Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 5, My work with Children’s Theatre
In 1978 I was approached by Peter Dews, the newly appointed Artistic Director at Chichester Festival Theatre, with a view to providing a Christmas production.
Peter was a celebrated theatre and television director. As it turned out, thanks to Peter, Chichester Festival Theatre became the venue for the 10th anniversary production of The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See… based on the verses and stories of Edward Lear. This was the show, co-written with Sheila Ruskin, that had convinced me, when I saw a week of performances at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, that children’s theatre was something I wanted to concentrate on. The first production of Owl at Worcester was directed by Mick Hughes, who not only became a famous lighting designer, but supervised the lighting for many Chichester productions. He did a great job on Owl, and the audience reaction from the children was passionate and heart-warming.
A year after its premiere, I persuaded my colleagues John Gould and Bob Scott to let me use our small production company to produce OWL in London. It opened successfully at the Jeannetta Cochrane theatre, was snapped up for publication by Samuel French, and for a few years became a Christmas fixture in London and in repertory theatres up and down the country. Cameron Mackintosh became involved, and together we toured the production a couple of times. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 5”→
Volunteer Janet Green has worked with Pass It On on our exhibition Parklands to Performance, we’ve also been able to inveigle her in to be a project photographer documenting various achievements throughout the project. Janet recently visited John Napier’s exhibition Stages: Beyond the Fourth Wall at the Towner Art Gallery and was so inspired that she wanted to share her experience with us.
I found this such an inspiring exhibition and urge you to visit the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne before the exhibition closes on 31st January, 2016. John Napier has a long career as an artist and theatre designer. He describes this exhibition as coming from ‘a passion for art and creativity….with pieces that are between performance and sculpture’. The list of his theatre designs is very, very long, and more information can be viewed on www.johnnapierstages.com Continue reading “STAGES: BEYOND THE FOURTH WALL”→
Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 4, A Leading Role, 1980
In 1980, Peter Dews offered me the role of Birdie Bowers in Terra Nova, a play about Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic. This truly epic play was remarkable in that it was written for only seven actors. The playwright was a young Canadian called Ted Tally, who later achieved fame for his screenplay of the film Silence of the Lambs.
My agent, John Miller, told me, with a note of surprise in his voice, that I didn’t have to audition for the role of Birdie – it was an offer. I picked up the script from the Festival Theatre Londonoffice above the Queen’s Theatre and read it with increasing excitement. Birdie was an endearing character, arguably the most good-humoured of the five who reached the South Pole after an arduous journey, only to find that Amundsen had beaten them to it. The journey home proved impossible and all died tragically in their tent, apart from Oates, who had walked out with the immortal lines, ‘I may be some time’. Ted Tally had introduced some brilliant theatrical moments. At the beginning of the second act, we all celebrated our successful venture at a special London hotel dinner party which, of course, turned out to be imaginary. The journey itself was intercut with flashback scenes featuring Scott and his wife. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 4”→
Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 3, Life off stage – 1963
Our dressing room was a small hut behind the theatre, also used as a store for crates of beer bottles, and also the headquarters of the wig department. We had regular enjoyable conversations with Rosemary Harris, who had taken over from Joan Greenwood in Uncle Vanya, which had proved so successful in the first season that Olivier revived it.
Few people realised at this time that Olivier was using, in the nicest possible way, Chichester to prepare for his subsequent directorship of the National Theatre. Apart from the major stars he attracted to Chichester were younger actors who were to become the nucleus of his National company. Derek Jacobi, Robert Lang and Robert Stephens were playing relatively small roles at Chichester, but would become stars of the Old Vic and eventually the brand new complex on the South Bank. To be amongst this rich array of talent, as well as familiar faces from television, was the most exciting experience I could have wished for. Being an extra was a magical opportunity to see these people working, and to feel part of it all. Even our costume fittings felt special, supervised by Ivan Alderman and his chief cutter Stephen Skaptason, who later both ran the National Theatre wardrobe. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 3”→
Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 2, Life as an extra, 1963
Soon after I had gained a place at Worcester College, Oxford, I was asked to be an extra in the second season – a soldier in Saint Joan and a policeman in The Workhouse Donkey. As a summer job before going to university, this proved to be a fantastic and eye-opening experience.
