Áine Stapleton, Director of Portlaoise Youth Theatre, has kindly agreed to share her experience on the recent New Stage residential weekend in Maynooth. Youth theatre directors came together to workshop and brainstorm ideas for their chosen New Stage plays. The weekend was facilitated by NAYD’s Dave Kelly and Alan King and participants also got a chance to consult with experts in various elements of production including lighting, set design and production management.
So I arrived nice and early to the college in Maynooth. It felt like a returning home of sorts because of all the time I spent there last year for NYT’07. It was nice to break the routine a bit too. Checked in and met the group for tea. It was nice to catch up with some old friends and start making new ones.
So we had our first workshop and really had to concentrate as a game of word association quickly became so complex it would set your head spinning! It was a great lead in to a super competitive relay race of A-Z association. And my goodness people have a magnificent talent for arguing the relevance of certain words where it seemed the more obscure the harder they’d fight! We had a nice break with dinner in The Roost.
The next day was a cracker! Did I count five workshops? As we warmed up into the day the exercises became more and more challenging. It was great to sit down with a group of people and do a scene by scene run through of my chosen play (Understanding Marcus) focusing on sound and lighting. It gave me lots of ideas of how I could see it being done and gave me a chance to hear other people’s visions and interpretations. Understanding Marcus is a deceptive piece as so much of the story is reliant upon sound.
We were then presented with a sort of template for looking at each scene. I thought that was great! I like being able to run through the play bit by bit and see the progression the story, be it through lighting, sound, character or script. And this template certainly will help from a technical point of view, a practical point of view and of course a creative one. Bravo!
Later we had lunch in the college and I have got to say, the food has improved over last time! Back to work and ideas are rolling; concepts are flying and practicalities and questions are becoming more and more apparent. We take the time to discuss each venue and find out as much detail as we can. Later we had a chance to discuss our ideas with some great people who really have the know-how to do things right! It was good to get guidance from these people at an early stage and may be useful to consult them again during rehearsals.
One of the most challenging things for me was summing up the play in three lines. As you can now tell from reading this far, I can just keep right on going about things, so to summarise for me is a great challenge. It was so tempting to just use lots of commas, and extend my sentences indefinitely. But I restrained myself and it paid off. I wanted to boil it down to the bare bones. And I was surprised with what I came up with. It was so clean cut, simple and left lots of room for interpretation. Here it is:
Marcus is a bit… different.
He likes Ross’ girlfriend, Laura
Laura dies, but who is to blame?
That night I had so many ideas running round in my head, I barely slept. I think what impressed me the most was the little progressions from one exercise to the next, and one workshop to the next which really set us up to fully invest our creative and practical minds into the work. I don’t even know when certain ideas occurred. It wasn’t sudden exactly. It was actually probably slowly, bit by bit, then it would be there in my head festering. Then suddenly it would occur to me: I have an idea already? And I did.
The next day I saw this idea grow and change and heard other peoples growing ideas and I felt the enthusiasm of the group for the project and each of the plays. It was a great environment to work in! I was sorry to have it end because it was so inspiring for my work. But I was also glad to have it end because now I get to apply all that knowledge and try working out those ideas. I’m so looking forward to the next meeting (if there will be one) and my first rehearsal, which is coming soon!