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Into week two

It's Monday morning and we are about to embark on our second week of research and development. We created a lot of really interesting work last week, based on a foundation of experimentation and play. We are working from a script, which I have written, but it's a living, breathing, changing document that is providing us with a roadmap for the devising process rather than existing as a marker we must accurately represent. It's not Shakespeare, the writer is in the room, and trying different things is actively encouraged.

A not so serious warmup! 

A not so serious warmup! 

Playing around

Playing around

We are drawing on a mix of training and inspiration from viewpoints and butoh to Strasberg's method to movement sequences in films like Julie Taymor's Across the Universe. We are also lucky enough to have several hours of my family's home movies from when I was a baby up until age 8 or 9 to work with.

Butoh inspired childbirth scene

Butoh inspired childbirth scene

Mechanical machines

Mechanical machines

During our experimentation we touched on some very personal areas for the three main artists (Jennifer Bates, Sophie Stone and myself) as well as hopefully discovering some universal truths about family, disability, childbirth and motherhood, sibling relationships, and the innate kindness of humanity (particularly children) juxtaposed with the ability to be so destructive in a single moment with a single phrase. We talked about those hurtful things that stay with you always, even if a thousand other people have been complimentary. We discussed the tendency for the medical profession to want to offer a neat solution, a "fix" to make everything "normal", no matter how complex the situation. Our experiences intersect and create a tapestry, and are at times confronting and uncomfortable, and at others funny and sweet. This show is nothing if not honest, a series of stories which is at its core about living life in your own way making the best choices you can for the people you care about.

Family love!

Family love!

This week we're going to have a lot more people in the rehearsal room, with our videographer Gerry Maguire and our soundscape artist Emma Houston with us full time, our lighting designer Ollie Savage and in-house photographer David Monteith-Hodge with us nearer the end of the week, and some valuable feedback sought from other performers who are coming in as "outside eyes" - Stephen Collins, Nadia Nadarajah, David Sands and Tessa Parr. It's going to be a bit scary moving out of the comfort zone of mostly being just the three of us but this an important step before showing it to an audience on Friday!

Discussion - Emma Houston, Jennifer Bates, Erin S Hutching, Sophie Stone

Discussion - Emma Houston, Jennifer Bates, Erin S Hutching, Sophie Stone

More rehearsal pics here on Facebook

Into week one......

Day one of rehearsals started with a long improvisation/Viewpoints exercise followed by the announcement that we would go straight into a stagger run (thanks Jen!) It felt like a real mess at times but we did find some magic moments amongst the rubble. A guided improvisation on the themes of the play in the afternoon led to a lot of really interesting discoveries about character and relationship.  

Battles in the rehearsal room

Battles in the rehearsal room

Sisterly love 

Sisterly love 

Someone (okay it was me) had decided that having a fundraiser the first night of rehearsals would be a good idea. So, sweaty, exhausted, battered and bruised; having rolled around the rehearsal space, wrestled, improvised, cried and all the other things you do when creating a play, we abandoned our rehearsal leggings; put on our sparkly fascinators, red lipstick and cocktail dresses; packed our bags full of bunting, fairy lights and raffle prizes and battled peak hour on the tube to get to Genesis Cinema.

Jen, Sophie, Erin all jazzed up

Jen, Sophie, Erin all jazzed up

The evening was a resounding success, with a full event made up of D/deaf and hearing audience members. We were really lucky to have the opportunity show Ted Evans' film Retreat (and have him in attendance), alongside performances by Brian & Duffy and Stephen Collins who were representing Deafinitely Theatre (with Paula Garfield along to show support), alongside Confession and Small World provided by BSL Zone (with Maggie representing BSLBT in the audience), along with lots of other amazing people including many of my friends who are wonderful at constantly supporting my artistic endeavours.  

You can see more pictures here on Facebook, thanks to David Monteith-Hodge (Photographise)

Entering the eye of the storm.....

We're about to begin our two week research and development period for People of the Eye at LimeWharf Annex (thanks Limewharf!) with support from the Arts Council England (thanks Arts Council!) It was such a relief to receive this funding. We would have gone ahead without it, but apart from providing us with endorsement and reassurance that this is a necessary project built on solid artistic principles, it also means we can pay everyone properly. Which is a win. Because as everyone should know (but often doesn't), creating art is hard work that involves total mental and emotional commitment (often much, much harder and more draining than sitting at a desk in an office, no disrespect to those with office jobs) and it provides benefits to society that are much more far-reaching than the immediate impact on the people that see that individual piece of art. And as such, artists deserve to be paid for their work.

