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My goodness what a whirlwind couple of months! I needed to take some time off the blog to process my thoughts regarding my last project, The Tragedy of Lucrece, and have also since started working freelance for the Melbourne Arts Centre (which I will write about soon!) so I have been away from the computer too long. I shall use this day dedicated to hats and horsies (Melbourne Cup – what else?) to try to catch up.
*** TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion surrounding rape, sexual assault and suicide. ***
The Tragedy of Lucrece ended a fantastic run at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, with many audience members wishing to stay after each show to discuss the shows themes and impacts with the cast and creative teams. It was a challenging and thought provoking piece, with many people expressing extreme discomfiture at the experience, whilst also recognising that at least a part of the reason the work is so disturbing, is that despite the historical setting these heinous acts are still carried out today with shocking frequency. The rhetoric surrounding women’s assault today – the doubt and suspicion on her assertions, the question of her motives, and the suggestion that any act must have been somehow implicitly invited by the victim – is alarmingly reflective of the words and attitudes being expressed in the historical mists of 500BC. The concept we now know as victim-blaming, passed down to us from our very models of society in ancient Rome and Greece, brings us a startling and challenging thought – have we really progressed so far as a society, when a Roman Prince’s words from 500BC could be paraphrased by a 2013 premier league footballer in the newspaper today?
As a dedicated and outspoken feminist, this work was challenging for me in several ways. Enzo Condello, our wonderful playwright, wished Lucrece to be a strong heroine who, although destroyed personally by the rape, suicides as a political statement and thus sows the seeds of change that would see the collapse of the Roman Monarchy and the birth of the new Roman Republic. However I couldn’t help seeing over and over again, how Lucrece is simply used by each of the men in her life for their own purposes – Brutus uses the rape to advance his political ideas; Collantine stays quiet in concern that the news would reflect badly on his family’s house; even Lucrece’s father, Lucius, succumbs to doubt and opts to approach the King and let him dictate the outcome of the accusation (which of course, is in his own family’s favour).
Knowing the statistics that one in six women will be raped, and one in three sexually assaulted in their lifetime, along with knowing personally many strong, incredible women who have already become victims of these crimes, watching this play daily was a challenge in keeping my anger in check. I felt it was an important play that needed to be seen – one that shocks the audience by presenting such a contemporary problem dressed up in historical garb, and forcing them to realise and reconcile that ugly aspect of our society.
Our incredible director, Brenda Addie, was a rock for me during this production. Sharing my passionate feminist values, she knew that this was an important work with the ability to make a great impact. Plagued by misfortune throughout the start of the production (an entire cast was re-cast, the entire prod team disbanded to other projects, and yours-truly bought on board with only 6 weeks until opening!), Brenda held the whole thing together through sheer force of will sometimes, and was truly the guiding force in making this show happen. She also managed to encapsulate one of the hardest things I thought possible to do well and respectfully – the rape scene – with a brilliant AV / Soundscape montage of images of the rape of Lucrece throughout history, using this multimedia aspect to ingeniously link us right up to the present. With haunting images of Anita Cobby and Jill Meagher, we are reminded that this is not a historical reenactment. With contemporary images of human rights abusers from around the world, including contemporary footballers currently in jail for rape, we are reminded this is not a historical reenactment. And with images from open cut mines and deforestation, we are reminded that this is not just a human violation, but the very violation of nature herself.
With a passionate writer such as Condello, and a visionary bombshell such as Addie at the helm, this was a challenging, haunting, and meaningful piece I am proud to be associated with.
While it was the multimedia aspect, the ability to bring this historically-set story into the present, both in presentation and in narrative that bought me the most joy as a feminist, I have to admit that it also provided the most stress as a Stage Manager! Our lovely venue, the Richmond Library Theatrette, had a basic set up and a raised stage that suited our studio-performance style production very well. The essential component however – the projector – was a very old, very basic, and very lovingly donated to us for free so we can’t complain sort of number which, perhaps unsurprisingly, failed to live up to its duty of projecting anything. So we had a bit of a scramble at 2-days to opening to find a replacement projector.
This is one of those stories that is like a Monty Python farce, with false starts and dead ends, funny walks and an obscene amount of swearing that I will save the dear readers of my blog from going through. The short version of the story is, we hired a projector (that wouldn’t throw the correct dimensions because we mounted it so high). We couldn’t mount it any lower without it literally hanging halfway down the stage, so, in my delirium I had a crazy idea (that actually should have been my first one…) – I turned the projector upside down. The throw rate and angle restored, we had a perfectly functional projector for the entire remaining run. I’m not going to lie, at that stage of stress and delirium I felt like a superhero for the rest of the day.
I loved working on this project, not only because it put me in elements out of my depth that I had to solve for myself, but it was the first project I could say I was personally connected to in terms of themes and philosophies. I was able to grow my skills as a stage manager working on a project and in the company of a Director who’s passionate vision I believed in wholeheartedly. While having such a personal connection to a work is tiring mentally and emotionally, the thrill of successfully achieving something so unique and important is still buzzing. Thank you to all the cast, crew and creative teams who made this show the challenging but special piece of theatre that it was.
