Adventure On the Bay (FINAL BLOG POST)

Set at Seaside Oval

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Where to begin?  This was a week of delight and discovery, in making new friends and spreading the word about our Festival.  The audiences, sponsors, volunteers and supporters at Fraser Coast did us proud.  They came in far larger numbers than I think any of us had expected, and how they welcomed us to their community.  The Brekkie With the Bard morning was a relaxed, personal way to show our stuff and to chat with our audiences ... many had seen the show on previous nights, others were newcomers. What a great venue in the gorgeous Botanical Gardens.

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And for the week itself, the weather and the beach were perfect, the huge colony of fruit bats in a nearby creek flew on cue each night, the reviews were great, and all being well, it’s back to Fraser Coast in March 2008 for
Romeo and Juliet.  Thanks everyone up there!

Sonnets at Breakfast

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No need to worry about the weather.  The morning dawned bright, clear, with a sky swept clean of clouds.  The hospitality crew and SMs were in the Botanic Gardens at 5.30am starting the set up.  The breakfasters began arriving around 8am, and the morning from then on simply flew!
 
The organisation and the hospitality was brilliant.  Anita Adams, the event coordinator is an absolute champion.  Her hard work in getting patrons along to an unknown first-time event, and organising her greet and wait staff was impeccable.  God bless the volunteer student team who worked like a well-oiled engine, getting guests to tables, and waiting on them with good cheer and total professionalism.  Etiquette 24-7’s breakfast goodies and bottom-less-cup coffee just kept coming, and the entertainment from a white-clad Company 2007 was delightful in the true sense of the word.  Did I mention the perfect weather!

Clowns at Sonnets at Breakfast
 
The breakfast guests were seated at individual tables in little leafy alcoves, and the entertainment roved to them: song, sonnet, scenes and “vista pieces” provided a unique style of entertainment.   The morning started to wind down around 11am, a little earlier than planned, but by then guests had been in the Gardens for nearly 3 hours, and the temperature was starting to rise.  

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The feedback so far has been excellent, and I was particularly pleased to speak with a table of guests from out of town.  They praised the event highly and promised to return next year.  Ah, next year!

Final Night

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As I did a retro flashback to last year, I remembered the last night as being quite and very satisfying.  This year’s final performance of
Macbeth was far from quiet and no less satisfying.  920 people, a festival record for a single performance attendance, saw the show out in fine style.  The actors were in good touch; in fact, I hadn’t seen the show in its entirety since last Saturday night, and the performances since then have seen a maturity and development in individuals and the company as a whole.  As a voice coach, it’s a joy to hear often-difficult Elizabethan text being spoken clearly, with conviction, and sureness.  The robustness of the physical acting style suits this interpretation; I can see the influence of circus and particularly that of Cirque de Soleil on Scott’s production, and it works.  This company of actors has grown so much during the rehearsal and performance season.  What a marvellous start to their final year of training as theatre artists.
 
The audience was waiting outside the box office gates from 5pm this afternoon, and they continued pouring in until just before lights-up at 7pm.  The arena has never been as full, or as “buzzy.”  The groundlings on their rugs filled the front of the stage area, and hundreds of camp chairs, picnic baskets, and candle-adorned tables stacked back almost to the concession tents.  
 
I felt tonight that we had taken that big step up that I had hoped for.  Four years on, and there is a sense that we have arrived as an event.  And so, whilst we can’t put the Festival to bed yet, (tomorrow is our Toowoomba finale for the year with Sonnets at Breakfast) we can heave a great sigh of pleasure at the truly marvellous work which has been done by so many people to make this, “our festival” the success it has been.  
 
I heard so many say “I’ll be back next year.”  Thank you, dear friends!

Saturday Morning

And here we are on the penultimate day of the Festival.  This morning dawned cloudy and humid, so the eyes scan the heavens again.  Please, no rain on the last night of Macbeth!