As extras we were introduced into the productions in the final days of rehearsal. First, we were shown the set of Saint Joan with its two sets of steps descending from the back wall down into the Dauphin’s court scene. We five, plus professional John Rogers, came on three from each side, carrying a tall pike topped with a sharp-looking metal spear. The director, the no-nonsense, sharp-tongued John Dexter gave us the cues and told us where to stand absolutely still for much of the scene. Not long after, we were plunged into the first dress rehearsal. Wearing our breast-plates, helmets and woollen leggings, we made our entrance. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 2”→
David Wood acclaimed playwright, actor, director has had an extensive relationship with Chichester and the Festival Theatre. Wood has documented this relationship in his memoir Chi and I…, which he has been kind enough to share with us at Pass It On through a series of extracts we will be posting as blogs.
CFT and Pass It On regularly run events and talks intent on exploring and sharing the Theatre and its rich history. These events are for all kinds of audiences and it is fantastic to see how they inspire people in lots of different ways. One of our volunteers, Corinne Nash, attended the Open Day in 2014 and was inspired not only to join the Pass It On project but also attend more events and productions. Corinne tells us about her journey with the theatre and her impressions on one of the most recent Pass It On events.
One of our favourite things about the Pass It On project is working with a team of volunteers who all have a myriad of different skills; one of our volunteers, Janet Green, tells us how she became involved with the project and how she has brought her talents in photography to the project:
It all started for me when Chichester Festival Theatre had an Open Day on a Sunday in September 2014. I had taken my visiting Australian relatives to see Guys and Dolls a few days before. We were all enchanted by our theatrical experience, and I was so proud to share Chichester Festival Theatre with them. To go back stage a few days’ later on the Open Day totally captured my imagination. I have a particular interest in photography so of course I had a camera with me and having sought permission captured a few amazing shots jostling with the crowds enjoying this wonderful opportunity. The way props were arranged backstage really fascinated me. The experience made me more aware of the people behind production who make it happen and the processes involved.
Pass It On has a spectacular team of volunteers who work on a myriad of different tasks, whether they are individuals working independently from home or groups working at the theatre. One of our volunteers, Charlotte Murgatroyd, tells us about her experiences as part of the Pass It On team.
It’s Monday morning. I am off to the theatre. No, not to see a play but to take part in an archiving project. The Festival Theatre (CFT), has many scrapbooks, filled with press cuttings relating to CFT as it was in the sixties and seventies. There are two teams of volunteers from Lavant Valley DFAS (Decorative and Fine Arts Society), one works in the morning and the other one in the afternoon.
We work in pairs putting data from the cutting in to an EXCEL Spreadsheet. Typical entries include the date and title of the publication from which the cutting comes, the particular production and the people concerned, followed by a précis of the whole cutting. Cuttings range from a few sentences to articles covering a page and more.
How do you make an exhibition based around archival material stand out and engage an audience? You have a tea party of course! Parkland to Performance, our volunteer led exhibition, called in the help of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s tech team to recreate the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Youth Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland. Their recreation brings colour, character and lots of cakes into the exhibition.
In the 2010 production the Tea Party scene along with the rest of the props in the show were all made by CFYT’s tech members and the Pass It On exhibition wanted to incorporate some of the skills and talent that the Youth Theatre helps to support.
Find out about the process of recreating the Tea Party scene and Tech Youth Theatre from one of its members, Joe Jenner.
Thanks to the hard work of an invaluable team of volunteers Pass It On will soon be exhibiting a collection of documents, photographs and objects from the Theatre’s archive. Parkland to Performance will open at The Capitol in Horsham on 17 February and then travel around different venues in West Sussex and east Hampshire during 2015 and into 2016. Curated by a group of eight volunteers, the exhibition has evolved from an archive of 300 boxes, including 1800 folders and countless pieces of paper, into a collection of carefully chosen items that show highlights of the founding of the Theatre and of a number of productions performed at CFT.
Three of our volunteers have shared with us how they became involved in the exhibition strand of Pass It On and their experiences during the process of creating this exhibition.
When architectural duo Powell and Moya designed Chichester Festival Theatre in the early ‘60s they brought in Structural Engineer Charles Weiss. Weiss had previously worked with them on the Skylon Folly for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Weiss’ daughter, Emma Cole, has given Pass It On an account of his life and career that helped to build Chichester Festival Theatre and its pioneering suspension roof.
Charles Weiss (1914 – 1985)
My father Charles was born in Budapest in 1914 to Jewish parents. His life as an émigré started early in the 1930s when he was forced through the numerus clausus to go to university in Brno, Czechoslovakia where he studied architecture. He completed his doctorate of architecture in 1936 in Florence where he also worked before moving to Milan.
In 1939 as the European scene worsened, he was offered a passage to Shanghai and managed to secure refuge in Singapore along the way. He worked there as a structural and architectural designer until 1942, escaping on 13 February 1942 just before Singapore was captured by the Japanese. He reached Bombay in March 1942 where he joined the British Army and gained a commission to the Corps of the Royal Engineers. He served mainly in Assam and Burma, eventually commanding an Indian Sapper Company as a Major.
We’re coming to the end of another year of the Pass It On project, and where are we? Much further than we thought we would be! The number of interviews conducted is well past what we had planned (over 40) and many of them have already been transcribed. The quality of the interviews has also been getting better and better. This isn’t because we have found better interviewees – we have had tremendously interesting people talking to us from the start – but because the interviewing technique has gradually improved. The Pass It On team of interviewers have been prepared to get together to listen to each other’s interviews not just for the content but also to examine together their interview technique. This is a rather brave thing to do, as it really is exposing to have your interview played back in front of other people to be analysed and learned from, but this is what has happened, and the results are very clear.
The interviewees have been of all sorts, from one-time visitors to the long-time Director of the Youth Theatre, from people working Front of House to those who were at the heart of the organisation when it first started. There have been stories of great productions and dismal ones, of backstage support and dressing room rancour, of the town becoming tremendously proud of its theatre and at the same time the unmistakable whiff of class in some of the involvement. What emerges is a spoken history of the theatre, certainly, but we also see strong elements of a social history of the town.
It does not seem very long ago that I was writing about looking forward to beginning rehearsals for Out of the Archive, and yet here we are already on the other side of the Scratch performance!
The auditions were well attended by a mixture of current and previous youth theatre members, as well as other 16-25 year olds in the local area who have never attended a group at CFT before. It was a strong group of performers who we had to whittle down to a cast of just seven, based on the types of characters we had to fill.
We then entered into an intensive rehearsal process over two weeks. Playing two characters in two of three very different plays is no easy task, but this is what we have asked of the majority of our actors. We began by blocking through each of the plays very simply – to get the shape of it and a feel for the changes in pace. Through this process we were able to pick out the key pieces of set, costume and props that we would need and used temporary found objects to represent them (including a seagull created from a large toy mouse and a rabbit ears headband, it’s amazing what you can find in a rehearsal room).
The CFC: Chichester Football Club, the building between the Squash Club and the Theatre. It’s a space the Pass It On team has been working in during the restoration of the Festival Theatre. It’s also where I’ve recently been part of a group opening large parcels wrapped in layers of bubble-wrap and sticky tape, containing framed advertising posters and production photographs of many of the actors who have appeared in plays put on at Chichester Festival Theatre.
The task involved carefully opening the ‘parcels’, each of which had been labelled with various identification numbers and recording information about the contents of each ‘parcel’. We were given a chart to complete for every step of the way, so that nothing was missed. This included details of the label, the condition of the piece, its size and whether it was in colour or black and white. This forms part of the archiving process that is taking place throughout the project. We then had to try and identify the subject/s in the photograph and the production from which it came. Not an easy job. Hardly any of the boards, on which the work was mounted, had any information as to what it referred. They were like lost souls waiting to be remembered.
@DrumheadDave follows the Pass It On account on Twitter. After nominating ‘Theatre on the Fly’ for CFT’s 100 Greatest, we asked him to share more of his memories about this unique temporary structure.
Of all the celebrations that took place for Chichester Festival Theatre’s 50th anniversary in 2012, ‘Theatre on the Fly’ was the one thing that really captured my imagination and compelled me to get involved. Theatre on the Fly seemed like a blank sheet of paper. It was temporary, it was on the fly, it was an opportunity do and try so many things that the conventions of the main house precluded.
“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us”
Those of us who, like Oscar Wilde, instinctively know that we attend the theatre for the sheer love of the experience, will realise that it has something to do with the metaphysical scrapbooks locked away in our skulls – memories – the stuff of life. Like a good book, a humdinger of a tune, or a masterful piece of cinema, a Chichester Festival Theatre stage production is up there with the best of those cherished memories.
Nothing illustrates this so well as the transcripts of some of the interviews conducted by the dedicated team of oral history volunteers in the Pass It On project. These transcripts reflect a rich history of story-telling that complements the art of stage performance perfectly. Take, for instance, the reminiscences of Catherine Lambert, wife of the late Jack Lambert, Literary and Arts Editor of the Sunday Times. Catherine evokes the magic of a summer evening trip to the theatre in 1964 to see Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
“It was a lovely journey in the car going down from London… I used to look for the line of the South Downs and I knew we were coming near to Chichester.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Robert and Philip in the Youth Theatre play, Jane”, said my mother’s friend to my mother, one day in late April, 1991. A stunned silence, then: “What. Youth. Theatre. Play?” was mum’s reply. The play in question was Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations; mum’s response was due to the fact she and my dad had expressly forbidden my brother Phil and I to be involved in it so near to our exams. So I’m ashamed to say, we snuck out of the house anyway each evening for rehearsals and performances. In hindsight, it was an extremely irresponsible thing to do, but I did say I would be candid about these memories.
Recalling memories of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre has been like re-reading a favourite book over again. And Ernie’s is my favourite chapter! As suggested above, recounting these would not be complete nor honest, if left to what we did on stage. When you have outgoing youngsters together in a theatrical environment you will always get the ‘high spirits’, and for me, these were the best bits of Ernie.
The musical has been around since the mid-nineteenth century. Since about 1866 theatregoers have been packing out auditoriums to see story, song and dance come together. Although opened in 1962, it wasn’t until 1981 that the Chichester Festival Theatre stage brought life to the musical with The Mitford Girls by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin.
The Mitford Girls opened to mixed reviews, some dubbing it ‘marvellous’whilst others preferred the straight acting of the plays they had become used to at their theatre. However, in 1993, the hit show of the season was Pickwick; a musical based on Dickens’Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Both audience and Theatre staff adored the production and it went on to play at Sadler’s Wells, London.
For ninety seconds, in July 1991, the Olivier stage of the National Theatre, London, was mine. All mine. I remember the deafening silence. In that split second before my solo speech, it felt like an eon. I looked straight at the spotlights at the back of the auditorium and I remember the glare that thankfully masked the sea of faces in front of me. I could barely take it all in! How did I end up here…?
It all began with Anthea Dobry’s arrival as Youth Theatre director in November 1990. Anthea had come in after a year’s interregnum when Clare Rankin left in 1989; directors were coming and going so there was no real cohesive leadership and numbers of attendees at workshops had begun to dwindle. Anthea acted quickly to remedy this. Sometime earlier, the Youth Theatre had entered the National Youth Theatre challenge (now NT Connections) with a piece they had devised themselves called Happy Families, in 1989 at the National Theatre. They were one of the lucky entrants to be invited to perform this at the National at the end of the project. Anthea said we were to enter again.
This month we have been sharing our archive with local primary school teachers and asking how this could help them in the classroom across the full breadth of subjects they teach. Chichester Festival Youth Theatre Director, Dale Rooks, describes the process so far and tells us how it feels for her own work to become a teaching resource:
As part of Pass It On and in partnership with our partner primary schools we have set out to create three ‘playboxes’. One to focus on past performances at the Theatre, one to look at the spaces of the Theatre including the important thrust stage, and the third to focus on individuals and the contribution they have made to CFT.
By the beginning of May we had three different cardboard boxes full of material from the archive that could go into these playboxes, ready to share with the teachers from our partner schools. They then told us more about the curriculum requirements and how the items we shared with them might help with curriculum outcomes. Based on what they’ve told us, we’ve selected some things from our cardboard boxes and brought more items from the archive to put in – and in some cases we have asked our colleagues at the Theatre to make new things for us. Each time we’ve met we’ve introduced the teachers to more materials and more detail about how life at the Theatre works.
My memories of the summer of 1989 are of a summer of firsts. It was CFT’s first season in the new Minerva Theatre and it was the first time the Youth Theatre was officially in the season programme. It was my first main part in a Youth Theatre show and it was my first kiss, (albeit courtesy of the stage directions of the play). The shows were Lords of Creation by John Wiles, a stage version of DH Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner (my show) and A Mad World my Masters by Barrie Keefe. If the Tent had lent its atmosphere to creating the world of the play, the Minerva gave its essence to the world of the professional theatre. For of course, that is what it was. The resources we had (technical, stage management, dressing rooms and acting space) were those also used by the Festival Theatre professionals. Speaking for myself at least, I didn’t realise until later how lucky we were.
I am part of a group of volunteers involved in oral history interviewing for the Pass It On project. My most recent interviewee was John Gale OBE, who was involved with Chichester Festival Theatre from 1983 and was Artistic Director from 1985 to 1989.
His enthusiasm and affection for the Theatre was typical of our interviewees. They all continue to care for the Theatre and their generous sharing of knowledge and experiences is giving the Pass It On Project an immense wealth of fascinating information.
We met at his house and having set up the recording equipment and tested the sound levels the process began, as usual, with recording the date, place and our names and then asking the interviewee to spell their name, and give the place and date of their birth.
Rachael: Many interesting memories and stories were collected on Saturday 5 April when myself and a team of Memory Collection volunteers from the Youth Theatre attended a reunion for Youth Theatre alumni. Armed with Dictaphones and clipboards, our aim was to try and capture some of the memories of CFYT.
Although a little timid at first, it didn’t take us long to begin approaching people. We went into the hallways to conduct the interviews as the main hall was full of the sounds of old friends reuniting, chatting about their lives and reminiscing while sharing a drink (or two). The interviews were around ten minutes long, with an objective of collecting as much detail as possible and hearing all of the stories they had from being in the Youth Theatre.
Although we started with the same question for each interview, “So, could you tell me about your time in the Youth Theatre?” the stories and memories that we collected really varied from person to person, as everyone we asked remembered different things from their time. I got a lot out of this day personally, as I learned how much the Youth Theatre and CFT itself has changed over time.
What do an estate agent, a filmmaker, an office manager, a comedian and an actor have in common? Not much. Yet one evening this winter, a group such as this came together in a London pub; some of us had not seen each other for decades. To us the common factor was clear – we had all been members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre together. The bond we formed then was still as strong after a quarter of a century.
But why now? Why had we rekindled that bond? What had changed?
To answer this I need to take you back to one afternoon the previous October. As I was about to leave my office for a meeting, the phone rang. “Rob, it’s the police?!” said my colleague. I never made it to that meeting.
My younger brother Phil, another old Youth Theatre member, had passed away suddenly at his home, and a concerned neighbour raised the alarm after he’d not been seen for several days.
