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.

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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

 

 

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 🙂

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

Regency World

Just a short but sweet post today!

Last week I contacted Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine to see if they would be interested in featuring Ruffled Umbrella and An Evening at Home with the Austens – and they said yes! Just about to send them an email to discuss potential timings(hoping we can line it up with our Autumn tour) When it happens, I’ll make sure to post the article on here too!

Hopefully will have a longer post tomorrow once I’ve finished Pride and Prejudice!

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

Ever fancied hanging out with the Austens?

One of the unique aspects of The Ruffled Umbrella Company’s production is that it allows the audience to mingle and chat with the Austen family. The family talk between themselves while setting up the stage – arguing and bickering as many families do – while also greeting the audience. 

We performed in a theatre in Bath, but set it in Steventon Rectory in 1792. When audience members arrived, we asked them where they were from – as the majority were from Bath, a long way to travel in 1792, it was a lot of fun for us! Incidentally, Isabel’s parents travelled from Hampshire, so some of our furthest audience members for Bath, but our closest for our characters in Steventon!

I very much enjoyed playing the flirtatious Eliza, which I’ve previously mentioned in my very first post! I also got to talk a lot about how sophisticated I was,my sun, and got to tease Jane about her not being “out” yet. It also meant I did the least work in actually setting up the stage, as I figured Eliza would be much more interested in talking to people.

Jane and Henry’s relationship was also very funny, as Jane was so focused on getting it exactly right, and Henry really didn’t know what he was doing, despite being the compère! This meant they could have little spats that the audience found very amusing. Obviously these interpretations are our own, but I hope they gave a sense of what these characters may have been like in real life. 

It worked fantastically for the show as a whole, as it warmed the audience up and got them laughing before it had even started, which was very important as it was a comedy! Here’s hoping we get the same response when we take it on tour in July!

The Set

In any theatrical production the set is very important – and An Evening at Home with the Austens is no different!

There were three major challenges in creating the set for this piece – it had to look like it was from the Regency era, be easy to tour and we had a very small budget! I can’t take any credit for the set design and the sourcing of props, but Isabel (Snowden, our director) has spoken to me about it, so I hope she doesn’t mind me talking on her behalf!

Firstly, the decision was to have a fairly minimal set. As it was performed in the style of a sketch show, which often just have a few chairs and box of costume and props, it was decided that was the way to go for our production. Stools were decided upon as their design is not as specific as those of chairs, which meant modern stools could be sourced and passed off as regency. Two matching stools were bought and another one borrowed. Unfortunately on the day of the performance, one of the stools broke! Luckily the theatre we were performing in had one we could borrow, but we will need to fix it before the tour. The plan is also to buy another stool we can take on tour, and sand down the current ones as they are varnished.

The other main piece of set was the trunk which was borrowed from Isabel’s parents! It was filled with costumes to bring colour to the stage, and where appropriate, they were taken out of the box and put on on stage as in the style of a sketch show. This didn’t always work  – for example when I exited and came back on as another character 4 lines later – but where it fitted in it was a nice touch. The box was also filled with History of England masks and a family tree – more on those another time!

So they were have it – how to do a Georgian set on a budget and with few enough items you can fit it in a car along with 3 actors for a long drive to Cornwall.

Phoebe