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Interview with the cast of Fen

As I haven’t been involved in the show, I thought readers may like to hear from the cast themselves. Cast includes first year Drama student Sarah, second years Hannah Putnam, Katharina, Amy and Becca Robson as well as Performing Arts student Alex, and third years Becca Cooper, Hannah Abbott, Jonny and Kirsty as well as their stage manager, Gina.

Q How has this experience been for you?

Amy: Really good
Hannah A: Yeah, it’s good to feel part of a company.

Becca C: Eye opening. I know Caryl Churchill was a varied playwright but I had no idea she was this dark. Tim’s made it a whole lot darker. It’s amazing to see how a director can bring out the potential in a play.

Becca R: Amazing. Acting is something I was considering but wasn’t sure about so this has been amazing to work in a professional company. Tim has been good for setting up a professional atmosphere and expects us to work to a high level. It’s good for me to know how it works and that it’s what I want to do.

Hannah P: Amazing, great to work with people of the industry, costume and sound. I’ve not done a production this big before.

Kirsty: This time round everyone is at rehearsal together so the company are really close.
Even when you’re not in the scene, you’re still in it. It’s like there’s more excitement when something awesome happens.

Gina: This experience has been amazing, it’s helped my develop so many skills and i feel especially proud to be the first student to work on the production side of a collaboration project

Alex: This experience has been a great one for me! I have been so privileged to be a part of it and would like to thank everyone involved for making this so perfect for me!

Katharina: It has been (well, still is :)) a very special experience for me. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the time with the cast has been wonderful. It’s such a great chance to perform at a theatre like Curve, which keeps you motivated to do your best. It has been very challenging as well, you get pushed to your boundaries and beyond, but it helps you to improve. And we had a lot of fun as well!

Q What have you gained from this experience?

Becca C: Acting experience. It’s so demanding – so many things I have to do with little lines. Also the friends I’ve made and the sense of community has been really lovely.

Sarah: More experience, it’s been more professional than anything else I’ve been in – I was in one other show which was a lot different.

Hannah P: Confidence. Tim isn’t the kind of director who tells you each position, he just gives you the overall idea and it gives you that confidence as an actor.

Kirsty: I’ve learnt to act bigger, I tend to do quite small acting. It was difficult but good to learn.
Hannah P: Pushes you.

Gina: I have gained so much experience working with curve and have developed some great contacts that I know I’ll be using in the future.

Alex: I have gained so much from this experience. Coming from the Performing Arts course rather than the Drama course, I started out feeling a lot less confident about my abilities than maybe some of the other performers. However after taking part, I have learnt so much in the way of acting and becoming stronger and more natural, and have made some brilliant friends along the way who I hope to be friends with for a long time!

Katharina: I have learned some new approaches and methods concerning character development, textual work and blocking. Tim is always very interested in little details and reminds us to think about each pause, each full stop. It is brilliant to see how much you can get from the play text! I’ve also gained more confidence in performing in English, as this is still a lot more difficult for me. We all became friends throughout the rehearsals and I’m sure we’ll keep in contact after the show.

Jonny: A massive boost in confidence. I have a bigger swagger in me step. I’ve liked learning different styles of acting, I feel extremely lucky to have been given these opportunities.

Q How does this compare to previous years?

Becca C: Greek pushed me physically, as in my physical boundaries but this has pushed me emotionally. Two different experiences with two very different directors. Adele brought out the style of the play whereas Tim works on emotions of characters.

Becca R: I didn’t even know this was a thing. I saw Laramie last year and thought Holy Bananas, was blown away by the standard of the performance and asked the cast how to get involved. Jonny and Kirsty told me to look out for the e mail from Roger at the beginning of the year and here I am!

Alex: I did not take part in last year’s production, although I went to see it and loved it! I have found that this year has been the perfect one for me to start on and I hope to continue this into the next year!

Katharina: I didn’t know that there was the possibility to take part in the show last year – I didn’t get any information about it. I would have been to scared to audition anyway I guess, as I just moved to England last year.

Q Do you feel this would help towards a career in acting?