Into the Botanic Gardens this morning for a familiarisation of the groves where the breakfast tables will be set tomorrow morning for Sonnets at Breakfast.  Really, the gardens are holding up amazingly well under these drought conditions, and there are pockets of green that are simply beautiful.  The actors and the two directors walked the space, did voice checks, and tried out some of the pieces: songs, sonnets, and scenes.  The actors are a little confused at having to be as flexible as this performance needs to be.  They are so used to a structured approach, where one scene follows another always, and inevitably.  Tomorrow, as they promenade in pairs around the huge performance space, they are going to need to be aware of when a table wants some entertainment, and when to be left alone; when to do a quiet piece, and when a more robust.  It will be another wonderful learning exercise for them, and a marvellous morning for our audience.

The stage management and hospitality staff are on call for 5.30am, when they will transform the Botanic Gardens into a breakfast delight.  The acting company arrive at 8am to prepare, with an 8.30 arrival time for our guests.  And if it rains, it’s cancelled, but that proposition is just too awful to contemplate after such a season.  Surely not ...

Spoken Too Soon!

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You would think that by now I’d have more sense than to tempt the little weather gods by predicting a fine last 4 days for the Festival.  As I write, one hour before the start of Macbeth, some very welcome heavy showers are playing havoc no doubt with the queue of theatregoers waiting to enter the arena.  Whilst “clearing” is a word I’d like to associate with these little cloud bursts, I have a feeling they’re going to affect the show, and undoubtedly turn away the potential walk-up trade--perhaps even cause a cancellation.  Gloom descends.
 
Later
3 hours later, and I’ve left an arena of over 700 fabulous theatre goers, who came and stayed.  It’s interval as I write.  The rain scared some away, but I’m hoping they’ll return tomorrow or Saturday.  I do love our supporters; they did this last year when the weather threatened us, and damp or otherwise, they stayed on with enthusiasm.  The sky is full of stars, some cloud, and a moon that’s starting to lose its top, but all’s well in the weather department.  There wasn’t a breeze to rustle the leaves tonight, so unlike Saturday, where the wind whipped up the white noise that troubled some patrons; tonight, there’s perfect sound.  
 
So after all that anxiety, the city got a welcome rain shower, the company a performance, and the audience a show.  There is some concern that the damp stage won’t give Macbeth and Macduff the right traction in their fights.  This is where the drilling, precision of choreography and complicité between the actors will pay off as they negotiate a difficult, and potentially dangerous encounter.  In the theatre we say “Break a leg!” when we mean “good luck.”  In these circumstances, it’s too close to reality to serve as a good wish.
 
Later Still
Another prophetic note!  The damp stage was like glass and a better subtitle for the night might have been “Macbeth On Ice.”  The final scenes were played barefoot to avoid accidents.  What a business this is!
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Sunday Afternoon in the Park With Mac

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The end of a perfect day, and an almost perfect weekend.  There were around 400 or so for this afternoon’s performance.  This one is going to be pretty tricky for the first hour or so where the A-V is concerned, and lights will not be in evidence till around 6pm.  Learning from this one, let’s keep the start time at 7pm especially when the angle of the stage means that the setting sun throws into a section of the audience.
 
Backstage the usual hive of pre-show activity, and out back there are
warmups by the actors.  Warmups are a ritual for the actor and pretty weird to watch if you’re new to the idea.  Getting the voice tuned, the body stretched, and the head in the zone for performance is mandatory practice.  Think you can do a show without one?  Think again.  
 
For this show, there are lots of other
pre-show duties.  For the ASMs, it’s sweep-mop-sweep, the getting the stage clean routine.  There is also the flash-up of all lanterns to check the lighting rig is operational; the placement of props and it’s all timed in a count-down to ensure everything is ready on time.   the actors need their battery packs checked, the microphones attached to their faces, their individual sound checks with the sound technician out front.  Costume and wigs are maintained by the dresser-ASMs, and actors are assisted to dress, change and get to the stage with a minimum of fuss before and during the performance, when quick changes are often required.  Missing a cue because of a late or slow costume call is a waking nightmare for an actor and her dresser, and there are often rehearsals where quick changes alone are rehearsed for speed and accuracy.  I’ve often thought audiences would enjoy a backstage seat to watch the show going on there.
 
From tomorrow there is a three-day break.  These are the so-called rainy day contingency times.  Mercifully there has been no sign of rain since a couple of spits on Thursday evening late.  More importantly, it’s time for some R and R for the company.  It’s been non-stop for them all since last weekend and they need now to take breath, stock, and focus on the start of another project--final rehearsals for
Sonnets at Breakfast which plays next Sunday.

