Hello beautiful beings,
Checking in from Bristol on my first week of the Spring Break. This is it. The quiet before the final storm... When we get back in April we start an epic third term that stretches all the way through August! Okay, okay, they technically split it in two with a reading week sometime in late May, but it's basically a straight ride through to graduation. We'll have a text project, a lot of showcase prep, a couple combat scenes to prepare, a professionally produced run of a soon to be announced final production (stay posted on social media with me @grshalan and my wonderful school @bovtsbristol ), and some major life decisions to make.
But I'm really getting ahead of myself. Today I want to update you on the major and impactful happenings of Term Two:
Term Two was a doozy. I'm not gonna lie. I felt stretched and tested in many ways both externally and internally. It was a term of pushing, stretching, limbering, not knowing, making messes, experimenting, trying things on, flying, falling, and everything in between. It was exhausting. It was rewarding. It often felt like a blur, but reflecting back is very helpful, because I realize how many spectacular highlights this term had.
Very early on, way back in January, some colleagues and I went to Gecko Theatre Company's incredible physical theatre piece "The Wedding", which carried many message with it... for me ones of belonging, identity, individuality, fitting into (or not) various worlds, rebellion, raising voices.... it was so well done. And the next day they held a free workshop for people of all walks of Bristol (as a part of their research they are doing on tour) to experiment and open up a forum on Change. How is change made in communities? How do we implement it? How do we learn to communicate better around it? How to we express our feelings about it in a constructive way? Both the workshop and the production were nothing short of inspiring and I highly recommend looking into the work Gecko is doing as an artistic company for impactful change.
Here's a group photo of the day's heroes:
The beginning of the term started with a fascinating deep dive into Chekov. I Group's first text project was "The Cherry Orchard" directed by the fab Paul Chesterton. As a long-time student and fan of the theatre, I've read my fair share of Chekov and seen some of it done, and I have to confess; have never truly been a fan. But something was unlocked for me through this process. It might've been where I'm at, it might've been the company I'm lucky enough to find myself in, it might've been Paul's deep commitment to Chekov's wish that "The Cherry Orchard" is a comedy with a 12 minute 4th act, but it just clicked. It was fun. It was resonant. It was deeply layered. I learned card tricks and ventriloquism and a lot of Russian history circa 1903. And the most gratifying part was seeing "The Cherry Orchard" put on at The Bristol Old Vic a few weeks ago and realize how much of each character is non-negotiably and subtly layered into the text, regardless of the translation or the cut, there are details about these people that Chekov wrote in such a clear but quiet way, that if you really mine the text and listen for it, you have to find. To me, the magic of Chekov is completely three dimensional beings inhabiting a space, slightly larger than life, all slightly detestable or intolerable for various reasons, but-when done well- utterly lovable. You cannot help but empathize with these terribly and delightfully messy human beings.
The other task at the beginning of term was to work on a first-year-wide sonnet sharing. For the first time, I group was invited in on this wonderful evening. All 41 students got assigned two Shakespearean sonnets, one to be performed in our native dialect, and one to be performed in a dialect of our choosing. Again, this a was a surprising breakthrough moment for me. As a fanatic of the Bard, I'd never found an appreciation for the sonnets in performance. I felt pretty strongly that they were to be read, or heard at most, but not really staged. However, all it takes is 40 very talented and brilliant actors to change my mind apparently. What I thought would be an intolerably long evening of 80 sonnets, flew by with much joy and fascination. I have concluded that this is a very good measure of when something works on stage... when time moves quickly.
I decided to stick with the complex vocal challenge of ventriloquism (which I only feel I poked the surface of during Chekov) as my dialect of choice and brought this beautiful puppet with me to the sharing (made by the very talented Technical Students at the school):
One of my proudest achievements of the term was participating in a completely student run and organized celebration of International Women's Day. There are some unbelievable, strong-willed, organized, inspired women in my school. Holly at the forefront, strongly supported by Rachel and Sophie, brought together a night I'll remember for the rest of my life. In typical theatre student fashion, we celebrated a week early because there was a show opening on the actual week of the day. But we started the international celebration off with a bang! The night opened with a four-part chorus of women singing an arrangement of Echoes of Emmeline- an anthem composed by Lucy Pankhurst set to the words of the great suffragette (and her great-grandmother) Emmeline Pankhurst. This piece was directed by one of my every day heroines, Pam Rudge, our Head of Singing. It was chilling, empowering, and thrilling to be a part of.
Gorgeous women singing Echoes of Emmeline:
Other highlights of the evening were: a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross with two women, original scenes and monologues from students, the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with two women, unbelievable spoken word written and performed by students, two show-stopping pieces from Cosi fan Tutte, a killer fight between a (l)ady Macbeth and (l)ady Macduff, shocking but true facts about women's rights, a wall full of gorgeous artwork about and by women on the wall, and the most elegant and moving dance to Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman.
This event was led by women, full of non-cis-male performers, writers, directors, techies, audience, etc. But we were also incredible supported by our cis-male community, which felt so right and wonderful. We had men helping out with lighting, sound, filming the night, opening music, directing, writing, fight choreo, dance chores, and even one male actor... it was the perfect tipping of the scales and a lot of the guys showed support by just showing up to the event, wearing black in solidarity, and being the phenomenal audience they know how to be.
