Here is my last blog post for ‘Sincerely Yours’. I hope that you have all enjoyed reading about our process and our performance. Thanks for all the support.
Ten girls came together to produce a show
Nine poppy wreaths are laid in remembrance
Eight black tap shoes are all lined up in a row
Seven hours prep time before performance.
Six soldiers’ letters read out loud by the birds
Five World War One songs, sang with love and with pride
Four wooden brooms creating sounds and not words
Three dancing styles that we each took in our stride.
Two instruments played live on stage and in key
One great adventure these birds have given me.
Birds Eye View Theatre (2014)
This is my final blog post and I hope you have enjoyed following our performance.
I have loved the process and seeing it all come together as we had hoped. A fantastic piece that I am proud of and nine new friends that I could not have done it without.
I am just writing a few lines to sign off my blog and to thank you for following our process. It has not been an easy one at times but showing our work on Friday 23rd of May has made it all worth while. I did not realise quite how emotional it would be to perform ‘Sincerely Yours.’ I think this was due to the wonderful atmosphere which a live audience provided us.
Enclosed is a photograph of the final number from our performance taken by the lovely Frances Pearson during our dress rehearsal. I think I can speak for each of the birds when I say it was thoroughly enjoyable to put everything we had which was ‘homemade’ onto the stage, not only the scripts, but also the bunting and beautiful poetry too.
The cogs have been turning just as they did in the factory scene and perhaps this may not be the last you hear of Birds Eye View Theatre Company. After researching on the Arts Council England website, there is possibility for ‘Sincerely Yours’ to be revived during the centenary of World War One with a little help from funding sources such as the Hertiage and the Centenary project which has been launched this year!
For now however, I can leave university having experienced a new skill of helping to directing a piece of devised verbatim theatre, something that three years ago I would never of dreamed was possible. Most importantly, I know that I will be leaving the University of Lincoln having made 9 new special friendships. Our aim at at Birds Eye View Theatre was to create theatre which was honest, theatre that reflected what people may have experienced during the First World War. Having listened to the stories of Lauren’s, Charlotte’s and Louise’s Grandma’s I believe we have achieved a reflection which is unique and memorable.
I am now off to prepare for the last of this weeks theatre company shows all of which have offered variety and a range of talent at the LPAC. Tonight’s is called, ‘Take Me By The Tongue’ and will be performed by a company called Hand Me Down Theatre Company. Stay tuned from more from the birds! ‘Na-poo, toodle-oo, goodbye-ee’… for now.
Birds Eye View Theatre
Arts Council England (2013) [online] Available from http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/ [Accessed 29 May 2014].
Birds Eye View Theatre (2014) How To Make Bunting. [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T4cLsjRjLA [Accessed 29 May 2014].
Heritage Lottery Fund (2014) [online] Available from http://www.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/whatwefund/FirstWorldWar/Pages/FirstWorldWar.aspx#.U4c4UCitwWk [Accessed 29 May 2014].
Mooney, C. (2014) Dear War Girls. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/29/dear-war-girls/ [Accessed 29 May 2014].
Pearson, F (2014) Dress Rehearsal Photography.
Pearson, L. (2014) Creating a backing track. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/04/20/creating-a-backing-track/ [Accessed 29 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) How to make bunting. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/26/how-to-make-bunting/ [Accessed 29 May 2014].
This is the typical day in the life of a musical director…
7.00 am rise and shine
8.00 am plan todays session
11.00 am attend directors meeting
12.00 am run the music session
This is a version by George Asaf and Felix Powell who originally composed the music.
Asaf’s version is composed for male voices, using a lower key. However, because we are a cast of all female actors, I thought it would be appropriate to make the song more feminine with the use of a higher vocal range and using mainly major chords for the guitar and ukulele opposed to minor chords.
Here’s the movement for pack up inspired by the factory movements.
3.00 pm its the end of the session and I always like to send them away motivated for the next session
The birds like to think of this as a Charlotteism, today I said they were all ‘SPECtacualar’
3.00pm get home
5.00pm tea time
11.00 pm bed
BBC(2014) Photograph taken of the sheet music for Pack up Your Troubles[online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-25968407[Accessed on May 3 2014]
Beware this may end up being a slightly gushy post as I am feeling very proud of our company right now!
I will start with the past:
The rehearsal process has been one of collaboration and professionalism. Although, the show was led by its three directors, the company banded together to share ideas and form structures and transitions between scenes.
This style of collaboration is similar to the work of Tim Etchells and his company Forced Entertainment. We took on a fun developmental process consisting of play which allows you to try out numerous ideas, “leaving behind a trail of failed attempts and nonsense, and…slowly, very slowly, you accumulate a store of scenes and fragments that you love” (Etchells 2012, p. 36).
Now onto the present:
My present is consisting of post-show blues as you can tell by the date of this post. The show was 4 days ago and I miss it terribly.
However, I am very proud of how the performance went and this is reflected well in the audience feedback. If you haven’t already checked out our twitter page and have a read of some of the comments from our peers and the venue stage manager. The performance itself, I feel, was the best we have ever performed it.
Any finally, the future:
So, what is the future for Birds Eye View Theatre? Well, we are unfortunately losing a couple of the birds as they have travelling plans…lucky them! However, we are planning to keep in touch via letters and blogs. So I doubt this will be all you see of us! Throughout this process we have really found our identity and it would be such a shame to let this go as it is an identity that can be revived for many other events. For example, we are considering reforming in a few years’ time for events like the anniversary of women earning the right to vote. Feedback after the show, also suggested that we take the performance to schools. Whether it is teaching them about women’s role in the war or teaching them about dramatic tools such as, shadow work or verbatim, this performance can be utilized in an educational setting. So watch this space reader and supporter, but for now this is Lauren Simpson, actor and part of the marketing team signing off.
Etchells, T (2012) ‘In the Silences: A text with very many digressions and forty-three footnotes concerning the process of making performance’, Performance Research, 17, 1, pp. 33-37.
Pearson, F. (2014)
As this is the finale song, I wanted to get as much energy into it as possible, this meant getting the girls up on their feet.
We came up with actions to help learning the lyrics and had lots of fun learning it.
I gave the girls options for the final song and this was by far everyone’s favourite, for two reasons. It was apt in our piece about saying goodbye but not wanting to. It is also the end of an era for all of the girls in the show because it’s the last song we will sing at university, so it holds great emotional ties for all the girls, I hope all of this emotion is conveyed.
Here is a sneak peak at our rehearsal in the auditorium the week before the show. As the scene involves shadow puppetry, backing tracking and dialogue from an actor so vocal projection in the auditorium is key.
After running the scene for the first time in the space, I decided it would be beneficial for three actors to speak the text from the front of the stage whilst the remaining actors created shadows behind the pyc.
The photograph above was taken during the dress rehearsal of our show. To access the script for the ‘Ten Letters Scene’ please click here.
Cox, E. (2014)
Pearson, F (2014)
Here is a short video discussing the directorial decisions for several of the headphone verbatim sections of ‘Sincerely Yours’. If you would like to see more information on how the Gobo was created then check out our Assistant Stage Manager, Louise’s blog post here!
Birds Eye View Theatre (2014) How to make a gobo. [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuZkyfyl3hc [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) Get busy making a gobo. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/02/get-busy-making-a-gobo/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson F. (2014)
So Sincerely Yours has finished, hopefully just for now. With another four years of remembrance of the First World War you never know what might happen.
The performance day ran more smoothly than anticipated. As a tech team we faced complications with two of the projections, the poppy I had made could not be seen when projected onto the black floor, as opposed to the white cyclorama where projections were a lot clearer. The other projection was supposed to be on an armchair covered in a white sheet, reflective of the ‘attic stories’ we originally wanted the verbatim pieces to resemble, which got a different physical representation in the trunk in the Somewhere in France scene. The projection was an incremental progression of numbers to convey the many soldiers who would have died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in the duration of our performance. Unfortunately the video could not be manipulated to be seen clearly on the sheet without some of the projection ‘bleeding’ onto the wall behind, which would have been seen in the dimmer sections of the performance. Both of these had to be cut unfortunately, but as they did not impact on the performance itself it was just the time making and rehearsing which had been lost. However, despite these minor setbacks we managed to do almost a full run as a cue-to-cue, as there were so many cues in each section of the show for which each person needed to practise. We also managed to finish early after a successful dress rehearsal so we had more time to prepare for the show in the evening.
The show itself went by rapidly, and we all seemed to relax into it. As people say, time really flies when you’re having fun, which I think we all were. By the last song we were incredibly proud of what we had achieved, and I think the show really reflected how much we all enjoyed working together and how much confidence we had in each other. I found myself getting emotional during the Hand on Shoulder verbatim of my Grandma’s words, as if I was finally beginning to understand the significance of why two men wouldn’t say anything, and just put a hand on the other’s shoulder. The message of the show seemed to ring true with the audience, who gave us many lovely comments afterwards, including that the show was us playing ourselves, letting the stories speak for themselves and not trying to play the people in them. One comment that stuck with me was that it wasn’t strictly a ‘feminist’ drama, it was a show about equality, paying respects to and celebrating the lives both of the soldiers and the women who took up their jobs whilst they were at war.
So after the show has been and gone, what can I say an Assistant Stage Manager does?
In truth, a bit of everything. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy on such a diverse number of tasks. I have assisted the Stage Manager and Production Manager with the technical elements of the show, helping to compile the lighting, sound and projection cue sheets, as well as setting up the stage with props and especially the cyc’. I have embroidered a postcard for the marketing team, created backing tracks for all the songs, to rehearse and perform with, and have sewn bunting and headbands for props and costume. I have made a bird gobo for the verbatim sections and a poppy projection for the finale song. I went to the archives as part of a team and we copied original letters to use in rehearsals as part of our research and I have helped Ellie to teach Ballroom dancing. I have tried to contribute in any way I can, using what skills I have and have eventually found my place within the company. I have loved every minute of it, in rehearsals taking direction, in production meetings assisting with the process and at home creating things for the performance, and I am humbled to have been a part of such an amazing group of women.
Kirby, L. (2014) Devising ‘Somewhere in France’. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/26/devising-somewhere-in-france/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, F. (2014) Send Me Away With A Smile.
Pearson, F. (2014) Somewhere in France trunk.
Pearson, L. (2014) Birds Eye View embroidered postcard progress. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/04/07/birds-eye-view-embroidered-postcard-progress/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) Creating a backing track. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/04/20/creating-a-backing-track/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) Get busy making a gobo. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/02/get-busy-making-a-gobo/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) How to make bunting. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/05/26/how-to-make-bunting/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Pearson, L. (2014) Poppy Projection.
Pearson, L. (2014) The Archives. [blog entry] Available from http://birdseyeviewtheatre.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/02/22/the-archives/ [Accessed 27 May 2014].
Cox, E. (2014)
Pearson, F. (2014)
Pearson, E (2014)
YouTube (2014) 1918 Edna White Trumpet Quartet – Just a Baby’s Prayer at Twilight. [online video] Available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBOVRU4aiWo [Accessed 26 May 2014].
A quick tutorial on how Charlotte and I made the bunting for the show.
Birds Eye View Theatre (2014) How To Make Bunting. [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T4cLsjRjLA [Accessed 26 May 2014].
This is my Granny Biscuit, she is now 86 years old and is one of thirteen children. The story that she tells in the video is of my great Grandad Freeman(her father) and great Granny Mooney (my Grandads mother). My Granny discovered when it was nearing her wedding day that when Grandad Freeman was going off to war he had left his job as a postman. In the absense of Grandad Freeman, Great Granny Mooney took over the job of delivering thousands of letters from the front line to the houses of their loved ones, sometimes delivering good news but often not.
Great Grandma Mooney took on the role of a Postwoman and my Granny and Grandad found out near their wedding day
that their parents had had a connection from the war, in that they had exchanged jobs. I found this out on a night at the beginning of the process where we were having a game of scrabble ( that she won hands down)and wanted to know more.