Gala Night: Joys and Woes


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The news by Friday afternoon was good: pre-sales for Saturday night’s Gala event were at 700.  Given walk-ups were going to happen, we faced the possibility of an audience of around 800.  Now whilst this is exciting stuff, especially for the Organising Committee and its dreams of increasing audience numbers, the issue of coping with so many audience members  was of real concern to the Ops units.  Really it was only in our dreams that we thought we would achieve these figures for a single performance.  To cap or not to cap audience numbers, that was the question.  The decision was eventually made not to turn walk-up patrons away, and to take steps to free some arena space to accommodate the additional bodies.  The main lighting tower and control stand was disassembled on Saturday morning, and replaced by a smaller structure with winch-up lighting towers.  
 
The Gala pre-show reception held in the Park House Café was a great success.   Around 120 guests had indicated they would be there:  the Attorney-General representing the Premier, the Mayor, the Chancellor and other dignitaries as well as guests from Brisbane, the University and the Toowoomba business community.  Before the formalities which are about welcome and thanks for sponsors, the drinks and nibbles (dinner), I walked across the Park, and the queue was getting spectacularly larger, and people were streaming across to the arena.  I was doing the MC-ing for the reception, and was silly enough to boast of our numbers.  The support and buzz from both the A-G and Mayor were heartening, and as we made our way across the park at 6.50pm, all was going well.  But it was not to be all smooth sailing.  The gods had taken note of my hubris.
 
The night chose to be windier than previously, and the stage sound was blown across the arena, causing some patrons in one area in particular to lose audibility and clarity, and of all nights, one of the toilet blocks had to be closed down--not a nice place to be.  I’m disappointed that some of our patrons had a less than wonderful evening as a result of these shortcomings and tomorrow there will be a regrouping of the ops unit leaders to plan for the future and smooth out any remaining wrinkles.  
 
We’re all learning as we go.  As to unforseen problems like the toilet blocks refusing to work ... probably some sacrifices to the gods are in order, but then we are doing
Macbeth.  The final numbers on the night ... a shade under 900 ... 888 according to the first figures in--a record, but not without some pain.
 
And after the show, another little ritual, the post-show reception and a time to thank the artists, creatives and technical staff who have worked so hard, for so long, and with love for what they do.  It was quite a night!

Another Opening

The Park has been open for business since Thursday night, the opening night for SiQP 2007’s mainstage production of Macbeth.  Our first adult audience got the season of to a fine clip once again with picnic rugs and chairs, and the by-now almost legendary SiQP dining experience: tables, wine-coolers and candles on a picnic table.  I love the inventiveness of our audiences, and their enthusiastic acceptance of our style of presentation.  This year, picnic hampers were available from our concession caterers Etiquette 24/7, as well as bar items, soft drinks, sweets and tea and coffees.  A marquee for premium pre-show and interval service is taking off; corporate organisations like this kind of hospitality service for their clients.  
 
Friday night saw another enthusiastic audience of around 300 take to the show, again with outdoor style.  The “groundlings” with their blankets, doonas and (switched-off) mobile phones really packed the “pit” in front of the stage.  The mobile phones were busy all night taking shots of the stage, no doubt for texting to friends unlucky enough to miss out.  The rest of the arena seemed to be a sea of green and blue picnic chairs--a local hardware superstore has to be making a very smart killing on these items!
 
We’re learning as the event grows, and so too are our audiences.  They are learning to come a little earlier and queue at the box-office to get a good position in the arena.  I remember the queues at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach for the open seating there, and how people would come a couple of hours prior to the show to get the best seats--though Bard ... has its mainstage shows in a large tent, and not in the open air as ours is.
 
And the show itself ... visually amazingly spectacular with the costumes getting a huge nod from audiences for designer Carolyn Taylor-Smith.  The sound track is a perfect accompaniment to the action, and lighting and the A-V by student technicians a testament to their talents.  The actors are clearly having the time of their lives up there.

Schools' Workshop Day 2


Today was the day for junior Shakespeare devotees.  Needless to say they rocked the place.
 