Amy: Yeah, I’ve wanted it more since doing this.
Hannah: Good for lecturers to see you act

Amy: What you do at uni is …weird so it’s good to do real acting.

Becca C: Working in professional environement is different from uni, being directed is much more satisfying to the devising we do in class. I’m hoping to do an MA in acting.

Gina: This project has shown me that i do want to be a stage manager in the future, i know that i want to be taking a MA in a few years and i believe this will help me gain a place on a prestigious course.

Alex: Absolutely! As a Performing Arts student, I learn more about contemporary styles of performance, so to add one more string to my bow is always helpful!

Katharina: I do hope so – you need as much experience as you can get. It’s good to be able to provide some evidence of what shows you have been involved with.

Jonny: Because of the first experience I had with Greek, it encouraged me to persue acting and get involved with Off the Fence. Infact, a Leicestershire theatre group saw me in Greek and took me to Edinburgh.

Q How does this compare to other shows you have done?

Hannah A: This is more relaxed, some directors can be impatient

Amy: But you still get stuff done

Becca R: It was interesting to work with my local drama club where the cast were quite adult so this is interesting because of the younger cast, it’s a different dynamic. I prefer this because its more professional, the community feel is down to Tim having everyone here, I reckon Fen will always have a special place in my heart.

Gina: I’ve always been interested in stage management and my friends encouraged me to go for this role. To be honest I didn’t expect to be the official stage manager, I thought I’d be an assistant so I was very surprised.

Alex: Without a doubt the best show I’ve done! I have enjoyed every second, and would like to thank everyone involved for this experience, and hope everybody enjoys the show!!

Katharina: It’s really different from everything I have done before, simply because this is probably the biggest live performance I have ever been involved in. It’s the first time I have worked with a professional director, which makes such a big difference. It’s so good to have someone to tell you if you’re doing a good or a bad job and who can instruct you. It’s also very different, as we’re all almost on stage all the time. It’s also great to see that everyone is fully committed, so it truly feels like a collaborative group work!

Jonny: I was in last year’s Curve Community production of Oliver! And I found these DMU Collaborations to be more professional, you’re held to a higher standard. Whilst this is a great opportunity for us we are held to these responsibilities to give you experience of being a professional actor, we are working under Curve’s name so we don’t want to show them up!

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Review: Gypsy

Wednesday 4th April 2012 was one of those days where you’re given every possible sign that the best thing to do would be to stay indoors. It started raining long before I woke up, it began snowing whilst I was busy doing the ironing and the wind was so loud that it frequently woke me up the night before. Yes, I think that sounds like the perfect reason to stay at home, curled up on the sofa with a cup of something hot. 

I, on the other hand, was defiant in the face of the elements because I wasn’t prepared to let a little thing like ‘bad weather’ get in the way of me finally seeing Gypsy at Curve. So, armed with what turned out to be a weak umbrella that I ended up shoving in the nearest bin after it turned upside-down for the tenth time, narrowly avoiding a little old lady, I made my way to the theatre.

If you think about it, on a day like the one I described above, there’s not much left to do in Leicester (or anywhere else for that matter) apart from shop, visit a museum (Newarke Houses Museum & Gardens near De Montfort University is my personal favourite), watch a movie, etc – generally anything that involves staying indoors. However, in my opinion, the best thing to do when the weather is a total buzz-kill is to watch a show at Curve.

When I eventually arrived at the theatre (looking like a drowned rat) there was definitely excitement in the air and everyone was in good spirits, unified in their anticipation of the show. I, predictably, made a beeline for the restrooms and it was seriously jam-packed with ladies. The topic of conversation, of course, was the rubbish weather and everyone was busy fixing their hair, in addition to drying their hats, hair, scarves and leggings – okay, that last one was just me!!

Photo of Caroline O’Connor as Momma Rose by Pamela Raith

Once we were allowed into the theatre to take our seats, the excitement in the air just intensified. My friend Ricky and I had great seats and we had a good view of the stage and the audience – I like looking at the reaction of the audience sometimes (sorry, I’m weird like that!!).
The show itself was excellent, which I knew it would be, but it far exceeded my already high expectations. The star of Gypsy was Caroline O’Connor, who brings Mommaa Rose to live and has a great set of lungs on her. I was completely and utterly blown away by her voice, especially when she sang Rose’s Turn – WOW!

See below for Bette Midler’s version.

Whilst Caroline might have been the star, the entire cast performed their parts really well, with many of them having just starred in Curve’s Christmas show (42nd Street). I was particularly impressed by the imaginative use of the stage, which always seems to be the case when it comes to Paul Kerryson and the scene in which the younger kids are transformed into their older selves. The scene uses some strobe lighting effects and I’m sure I heard some sort of flickering sound (like a filmstrip), making it look like you’re looking at an old film strip via a projector. I know that probably makes no sense, but it’s so cool!!

The audience really seemed to be enjoying themselves throughout the show, in particular the chaps that Gypsy Rose Lee directed one of her onstage jokes at. At the end of the show, at least 20 people stood up to give Caroline a standing ovation and she 100% deserved it.

If you’ve not seen the show yet, fear not because there’s still time to get your hands on the hottest tickets in Leicester. Click HERE to go to Curve’s website and enjoy the incredible show that is Gypsy. Check out the tailer below, which is sure to entice you!!

Have you seen Gypsy? What did you think? Weren’t the costumes amazing? I want some of those feathers!! Feel free to pop your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Review: The Laramie Project

Whilst many people across Leicester were hitting the (alcohol) bottle, catching up with friends after a busy week or packing to go to Egypt (okay, that’s probably just my sister!!), me and a couple of my friends decided to go and see ‘The Laramie Project’ at Curve theatre. Now, this wasn’t the way that I usually like to spend my Friday nights, but I was so glad that I decided to swap catching up with ‘Jersey Shore’ to go and support my fellow DMUers.

I purposely didn’t research anything about the play because I wanted to see it with an open mind, but I was aware that ‘The Laramie Project’ had something to do with the murder of a gay university student named Matthew Shepard. Due to the fact that ‘The Laramie Project’ was a collaborative partnership between De Montfort University and Curve, I knew it wouldn’t be like anything else I had previously seen at the theatre. However, I was certain that it would be excellent!!

The play itself was split into two acts, with a twenty minute interval in between, and whilst it might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, it was definitely mine. Seriously, I was captivated right from the beginning up until the very end. I was so impressed by the acting and the way that it sort of dived straight into the story. You found yourself chucked in the middle of everything, trying to piece it all together. In addition, I liked the fact that the actors were addressing the audience throughout the play – bar two scenes (I think), because it kind of made it more personal and made me feel more involved.

I think the reason why I was so moved by the play (like many others, I’m sure) is because it’s a true story and uses the actual dialogue of the people of Laramie who were involved, people who are actually alive today. In fact, I was so moved by the play that as soon as I got home, I started researching the story myself and spent the next morning watching the 2002 film with the same name. In both the play I watched on Friday and the 2002 film, I found the monologue by the actor portraying Matthew’s father Dennis incredibly moving because in all the drama of it all, you sometimes forget that Matthew was someone’s son, brother, grandson, and friend.

Personally, I can’t believe that incidences like this can and do occur, because the way I see it is; love is love regardless of gender, age, religion and all the other constraints that people have placed on it. Hopefully, one day everyone will be able to look beyond the social constraints that have been placed on love and accept it for what it really is.

The DMU students involved in ‘The Laramie Project’ did an excellent job. They’re so talented and I hope to see them on stage again at some point in the near future.

If you’ve seen The Laramie Project or if you’ve got an opinion about the play/incident/etc, feel free to pop your thoughts in the comments box below.

Priya

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DMU students get ready to stage The Laramie Project

Cast member and DMU student, Jonny McClean give an update on The Laramie Project as they prepare for tech week in The Studio at Curve.

When I first was told about the Laramie project, I had no idea what it was about, and I must say I wish I had. It is an absolute privilege to be a part of a play of this kind with a talented cast and director onboard, I hope the audiences find watching it as moving as I have found reading and performing it. I think there is a wish in the cast to get the characters of this play `right`. It has been a markedly different experience to perform this play than any other mainly down to the fact that the characters are real people, many of whom are still alive today. This dynamic has added a focus on the truth of the emotion and being natural onstage rather than any dramatic focus, the drama comes from the fact that you know that beyond these representations is a real person who said these exact words, and went through this exact situation.

