Last For the Year

A final organising committee for the year.  Much to do still but a general feeling that the team is on track and into ops mode.  Anita presented her very fine marketing plan to the committee, the SoTB budget was endorsed for signing off, the graphics team are into a new iteration of the look for the Bay, a new version of the launch DVD is about to be created, and the marketing program itself about to get on track. (!)  I suppose the sense of signing off which I had today was wishful thinking on my part.  The siren lure of holidays just about to happen is starting to work on me.  I can at least go on leave knowing that most of the planning is locked down.  Wrote to the new manager of Artsworx today and asked her to take over as acting project leader for the month I am away.  I’m confident that this is the best we’ve ever been prepared.  It’s taken four goes, and I reckon we’re doing OK for a small outfit that dreams big.

Plunging Into the Bay

A week of paper-stuff: legals and financials--budget finalisation for Toowoomba and almost there for the Bay, hiring of new marketing assistants for SiQP, and contractual arrangements for travel providers.  Anita is working with great thoroughness and very impressively, to get our tourism marketing into top gear.  We were working against the clock as the USQ lawyer was leaving at week’s end on leave, and another deadline made life that bit more pressured than I needed.
 
The big disappointment was finding out that I can’t be at the launch of SoTB.  It is being held in the morning of December 15, and that afternoon I am chairing the final meeting of the USQ 2007 strategy committee, and hosting Christmas drinks with all and the Mayor and V-C.  Still, Scott and Stafford and Anne are heading up there to fly the flag and get some work done.
 
This week I have been hearing the strains of the
Macbeth score being composed by Lauren O’Rourke down the corridor from my office.  I dropped by to see whether she was taking a break (the magic 48 mins efficiency rule I’m still trying to crack) and found her  at the keyboard working by candlelight.  Ah, romantic musicians!  
 
The costume shop  is starting to move along as well.  Carolyn Taylor-Smith the designer assisted by Edward Foy (Macbeth-to-be) spent a day on Tuesday working on creating costume “special effects” with foam rubber materials.  I’m sure the guys at Clark Rubber would have been not a little amused or perhaps bemused, to see a young man and a mature lady excitedly checking out their stock of rubber thonging and other materials.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall.
 
The end of the week saw a flurry of emails and communication with the OC team at Fraser Coast who are steering Shakespeare on the Bay.  Their first meeting on November 28 was later than I had expected, and the result is that there is some probably justifiable anxiety by them that they are behind in their planning.  This needed some quick intervention.  A trawl through the minutes of the meeting, several phone calls and emails later, and I was able to leave the office last night feeling that some of this mild level panic had been assuaged!  At least some key players are now making the connections they need.
 
And then I had the rumblings of an idea this week about the obvious lack of tourism infrastructure for the city and the region.  Met with Cr Michelle Schneider for a welcome end of year drink on Tuesday night at the Spotted Cow pub downtown.  Ruby is one of the organising committee for the Festival, and has the TCC portfolio for cultural development and tourism for the city.  She’s keen to speak further on developing what I think could be a grant to get some development money from the state.  I’ve mailed the V-C on this, and hope that his support means we can get cracking on developing a good submission.  The lack of contacts with hospitality providers by our tourism industry has been an absolute eye-opener for me.  Simply amazing!

Getting a Mind Like Water

I did say, “time to draw a breath” in the last entry, but it hasn’t felt that way since the launch.  It’s been a time to trawl back over the budget line items, consolidate more of the sponsorship that’s coming in, and sign up the newest member of the team.  There’s a feeling, at least at my desk, that we’re heading towards the artificial stop line of Christmas and New Year’s, as though the planning will somehow drop off the radar during that time.  Well perhaps the offices will be shut, but the minds will be ticking over ... actors at work on lines no doubt, the creative teams also dreaming on and quite probably stitching, gluing and composing.  The creative process doesn’t work office hours!  Of course, the brilliant idea at 3am may not be quite so good in the cold light of day, but there’s no doubt that the good idea will out at its own good and sometimes, at the most inconvenient time, and it’s a month to Boxing Day!
 
