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: