The tour!

I had intended to write a blog each day of the tour, but didn’t have the time or energy to do so I’m afraid, so its all going to go in this post!

We left Box bright and early (about 8am) on Tuesday morning to head down to Cornwall.  The journey was supposed to take 3 hours, but to be safe we left 5! It did only take us about 3 in the end, but it was nice to get a chance to settle in, get a sense of the space and have some lunch before the tech. Our first performance was at Sterts Theatre (sterts.co.uk) an outdoor amphitheatre with a large cover to keep out the rain! We were very glad to be told on arrival that we had already sold 50 tickets – it was more than we expected, as it the first time The Ruffled Umbrella Company has been to Cornwall.  Everyone at the theatre was wonderfully friendly – it is almost entirely run by volunteers, and we were offered places to stay by friends of theatre which was great. They appreciated our small set(a trunk full of props and costumes, and three stalls) and that we had very simple light(a general wash, with any indication of it changing cued from onstage). We enjoyed playing with the number of entrances there were on the stage, on lots of different levels – though I didn’t venture up the stairs myself!

It was during this period of marking through which entrances we were going to use, that Phil got a phonecall from The Burrel, where we were due to be performing Thursday night. The call was to say we had only sold 10 tickets there, and asking us would we like to cancel? It was uhmmed and ahed about for quite a while – feeling like the show should go on whatsoever – that the show would be less effective with less people – what else would we do if we didn’t have a show to do – the company would make a large loss if we did go ahead. Eventually, it was decided to cancel the show, refund the ticket money and offer comp tickets to the Penzance show. Obviously this was a disappointment, but it seemed the best decision to make! The show at The Burrell was booked outside of their normal season, which meant it didn’t have the same marketing push that it would normally which is probably a large part of the small ticket sales. The good news is is that as it was suggested by the venue to cancel it, there hasn’t been a negative effect on the relationship with the venue, and they seem to interested in booking us in in season in the future! It was also lovely that the venue gave us that option, as it was operating on a hire basis – they could have just taken the money, but they didn’t!

So anyway, back to the Sterts show! It was different to Bath, as expected, due to it not being an audience where the majority knows the cast(people laugh louder then) and the space meaning the audience were a bit too far away. Everyone seemed to enjoy it though, and the changes we’d put in in rehearsals felt much improved. It was also a fantastic space – HUGE – compared to where we’d performed before, but a lot of fun. Though it being outdoor meant I got at least 6 mosquito bites to deal with for the rest of the tour!!

The next day, after returning to the theatre from our respective overnight stays, we set off for Truro. We were luckily offered cheap accommodation by the theatre we would have been performing in, and got to meet some of the staff there and see the space which was great. We were then at a little bit of a loss as what to do with ourselves! We wandered into Truro to get some lunch, and then I was parked in Nero to take advantage of their wi-fi and read my book. I’m not sure how much I’ve talked about my disability in previous blogs, but I have a chronic pain condition that means I use a wheelchair some of the time. I don’t use it in An Evening at Home with the Austens, but the show is choreographed that I sit down a lot, and there are chairs strategically placed off stage. Normally I use my power chair, but as we had to pack everything in one car, for the tour I’ve been using my manual which was a very interesting and quite hard experience for me, as I was pretty reliant on having someone push me. Anyway, that’s how I ended up sitting in Nero, rather than having a look around(it was very cobbly) After the others came back, we went to Weatherspoons for dinner, when the news announced that Jane Austen was going to be on the new £10 note! Very fortuitous timing – though will never know if that got anybody to buy their tickets to our show!

The next day we popped into Truro for breakfast(I had pancakes with maple syrup, I was very happy) before heading to Penzance for our last An Evening at Home with the Austens performance – for now anyway! The Acorn is a really lovely theatre, and like many I’ve performed in, a converted church so felt very at home there! It was a big contrast to Sterts with less entrances but a much closer dressing room, as well as being closer to the town centre. We had 32 audience members which we were very happy with, and the layout of the theatre was perfect for improvisation, I think I managed to talk to everybody! A couple of amusing moments – the reviewer asking Phil when in character as Henry Austen for the casts real names(we didn’t have a program) which Phil went and wrote down to give to him, and a woman asking me “Can you please be quiet I’m trying to watch the play?” during the interval where we continue the audience interaction, as the set is changed for the second half. I replied with “They haven’t started yet they are just setting up” and she said “No, they’ve started…wait, are you a part of it” before going back out to the bar. Also note that I was in full Georgian costume at this point. Anyway, the rest of the show went well, and the people at the venue told us they really enjoyed it, and that audience members told them they did to.

I’ve loved being in this show because it is so fun and you can really see people’s enjoyment while performing it. Even though its only been a couple of extra dates, every time I feel more comfortable and more confident with it, and am looking forward to the future of the show!(which I very much hope there will be)

Phoebe xx

P.S Will post the review if it gets put up online!

Guest post from Isabel Snowden!

Isabel Snowden is the director of An Evening at Home with the Austens, and as we get ready to go on tour, she’s written us a guest blog. Enjoy!

As well as running Ruffled Umbrella, I am privileged enough to work at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire. One of my favourite tasks there is shutting down the cottage at the end of the day.  While it is always lovely closing the shutters and ‘tucking in’ the house for the night, I felt so much more poignant doing so last week as it was the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. It struck me as slightly odd but, as I was closing each of the rooms it felt like I was saying goodbye to her, someone whom I had never met and had lived her life centuries before I even began mine. That is one of the beguiling things about Jane Austen, you feel as if you know her. Through the snippets of information left through her novels and correspondence and the recollections of family members, fans of Jane Austen are able to piece together a person they would like to know. People identify with different facets of her personality, the eternal romantic, the modernising feminist or the quick witted satirist but, there is always something for her fans to connect with.

As I was contemplating the mature Jane Austen at the end of her sadly too short life it got me thinking about our upcoming tour and the enjoyment of introducing our audience to a side of Jane Austen they may not know about. The concept of ‘An Evening at Home with the Austens’ is to explore the very early writings of this creative genius and to see her experiment with different styles and scenarios.   In her juvenilia Jane Austen parodies the popular writers of the time, pokes fun at various monarchs and puts her own satirical spin on society’s mores. You can glimpse certain parallels from her novels and see how she started to develop her own style. As well as enjoying stories they may not be familiar with, I hope the audience take pleasure in seeing a young Jane Austen full of energy and enthusiasm, and have a jolly good laugh along with her and her family.

Press Release!

Here’s the official press release for An Evening at Home with the Austens!

Please share on your blog/website/Twitter if you think any of your followers would be interested 🙂 

 

PRESS RELEASE

The Ruffled Umbrella Company presents:

An Evening at Home with the Austens

Ruffled Umbrella, an emerging theatre company from Bath, are bringing their latest production to Cornwall. ‘An Evening at home with the Austens’ is a lively comedy based on the juvenile writings of Jane Austen.

On a midsummer evening, in a rural part of Hampshire, the Austen family are preparing some home theatricals. Jane Austen, her brother Henry and their cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, are putting on a sketch show! Join the Austen family for this evening of fun, interact with the characters as they prepare for their show, and watch as Jane Austen’s satirical writings come to life. With so many loveable characters to portray, girls will play boys and more reluctantly boys will have to play girls in this farcical comedy.

‘An Evening at Home with the Austens’ is a light hearted performance based on the early, unpublished stories Jane Austen wrote as a teenager. This production combines the Austen family’s enthusiasm for creating theatricals, and Jane Austen’s juvenilia to create a modern sketch show in a classical setting. The sketches include the stories of Evelyn, The Three Sisters as well as snippets from The History of England. Meet the family, indulge in the whimsical stories, and join in with a good old fashioned sing-song.

SHORT COPY (48 words)

Created from the rarely used stories written by Jane Austen as a teenager, this farcical piece casts a light on the early workings of this creative genius. Jane and her family decide to put together an evening of parody, satire and silliness in this light-hearted sketch-comedy.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

The Ruffled Umbrella Company is an emerging theatre company based in Bath. Founded four years ago by graduates of Bath Spa University, Ruffled Umbrella create theatre that captivates and surrounds the audience, bringing them into the world of the play. The company has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Festival D’Hiver in Paris, where they won ‘Best Show’, and at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

 

PERFORMANCE DETAILS

Sterts Theatre, Liskeard

Tuesday 23rd July, 07:30 pm

Tickets: £10 (cons. £8, Child £6)

Box Office – http://www.sterts.co.uk

 

The Burrell, Truro

Wednesday 24th July, 07:30 pm

Tickets: £8 (Child £5, Family £22)

Box Office – http://www.crbo.co.uk

The Acorn Theatre, Penzance

Thursday 25th July, 07:30 pm

Tickets: £9 (cons. £7)

Box Office – www.crbo.co.uk

 

 

We’re Ready!

A week tomorrow we’ll be performing our first show in Cornwall – and at the end of our last rehearsal on Friday I definitely felt like we were ready.

When starting the crowdfunding campaign, we thought we would need 5 full days of rehearsal, so were raising enough money to cover those costs. However, as it became clear we wouldn’t reach our target, we initially scheduled just 4 possible rehearsal dates. One of these dates was unavailable, so we booked two, with the possibility of adding a third if needed. Which it didn’t! 

I already talked about our first day back – so on our second day of rehearsal, we went through entrances and exits. I figured out that I only ever enter from stage right, which made the whole thing pretty easy to remember! We then did a run, which went well – apart from a few fluffed lines – so followed with a line run. I’ll be going over my lines every day until the show, and we’ll have the nice long car journey to line run as well. So overalll, we’re feeling pretty geared up!

For those still interested in backing us – its the last day of the campaign – sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens! I also thought I should let you know about how we’re spending the money that has been donated so far. An amount we haven’t worked out yet will be taken off for the website and for paypal. The rest will be £90 towards rehearsal costs, a donation in thanks for the loan of costumes, and whatever is left we’ll divide between the 3 of us, which will at least go towards expenses!

On the crowdfunding campaign, of course it would have been great to meet our total. I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t get fully funded, but I think these things are still a gamble. It has been an interesting learning curve for me, and I have been enjoying writing this blog. I will definitely continue with this blog until the show is over, and will keep posting whenever I have anything Austen-y to say! This mini-tour to Cornwall won’t be the end of An Evening at Home with the Austens – the hope to tour it again for a longer time is still very much alive! 

Info about the Cornwall tour and ticket bookings are here: http://www.ruffledumbrella.co.uk/RUC/An_Evening_at_Home_with_The_Austens.html

The DVD

Yesterday, I sat down to watch the DVD of our original production of “An Evening at Home with the Austens”. After a successful first day back at rehearsals, I thought it was worth a watch to see if there was anything I spotted that I thought could be improved on – it was also another way to reinforce the lines, and remind myself of all the entrances and exits.

Watching yourself on a recording is always a strange thing, and can sometimes feel a bit embarrassing. Johnny Depp famously never watches his films. It is something I have had to train myself to do, as it is very useful. Before now, the main use of watching recordings is when I’m submitting an audition video. Recordings of stage productions can be quite tricky, as theatre acting and film acting are very different, and I’ve previously been in productions which did not transfer mediums well.

So it was a great relief when watching “An Evening at Home with the Austens” that it did work very well on film. The style of the production is quite over the top anyway, due to the type of humour, so it didn’t matter when that came across on film. The set-up, as in previous blog posts, was to give the impression of a Georgian sketch show, with the feeling of Whose Line Is It Anyway? And it worked! It felt like a – admittedly low budget – episode of that, and is something I would be very happy to show other people! The camera was quite far away, and at the top of the raked seating, but for the most part a lot of the jokes carried!  The only real shame is that you can’t see the History of England masks, or some of the signs used. And of course facial expressions – but as the characters were larger than life physically, I think it was still pretty effective. 

It has given me a couple of ideas that would be worth looking at to improve it more for the next leg of the run, on top of the ones I could remember from performing. And that alone I think makes it worth getting a recording of your performances as often as you can – if you can bear to watch your own recording, that is. 

Phoebe 🙂 

You can get a copy of the DVD here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens

Back in rehearsals!

Yesterday was our first rehearsal since our first performance of An Evening at Home with the Austens in April. And it went really well! Remembering lines was much easier than expected – most of them stuck, and I don’t think it’ll take too many goings over to make them all back again! 

We started the day with a chat about what bits of the show we’d like to improve, about how the crowdfunding campaigns doing, and about the publicity for the tour. Those latter are obviously important, but not the main focus of the day. 

The sections that we felt needed improving – a change in costume to represent one of the male characters I play(a riding crop being exchanged for the more obvious coat) which also had the added benefit of making a joke work better, some work on the women playing men – it won’t ever be as funny as a man making a woman, but the change should make it funnier, some character work on Mary Stanhope(for me at my request) and some jigging around of entrances and exits to make some of the clunkier bits clearer.

We then did a fairly low energy to mark it through, make sure we remembered our lines(which we mostly did) and when we were supposed to come on and off stage and where different bits of costume and props come(which I mostly didn’t) We then had a further discussion of other bits worth going over, then broke for lunch. 