What a fantastic experience this was! By far the biggest show I’ve been involved in, the Maj team were like a well oiled machine with Sound, LX and Mech all working autonomously but side by side to bring the show together and transform the space in 48 hours.
Working within the LX team, I had the opportunity to patch huge fixtures I had never seen before such as 45kg VL movers, help put together towering LX ladders, pull cable into the sky high fly towers and help rig up 19 mirror balls (including one that was 5 feet wide!) – and so much more. The show was definitely the most elaborate and involved that I’ve had the opportunity to work on, and the end result was absolutely stunning.
Working with the Maj and production technicians was inspiring and I’d like to thank everyone I worked with for their knowledge and enthusiasm. A special thank you to Tech Manager Matthew Peckham for having me on board, and I can’t wait to see everyone again for bump out!
I had a wonderful time working with Your Show on AMT’s performance of A Memory for Millie Juke, shown at the picturesque Barrinja Cultural Centre.
With 10 radio mics and over 60 children (!) to manage across two performances, it was a long and sometimes hectic day. The Australian Musical Theatre school students were proving themselves to already being on their way to being little proto-professionals, with all the kids being very cooperative and listening to and following all my instructions easily and quickly, which made for a few hectic quick changes during the action flow smoothly with little stress.
It was particularly interesting for me having to troubleshoot a few issues with lost signal on mics during the shows – I have to admit I got caught out by the old “accidentally hit the mute switch while fitting the microphone” issue! Thankfully with the help of my lovely Sound Designer, Mack, the issue was sorted quickly (and filed away in my mind so I’ll never do it again!)
Thanks again to Your Show for the opportunity, and congratulations to AMT founders Katie and Keiran on teaching such wonderful skills to the next generation of musical theatre performers!
Listen to the song that I sing,
Listen to the words in my heart,
Listen to the hope that I bring,
And you’ll start…
Oxagen’s Songs for a New World finished with incredible success, with the final night another sell out event. I am absolutely indebted to the Oxagen production team who were so approachable, engaged and genuinely in love with this musical as I am, who made this such a rich experience for me.
Spending production week in the space and walking the stage was a excellent place to learn; being able to experience the creative process between Director Penn Valk and LD Damien Calvert was an invaluable insight into the nature of bringing the vision of the work to life in the physical space.
Being able to assist with light rigging and patching was also a fantastic opportunity to put my skills into use in a new venue, and I was also able to operate a scissor lift professionally for the first time since I received my EWP license – a small thing in the grand scheme of a show, but an exciting first for me nonetheless!
I’d like to sincerely thank the Oxagen Committee and production team for engaging me in the incredible journey that Songs chronicles (and for introducing me to Jason Robert Brown’s works in general!) and sincerely hope to work with Oxagen again in the near future.
19 & 20 June 2013
Sound Operator_Greensborough NMIT Auditorium
My first semester of study culminated with two days of mixing sound for our sister campus’ student recitals. This was an excellent experience, as our course at Fairfield has not yet afforded us much hands-on sound mixing experience – while we get the full responsibility of operating the lights and stage management, our campus has a full time sound course which means those students operate sound at our weekly music performances.
That all changed this time, and over two days we had a whirlwind rotation of mixing/recording sound, lights and performing stage crew tasks as the music students performed their major recital assignment pieces. We had a wide range of music to mix, from single microphone vocal performances, to full bands with piano accompaniment, to an oboe player who did not want to mic’d up at all, which all produced their own unique differences in how to mix properly.
I really gained an appreciation of the varied nuances of balancing a mix with such a wide range of different instruments and vocals. From the very fine line between making a bass guitar solo stand out, to ruining the subtlety of the instrument and just making it sound muddied and distorted; to the incredible range of the human voicebox and how to complement a voice with the slightest touch of reverb, I really feel like the penny dropped for me during these performances. From the hands on (but still theoretical) lessons in class, to the real world application at end of this semester, I’m confident I can be an asset to the bands I’ll be mixing for in the future.
14 June 2013_1 off show
Lighting Operator – Yarra Edge Music Centre
It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to operate lights for our weekly music performances at NMIT, so I was glad to be back in the hot seat. We had an eclectic mix of music to light; a Balinese gamelan performance, a set of several different guitar ensembles, and two acapella vocal groups.
We had an excellent lighting rig to work with, with colour filters and gobo textures added to the ceiling rig, and a clever set up of floor electrics incorporating some truss bars. By angling blue and pink filtered lights inwards towards the truss, and attaching additional fixtures on the top cord of the truss, we achieved a striking effect on the stage. With some haze added to the room we were able to create some fantastic combinations and quite a wide range of looks to match the mood of each different performance.
The styles played were all quite subdued this week. With various styles such as baroque and classical guitar pieces, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to busk light or colour changes during the songs as we usually do with the more rocking/jazzy type of performances. This was an interesting challenge, as it meant I focused on finding a particular look that felt appropriate for the piece, but that also would be compelling enough to stand alone for the entire performance, without “distractions” (as much for the lighting operator as the audience!) such as chasers or other FX.