I’ve been much taken during the past 6 months by David Allen’s
GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology.  I’ve applied it at work and whilst I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple of times, I’ve found it enormously useful in losing the stress over having too much on my mind and apparently not enough time to get things done.   Re-reading his great little book again this week, I really picked up on the idea that ideas shouldn’t be held in the head, but released “out there” and acted on responsibly.  The Zen of having a relaxed “mind like water”--able to react in the most appropriate way to incoming (?) stimuli and not getting stressed about the zillions of actions waiting to happen, really hit home to me.  In the position I have as project leader for SiQP and the University’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, I am working on a daily basis both proactively and reactively with colleagues who are leading the various “ops groups”--production, design, promotion and so on.  Most ideas that come from these people are terrific, some are nearly there and simply need some filling out, whilst others tend to keep their ideas in their heads, and whether by accident or design, are not able to act upon these ideas as “responsibly” as is needed to get things done.  Frustration can be the result.  GTD has really helped me to stay in touch as I need to as project leader and to stay relatively stress-free.  Gotta be good!
 
Signed up Judy Watters this week to run the Sonnets at Breakfast event for the Festival.  Judy is a live-wire who (among lots of other things) has run the Sirromet Long Lunch very successfully for the past 4 or 5 years, and she is keen to work with the Festival team to make this event a goer.  On the marketing front, Anita Adams continues to amaze me with her energy and commitment to the task of building a fledgling tourist industry for Toowoomba and the region.  It has come as something of a shock to realise that the tourism industry has no relationships with local hospitality providers.  We’re in blue-sky mode here.

 
And, finally the posters look as though they are ready to roll off the printing presses.  Great to have Sian Carlyon on this, as she and her colleagues at USQ Graphics make up a marvellously talented team.

Launch Day

You’ve got to hand it to Toowoomba; there we were looking forward to a balmy spring day at the Parkhouse Cafe for the launch.  What happened instead?  A gale blew out of the south west during the night, and the temperature next morning dropped by what seemed 10 degrees from the day before.  The wind blustered its way through the camphor laurel trees outside--a little bit of atmosphere for Macbeth!  At least it didn’t snow as it decided to do, most unseasonally, in Tenterfield.
 
It was indeed, a master stroke to decide to take the launch indoors this year.  It’s always been under the trees in the Park itself, but we would have been blown away today if we hadn’t been inside the Parkhouse.  What nice people they are at the cafe.  1 hour complimentary wireless internet access for customers and a great venue.  They are also supplying catering hamper packs for our customers next year, and seem almost as excited as we are about the whole event.
 
A great turnout from the local business, government, media, USQ and the education sectors for a talk-up of Festival 2007 and the launch of the website
http://www.usq.edu.au/shakspeare
This is a nice looking site, a bit “corporate” in its look, but clean and efficient nevertheless.  It lacks a hit-counter, but we can get these stats from the folks in IT.  Importantly, it’s a one-stop shop and media outlet for the Festival which is being updated on a regular basis to keep the customers coming back, and build interest in the Festival as it looms closer.
 
The Vice-Chancellor said good things, Cr Michelle Schneider, on behalf of the Mayor, was equally complimentary, and we got some good media hits as well.  The students presented a little bit of “theatre for the mind”, a soundscape of Macbeth “bits” and three sonnets as tasters for the program.    Fun to see people listening so intently to Shakespeare’s words.  The pictures are of course, always better on radio!  We also created an A-V look at past festivals which was screened for the gathering.  The launch was a nice way for all of us to stop, take breath, and gear up for the next phase, which right now, is the finalising of budgets and creation of what is in essence, a giant “to-do” list.  Onwards and upwards.
 

Shakespeare on the Bay 2

A big planning brainstorm meeting this week at USQ Fraser Coast on Hervey Bay brought together representatives from Hervey Bay City Council, the local corporate sector, and colleagues from USQ as well as the AD of the Festival, Scott Alderdice, Anne Anderson the Executive Secretary of the Festival, Gary Brady from USQ’s Office of Commercialisation, and myself.  The outcome was a great feeling of support and enthusiasm for the project.  HBCC has come on board as a key sponsor for the Festival, and given their location in a prime tourism area, this event is seen as a way to attract even more visitors to the region.  
 