Non-related to the show, but we did have a rather entertaining lunch, due to the neighbours next door to where we were rehearsing having various screaming matches. Not at us thankfully, but it did rather liven up our lunch break! I was then disappointed by what I thought were bluberries when I’d packed them into my lunch that morning, only to discover they were olives when I opened the tupperware 😦 

Anyway, so back to the show! After lunch we fine tuned the areas we’d picked out before lunch, and went over Sir William Montague which needed a bit of going over after the run, we then had (surprisingly) time to do another run! Which went much better, so we are generally feeling very confident about the whole thing.

Our next rehearsal is on Friday, and my homework before then is to watch the DVD of the show, and see if I think of any other sections which could do with the changes. My next post will be about that, and I find the always slightly painful experience of watching myself on film.

Phoebe 🙂

Re-Learning Lines

Ah, line learning. The one thing non-actors always say after a show is “How do you remember all those lines?” There’s not really a trick to it – if there was I could save a lot of time! Its just repetition, repetition, repetition. As a friend I was doing a play with a year or so ago reminded me, when I said how glad I was we didn’t have to revise for exams when studying “What do you think learning lines is?”

Re-learning lines is slightly different, as it ideally, shouldn’t take as long. Audition monologues in particular tend to stick – whether that’s a good thing, as you may lose the freshness of them – is another issue.  So ideally, this process shouldn’t take to long. I had my first sit down today to look at my big monologue that starts the second half – this part of the play is based on Austen’s “Three Sisters” and I play Mary Stanhope. The monologue is lifted from a letter so it works well on stage and as a nice opener to the second act(Hats off to Isabel Snowden, who edited the script)

Anyway, so back to lines. So far, so good! Its interesting learning something that wasn’t written to be spoken aloud, as the rhythm is slightly different. Shakespeare – while it has the difficulty of an older form of English – the iambic pentameter means I find it quite simple. Jane Austen’s language – not so much. I’ve mentioned on an earlier blog about how the punctuation has caused an issue. I am still getting my head around it, but second time around, its coming easier! 

Anyone else have experience performing Austen? Would love to hear about it if you have!

Phoebe 🙂

Welcome to Sanditon

So, I cracked. I meant to wait until I re-read Sanditon before I watched the new web series from Pemberley Digital, but then I got another email from Youtube telling me a channel I subscribed to had uploaded a video, and I gave in.

Because I’ve only read Sanditon once, and a long time ago, I can’t really compare the two at this point – obviously Georgiana Darcy isn’t the lead in the unfinished novel! But I can give you my thoughts…

I liked it – but it has gripped me in the same way as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Lydia Bennet. I think its lacking the family and friendships that are so strong in those stories. The videos are meant for Darcy, and we see Gigi making new friends, but its not the same as that strong familial bond we’ve seen before. And Gigi is so much more of an observer, rather than being an intricate part of the story. It doesn’t make it bad – its all still well written, edited and acted as I still believe they are real people, but it just isn’t as engaging. However, we’re still early on, and it doesn’t have the luxury of being a story we all know really well even before its started. 

I think someone mentioned to me that it is an experiment in creating a story using the web – and I thought the clips of real people from Sanditon, California were really interesting. I am definitely getting a sense of the personality of the place – even more so than some of the people! Which, I guess, is all we really have from the novel, so in that case, the web series has been a success. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story takes us. Also, as I believe this web series is shorter than The LBD, I’m excited to find out what their next one will be! Any guesses?

Phoebe 🙂 

Rediscovering…Kate Nash

Ok, I know, this post is a little bit off topic. But it is about rediscovering something, and it is about a feminist, so it kind of fits.

For those of you who don’t know, Kate Nash is a British singer/songwriter who in 2007(I think) was brought to fame with her song Foundations(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryH5cga0yUI). It was in the charts the same year Rhianna’s Umbrella(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvBfHwUxHIk) brought a summer full of rain, and The Way I Are by Timbaland(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rLz5AZBIA). I spent a lot of time that summer at my best friends house drinking tea and watching music channels, so got to know these songs very well indeed. Foundations in particular is the only “break-up” song I’ve had, and the album – Made of Bricks – also helped a great deal, especially the song “Dickhead”(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suaveqvlWP8) I also went to see her in Bristol when she did her album tour, and I have a burned CD made for me by that same best friend of some demo stuff that hadn’t been released yet.(FYI I no longer download music or burn CDs, in the same way I don’t watch illegal copies of films/tv programmes. Kind of think of it as biting the hand that feeds you.)

