Blood Wedding at Beacon Arts Centre

By Alyson Woodhouse, Creative Learning Trainee

In some ways, this has been a much quieter week for me. I have been working from  Greenock, (a lovely, but extremely wet and windy part of Scotland), but there weren’t
any Blood Wedding Workshops as it happened. I was able to use this bit of quiet time, though to breathe a bit, and reflect on how the placement has gone for me so far.

Alyson with fellow Blood Wedding Trainees, Michelle and Nickie

Alyson with fellow Blood Wedding Trainees, Michelle and Nickie

If someone had asked me before the placement started about what I thought I would learn from the experience, I would probably have spoken about learning how to deliver educational workshops in a more refined way, gaining a clearer understanding of the practical, administrative processes involved in preparing a workshop, and even some more general information about how a show is produced. And, while I have indeed learned a great deal about all of those things, perhaps the area I have discovered most about is accessibility.

Before working with Graeae, I suppose I had an intellectual knowledge of the varying ways theatre can be made accessible for all audience groups, IE the integration of BSL or Audio Description in to a performance. I also had my own ideas about the types of drama that I find easy to follow as a blind person, and why, but I had very little experience of how accessibility is put into practice. I therefore found being given the opportunity to work with Jenny as an Audio Description Consultant for the show an invaluable one, as it has introduced me to the artistic value of accessibility in a performance instead of simply viewing this as a purely practical or intellectual matter. I feel that in a sense, this area of my training with Graeae has made the strongest contribution to my own vision as an aspiring director, as I am wishing to be given the opportunity to some of the skills I have learned in this area into practice.

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Michelle’s Blood Wedding Blog from Derby!

By Michelle Rolfe, Arts Management Trainee

The set of Blood Wedding on the stage at Derby Theatre. The background is dark with the letters LOVE lit up in the centre surrounded by pink light.

The set of Blood Wedding on the stage at Derby Theatre

I am writing this blog from somewhere over the sky’s of England as I return home for a couple of nights before back to Derby next week. Derby Theatre is the first theatre I have been to where the entrance is within a shopping centre, this meant some hunting to find it at first but luckily it is well sign posted. I came down for press night and the following few days. It was lovely to see the Graeae team again and we all enjoyed a night out after the show on Wednesday. As I have previously said a lot of working within the theatre (and many other professions) it is about who you know as much as what you know. Therefore I have been jumping at the chance to get to know people better.

I met Aiyana on Wednesday and caught up on the happenings of Monday and Tuesday. This meeting dictated much of my activity over the following days. Two of our cast members were not in suitable digs and we needed to find somewhere for them both ASAP; both for Derby and the rest of the tour.

It has surprised all of us (even those who have personal experience) in how difficult it has been to find accessible accommodation at a reasonable price. It seems unfair that for wheelchair accessible accommodation you are looking at paying double or more in comparison to dig prices. Most traditional digs are not suitable so you are looking for B&Bs, hotels, student accommodation or holiday lets. Staying in a hotel might sound nice but when you are there for a week or more it’s difficult not to have kitchen or laundry amenities, and it is costly to eat out all the time. We have also learnt that what one hotel considers an accessible room is not the same elsewhere.

Derby Theatre have been very welcoming and given me access to everything I could need while there but I am missing the team in Dundee to!

The set sits nicely on the stage in Derby. It’s a slightly wider stage than Dundee but it works well. Personally I also like the auditorium; it’s very open and lovely when lit. I’ve included a picture of the set from the interval of Friday’s show.

The polaroid pictures displayed on a red pillar as part of Ross Fraser McLean's exhibit at Derby Theatre

The polaroid pictures displayed as part of Ross Fraser McLean’s exhibit at Derby Theatre

Ross Fraser McLeans exhibition is an gorgeous addition to the show. Audience members and members of the team have been asking him if the pictures are for sale.  In Dundee he turned the cafe bar into an exhibition space that had a number of large prints plus 50 small black and white framed photos from rehearsals. These smaller images are my favourite as they give an unusual insight into rehearsals and show both the stresses and the fun in the process. At Dundee Rep’s press night Ross took Polaroid pictures of the team and collated them on one wall, this is a fun way for the audience members to see how many people have been involved in the development of the production. I am sure there are a few faces missing though of the camera shy.

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Blood Wedding Rehearsal Diary: Week 4

By Michelle Rolfe, Arts Management Trainee

Rehearsals started this week and things are now in full swing. Monday was spent in the rehearsal room with the obligatory meet and greet to start with. As with all these things it was a little slow to get going. However the tea/coffee/pastries and Jenny Sealey’s request we find out some gossip about someone we have never met before relaxed everyone and we got off to a fine start. This was followed by a read through of the script. It was great to hear the actor’s voices delivering it; it brought out new meanings and thoughts about the characters, which we later discussed.

Blood Wedding cast and creative team at the read through

Blood Wedding cast and creative team at the read through

During the afternoon we looked at the module box and learnt about the design. The production will be completely accessible, with BSL interpretation, captioning and audio description being integrated into the production. Although this creates extra work for the cast it also allows them to explore their characters in ways they might not have done in a conventional way. Love is a theme that runs throughout the play and there is a nice symbolic element to the design I suggest you look out for when you come and see the show. During week one of rehearsals we were very lucky to have almost the full creative team in the room. This allows them to come together and support each others design elements of the production.

I was very pleased to meet members of the Graeae team and start to have conversations and see their working practices. It was great to have a chat with Emma, the projects producer for Graeae and learn more about her job and how she got to where she is. I also had a good conversation with Aiyana, the producer where we went over the budget in details.

This week we have been joined by Alyson Woodhouse, the productions creative learning trainee and Nicola Wildin, the trainee director. Like myself they both come from a working arts background and have a key interest in creating accessible theatre. During the next couple of months we will be taking it in turn to tell you about our experiences working here at the Rep and then taking the show on tour.

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Blood Wedding Rehearsal Diary: Week 3

By EJ Raymond, cast member.

Third week of Blood Wedding rehearsal and it is getting so busy!

It always starts every morning with a half-hour warm-up before we work on some of the scenes that we need to polish up.

EJ in Blood Wedding rehearsals

EJ in Blood Wedding rehearsals with Ricci McLeod, Amy Conachan and Gerard McDermott

I am working with two of the cast with the basic signing language – they’re getting there, I am proud of them!

Jenny Sealey, the director, was focusing on who is responsible for moving the props/furnishes off/on the stage, who is responsible for the live audio describe, and also who is responsible to “click” the controller for the live captions.

Mark Smith, the choreographer, arrived on Friday and is helping Jenny Sealey, the director, with some of the ideas for dancing, movements and go on. I’ve never done the salsa before, I have to admit it! Blame on the history of my two left-feet!

We’ve now all removed the script from our hands and have run over all scenes in full – we’re all getting there which is so exciting!

My character’s costumes seems finished.

Philip recorded the loud screams from Amy, Millie and me – I last had to use my loudly scream 12 years ago! We also did another voice recording for one of cast to learn what my deafness voice was like, hopefully it will help him, as he is going to play as my character’s son.

On Saturday we all work under Mark’s magic fingers and practice on the dancing in one of the big scenes. What a sweet and busy week!

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Blood Wedding Rehearsal Diary: Week 2

By Gerard McDermott, cast member

At the beginning or this week we did some interesting character work.  We were asked to stand in two lines facing each other but slightly out of kilter as if we were each facing an imaginary mirror.

We were then asked to take it in turns to speak to ourselves, our reflections in character; to pick out our own personal flaws and foibles; our relationships with the other characters in the play; to reveal details from our past. This was an opportunity for the actors to invent details about their character which are not necessarily mentioned in the script. For example, how our character feels about the other characters in the piece; how past events in our lives have shaped our opinions; whether we love, like or even hate the other protagonists in the narrative.  This, combined with the actual script, help us as actors, to create fuller, more rounded portrayals of the part we are playing.

By contrast, later in the week we worked on a much more practical level on the physicality of our characters, how they moved in the space; how they portrayed their nervous energy and or their confidence.

Gerard in rehearsals

Gerard in rehearsals

The wonderful voice coach, Ros Steen, joined us on Wednesday and put us through a rigorous, physical workshop focusing on different vocal qualities we all have, but are sometimes hard to locate.  I particularly enjoyed this.  I’ve always felt that my voice is best tool that I have as an actor and I just love playing with it.  Ros took us back to the basics of the voice, with all of us laying on the floor concentrating on our breathing. We can breathe in a very deep way or just in a short and shallow way, all of which dictates the quality of the voice.  We all have the same equipment when it comes to vocal capacity and often it’s astonishing to discover just how powerful a tool the voice can be.  Also, it was remarkable how the deaf member of the cast EJ found this workshop useful and how she was able to bring Ros’s techniques into her work.

On Friday, we did, what we call, a stagger through. So, perform the play from beginning to end as well as we can with the limited time we’ve spent rehearsing.  This was very telling and helps us to focus on the weak points in the piece and which bits need more work.  It’s coming together nicely.

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Blood Wedding Rehearsal Diary: Week 1

By Irene Macdougall, cast member.

This project has been three years in the making and today is the first day of rehearsal. The day most of the actors meet for the first time…and not just the actors. There are about forty other people in the rehearsal room at Dundee Rep, either directly or indirectly associated with the production. During the next couple of days we will meet other people who are directly connected to the production…from a Lorca expert, a wonderful photographer who will record visually this project, our master of surtitles and our designers (sound, set, lighting and costume).

There are eight actors involved in this production: EJ (Mother), Ricky (Groom), Amy (Bride), Gerard (Father), Annie (Aunt Shirley), Miles (Leonardo), Millie (Vicky), Alison (Mother-in-law, Tramp) and me, Irene (Neighbour, Waitress and Tramp).

Blood Wedding cast members in rehearsals, taken from above three cast members are reading scripts whilst sitting on a wooden floor.

Blood Wedding cast members in rehearsals.

This first week has been a combination of reading scenes and trying them out. Playing with visual representations of the themes of the play…revenge, love jealousy, death, murder!

Some of us are coming to a multi-textured communication of the play for the first time. The actors during the performance will do the audio-description (for blind members of the audience), we will operate the surtitles, we will sign, as well as speak, some scenes. The learning curve is steep and we only have four weeks! Jenny has, over the course of the first week, worked hard to incorporate the beginnings of all these elements. I suspect I speak for all my fellow actors when I say it all seems a wee bit daunting at the moment!

However, what I think we have achieved this week is definitely an understanding of how much there is to do, not easy…but definitely a challenge!


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A new school of thought in Rio

‘Don’t look down at your feet. Look up at the stars. Be curious’  

Professor Stephen Hawking
London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony

I know I use this quote from Professor Stephen Hawking at every conceivable moment but it felt very apt to use it for my presentation to artists, academia, entrepreneurs and policy makers, the Ministry of Sport and British Council Brazil outlining a vision to build on the inclusion of Deaf and disabled people in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016.

I arrived in Rio with interpreter Jude Mahon and it was straight into the glorious fire and fury that is Junior Perim Director of Crescer e Viver (Rio’s leading social circus centre and school) and the calm and wisdom that is Co-Director Vinicius Daumas along with the creative strategy expertise of Paul Heritage and Raquel Dias from People’s Palace Projects.

Jenny with Artistic Directors of Crescer e Viver Junior Perim and Vinicius Daumas and Interpreter Jude Mahon

Jenny with Artistic Directors of Crescer e Viver Junior Perim and Vinicius Daumas and Interpreter Jude Mahon

In a true Brazilian style meeting, we thrashed out the future with a no holds barred passion, determination and commitment. Nothing seemed impossible and suddenly we had the Director of the School of Communications on board and the Department of Creative Economy (SEBRAE) offering a free consultancy service to support the structuring of the programme for UFRJ/Ministry of Sport, and ongoing services through the establishment and development of the programme.

It was beyond exciting.

XXX and XXX In Belonging 2014

Stephen Bunce and Marcos Silva in Belonging 2014 (Photo credit: Patrick Baldwin)

Building on the steep learning curve of 2012 and the work we have already started with Belonging (a starter training and performance initiative between Graeae and Crescer e Viver) we have devised a new programme for which I wrote the following rational;

A year long social phenomena changing the way we think, behave, move and communicate.

It is a new school of thought, throwing caution into the wind and taking what might be perceived as risk – but what we see as a necessity – and placing 50 Deaf and disabled people from all walks of life into the world of circus to ignite their curiosity, investigate their creative souls and challenge their physicality, strength and grace. It also places 50 students from various disciplines including architecture, law, physical education, physiotherapy, theatre, media, film making and journalism, in and around the circus trainees to be inquisitive, to unearth their stories and to share visions of a fair, equal and just society.

Participants in the circus skills workshop linked together in a circle

Taster workshop in Circus Skills

Together they will map and document these journeys to utilise this within their discipline in order to dismantle the physical social and attitudinal barriers that surround Deaf and disabled people.

This unique union of minds will create a think tank to transform visible inclusion as an aesthetic, a human right, and work to ensure it permeates the landscape and the veins of Brazilian society.

The impact of this transformation goes way beyond the trainees becoming artists in 2016 Paralympics Opening Ceremony and the Cultural Olympiad, as it has to have the political and visceral clout to challenge and eradicate discrimination ensuring a world of inclusion for the next generation.

The approach, research and methodology and reach will evolve over time as we are learning what it is and what it can be as we embark on this voyage of discovery. It is essential it attracts attention from global media, commercial, academia and the arts world as nothing has ever been done on this scale, and it will become a model of the future not just in Brazil but worldwide.

Everyone is now forging ahead to get this up and running Summer 2015. I met with Carla Camurati who is Artistic Director of Theatro Municipal – The Royal Opera House and Director of the Cultural Olympiad. She is the most extraordinary woman and watching her operate in a meeting is a Pina Bausch dance piece. She is so clear that her Olympiad will have true representation of Deaf and disabled artists.

lady balanced on material hanging from the ceiling

Practising aerial skills

Vinicius and I ran an aerial taster (my own aerial expertise is sadly lacking as I am too top heavy!) for a group Deaf and blind people. It was fantastic to see Marcos and Vivianne, who were in Belonging, taking the lead in the training. It was a great opportunity to carry on learning Lebras (Brazilian Sign Language) and a wonderful moment occurred when I was talking about English women and they asked why I was talking about naked Americans!

It was so fantastic to see the potential within the group and when I met with Paula Mello (Creative Development Manager) from Ceremônias Cariocas 2016, (the company responsible for producing the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games) she became very excited about the possibilities of what the new programme will provide for the Director of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.

Jenny and her angel of a lifeguard

Jenny and her angel-lifeguard

It was an action packed 4 days and we met so many people plus we joined a huge Deaf rally along Copacabana beach which was joyous. The only blip in our time there was we had an hour to kill so I insisted we went to the beach. I went in for a wee swim but got caught in a horrendous rip curl and I was dragged right out to sea. I seriously thought my time was up. I was terrified but kept thinking ‘No I am not ready go yet – I have too much to do – set up this school, direct Blood Wedding, fight ATW and ILF, see Jonah graduate from film school… sorry I simply cannot go yet…’ and then my angel – a ridiculously handsome life guard saved me.

So I am very much here and fired up, not only from my drowning experience, but from the glorious fire and passion of everyone I met. I am inspired by their total commitment and positivity and drive to make the impossible possible.

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