It’s heartening when people put their hands up to volunteer time, energy, ideas, and expertise and this is exactly what our supporters and sponsors did on Wednesday.  An organising committee for the local event was then formed under Gary Brady’s chairing, and they are up and running to make the inaugural Shakespeare on the Bay a winner!  The principal job of this group is to get the word out there and to encourage ticket sales and further support and sponsorship.  
 
The trip up to the Bay was also a great opportunity to walk around the sites again and to get a feel for the place.  Scott as AD and Director of
Macbeth was keen to ground himself in the spaces again.  The Botanical Gardens walk-around threw up some new ideas, and the Sonnets at Breakfast event on Sunday 18 developed as a result, into a much wider treatment than the sonnets, and into a more family-oriented affair with some “displays” of swordplay and scenes from BBS in the gorgeous setting of the gardens.  

Big Planning #2

The second big extended committee meeting held last Thursday saw everyone on track now at operations level.  Whilst some of us serve as “dual citizens” across working groups or “departments” the team leaders and their groups seem pretty much on track.  We’ve clearly build on the success and learnings of the past 3 years and everyone I speak to is positive about how far ahead we seem to be in our planning and in meeting project milestones.  
 
The launch looms on November 16.  This year we’re going indoors at my suggestion to the Parkhouse Cafe opposite Queen’s Park for the Festival Launch with the VIPs.  MPR team under Samfya Smith and Anthony Smith have presented an innovative marketing plan to increase our database holdings and get the phones ringing.  Anita Adams meantime is working on the Visitor Marketing Plan with tourism groups outside the city and appears to have made some great wins.  The fact that there is nowhere in this city that packages tourist attractions came as something of a shock to all of us, and it looks as though SiQP could break the drought in this regard.  Now that should make TCC and the Chamber of Commerce happy!
 
Next big planner is at Hervey Bay on 7-8 November when the organising committee “core” gets to meet up with its counterparts to set the wheels in motion for Shakespeare on the Bay.

BBS In Schools is a Hit!

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The marketing idea - BBS in Schools - turned out to be a marvellous way of spreading the word about what we do and how we do it at USQ.  

We played in the week starting 16 October, and on our first morning at St Saviour’s (above) the Year 12 drama class wanted to know all about auditions before the show.  The actors and SMs were delighted to give them the inside information, and so we found another use for our schools’ outreach.  The rest of the week fairly flew by as we visited two schools in Warwick and another three in town.  The show was very well received and teachers are keen to have us back next year ... all very exciting and a great experience for the students in our course.  They have learned about the focus and energy needed for touring and how to play “up close and personal” with up to 160 students seated around.
 
The school students were terrific in their appreciation of the show and the screen focus (thanks Sojourn Theatre) worked very well with descriptors of the scene and focus questions to get them thinking.
 
I spoke at at breakfast meeting to the ETAQ group on the following Saturday, and the word had got around to teachers who are keen to see us do more of the in-school work that BBS in Schools piloted.  The Department endorsed the idea and so it looks as though it’s on again next year.  Great when a good idea gets up and stays up.

October Already!

Budget Time

Sooner or later, the “B” word is going to raise its hand for attention, and it’s happening now!
 
The OC endorsed three item budgets at the last meeting: Shakespeare on the Bay; the Sonnets Breakfast, and Black Box Shakespeare in Schools, so we are well and truly on the road.  To come are the Ed Day and the mainstage play Macbeth.  Dropped in the budgets to Sue P whose job it is to compile the lot using her new budget tools.  Corporate Night is quiet right now; need to see how GB is travelling with his team.
 
Also got our welcome message from the Premier last week.  This to go into all materials like programs etc used to promote the event.  Graphics are getting close to the first images for presentation, due September 8.
 
Met briefly with Arthur Johnson re the Opera on the Bay proposal.  Need to get this one moving, and suspect it is going to have to be via a visit up there so that he can get a notion of what’s available.  
 
Happened on Scott and Stafford yesterday in enthusiastic boys’ toys mode.  Stafford had just made contact with a local firm which manufactures aluminium modular scaffolding.  Apparently using this material will ensure a stable and easily made structure for the performance space.  My first question was whether we would be doing a sponsorship contra deal as a hire.  
 
Black Box Shakespeare in Schools got the green light as a marketing tool for the Festival from the OC last week.  Now it’s getting the program together, organising the schools we’re visiting and starting rehearsals on September 11.  The days are flying now as we approach the 6 month mark.  Get the feeling we’re well on the way now.
 
... and Anita Adams our Tourism/Marketing Coordinator starts Monday.

Getting Close to the Magic '180'

For some reason, the six-month out milestone, the “magic 180” days tends to loom in the organising committee’s consciousness.  Yes, we’re nearly there.  If the countdown widget on the desktop is right, then we’re 6 months and 8 days out from day 1.
 
Getting into budget prep mode now. HBCC is ready to hand over the cheque for the first $20K, but of course, the corporate sponsorship is by no means finalised yet.  Still, the budget for SoTB (Shakespeare on the Bay) which was presented to this week’s OC meeting looks like it can work, with at this stage, a small surplus on the right side of the balance sheet.
 
The Sonnets breakfast project has been costed and looks as though it could be a deficit affair.  Until further costings are in, and the project manager appointed, we won’t be much closer.  There is also the small matter of sponsorship which has yet to be attended to.
 
On the para-cultural events happening at Hervey Bay at the same time we’re there, spoke yesterday to Arthur Johnson who has had a first chat with Ken Stott, the Champion of the cultural festival at Fraser Coast.  Things moving, if slowly to get Opera on the Bay happening.  This has the potential to be a great event, but the locals need to understand it is they who will be doing the event prep, and not us.

Shakespeare on the Bay 1

A big planning meeting with the extended organising committee on Thursday ... all seem to be comfortable and on track with the next phase of Festival planning.  The Strategic Plan is on the table, the report is in and I think the team leaders feel they have time and space and the resourcing to make things happen.  At last--and it only took 3 years--we seem to be on top of things.  Hasten slowly is a good motif for building a Festival such as this.  Christopher Gaze (Bard on the Beach, Vancouver) was surely right when he gave me this advice a few years back.
 
On up to Hervey Bay with Stafford Mortensen (tour manager for the proposed cultural festival offering of SiQP Festival events) to suss out people and places.  I agree with Stafford that the oval is a great spot for the mainstage event; right by the sea and apart from the possible noise from the road, the best spot in town for the show.  The Botanical Gardens are made for a sonnets “journey” to breakfast, so I think this will be the site.  If Michael Gow likes the idea, we could incorporate it into the Toowoomba sonnets breakfast in the Botanical Gardens and trial the notion of walking through the gardens to the (catered) breakfast site.  
 
On another note, I checked out a possible couple of sites for the proposed opera and dinner event as part of Fraser Coast’s cultural festival.  Found a delightful restaurant on Point Vernon called Gattika’s.  Think this could be the one!  Now all the champions up there have to do is to organise the event.
 
Also met with Cynthia Macnee, the HBCC’s arts and cultural officer.  She is a real powerhouse and very helpful with advice.  Stafford has come away with more information as have I, and particularly convinced that we need one of “ours” on the ground a fortnight prior to the event to ensure all is running smoothly.  I think this is going to be a job for the Tourism Marketing appointee.  On that note, had a phone call from someone interested in the job; will send the PD off tomorrow and start following up leads or creating leads to follow.  This position needs to be filled soon.

Paper and Planning

Success!

Great news this week.  Hervey Bay City Council have given the SiQP Festival 2007 $20 000 to assist in a tour of Macbeth and Sonnets at Breakfast to Hervey Bay after we come down here.  Two days later I got news that the QERDP application for $25 000 from the state government had been successful at $22 500.  Some weeks have it all!

Moving ahead gradually with planning; all paper at the moment, but at least we’re organised.  Have had several meetings with a potential tourism and marketing officer who will be ready to commence on July 31.  The job will be to prepare a marketing plan to extend SiQP’s market share beyond the local region.  

Here We Go Again!

Well rather than this being a new beginning, it marks the formal start of the next phase in the life of the SiQP blog!  If you would like to read the Blog created during the preparation and presentation of SiQP 2006, you can do so here.  
 
Since the close of SiQP 2006, the cycle of jobs has continued, if in a more muted key.  Not that the aquittals, reporting and planning (including our first Strategic Plan) have been any less significant, just not as obvious on a daily basis.
 
As of today, we are 249 days out from the next Festival which opens February 27.  The mainstage play has been chosen (
Macbeth), Michael Gow has been secured for Sonnets Over Breakfast, the education program is starting its focus, and we are in the hunt for a Tourist/Marketing support officer.  No word yet from QERDP re our application, so I guess no news is good news, though I would have thought by now, we would have heard one way or the other.
 
Once again I am sitting in the Project Leader’s seat as Chair of the Organising Committee.  This task is less onerous than in previous years, given the smooth workings of the various leaders of teams.  Have started a project management document which may further assist in tracking our to-dos and who-does.

Wine, Dine, and Shakespeare

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Hard to believe how the weather has changed so much in one week.  

This, our last performance weekend has been sunny during the day, with sublime sunsets as audiences arrived from 5pm to set up their picnic spaces or tables, complete with candles and white linen tablecloths.  The evenings have been balmy, and the entertainment barmy!  Scenes like the one above and many others ... pizzas arriving for groups, sharing bottles of wine among strangers ... have convinced us that our great idea to provide a relaxing, high quality performance and social experience for audiences, is being embraced.

As I walked through Queen’s Park last night, it was buzzing with others converging on the arena.  What has impressed me has been the diversity of the audiences: family groups, school groups, young couples and older side by side.  Our goal for the coming years is to grow our current, and to extend our audience base to beyond the Toowoomba region and as I watched the lights come up on the first scene of The Comedy of Errors last night, I had a bit of a dream ... the arena was full ... space for picnic rugs in the front and tiered seating around the edges.  Whether in the Park or in the new quarry (our Mayor’s dream), I think this Festival is here to stay.

And so, to bed

The final performance this evening on dusk, and the Festival is over for another year.  A smallish, but enthusiastic audience said goodbye to The Comedy of Errors, and mixed feelings ensue.  This is always the case when a tightly knit group of people complete a show; you’re glad that you can now relax, but sad to say goodbye to the thing that has held you all together with such purpose, and usually, with such joy.  

For the student cast and crew, it is back to the acting studios or the technical classrooms tomorrow for more training, and the next project.  For the organising and operational committees, it’s time for analysis, financial acquittals, and in a couple of weeks’ time, planning for 2007.    

Already the approaches are being made by potential sponsors and for a tour.  Something has gone right!

Build It and They Will Come

There’s an old saying which marketing people don’t really like: “Build it, and they will come.”  However, I have a very strong feeling based upon the positive atmosphere of this year’s SiQP that our building is starting to have an impact upon our audiences, and our sponsors and supporters, and of course, our students.  I say this because they came when it drizzled, they came when it rained, and they came in big numbers in fair weather and always with good humour.  It seems this event is starting to have the impact we wanted on our city i.e., that it is part of the year, an event not to be missed.

We have strong sponsor interest in next year’s event already as a result of the inaugural Corporate Networking night on Tuesday.  Schools day on Wednesday has resulted in marvellous feedback and further interest in next year, and our print media sponsor The Chronicle has covered us with regular articles and photo features including one in this morning’s edition which covers me and my passion for “the Bard.”  Our students, actors, technical production and front of house hospitality have been superb.  Watching them interact with the public and warm to the experience has been a privilege; you see the learning going on in front of you at times like this, and it’s the best kind really--felt and profound, something they probably don’t know about right now, but will never forget

It’s been gratifying for the whole Festival team to see the work which has been put in to preparation resulting in happy people relaxing together and enjoying the fruits of our labour.  The blue sky days and wonderful evenings have assisted of course.  Queen’s Park has been at its beautiful best for us this year, and whilst a big umbrella would have helped last week, there is no doubt that the Festival experience under the waxing moon and stars with the light rustle of the leaves is absolutely magical.  

Gala Opening

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Last night’s Gala Opening night defied the weather once again and the crowd of nearly 500 opened the 2006 Festival and gave The Comedy of Errors a great welcome.  

The performance was fast and funny and the set and costumes looked fantastic.  The general consensus is that this is a production that deserves a “full park.”  The wait is not over yet however as the heavy cloud cover and light rain showers of today have meant anxiety for the front of house staff for this afternoon’s on dusk performance.  As I write, the radar shows small rainclouds all around the city and there is no real indication of whether the weather will hold!  Can we be three times lucky?  

Stay tuned ...

The Night the Stars Came Out

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After an agonising couple of days of squally showers, lowering skies that threatened to dump on us, and much nail-biting, the first performance of The Comedy of Errors went ahead as scheduled last night in the park.  

A small but enthusiastic group of theatre lovers came prepared with raincoats and umbrellas.  Fortunately the light shower of the first 20 minutes or so passed over, and the stars came out for the rest of the show.  The agony of wondering whether or night we would go ahead, was over. The site looks terrific and our festival tree lit up looks marvellous; the arena layout is great too with lots of room for audience to spread out on blankets or on picnic chairs.  We have onsite toilets for patrons this year so the long trek across to the public facilities is no longer needed.  Our merchandise and concession stands: wine, coffee and tea, strawberries and cream and gourmet olives did a brisk trade last night.

As to the forecast for tonight, the radar screen this morning shows the big “blue blob”  of the low moving south east away from us.  However, just to keep us from being too complacent, a small white cloud decided to send down a brief shower at lunch time before slipping away.  Whilst the weather watch is not over yet, we have a Festival and we’re up!

Day of Frustration

Having cancelled the Schools’ Workshop Day we almost needed it to rain yesterday to vindicate the call.  As advised by the weather men, the morning was clear, sunny patches and blue sky which only added to the agony!  

The afternoon held until 3.40pm when a short, sharp shower soaked everything ... and then went away.  All rain was very localised all day, and when raining at Darling Heights on campus, the park itself was dry.  Another shower at 5 o’clock cleared in time for a run of the play, and further rain came after 10 o’clock when the show would have been down.  

As in the past, there appears to be a window of opportunity for performance as long as the rain has not set in by mid-afternoon.  Oh for a big tent as they have in Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach!  Schools and teachers have been wonderfully understanding of our situation, and the bitter-sweet coming of the rains right now has to be put into the big picture perspective.  Looks as though the drought is breaking!  

Right now, the plan is to extend our season for a week and add in some additional performances to optimise our chances of gathering more patrons.  Back to the weather watch today, although we have no performance scheduled.  The company is ready to go, and the site looks fantastic!

And the Rains Came

A good press call in the Park yesterday morning but big rain in the afternoon made the cancellation of our first Schools’ Workshop day planned for today, an inevitability.  

After consulting with the meteorological guys at Oakey airbase the 24 hour prognosis was not looking good, so the OC met and pulled the plug.  With the Park wet underfoot and the skies threatening, there was no option.  The whole day has been transferred to next Wednesday, and of course, we will lose some of our schools’ audience, for whom another day means another plan. Fortunately workshop leaders and the company are available and today as I write the skies are clearing!  It’s what is known as “sods’ law” I believe!  

Back to the drawing board for the OC (Organising Committee) to consolidate contingency plans for further postponements if necessary.

Eyes on the skies

And just when you don’t want it to rain, it threatens!  

So far so good with all rehearsals thus far in the clear as far as rainfall is concerned.  The weather forecast tonight is not good with scattered showers (hate that “scattered&rdquoWinking and thunderstorms threatening for the rest of the week.  Whilst “rain days” are programmed in to our schedule, it is still a nerve-wracking business for everyone in the lead up to the call around 4pm each day as to whether the show goes on that night or not.  

Schools’ Workshop Day on Wednesday has to be fine to work.  Would it be too much to ask that no rain falls at least until after 10pm at night for the next couple of weeks?  Fingers and everything else are crossed as I write and as The Comedy of Errors company are in the middle of their technical dress-rehearsal.