I’m beginning to be pleased with the way I’m portraying my characters now, still not quite there yet but close with most; the biggest challenge is portraying Dennis Shepard (Matthew’s father). I very much want to get his character `right`. The more I’ve researched the incident, Dennis as a man and the speeches and way he talks about his son, the more determined I’ve become to give this man the respectful, honest, and truthful portrayal he deserves. So…big, scary challenge.

All in all it’s going great, very excited to get all the tech and costume up on it’s feet and be ready in time for show week!

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.
Tickets only £5 or play and a pint for £7

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The Young Arts Entrepreneurs (YAE) Project

Hey guys, I hope you’re all having an amazing 2012 so far! I’m Vicky and I’m a member of the Young Marketing Forum at Curve. I have been promising over and over to write a blog post and now it’s finally here. The year has started at an absolute high at Curve for me and 10 other young people and I just want to give you guys a brief update. As some of you may already know, Curve is running a project called Young Arts Entrepreneurs that is aimed at helping young people turn their ideas into enterprise in their chosen communities. It is a project new to Curve and the rest of the United Kingdom that will be established over a period of three years. In August there will be a celebration event where we will showcase the fruits of our projects. Hopefully you will get to know the other 10 entrepreneurs and their projects soon.

At the risk of making this a long read, I’m going to talk you through how I found out about YAE, the application process and hopes for the project. So it all started with me walking past Curve and wondering if such a cool Café was for just anyone or it was exclusive…No kidding that’s how it actually started. I wouldn’t go in on my own so one day whilst on my way back home with my friend we just thought oh what the heck, we’re going in. The service we got inside was just amazing and the cakes we had were lush, definitely under-priced! Basically the few minutes I was in that building for the first time made me want to know more about it so my next stop was the Curve website.

It was so surprising that there could be so much going on around us and we could easily not realise. Anyway there was an opportunity going for young people to join their marketing team. I jumped at the opportunity faster than light and got accepted. I had absolutely no background in marketing, all I was bringing to the table was my passion and determination to let everyone I can reach, know about what’s going on. I used to be one of those people who could have easily spent three years of my University life in a city so rich and never known about it. There is always something going on so if you’ve never been on the website, get surfing.

Got a bit excited there, anyway back on course, couple of weeks later in a YMF meeting we had the flyer that would advertise the YAE opportunity under discussion and the words that I remember so vividly from our coordinators were ‘This is for anyone who is into this kind of thing even you guys can go for it!’. I didn’t think much about it but ‘subconscious me’ wouldn’t let it go. Once they [flyers] were designed and ready, me being me, I jumped on a pile, stuck the flyers on every notice board I could find, handed it to anyone I thought might be interested and sure enough kept one for myself. I kept eyeing the flyer every now and then imagining how amazing it would be if I applied and actually got through. Lots of ideas were burning from inside and I knew then that if I didn’t write an application I would remain a dreamer and never more than that. I was not about to stand in my own way so I got out of my way and wrote the application and sent it.

Curve were interested in my project idea and wanted me to pitch it to them in person in a Dragon’s Den style event. I really didn’t know what to expect. They had arranged for two people to meet me upon my arrival and just have a casual chat before the presentation. It was an excellent way to calm all the nerves and get geared up for the pitch. When it came to actually delivering the presentation there were faces that meant business yet so friendly and calming. They were keen to know more about my idea [obviously :)] and had an interest which made the presentation meaningful and enjoyable to deliver. I had a couple of questions to answer after the presentation which is always daunting but overall it was a good experience that I’m glad to have had a chance to take part in.

At the moment we are being equipped to run the projects. Once the training period is over we will have to deliver our projects and then transform them into sustainable businesses. All the 10 projects are very diverse and will work with different kinds of people. I think Leicester will definitely benefit from all 10 in very different ways, both in the project phase and beyond the life of the projects. Pioneering such a huge thing is very exciting and we are all burning to get hands on.