Anyway, a year after that album, I went away to drama school, and Kate Nash went off my radar a bit, which was possibly a mix of her not having another song chart as high as Foundations(I think) my being veery busy studying, and that I started listening to Radio 4 rather than Radio 1. Yes, I’m that cool. My student house had a library. 

Aaanyway, as I said in my last post, I went to Glastonbury Festival at the weekend. Which was bloody fantastic. I was performing with my other company, the pieces went really well, saw the Rolling Stones and had a generally awesome time. Part of that was the discovery of the Leftfield Tent, which is the politics tent. There was also some great political comedy from Josie Long in the Cabaret tent, which had Radio 4 pictures on the wall, which made me very happy. So anyway, back to Leftfield which says on its logo “Mixing Pop and Politics” Because of our show times I couldn’t get to any of the talks which included one on austerity by Owen Jones, a journalist in the independent, and another on feminism by UK Feminista. But I did get to see some music there – which had a bit of a political edge. We went to see Dizraeli and the Small Gods – who I had never heard of but my boyfriend loves – and they were fantastic. As stated in the Glasto program they mix “hip-hop and folk” which works really well. They also had one of those keyboard things that you blow through which I really want!! 

Aaanyway. So back to Kate Nash. She was the end to our weekend at Glastonbury, as we needed to travel back on the Friday night, and didn’t feel like battling with the traffic if we waited until after Mumford and Sons. I spotted her in the programme, saw she was on at Leftfield AND they referred to her being feminist, and the timing was perfect. And I had so much fun!! She did three songs from her first album, the two I’ve mentioned plus Mariella(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_amYesTu0M) Some from her second album which I didn’t realise I already knew, and some from her third Girl Talk, which I didn’t even know existed. I’ve spent a significant time since then trying to find my copy of Made of Bricks, which isn’t in the box, and wondering if I can justify buying the other two when I don’t have a huge amount of money and am supposed to be saving to move out. I think I’ll relent eventually. And will keep checking to see the next time she performs down my way 🙂 You can follow her on Twitter @katenash and her website is myignorantyouth.com

I promise I’ll write about Jane Austen on my next post!

Phoebe 🙂

We’re getting close…

Hi everyone! I’ve just got back from a fantastic weekend performing with the other company I work with – Natural Diversions – at Glastonbury Festival! And slowly getting my head back around everything Austen.

Had the lovely surprise of another backing over the weekend – just £5 but every little helps! If we don’t reach our total, we have to pay 9% of what we make to Sponsume, the website that hosts us. Our first mini-aim was to get to £300 as that would cover the hire of the rehearsal space, and we’ve just inched over it so should now be able to cover the 9% on top of that. We’ve been lucky enough to have someone offer to loan us the costumes for this short run, so that is one short term issue we don’t have to worry about – however, we hope to do a longer run in the autumn, so will need to find the money for that at some point. The biggest cost of the show – and what is the biggest outlay in any business – is our salary. We are aiming for Equity minimum – £410 a week – but any money we gain now should hopefully be divided three ways. If it at least covers our expenses, that would make a massive difference to us. It can be quite disheartening to lose money on a production. We will give it our all no matter what, and acting is a career you choose for the love of it, not for the money, but the aim is to make a living at it. That this is hard to do has always been the case, but since the recession it has got harder. The Arts Council’s budget has been cut and cut in this climate of austerity and while there are a number of philanthropic trusts out there, often what they support is very specific. Some prefer to support capital projects, some specifically those that are participatory, and some prefer to donate to the bigger companies such as the RSC and The National. The politics of the arts cuts is not something I want to go into, and obviously philanthropic bodies have their own criteria of who they support, which I’m not going to argue with.

It is these reasons, plus the time period between the first production in April and the next few in July, that I suggested crowdfunding as the route to focus on for the project. I was hoping to engage people who have a love of Jane Austen, and that our rewards would be very exciting! However, there are some that I expected to be popular which haven’t been so far – such as the drawings of you in Regency dress, and copies of the DVD and script. So now I am turning to you, readers of this blog, to ask you what you think would inspire to back a project, if some of our prizes interest you but you think are priced to high, or if its just harder to get behind something UK based if you are based in the US? If you could comment below on what you think that would be a huge help – and don’t worry, I have no expectation on you to donate if you suggest something! I just think it might be worth a change up to see if we can drum up more interest, and as I know a lot of the readers of this blog are Austenites, your opinions would be a huge help. Please comment below! The page is here http://www.sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens

I’m going to be relearning my lines this week, before we go back into rehearsals, so I’ll be keeping you updated on how both of those are going – and obviously how it all goes on the tour! 

Phoebe : )