RAND - Festival Guest Company

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Spent quite a few sessions this week with RAND, our TIE (theatre in education) troupe working on Beware of Entrance to a Quarrel.  

This 45 minute production introduces secondary school students and adults to the concept of conflict in Shakespearean text, and illustrates some fine sword work in various styles.  Using scenes from Romeo and Juliet 3 Henry VI, Twelfth Night and Hamlet, the company of four actors (Nigel Poulton, Catherine Glavicic, Sean Dennehy, and Edward Foy), demonstrate how the inherent tension in a scene can manifest in verbal as well as physical by-play.  

My job in this production is, as with Comedy of Errors to assist with voice and text.  The challenges in Beware ... are somewhat different though.  When physical expression is extreme, the actors need to match vocally, and the intensity of physical combat can often lead to a clamping down in the throat rather than a release as is needed.  In addition, the actors swing from the naturalistic feel of contemporary speech into the heightened text and delivery of the scenes.  Both of these challenges have been particularly  manifested this week during the finessing, polishing period of the rehearsals.  With a new play, as this is, there are discoveries to be made on the fly, and director Robert Ketton has been assisted in the rehearsal room by the writers.  With 4 days to go, the actors are keen to work up to performance speed and to get an audience for feedback.

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Teching and Acting ...

Into the park this morning for mic checks and a couple of runs of RAND’s Beware of Entrance to a Quarrel. This involved the actors becoming accustomed to working with head mics taped to the face with belt battery packs.  All worked well with the sound tech EQ-ing on the run.  Good balance and the vocal “soundtrack” to the fight sequences is becoming richer and enhancing the energy of the scenes.  Finished the day with a run which turned out to be a break-through for the troupe.  These break-throughs are gold for actors; it means they are increasing in confidence, relaxing and trusting one another more.  The outcome is always stronger, more relaxed and interesting work.  A day and a half off for everyone now, to rest and gear up for week 1 of Festival 2006.

Bumping In and Setting Up

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Walked across the Park this morning and what did I see?  Yes, the bump-in or “get-in” of the set in the Park is plain to see.  

This year, set around the Festival Tree, it will be a spectacular platform for the production of The Comedy of Errors.  The place is abuzz as the various components of the layout ... box-office, change tents, concession stands begin to appear, with the lighting towers and fencing coming in day by day.  The place is looking good!

Stirrings ...



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With the arrival of the director, Scott Witt, and the acting and technical production personnel, the place has a real feeling of purpose at last.  The sleeping set lies packaged and ready for the final set elements to be added.  The technical staff are cutting, painting and preparing these in the workshop prior to final assembly in the park during bump-in.  

The welding and making of the stage floor has been done by staff from the Faculty of Engineering working from Chris Willems’ design. Each piece of the stage floor is numbered according to its position, and its height relative to the contour of the park.  

First read-throughs and basic text work this week also. Costume designer and staff under Carolyn Taylor-Smith are creating the patch-work fabric which will form the basis of the costumes.  Behind the scenes, marketing and promotional campaigns are beginning to stir. Ticket sales have been building over the summer with our early-bird campaign.  With 5 weeks to go till opening, the momentum begins in earnest.

The Lead Up

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Hard to  believe this was several months ago now, but given the time frame in getting together a festival of this nature, it is imperative that good planning happens well in advance, and that the word gets out there as soon as possible.  

With this in mind, we launched the 2006 Festival to the media on November 22.  Tickets were on sale from this date through the Empire Theatre box office and online.  Planning through the organising committee had begun in August with the determination by everyone to ensure a well organised pre-production period.  

Support in this third year of the Festival was very strong from the Toowoomba City Council, who pledged a generous cash donation in support for the next 3 years.  The office of the Vice Chancellor and other USQ departments were equally supportive with cash and in-kind support and expertise.  

Staff from the Faculty of Engineering assisted the design production team with the set build, with the completion pre-Christmas.  A first!  I have a sense that the experience we have had from the past 2 years is really kicking in now; colleagues are able to project time and resource needs well in advance, and plan accordingly.  

The student and guest artists, and the community now have an expectation of excellence and enjoyment based on the productions of Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew. There is a definite air of excitement and anticipation as I write.