I arrived at the park this evening after all the fun of the day, mostly to say hello to the company, but especially to see the decorated trees.  And there they were in fine, festive style.  Damien Kamholz their tutor does fantastic art workshops with young people, and it was a thrill to see the grand old avenue of trees looking bright, fresh and “young” again with an application of colour.  I especially liked the Hamlet tree (above).
 
Tonight a “closed” run for the new students in the department, and a final chance for the company to iron out what wrinkles remain, and to consolidate the show.
 
The media are coming to the party with almost daily articles on the festival, and radio and television ads with action footage from the show should start to attract some attention.
 
At the desk ... yes, more phone calls, filling in cracks various (mostly small but vital little jobs that are time-dependent), and starting to think about the speech for the gala night on Saturday; the mayor, attorney-general, and other sponsor VIPSs will be in attendance.  That, and realising that a horde of family and friends are about to descend; it’s going to be a motel around here for a couple of weeks.  Great buzz around with great feedback from last night, and as a bonus feel-good, ticket sales are climbing.      

Schools' Workshop Day 1

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It all began today.  Months of preparation, and they came to a gorgeous day under the trees to “do” theatre.  
 
The park was full of
activity; over 500 secondary school students working with guest tutors, USQ staff and students at various stations around Queens Park.  I sat amongst some of the high school kids and their teachers for a Black Box Shakespeare workshop late in the afternoon (above), a really nice exploration of getting the text off the page and into action--some tried and true rehearsal exercises exemplified by the Macbeth acting company led by Bernadette Pryde.  As I left the park around 5 for another appointment, the pizzas and fruit were coming out for dinner before the show.  I thought how much I would have loved this experience when I was 16.  Tonight there were over 600 at the first performance of Macbeth.

Ed Workshop Day_2

 
As I write, the first performance is down, and the actors would be in a notes session with the director.  What’s being said?  I can only guess, but with the adrenalin pumping and the excitement levels high,  I imagine the notes are about refining and polishing, with a general pep talk to stay focussed, to relax, and above all, enjoy each performance.  I have no doubt they will.
 
At the desk, there were myriad things to attend to: moving the sales along for
Sonnets at Breakfast; checking on bookings for the next Festival at Hervey Bay in a week or so’s time; chasing down show footage for television commercial production for the Bay; getting a team out to put up Festival ad signs which had “fallen down.”  The Sonnets ... t-shirts (white with red hearts) arrived today, as have the new ads which will join the festival signs tonight.  Non stop action from here on in, but I’ve heard from so many people how these little street-corner signs are making an impact.  
 
Tomorrow, the park opens up for primary school kids and more fun under the trees.  And so it goes!    

Dress Rehearsal 1

There’s always something magic about the first dress.  For an actor, it’s coming to terms with the outer visual manifestation of one’s own character; that and looking across the stage to your partners, and entering the new visual world of the play.  Until then, it’s been all in the imagination; now it’s out there, and real.  Put the lights on this movement, shape, texture and colour, and it can become a treat for the eye, adding a frisson to the action on stage.  Carolyn Taylor-Smith, costume designer, and her team have done a fabulous job, with the emphasis on “fabulous.”  They’ve created a vision of a stage world of fable and myth: dragons and wolves, warriors, nobles, and elemental beings.  Overhead, there are the stars and the moon waxing with each day that passes, and all around the whisper and rustle of the wind through the leaves.  It’s quite an experience, and like nothing inside the walls of a theatre.
 
That coming to life of a vision was what happened last night.  On either side of the stage, lights splashed off the leaves of the “Festival tree” and its neighbour, a giant plane tree, and over the grass of the park.  The stage structure itself, like a giant skeleton, was lit up brilliantly in the darkness, and the actors and their technical staff took full advantage of what we all felt was a transformative opportunity, and stepped up the performances another notch; energy was high, focus fantastic, and the text “dropped in” as I’d not heard it before.  Always nice for a voice coach on a Shakespeare play to feel that the actors really DO know what they are saying and why; it doesn’t always happen!
 
It was a long night, but a good one!  Tomorrow, a rest day for most of the company, with some final shooting of footage for the A-V accompaniment.  Three days to go, and yes, counting!

The Park Lights Up

The bump-in, phase 2.  Microphone checks with the actors, and the bonus of a  couple of run-throughs yesterday and Wednesday for the acting company with the director, on set and with the soundtrack.  Last night, as dusk fell, the lighting technical team went to work on focussing and plotting, so this evening’s first technical run is on schedule.  
So far, no bad weather on the horizon, though the company was warned that should it rain, the communications plan will swing in i.e., the Stage Management office will provide the link for the company to the contingency plan.  We do of course, have rain-days scheduled in i.e., we’ve got time up our sleeve both in the production week (now) and during the season.  Hopefully, we won’t need them.
 
For me in all of this, and in my other role as voice-coach, there is a chance to comment through the director on microphone technique, verse-speaking, diction, and the myriad details involved in polishing the performances to shiny-bright and performance pitch.  In other words, to be the new “ear” and other eye for the director.  By this stage, the director knows the lines, and it is easy to over-look what have perhaps become habitual errors, though these tend to be few and far between.  However familiarity does blunt the ear; I know this as a director myself, and like another in the final stages of rehearsals to give the actors a fresh perspective on the speaking and voice work.  
 
I’ve seen a couple of runs now, both in the park, and the actors in the
Macbeth company are doing very well indeed.  When this is the case, the temptation is to go in with the polishing rag perhaps too hard.  It’s important that a good balance is struck between self-determination by the actor and guidance by the coach.  We’re training professional artists after all, and part of this training involves encouraging and supporting their strong and individual choices.  I point out the areas for improvement, and encourage as much as possible.  That’s the job now.
 
A footnote to a full day:  I spent an interesting few hours yesterday at the TCC Tourism Seminar called by Cr Michelle Schneider’s office.  It brought together some of the key stakeholders in the tourism industry and local players to discuss the ways we can get the message out there about Toowoomba’s tourism “industry.” The big events in town (us, AGMF, and the Carnival of Flowers) had their say via presentations, and the outcome will I hope mean closer cooperation and cross-promotion for all of us.

 
 
 

It's In and Up

The bump-in began on Monday and the technical team are swarming in the park erecting the two-storey set, placing the dressing room huts, the fencing, the lighting towers, and all the other gizmos needed to make the planning a reality.  David Tilburey the faculty technical media guru captured the excitement over two days via time-lapse photography.  






Click the play arrow above (it’s a small-ish 2.5MB file), and see how frantic bump-ins really can get.  Now why do techies complain about the long hours involved?

VOx, Meetings, Rehearsals, and the Media

A week of various and varied tasks, and all about this little Festival that’s brewing out there. The final sonnets went up for St Valentine’s Day on Monday and we made it finally into the top 15.  Lots of interest in this little “gift with love” to everyone from the local media, and I found myself talking about it on radio, in the press, and apparently the new digital newspaper (TDN) has picked it up as well.  Television sponsor WIN did a story earlier in the week on the actors in the rehearsal room, and the Chronicle took up our success in getting tourist packages together for the first time in the city’s history...hard to believe this, but a fact.  Nice to know we are moving and shaking things up a little and that the big cultural events in town (AGMF and Flower Food and Wine Festival) are finally getting together in a cross-promotional way to strengthen the festival push for the city.
 
Scott, Anita, the caterer and I found ourselves in a slightly damp and coolish Botanic Gardens early this morning for another media call.  This time it’s to promote the Sonnets at Breakfast program, our first attempt at a Sunday breakfast event at the Festival.  The goodies in the hamper look great, but wine at 9am on a Friday morning was not in the least appealing (as good as it is!)  Something about a working day ... Met up again around the production meeting table.  Like all production meetings, this one was about a dozen or more details all designed to make the event run successfully.  This one spent quite a while discussing the colours to be used to decorate the cooler boxes and table themes--the decision, festival red and purple.
 
This afternoon I went to my first run-through, and only the second, of Macbeth in the rehearsal room.  The atmosphere of the production is already beginning to settle around this group of actors.  Each ensemble develops its own feel, affected by the play, the rehearsal room “collective identity” led by the director, and of course, by the actors own intensity.  The music composed by Lauren O’Rourke  provides a fantastic soundtrack, and a great backing for the actors speaking of the text.  There’s some very impressive work from the actors too.  I think we’re onto what will be a magnficient production.
 
And just heard from our box-office manager, that we have just passed the ticket sales total for the same week in 2006.  Bring it on!  