All stunning photos were taken by Annabelle Lee. Here are some of my moments in the evening...
Boys' World-a monologue split in three, with Izzy (pictured) and Emma, directed by Jason:
Suffragette Speech- with Lucia, Izzy, Sam, Chanel, Emma, and Max, directed by Jason:
And The Strange Bedfellows even made an appearance with our covers of The Fog:
And Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive:
The second half of Term Two flew by, which as we have discussed means something is going well, with several challenging and exciting projects:
We had a brief but bountiful three week integrated text project, where all the first years were mixed together and split into several different groups to rehearse selections of more contemporary texts with visiting directors. I had the pleasure of working on Che Walker's "The Frontline" with the inimitable Chinonyerem Odimba - seriously one of the most inspiring and important voices I've had the privilege of being in a room with in a while. Equally enjoyable and inspiring was to be mixed up with the other classes for those brief but fascinating afternoons. I swear I'll never get over all the incredible people I get to share the space with every day.
We shared our projects with each other on the second to last week of term. The next day we had a final dance project we shared with the rest of the school. We danced in a collection of dances inspired by the music of "Frida"- a tango, a Capoeira/ Folk fusion piece, and a Cha-Cha. We also had a group swing dance at the end with all 41 of us on stage! It was such fun and personally, a great accomplishment to be keeping up with that kind of choreography. It was a wonderful way to clock the growth of my physical instrument.
The final week of term, in addition to review sessions, housekeeping of sorts, etc., we had an incredibly inspiring day led by another every day heroine of mine, one of our best acting tutors, Mabel Aitken. She took all the the first year students on a full day workshop of "The Actor as The Artist". Cueing us into the many ways our skills can be used in performance, we spent the morning learning about the history of Performance Art in the Western World- DaDaism, Theatre of the Absurd, Bauhaus, Black Mountain College (Cage, Cunningham, etc.), Pina Bausch, Marina Abramovic, and more...
Then, we had an afternoon of devising simple pieces with our colleagues. Without going into too much detail, I had one of my favorite afternoons of the term creating a piece around the orange with my lovely, brilliant, beautiful, inspired colleagues-Mercedes and Sasha. Perhaps I was a bit wary about collaborating with two of my closest friends in the program, but what a gift it was to realize that I could be surprised by people I've spent all day with every day for the past seven months. They are both wonderful, easy, thoughtful, exciting devisors! We had a great time, were proud of our little piece, and I think it's safe to say, would do it all again time after time. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the term.
Or almost, as we had one final day of self-tape practice. We were given sides the night before and got to spend most of the day splitting off to shoot little scenes. I was tickled to be working on a scene from a certain award-winning Amazon show about a Jewish-New Yorker Comedienne from the 50's.... take a wild guess! And here are some stills from our little afternoon:
Other highlights of the term include:
- Continuing to record audiobooks in my downtime (ha! downtime. LOL... but I did!) New releases coming soon. So, so grateful to be able to work a little!
-Experiencing some of the music passing through this city. Went to a WONDERFUL Marlon Williams concert, and a delicious Phoebe Bridgers concert... looking for some good new tunes, check them out.
- Seeing many wonderful films, as 'twas the season. My favorite probably being "The Square"-bizarre, dark, hilarious, beautifully shot and acted.
- Generosity closing their platform forever. Okay... this sound like a weird one, but let explain a little.
As you know if you are reading this blog, I owe a great deal to the IndieGoGo platform Generosity. I would not be here without it. When I auditioned for this course, a little over a year ago, I didn't know how I would fund it... but one of the miracles that made it possible was the stellar crowd-funding platform on which I raised nearly $10k! Although there were big donations, and there were donations from several people I've never met, most of this was little gifts from loved ones near and far within the first few months of launching the fundraiser.
It has continued to be an amazing space to update backers and to put the word out there about what I'm doing, but when I got an email a couple weeks ago about Generosity shutting down to rebuild from scratch on another platform, I was little relieved.
From research, I do know that these campaigns have an opportune window of fundraising... which I think I have more than over-extended. My last donation on the platform rolled in about mid-January, and I think every darling second-cousin, great-aunt, long-lost friend, and unbelievably generous stranger out there has seen it and given what they can. My brothers, and others, helped me stretch it further with some beautiful additional rewards as the year went on. I'm working through the tiny remaining financial hurdles, and if you want to help further, send me a message, we can work that out. But I have already been so well taken care of by this immensely successful crowd fund, and I do think the time has come to allow the fundraiser to naturally wrap up.
It's great timing with my studies as things continue to intensify and my exploration becomes more personal, intimate, detailed, and focused. I'm going to try and take this cue from the Universe to stay in my real world and off my social media world a little more, as it is just overflowing with offerings these days and I don't want to miss a moment.
I'll still update with little Instagram posts and perhaps some highlight reels on this blog. But if you want more details, please send me a message with your preferred contact info and I'll write you a message, an email, or - better yet- a letter from Bristol!
I carry each of you with me all the time on this grand adventure. It continues to surprise me in tiny morsels of moments and epic chunks of chapters. I've never felt so much gratitude in my life, nor known I was so in the right place every day. I am changed forever, for the better, and loving every second of it.
Wishing you a joyful, bountiful Spring!
Sending out many thanks and much love,
More Bristol Term 2 Pics for you: