripman House, to create a new studio theatre, as well as additional rehearsal and teaching spaces. The project will cover all aspects of ArtsEd’s provision, including significant improvements in the Day School and Sixth Form facilities as well as the Schools of Acting and Musical Theatre.

Leading architects De Matos Ryan developed plans earlier this year to show how to make the best use of the tight urban site, optimising the existing buildings and unlocking the potential of currently empty courtyard space. Their vision maintains a positive contribution to the wider conservation area and community as well as the school’s immediate neighbours.

Principal Chris Hocking says:

“We are delighted to be able to move forwards with our refurbishment plans and provide our students with facilities that match the exceptional quality of our teaching – ensuring that future generations continue to leave ArtsEd as outstandingly confident and creative young performers.”

This major refurbishment of ArtsEd’s west London home will provide students with world-class facilities in an inspiring environment, including a new state of the art Studio Theatre. This will complement The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre which opened in 2013 and was the first significant addition to the school’s facilities since first making its home in Chiswick over thirty years ago. ArtsEd has since developed a reputation for world-class conservatoire training and as a centre for excellence – all down to our industry-focused expertise and the calibre of our dedicated staff, our intensive and practical training schedule, and our strong focus on pastoral care.

Once the refurbishment is complete, ArtsEd students will all be in one location to enjoy the best possible performing arts environment. ArtsEd will also be able to share these new facilities with the wider community through its continuing programme of evening and weekend courses.

Our neighbours can be proud of our ongoing succuss. In June 2018, ArtsEd was awarded TEF Gold for delivering outstanding teaching, learning and student outcomes, while in 2016 we were named The Stage School of the Year and and deemed ‘exemplary’ in Trinity College London’s most recent validation.

The future is bright!

Interviewing Director: Holly Race Roughan

Posted on: June 14th, 2018 by artsAdmin

So there I was, sat in the local caf enjoying a toasted sandwich and a chat with the wonderfully insightful, Holly Race Roughan, director of one of this year’s MA Shows: The Laramie Project. I was keen to know how this twenty year old American play about the brutal murder of gay man, Matthew Shepard can still bear relevance for us today.

T: Hi Holly. So, The Laramie Project is renowned for its many characters. As you get into the full-swing of rehearsals, what will your process be towards getting the actors to embody such a huge range of characters?

H: The answer at the moment is – I don’t know! But most likely it will be through physicality. The overall framing of the show is very much about Tectonic theatre company rein-acting the Laramie residents, so there doesn’t need to be sense of naturalism like a straight verbatim play would have. Because of that, we haven’t worried about being age or gender specific. Some of the actors are doing a variety of accents, but that’s a personal choice, as they feel like it brings something out of their character. For example, Marc Zayat who is playing the University President of Wyoming is doing an accent from his heritage as he feels that the character reminds him of someone he knows.

T: The Laramie Project is celebrating its 20 Year anniversary, what can this play say to a contemporary audience? Why does it still bear relevance?

H: I think the Laramie Project is about community accountability. It’s a story about two young men who commit an act of hate violence and we watch as the community unravel, respond and come to terms with it. What I’m realising at the moment is that we have to move away from the ‘witch hunt’ model when trying to solve issues in our society. We have to take collective responsibility for our complicity in hate culture. In a very direct way, when I read the play, the ‘Me Too’ campaign came to mind – we are at that point in our society where we go: If we lock up Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Max Stafford-Clark and others, we will have resolved sexism and sexual violence in the theatrical community. But what I’m realising is that we have to answer that question as a collective and realise that we are all complicit in rape culture. The Laramie Project asks the question: What if the real perpetrators of this horrendous crime are not Aaron McKinney and Russel Henderson, but us as a Culture. I think it’s a metaphor for the turmoil that we’re going through at the moment, whether that’s Islamophobia or gendered violence. The sad truth of it is, twenty years later we’re still seeing homophobic hate acts at that level. Change takes a long time, and this play is depressingly relevant – it asks us to examine us as a wider culture.

T: What research and discussions took place in preparation for this play?

H: This is a really political, discussion-heavy play, so to begin with – partly to shake up my own process, I decided to go down the route of movement, devising and playfulness to try and crack this verbatim piece. However, by the end of the week I hit a brick wall and realised it wasn’t working. As a director, I tend to work from the inside out rather than the outside in, so realised I actually needed to come at it from a discussion point of view. The discussions that have come out of this have been really controversial, and I’m at the age where I have a lot of  strong opinions, and that can be a challenge in an ensemble piece as you work out to what extent are you a director, and what extent are you a facilitator. On top of this, I have watched the documentaries, looked at my own life experience and brought in my own work in feminism and activism rather than the specific knowledge of Wyoming in 1998. This piece has to be about the cast, the wider world right now and the audience, so in a way, I don’t want to get too bogged down in research, but have enough to spark inspiration in the rehearsal room.

T: What are you enjoying most about working with our MA students?

H: I think they’re eager and they’re not cynical, and that’s joyful. When you do a one year MA course, you want to make the most of it – squeeze out everything you can get from it. There’s no complacency when doing a one year course. I’ve been knocked out by their enthusiasm – it’s something you don’t always see in professional rehearsal rooms. Another thing I have noticed is that they’re all so different – the thing about MA students is that they still hold onto their individuality and they bring their life experience into their work.

T: What are the main challenges you have faced so far?

H: Verbatim resists anything you put on it, and it works when you keep it simple and really pure – and that can be dull from a director’s perspective. However The Laramie Project does allow a way out because of the way Tectonic Theatre Company places themselves into the narrative. The challenge is – how do you make this theatrical? Another challenge is how to make the political engaging and nuanced rather than binary and simplistic. It’s also very challenging staging a play with seventeen bodies in the space!

Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Laramie Project from 4-7 July and BOOK TICKETS HERE.

Alex Cardall Scoops Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year 2018

Posted on: June 11th, 2018 by artsAdmin

ArtsEd Musical Theatre student Alex Cardall, about to graduate, was awarded first prize of £1,000 in this year's Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year & Stiles and Drew Prize. He performed in the 12th anniversary West End Gala at the Savoy Theatre on 10 June, alongside 11 other finalists and the bar was set high. Alex, who appeared in Top Hat and Bullets Over Broadway earlier this year at ArtsEd, sang the Follies favourite 'Buddy's Blues' to scoop the top prize.

Principal Chris Hocking directed the proceedings and judges included Susie McKenna, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe and Sharon D Clarke, with Mark Etherington on keyboard throughout the evening.

Alex was delighted to have won: “I'm utterly thrilled to have won SSSSPOTY today. It's a fantastic day filled with the best of musical theatre writing and I'm honoured to have been a part of it.”  {image1}

Winner of the Stiles & Drew Prize for Best New Song was Adam Wachter with his song 'You and Me', also sung by Alex Cardall. This prize recognises an outstanding song from a new musical and the winner receives £1,000 to put towards developing their work.

Alex is pictured above with Julia McKenzie, star of stage and screen, who appeared in the original production of Sondheim's musical Follies in 1987.

ArtsEd Going for Gold

Posted on: June 6th, 2018 by artsAdmin

The results of this year’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) assessments have just been made public and Principal Chris Hocking is delighted to announce that ArtsEd has been awarded the highest level – TEF Gold.  

Gold is awarded for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students and is of the highest quality found in the UK. 

The Panel considered ArtsEd's submission in relation to TEF criteria and its judgement reflects, in particular, evidence of:

optimum levels of contact time, including outstanding personalised provision that secures the highest levels of engagement and active commitment to learning and study from students
the active and consistent use of high quality industry-standard facilities that provide outstanding opportunities for students as practitioners
practitioner-led teaching, supplemented by additional specialist technical support, which ensures that all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential
an outstanding track record of graduate success in the theatrical and media professions

The TEF measures teaching excellence in three key areas:

Teaching quality: teaching that stimulates and challenges students, and maximises their engagement with their studies.
Learning environment: the effectiveness of resources and activities (such as libraries, laboratories and work experience) which support learning and improve retention, progression and attainment.
Student outcomes: the extent to which all students achieve their educational and professional goals, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This award is one more accolade for ArtsEd and testament to all staff and students' hard work, commitment and dedication to their courses and careers. Congratulations to everyone for going for Gold!