St Valentine's Day and 13 Days To Go!

It’s been nice getting the media to notice our Sonnets for St Valentine’s Day  podcast on the iTunes Store.  Started the day at #24 out of 25 in our category (Literature) so I’m hoping to move up the league table later today and tomorrow when 14th February rolls round for some of the rest of the world.
 
If it’s February 14, it means there are 13 days to go.  These will be days full of rehearsals, costume building, set bump-in to the park, sound checks, more and more media coverage, which means interviews and photo opps for everyone.  The entire team is now moving into full gear, and you can, as
Macbeth director Scott Alderdice notes in his interview with me today, feel it all around.  Check out else Scott has to say about his production in our Interview podcast by clicking on the navigation link (above) and look out for upcoming interviews with the Costume Designer, the Fight Director, Production Supervisor, Composer, Front of House Manager, and Actors.
 
The weather right now is beautifully wet, although today is sunny.  Last year’s anxieties and sky watching in Festival week are still a fortnight away.  As long as it drenches us now, greens up the Park and goes away between February 27 and March 11, and I’ll risk the cries of “heretic” from all and sundry!

… a dozen meetings

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Stocktaking on a Friday afternoon, and I have to say that it has been one of those weeks where you remember the meetings and very little else!  There have been 12 of them (12!) in 5 days. But of course these meetings are all-important, and the production meetings especially at this stage are vital in ensuring all the cogs are oiled and meshing nicely.  Can’t complain, and wouldn’t anyway; the teams are going great guns.  Keeping all the channels of communication open is a priority right now.  Giving everyone head space to deal with the creative work is vital.  Actually just making sure all the people who need to be are in the same room at the same time is probably enough!  The rest takes care of itself.  (Thanks SMs)
I have to say though, that the work on the rehearsal room floor and in the audio studio with the actors saved me somewhat.  Finished today with a first cut of Sonnets at Breakfast.  The company have come up with some delicious work, funny as well as lyrical for polishing over the coming weeks.  Put down another 3 sonnets yesterday--the bunch is growing--and of course it’s St Valentine’s Day next Tuesday.
The media blitz (3 weeks out) is going into top gear, and I’m hoping for almost-daily focus articles from next week.  Print, radio and television ads are also in production for Brisbane and the Fraser Coast, and as I write, posters are being “billed” from the Sunshine to the Gold Coast.  
 
Also as I write there is the “ting ting” of sword blades in rehearsal room Q138.  Fight choregographer Richard Niejielski is working with the Macbeth cast on some of the routines.  All happening!

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Sonnets in the Top 25 on the iTunes Store

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Well, imagine my surprise!  Checking out the Sonnets for St Valentine’s Day podcast on the iTunes Store this morning, and there we are, not only as a “New and Notable” but also in the top 25 (#19) in the Literature category.  Nice work.
 
The second bouquet goes up on Thursday, and the final 4 on February 14 for the day itself--a bunch of 12 for the love of your life, or just yourself to say “aaah”.  And they do sound great!  Jason Myatt USQ’s Senior Audio Producer has done a super job with them.
 
In the
Sonnets at Breakfast rehearsal room this morning, worked through each little team’s ideas and pieces.  It shouldn’t, but it always surprises me how actors’ creativity gets to work when the text is Shakespearean.  Of course it’s usually the best material they’ll ever get to work with--and certainly the most challenging.  Two of the actors ripped off a crazy version of the gravediggers’ scene from Hamlet; it was irreverent and marvellous even in its raw state.  I love these times on the rehearsal room floor, and I think that (sometimes!) I enjoy the rehearsal process even more than the performance.

How Many Rehearsal Rooms Are There?

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Monday, Week 3 of Festival rehearsals and another production joins Macbeth on the rehearsal callboard: Sonnets at Breakfast.  This is the second major Festival event which will play on Sundays 11 and 18th March in Toowoomba’s Botanical Gardens and Hervey Bay Botanical Gardens respectively.
 
The actors have been working under Assistant Director Allie Stapleton for the past few weeks, getting together materials, and working up conceptual approaches via theme and character.  Today was the day to show and pitch their ideas to the rest of the acting company, to Allie and to me as Director.  A directors’ meeting at breakfast last Saturday with Scott Alderdice, Festival Artistic Director, put the event’s conceptual framework in place: light, joyous, and relaxed.  
 