And the lovely artists we are paying for their work are now confirmed as well. Gerry Maguire from Pins and Needles Media will be creating video content including projected subtitles (but not as you've seen them before......), Oliver Savage is taking care of lighting design and general stage management, Emma Houston will be creating an evocative soundscape to go alongside Gerry's visuals, and David Monteith-Hodge will be photographing and filming the fundraiser, rehearsals and performances as well as filming audience feedback for documentation purposes, and generally helping me retain my sanity. And of course the lovely Jennifer Bates, who is back in town after ten days in Glasgow where we communicated constantly via every electronic media known to man, will be directing, and the lovely Sophie Stone, who I sadly haven't seen since our scratch in December but who has also been part of Facebook, Twitter and Email communications, will be devising and performing. I'm not doing much, just a bit of producing. And writing the script. And devising with Sophie and Jen. Oh and performing in the show.

We've undertaken to fundraise, in case we didn't get our grant, and also to demonstrate to ourselves and the Arts Council that we can! We're really excited about our fundraiser on Tuesday at Genesis Cinema who have kindly donated the really cool Bar Paragon (thanks Genesis!) for the event. We've got some really gorgeous Deaf and hearing volunteers to help out, some very cool films and performances, a sign language interpreter, and we're going to wear pretty dresses and sparkly fascinators so we hope there's a good turn out to make it all worthwhile! I really wanted to provide a forum for Deaf and hearing to interact, particularly for networking for arts practitioners. Deafinitely Theatre, Solar Bear Theatre Company, BSL Zone/BSLBT and Neath Films have all been really supportive to help us put on this event which has been hugely encouraging.

I'm going to try and blog daily during the rehearsal process (except for Easter Sunday, as Jen has said I'm not allowed to do any work, so I just need to eat lots of chocolate on that day - I gave it up for Lent, so I'm totally okay with that plan), so have a little read if you're interested in the process. We've been speaking to the Guardian about contributing to their Disability series as well.


One down, on to the next one! Busy times ahead.

Earlier this week, World Dramaturgy Evenings held it's third staged play reading event at our new venue Lime Wharf (which we absolutely love - come here! It rocks). This was a slightly more ambitious project than the first two events. We were in a larger venue opened up specially for us, lots of actors involved, a musician playing before the performance, a guest director and the writer present during rehearsals and performance. Elena and I were understandably a bit anxious, but we were really pleased with how the evening went. The theatre was full and there were lots of laughs. We really hope Sarah Sigal finds a further outlet for this hilarious script. The audience feedback was great, with the only suggestion being a bit of trimming as it ran quite long at two hours. I'm so grateful to all the talented people who gave up their time to be involved. I just love the wealth of talent and generous nature of artists in London.

The experience did remind me of why I try to avoid producing and performing in the same events. It's hard wearing both hats at once. I love doing both, although I'm definitely a performer at heart, which is why I tend to only produce things I'm in, so it's a bit of a Catch 22!

For now, I'm fully focussed on People of the Eye (anyone who's met me even once will know about my own play I'm developing in collaboration with The Deaf and Hearing Ensemble!), where I'm currently wearing three hats (lucky I've got a big head!!) - writer, producer and actor. This project is so close to my heart that I'm not concerned about taking on so many roles, although we are getting such exciting development opportunities that it's going to be time to get a professional producer in very soon. We're really looking for someone with a strong interest in accessibility. I have been so incredibly lucky and blessed to find Jennifer Bates (director) and Sophie Stone (other performer/deviser) through the weirdest of avenues (I met Jen through an interview to be a zumba instructor - long and bizarre story!) so I'm sure the right person will come along soon.

My most recent exciting news is that the fabulous Tyrone and Bobbie at Genesis Cinema have agreed to host our fundraising event on April 9th, ahead of our work in progress showings on April 17/18th at Lime Wharf. We are going to show some wonderful BSL films at this event (thanks BSL Zone!) as well as hopefully have some performances, a silent auction and perhaps even a sign name booth! We will be selling tickets to this soon, and a purchase of a ticket to the fundraiser will get you a significant discount on your ticket to the performances on April 17th or 18th. If you're overseas never fear, we will be running a crowdfunding campaign so that you too can be part of this project!

My adorable parents have just sent me a USB containing home movies of my sisters and I as children. There's some pretty cute stuff of us all signing. I may incorporate some of it into the show, or perhaps just include some in our fundraising film. Either way, watching it is making me feel quite nostalgic for home and my family!

I'm sitting here in my office on Vyner Street, part of Lime Wharf (have I mentioned how awesome Lime Wharf is - and they've just opened a new cafe - check it out! - Vyner Street Hackney www.limewharf.org) pretty excited about life.