Thanks to Facebook the news spread like wildfire. Instinctively, I wrote on Phil’s wall “I love you, Phil.” Fairly ambiguous in itself, but my best mate, another CFYT alumnus, Dan, who knew what had happened, also put a message. “Rest in Power, buddy.” Soon messages of sympathy, bewilderment and shock started to arrive. I realised many of these messages were from CFYT people that I hadn’t heard from for many years, sharing fantastic memories of Phil, offering support and sending Facebook friend requests as though I had seen them yesterday.
Every Wednesday, Marilyn and Sue (some of our scanning volunteers) arrive at the Record Office in Chichester and set up for a session of digitisation (this is where we create digital versions of archival documents and items through computer scanning and Photoshop editing). Using a detailed record list which our archive volunteers fastidiously create every Monday with Gillian Edom, our archive training officer, they identify what’s most interesting, culturally significant or even what has been requested by researchers. They pull out specific boxes from the archive and begin to scan the hidden treasures inside…
Sue and I started our scanning experience for Chichester Festival Theatre in 2013 and we have to say, felt very privileged to be able to scan some of Leslie Evershed-Martin’s scrapbooks at what was his Chichester home. We did the scanning in the dining room; above the mantelpiece was a very impressive portrait of Sir Laurence Olivier (known as Larry to Leslie Evershed-Martin and friends). We felt he was keeping a watchful eye on what we were doing with the scrapbooks. The books were very enlightening and included a very valued account of fundraising, first productions, and the casts, programmes, after Theatre party invitations and press cuttings from the 1960s – 1990s. Sue and I have now been dispatched to the Records Office for our current scanning adventures, which so far have been very interesting and varied. One of our more recent scanning sessions included an annotated script, production photos and press cuttings of The Seagull produced in 1973, which we believe maybe used for inspiration by the Theatre’s Young Playwrights scheme. All in all, I can’t wait for what’s next to come for us.
Clarissa and Grace are two of our wonderful volunteers currently working in the archive. They are history students from the University of Chichester and as part of their course they were given the chance to take part in a work placement. They decided it would be beneficial to experience history in the workplace and thought the Pass It On project held at the West Sussex Record Office (in partnership with the Festival Theatre) was the perfect opportunity as they wanted to know how an archive works, what is stored and why. Though they are both working on separate tasks, their involvement in the project “is exciting for the both of us. It has also helped us to get to know Chichester better, and although neither of us are from the city, we now feel like part of the community.”
Clarissa: I’ve been working on sorting through and listing the Christmas productions that were put on at Chichester Festival Theatre each year. This goes back to the early 1970s. I have found it interesting to see what shows were staged over the years and sorting through production files has opened my eyes to how much work goes into putting on a show!
Susan Potter, Sonia Rasbery and Louise Pack are our external evaluators for the Pass It On project. They have worked on the evaluation of a range of high profile arts projects including Outside In – originally based at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery – that is now being developed nationwide.
Susan Potter, Project Evaluator, talks about their role within the project:
Over the upcoming months, we three will be interviewing, filming, asking you to complete participant questionnaires and requesting feedback about the Pass It On project. Then we’ll analyse all of the data, ready to produce a short film and full written report. But why are we doing all of this you may be asking? So just before we begin, we thought we’d take a moment or two to explain why!
Introduction: A few weeks ago Youth Theatre Intern, Kate Hunter, wrote about the process of creating Youth Theatre performances inspired by items from the Theatre Archives. Last week we had the privilege of watching the 36 Youth Theatre groups performing what they had come up with over this past term. The varied interpretations and responses to the heritage material were fantastic and the creativity of all the groups was really impressive. As part of this project the Youth Theatre members conducted research into the item they were inspired by, below is the research and explanation for one of these performances, written by Alice Banfield from one of the year 11 Youth Theatre groups.