Thanks for reading and please do watch the space for updates!

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Getting to know The Laramie Project

Photo by Briony Latter

The De Montfort University and Curve collaboration, The Laramie Project continues in rehearsal this week. Cast member, Kirsty Mealing took some time out to let us know how she’s been getting to know the piece better and developing her many roles.

I don’t think I have ever been quite so grateful to be doing a play, let alone being introduced to one, as I have been with ‘The Laramie Project’. The more and more we have been looking at the script and giving life to the characters, the more I’ve realised quite how much the play is about people. This is Verbatim Theatre: every word is what a real person has said, so every single word is important. As Joe said in his previous blog entry, you do feel a responsibility to do your character justice in their portrayal. And that doesn’t mean you should be the perfect mirror of them, it means you should say every word as though they are true ,and honest, to you. I think working on my characters and developing them with each rehearsal has allowed me to realise the honesty in which they speak, and it feels incredible!

Individually, the cast have been watching Louis Theroux’s documentary, where he visited the Westboro Baptist Church. It has been difficult to even be able to compute how these people can hate so much, and so passionately. Watching the documentary has definitely put fuel to the fire in the scene in which Fred Phelps , his followers, and ‘Angel Action’ go head to head: it’s becoming a really powerful moment.

One role I have been anxious to get ‘right’ is Reggie Fluty, the 39 year old Police Officer who dealt with Matthew’s body at the fence. As her story develops, you can see that she is a perfect example of how one horrific crime can affect the people in the community. What I love about her is her dedication to her job, she tries to help Matthew wholeheartedly: it’s immensely refreshing to play someone with such a big personality who is willing to put herself at risk in order to do her job to the of her abilities. I am genuinely proud to be playing her.

We are getting our character costume pieces this week, and I’m excited to see what Reggie and the other people I am playing will have. It’s just so exciting to see everything get pieced together now.

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.
Tickets only £5 or play and a pint for £7.

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DMU students in rehearsals for The Laramie Project

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A cast of performers from the Drama programme at DMU are currently in rehearsals for ‘The Laramie Project’: a powerful piece of theatre based on interviews with the inhabitants of Laramie, Wyoming, following the brutal murder of a young man in 1998.

Cast member, Joe Middleton, took some time during rehearsals to let us know how he’s discovering the piece and its characters and what audiences can expect from the play:

“Rehearsals for The Laramie Project are now in full swing, with most of the play loosely blocked with a skeleton structure to now build upon!

I’m really enjoying developing each character stage by stage and this is even easier now that my lines are near enough learnt. You feel such a responsibility for the characters that you are portraying because of the fact that every word spoken is true. Poignant moments of mine within the play include a moment with Stephen Mead Johnson, a Unitarian chuch minister, when he’s describing the fence where Matthew Shepherd was tied to and killed, and how its become almost a pilgrimage site for visitors to the town. Imagining the place where Matthew Shepherds brutal beating took place creates such a spiritual feel for the moment and is quite difficult to portray in order to do it justice, but I will get there!

Today in rehearsals, we used this moment and conducted an improvisation in which I took a group of people to the fence. This helped me to grasp the sense of spirituality that the character would have felt from going out there, and convey it much more effectively in my monologue. Another role which I’ve been working on extensively is the character of Harry Woods, a 52 year old gay man who describes the homecoming parade that he wanted to march with in Matthew Shepherds name. However, he recounts how he was unfortunately unable to march that day because of a cast on his leg due to a fall, so he had to watch from his window. It is quite a touching moment in the play, and really pulls with your heartstrings as he becomes so emotionally overwhelmed by the amount of people he sees marching for Matthew. Conveying this moment in the monologue with a true sense of realism was difficult at first but now I’ve developed a much greater connection with the character and am therefore able to understand where he is coming from. I think I feel sorry for the fact that he was unable to join the march that day but also happy that, as he says in the speech, ‘He got to see this in his lifetime’.

Tomorrow is a full loose run of the play, and with lines learnt, I can’t wait to put all that I have worked on together and hopefully feel a great sense of fulfillment for the work we have done so far.”

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.

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