The production promises wonderfully lyrical and equally slapstick approaches to the sonnets, scenes and songs of Shakespeare.  Both Botanical Gardens are truly gorgeous spaces, and the combination of terrific Shakespeare, great company and fine food and wine should make for a memorable day.
 
Our first company meeting was to talk through the format of the morning, and to set the tasks for the week.  The logistics of working at least two rehearsal rooms at the one time are pretty frightening, and the SM teams have been valiant in preparing a matrix which covers the hours of 9-6pm daily.  Add wardrobe calls, fight calls and individual coaching calls to this mix, and you’ll get some idea of the chaos that could occur if one of us gets it wrong! At the end of this week, we do a cut and cry if necessary, and then put the program on the back-burner, and get back to rehearsals of the mainstage
Macbeth.  Polish time happens in week 2 of the Festival, as Sonnets at Breakfast is the last event of the Festival  in both Toowoomba and Hervey Bay.

Brisbane Launch Day

Off we trundled this morning, flyers, posters, media-kits and hopes of a good reception all packed in the caravan.  Arrived and set up in the Brisbane City Mall stage and pitched our Festival to reps from the arts industry, travel providers and media, and of course, the passers by and the curious.  There are never enough audience, but the brief presentation by the actors was a good taste for those who stopped by to watch.  Word of mouth as well as the strong media campaign should attract Brisbane-ites up the hill for a Festival experience.  Our focus this year on building audiences has been on tourism, to extend our audience base to include out of town visitors.  Today’s out of town launch was one of the strategies designed to achieve that.  Nervous wait now till the first of the packages and tickets start to go via Southern Queensland Tourism’s website.
What was good to do was to meet at long last with SQT our travel partners.  Shared a coffee with Mark Greaves and Anita Clark who run what is a powerhouse niche tourist business.  Mark is as passionate about what he does as we are about the Festival, and if all goes well, should be the beginning of a good partnership.
 

First For the Year: Live from the Nerve Centre!

Back from a wonderfully refreshing break with a clear head and what I hope is renewed purpose.  Of course things really didn’t stop while I was away; this project has a momentum of its own--is the word “juggernaut”?
As I write we are well and truly into the production phase of the 2007 Festival.  All of the ops (operations) groups are in full swing: the costume department is running hot, the set is being tweaked to accommodate the sort of requirements which reveal themselves only when director and actors get together on the rehearsal room floor.  Fortunately, tweaking is not a problem this year.  The set is largely comprised of aluminium scaffolding (thanks Alquip our sponsor), and in the nature of scaffolding, add-ons are not only possible but relatively easy.  This year we’ve gone for three stories, so it should be visually spectacular once the costumes, action and lights arrive.

Weekly production meetings for each of the projects within the Festival are now the order.  Each team reports on progress, potential problems are identified, and the juggernaut rolls onwards.
 
The rehearsal room(s) for
Macbeth, Sonnets at Breakfast, and for the revival of Black Box Shakespeare are running in tandem with individual Stage Managers and Directors and Asst Directors ensuring the actors (the same company) are kept appropriately focussed on the task in hand for that day.  It’s a massive job of coordination by the young Stage Management team, and I can’t help but be in awe of their focus, skill and commitment.

Marketing the Festival has been underway for some time now.  Links to the website via other agencies and the capacity to book tickets and accommodation packages directly through our tourism partner Southern Queensland Tourism is now active.  The Empire Theatre also has a link to our site, and the capacity to book online, so it’s not hard for our patrons to find out what’s happening and to get a ticket and even to get here on a big Greyhound bus from out of town.
 

The other media, print, radio and television is also being covered in various ways:  editorial and advertising, letter-box drops via flyers, poster (all over town and soon Brisbane), a viral e-card, and the latest, a podcast of sonnets for St Valentine’s day.  These are being recorded in the Media Services studio and feature the Festival actors.  We now have a podcast up on the iTunes Store and it featured as a “new and notable” yesterday.  I’ve “told a friend” via the iTunes e-card and hopefully lots of downloads are occurring as I write.  The podcast has a hotlink back to the Festival website.  All happening ...