Friday 31st March 2017 – Talk with Techies – FMP

Lynn and tech team talk

In our audition prep lesson slot we held a conversation about the production side of our Final Major Project with Lynn and the Year 2 techies, so that we were all on the same page and things didn’t get lost in communication. Although we were predominantly talking about production and technicalities there was a huge stress on the communication and organisational side of the process as there are limited times where all of us year 2’s are together due to having different timetabled lessons and therefore we have to all make an extra effort to post every tiny detail regarding any discussions and decisions we may have had in small groups. Lynn wanted to stress the importance of communicating every detail, no matter how insignificant, as she worried that some of the cast members on other pathways were getting bitter or defensive about being left out of decisions or not being kept up to date with new information. I think this is a fair point and although on the surface it may seem slightly over the top to constantly update everyone on a passing conversation you might have had with a peer, it is worth making the effort just to make sure we keep everyone happy and the relationships between the cast members positive. In addition to this, other cast members may well have their own opinions in response to your ideas and add something further that could have been missed out on otherwise!

One thing we covered in regards to making sure we involve everyone, that I felt was particularly relevant to me was the fact that we should restrain from doing everything ourselves as it isn’t fair on the other company members if we take it into our own hands and then realise we have put someone out of a job. Personally, being bit of a control freak and a massive perfectionist, I know this is something I will struggle with as I can get quite attached to ideas and because I want them to be executed as well as possible I usually do it myself to make sure they are perfect! Moreover, this normally leads to me having a massive workload that isn’t necessary and can cause great amounts of stress and pressure, when in reality other people could easily be helping me do this, but because of my need for control I struggle to allow this. Therefore, this is something I know I need to work on in my final commission, and so I will try to include as many people in decisions before taking on the task myself to prevent others from doing so!

As a group we briefly brainstormed ways of staying in touch over the Easter holidays so that we were all in a good position in terms of progression when we return. Obviously we have the group ‘Saints and Sinners’ Facebook page which we use to stay in touch as a company, however many of us thought it would beneficial to create smaller groups as well so that we can talk freely about our individual acts and character without bombarding everyone with notifications. Someone suggested that we could use technology such as group video calls to hold live discussions with our groups, as it is not always possible for groups to meet up in person due to transport and distance. This is actually a technique my TIE group used when organising props and running ideas by each other on the run up to show week, and I found this really useful as it educed a lot of stress by actually being able to have a verbal conversation and show each other things visually. Although, despite needing to put in the work over the holidays to progress with our character research and group plans, Lynn also wanted to emphasis the importance of resting well too; which personally I know I struggle to do and will need to make a conscious effort to allow myself to do so.

In our meeting with the tech team we discussed the plans we had for the staging and seating so far and whether this would work from their point of view. Ironically this conversation highlighted exactly what we had worried about in regards to communication, as some of the techies were not actually aware of what we were talking about in regards to seating despite us being sure we had explained it to them beforehand! As a year group we had talked about having several tables along the front (in replacement of the front row of chairs) so that the audience melted into our ‘club’ spectators – however, the techies insisted that they were not yet aware of this. Whether this was our mistake or theirs is not important, however it highlighted the importance of not just relying on one way of communicating, and that we should always back up or record the conversations in some way (whether that be via a Facebook post, audio note, video, written message) as well as a verbal face to face conversation. Thankfully the techies agreed with our vision of the staging and audience integration by using the tables at the front and stated that this would be simple to do. However, Han Schofeild introduced a new prospect to us which we hadn’t realised was an option until now; she explained that we were not actually limited to using the raked seating in the theatre and could use tables for all the audience members if we wanted to. This took most of us by surprise as we were told at the very beginning of the process that we could only have an end on audience, and thus assumed this meant we couldn’t stray from the traditional end on raked seating. Although I am thrilled we have more options to explore and the freedom to experiment with seating designs, I personally think the idea of having the front row on tables and the rest of the audience in the raked seating will suit our piece the best.

Nevertheless, I made some notes including pros and cons for several design ideas:

 

Seating Designs Pros Cons
Raked Seating ·         Large audience capacity

·         Equal viewing lines

·         Comfortable

·         Easily put away

·         Full use of stage lights

·         Isolates audience

·         Feels like a regular theatre experience

·         May not fill the whole house

Front row as tables ·         Immerses audience

·         Creates atmosphere of club

·         Cast can use the front tables as part of act

·         Not everyone is involved

·         A few chairs on front row not available to book

All tables ·         Suits atmosphere of club

·         Immerses audience

·         Intimate

·         Casual feel

 

·         Less capacity

·         Restricted viewing

·         Tables available may not look suitable (may look like college tables)

·         Casual feel?

·         Limits lighting designs

Han also went on to propose the idea of us using the higher tables at the front area of the college at the back of the auditorium space if we did choose to use all tables to seat the audience as it would act like raised seating in the sense the audience would be able to see over the heads of the others and not have to deal with restricted viewing. However, personally after weighing up the pros and cons I feel that our best option is still to use the raked seating provided and simply have the front row made up of small tables and chairs which some of the cast members can also sit at. Nevertheless, we may choose to use the high tables as part of our on stage set as some of the tables at the club bar – this we briefly discussed too. Obviously we all need to remember to use the Production arts students as much as possible as they know what access we have to props and scenery in college already, and it could save us a lot of time and money when sourcing things. I think this will particularly come in useful when looking for chairs and tables and small hand held props that we might need to make the stage look more like a club and less like a college theatre space. We also shared our ideas of having various levels for the staging, in particularly a higher platform which could be used as the club manager ‘Saint Jimmy’s’ office, to help suggest that he is always watching and observing over everything. This idea was something us year 2 actors came up with after seeking inspiration from the American style clubs shown on television and in film, and we all felt it would serve our needs both creatively and practically for spacing; however, the techies announced that this may be slightly problematic. The reason for this being the actor who will be playing Saint Jimmy is incredibly tall (well over 6 foot) and so if the platform is too high we run the risk of Jack not being able to be lit or potentially knocking his head on the lighting bars! Therefore we had to rethink ways of doing this and came to the conclusion the levelled tiers of staging may have to be staggered slightly and measured accordingly to Jack’s height. The original plans were to have three separate levels of staging (made using the steel-decks) to act as different spaces in the club – the highest level being Saint Jimmy’s office, the middle level being the performers stage in the cub, and the floor level being the audience space in the club were the ‘real life’ club scenes take place.

Another slight spanner was thrown in the works in regards to staging and set and seating designs when Han Schofeild told us that a GCSE maths exam was happening on the day of one of our performances and the theatre space is being used to accommodate the masses of people taking the exam; consequently any set we do decide on is going to have to be easily removable as they are going to have to be able to fit in the exam tables and chairs. While this is not ideal by any means, there is nothing we can do about it and will have to use our problem solving skills to get round it and find the easiest solution for both parties. After talking to Han and the techies we have been informed that the steel decks are easily dismantled and so it shouldn’t be a problem using these however we might need to think about seating for the audience and whether it will easier to put down the raked seating each day or re set tables and chairs for the audience, or if alternatively we could compromise and if the students sitting the exams could use the same tables as those used in our shows? Ultimately this is something we need to discuss with the tutors and find our what is more manageable before making a decision. Nevertheless, if it was my choice I think this confirms for me that having the raked seating with a few small tables as the front row is probably the most straight forward and easily adaptable solution.