Rachel Bingham, Heritage Activities Trainee:
For our stimulus our group were given a series of newspaper cuttings from 1965 relating to Laurence Olivier and announcing the splitting of both Chichester Festival Theatre and the National Theatre Companies. This happened when John Clements took over the position of Artistic Director at Chichester, ending the direct association of Chichester with the National Theatre and forming an independent company. Prior to this Olivier was Artistic Director to both Chichester Festival Theatre and The National Theatre. It was at Chichester that he formed the company that would unite with the Old Vic to create the National Theatre Company. Continue reading “Our Archive Inspired Performance”→
Over the summer Creative Arts student Alice Du Port spent time researching and exploring her interest in Theatre Design by delving into the items in our archives. During this time Alice also had the opportunity to talk with world renowned scenographer Pamela Howard who explained more about her designs for the 1980 production of Terra Nova, staged at Chichester;
In the summer of 1980, Chichester Festival Theatre’s main stage was transformed into a barren ice land, representing the stark and freezing Antarctic, for Ted Tally’s Terra Nova. In the archives is a selection of Pamela Howard’s designs for her Chichester Festival Theatre productions; including this one. Continue reading “Exploring Theatre Design”→
I share a long history with Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT). I was part of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre (CFYT) for 10 years and we performed numerous productions during this time. I acted, sang, danced and played in the band. I took part in carnivals, concerts, street performance and took part in creative workshops about performance poetry, set design and circus skills.
So it felt natural that, after my English Degree, I would gravitate back towards the Theatre. I joined the Young Playwrights Programme and then the Advanced course at CFT which was run in partnership with New Writing South. The course was brilliant, inspiring and covered a wide range of topics. We explored writing dialogue, characters, plots, genres as well as having theatre visits, discussions and visiting writers talk to us. One of my pieces, Occupied (2012), was performed in the Theatre on the Fly, whilst my other short plays, The Knock (2011) and First Visit (2010), were performed in The Minerva Theatre. Continue reading “Writing Pass It On!”→
As a Youth Theatre Leader at Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, my challenge this term is to encourage a group of 14 and 15 year olds to create some interesting pieces of theatre using historical stimuli – not as easy as it sounds, but certainly a lot of fun!
I run sessions for two Year 10 groups and have chosen two stimuli from the archives: correspondence regarding a charity cricket match between Chichester Festival Theatre and the RSC in 1986 and letters containing information for young people participating in a professional production of Jane Eyre in the same year.
I began by thinking of exercises that would allow Youth Theatre members to create performances based on this particular material. Cricket is an especially difficult topic with which to inspire teenage girls (and some boys). Introductory sessions included creating freeze frames to represent different stages of a cricket match, flowing between each one and moving to the sounds of Soul Limbo – a classic cricket theme. Following this, the freeze frames were combined to create whole group images of a cricket match thinking predominantly about clear body positioning and facial expressions.
This year as part of the annual Chichester Festival Theatre Heritage Open Day, members of the public had the opportunity to go on hard hat tours of the current renovation works on the Theatre. This was a rare chance for people to see inside the incredible architecture of the Festival Theatre. Additionally it was also a chance to see the work being done to enhance the Theatres iconic and prominent hexagon shape, around which my art workshop, also part of this year’s Heritage Open Day, was based.
Being a fine art graduate from Chichester University and having run workshops within social care, this opportunity was perfect for me, combining two areas of interest and work.
My six weeks work placement on the Pass It On Heritage Lottery funded project has been a grand experience for me as a student from Germany. The time has flown by while working at Chichester Festival Theatre and West Sussex Record Office, the archive which collects and preserves the documents and recorded heritage of West Sussex.
The project team provided me with a very special task of sorting the entire Chichester Festival Theatre programmes dating from the theatre beginnings in 1962 up to the present. The programmes included the main house and Minerva productions and consequently added up to a huge amount. At the beginning the task did not seem easily manageable, but once I worked my way into it I grew fond of being in charge of such an important and interesting part of the Pass It On project.