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

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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 🙂

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 : ) 

To our secret gift giver…

At 9.17pm yesterday an anonymous backer donated us a whopping £100 pounds on our crowdfunding campaign! They gave no name other that “Secret Gift Giver” and requested no reward. None of us know who that person is – if its somebody here, we cannot thank you enough! That money means we are just £20 away from being able to cover a weeks rehearsal space for “An Evening at Home with the Austens”. Thank you so much!! 

Phoebe x

Back to An Evening at Home with the Austens

My most recent posts have been less related to An Evening at Home with the Austens as I intended this blog to be, so I thought I’d try and focus on the production.

On other posts I’ve mentioned The Ruffled Umbrella Company and the kind of work they do, as well bits and bobs of my experience with the production, including my character research. You can also read our promo pitch on the flyer which I posted as one of my first blog posts. If you don’t have time to go back and read it all now, here’s a quick rundown:

An Evening at Home with the Austens is based around the idea that the Austen family would regularly put on theatricals for friends, family and neighbours. When the audience arrive, we greet them in character as Jane and Henry Austen, and their cousin Eliza(me). We mingle with the audience, chatting with them, as well as setting up the set in character. Henry Austen compere’s the evening and he asks James Austen(in the lighting box) to put out some candles ready for the show! The bulk of the show then begins. The pieces are based on Jane Austen’s early work, including 2 short stories, 2 longer pieces(Evelyn and Three Sisters) and extracts from A History of England. This is interspersed with nursery rhymes and all pieces are performed as the family might have done – complete with bickering and sibling rivalry! There is also an interval in which audience members get another chance to chat with the Austen family. 

Our first performance was in April in Bath, and in July we’re doing a mini-tour to Cornwall: 23rd Liskeard, 24th Truro and 25th Penzance. There is also a possibility of doing another tour to the East of England in the Autumn, and in the very distant future one to the US(We think it would go down well, but will take a long of organisation with funds and visas etc)

At the moment, we’re concentrating on getting the show as good as possible for July, For this we are running a crowdfunding campaign. For those of you not familiar with crowdfunding, its a way of raising money by asking lots of people to give a little bit of money, rather than trying to get a lot of money out of big funders. We’re doing pretty well so far, and have raised enough to cover three days of rehearsal space. We’re £120 away from enough to pay for a whole weeks rehearsal space, but still have a bit of a way to go before raising enough for us to buy our own costumes and pay ourselves a wage! 

We’re not asking something for nothing though. We have a whole host of rewards on offer – from a DVD of the show, to VIP tickets to one of the shows in Cornwall, to a drawing of you in regency dress by our very own Philip Wall. 

If any of this sounds interesting to you, please take a look at our website: http://www.sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens It would be fantastic if you could back us, if not, it would also make a huge help if you share it on to people you think might be interested. If you have any questions, or even ideas for other rewards, please get in touch by either commenting on here, or by emailing info@ruffledumbrella.co.uk

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! I’ll let you know how its all going in my blogs from now on, alongside lots of other fun Austen stuff!

Phoebe x