 

Several of us drew simple sketches to roughly draft up our set and staging designs visually:

 

 

Following this I took the opportunity to raise a question about whether we would be able to follow through with our idea of splitting the audience at the end of the performance and instructing them to go out of separate doors (to represent heaven or hell). Although we had talked about this in our acting class we hadn’t yet run this by the tech team, and I wanted to be sure that we were not restricted by Health and safety or technical practicalities that we had failed to factor in. I am glad I raised this when I did as Han went on to explain that there could be difficulties in regards to opening a fire door and the main door to the corridor simultaneously when using the haze and smoke machines as it would create a vacuum and all of the haze and smoke from the theatre space would be sucked out into the corridor and trigger the smoke detectors and fire alarms – which is obviously something we want to avoid! Thankfully, Han covered other options and ways around this, such as potentially using two separate doors that open into the corridor, or using the two fire exits at opposite ends of the auditorium, or alternatively using the main door and the small door that is under the LX box and leads into the foyer space before the corridor. In hindsight I think it is important to have both doors leading to the corridor or at least keeping the audience contained in the Conservatoire EAST space, rather than separating them completely as this could potentially cause discomfort and confusion for the audience if they cannot immediately be reunited with their party. For practical reasons this will also make it easier for us as it means we don;t have to go out of our way to open up other parts of the college that would otherwise have been locked.
Despite discussing the notion of segregating the audience at the end into ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’ with the use of different coloured cards or programmes, Josh still didn’t understand the concept or the relevance of this, and so we had to explain it again so that he would have a better idea of what we were all discussing! I tried explaining how it reiterated the idea of how it can often be by chance whether you follow the path of a saint or sinner and isn’t always a choice; as well as the theatrical technique of using immersive theatre throughout and making the audience feel part the process and keeping them talking about and analysing the performance once they have left the auditorium. Personally I really like this idea (not just because I came up with it!) and really hope we follow it through, as I think it is something that stands us apart and shows a lot of thought and creativity, while emphasising the message of our whole show.

While discussing the immersive theatre angle and how far we wanted to go with this, we began talking about how we wanted to dress the corridor leading to the auditorium and the space around this, and whether we wanted to begin the immersive feel from the off by using props and lighting to do so. Our year 2 acting class all concluded we wanted the corridor to feel like an alley way leading up to the club that had posters about the club and the acts performing on the ways, as well as having atmospheric lighting to add to the atmosphere. I stressed that this would work even better if we had the pre drinks bar in the bistro like we had discussed in the original proposal as it would introduce the immersive nature from the beginning and therefore feel less random when it goes from a normal college space to a stage dressed corridor. While we didn’t discuss this in the lesson a few of us (myself, Han and Emma) discussed the prospect of having some of the actors in the bar at the beginning and then entering the theatre space with the audience to give the impression that they are also visitors going in a night out to the club as well. Another idea I had was that those of us playing waitresses (Sian, Emma and I) could be giving out the programmes or tickets at the door when the audience arrive and this could determine whether they leave as a saint or a sinner at the end of the show.
The next talking point we covered while we still had the tech team with us was the importance of marketing and promoting the show and how marketing must start now and cannot be left until the week before the show! Lynn and Han talked about how last years year 2 final major show ‘Sugar and Spice’ ended up having a pretty poor audience attendance due to leaving all their marketing to the last minute – which is something we all are adamant to avoid happening. As a class we were reminded of the dos and don’t when creating posters and how they should be bold, eye capturing and made up of mainly visuals, with limited text (the production dates and venue and perhaps a short tag line). We also needed to finalise the logo that we were going to be using for our advertising as we were all quite confused as to which was decided on as so many were submitted and noone had ever made a public final decision. Lynn explained that she needed an image that is easy to see and is clean and precise for the brochure and so she decided on the Ring of Fire Cocktail image as our official logo, but expressed that she is happy for us to use a range of images for the general advertisement on posters and flyers – while personally I think it would be more professional to stick to one image for all means of publicity and marketing.

As a group we compiled a list of most obvious means of advertising our show and bring in an audience and came up with the following:

  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Facebook Event page
  • Personal messages to friends and family
  • Photos and references to show on social media to build up a hype
  • Trailer
  • Season Brochure

Finally, we reminded the class and introduced the tech team and Han to our idea of having specific customised Cocktails or drinks in the pre drinks bar (bistro) before the show and in the interval which are themed around Heaven and Hell and Saints or sinners. This was just a novelty idea and we are not yet sure how it might be executed, however we need to talk to the hospitality team and in particularly Mark (who is in charge of it) to discuss whether this is doable.

 

 

 

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