I called my Granny and asked her if I could do an interview with her to learn more about it.
She found it incredibly hard to talk about but decided to go ahead and tell me all she knew. Here’s a section of the interview that I will show to the girls and see if we can use it in the show
Hope you have enjoyed having a look at a bit of my family history
Why did we choose to do a piece on WWI, you might ask? Well the obvious answer might be that this year is the start of the centenary commemoration for WWI. Another answer is that we are University of Lincoln students and Lincolnshire is renowned for its involvement in the war with the first tanks being built just down the road from the campus and its prominence in aircraft and aerial combat. The final answer we could give is that we hear a lot about trench warfare and the soldiers on the front line during the war but we rarely hear about those on the Home Front, doing their bit for the war; especially women.
As we have journeyed through the past few months, we have encountered many more projects that are taking place in the near future for the centenary of WWI. This includes events at museums and archives, such as the Lincolnshire Life Museum and also performances in the local area as well as a National scale. For example The Second Minute was recently performed at The Terry O’Toole Theatre which a few of the birds went to see. It is a play written by Andy Barrett who has taken letters from archives of the Sherwood Foresters regiment during WWI, which resonates strongly with our own performance as he uses the soldiers’ real words You can hear all about The Second Minute from Louise, the link is below.
As well as other projects taking place on a local scale, with ‘Sincerely Yours’ we have tried to connect to the audience on a personal level. Not only with the letters of Harry Butt and Billy Lounds, but with our own relatives. Lauren Simpson, Emily, Louise and Charlotte have all found information, stories and artefacts that have been included throughout the process and some in the final performance. After our work in progress we were told that the personal side of our performance should be acknowledged even more in order for the audience to connect with the piece. In order to do this we made sure that the audience knew that some of the voices, words and footage were from our relatives, we also connected through with with our programmes for the show. Each programme had a letter from one of us from the process of the piece, any letter dated between January and May, we also styled the programme in a postcard to symbolise the silk postcards many families received from soldiers during the war.
Also on a personal and local scale, many of the letters we use in the performance are from soldiers Harry Butt and Billy Lounds who were local boys who went to France leaving their sweethearts behind. Whilst reading the letters there were references to places in Lincoln like Barclay’s Bank, the Arboretum and the Cathedral. Places that we have walked past or visited over the past three years, sometimes everyday. One letter that I strongly connected to was Billy’s letter from the 27th May 1917, where he talks of the cathedral. I’ve often visited the cathedral to get away from work, stress, to think or just because I wanted to go. So to read his letter and to have him speak of the cathedral in such a way, it makes you admire what is around you, especially when you think of where he was at the time of writing it.
Link to blog posts:
.Nottingham Playhouse (2014) The Second Minute. [online] Nottingham: Nottingham Playhouse. Available from: http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/other/the-second-minute/. [Accessed on 25th May 2014]
.Pullen, R. (2014) Our Florence, the girl who just wanted to do her bit for the war. The Lincolnshire Echo, 3rd April, 10.
Pullen, R. (2014) The Tank- Made in Lincoln. The Lincolnshire Echo. 3rd April, 8.
.The Lincolnshire Echo (2014) Women at War. 3rd April, 28.
.The Lincolnshire Echo (2014) Aviation- The Beginning. 3rd April. 18.
Today has been our technical rehearsal so Jamee, Jess and Louise have been running around like headless chickens, whilst everyone else has been waiting in the green room to see if we are needed. So we are waiting, waiting for our four hours. I have currently supplied a pencil to Jess when she manically ran in asking for one.
I know we are not waiting that long but each time Jamee, Jess and Louise come into the room we all look up expecting news. We don’t know who they are going to need. I know I can’t really compare it but it reminded me of the women, mothers, daughters and sweethearts who would wait for the postman to arrive in the morning. They would either receive good news in the form of a letter from their boys and men, or they would have a knock at the door and receive some of the worst news they would ever hear. It must have been excruciating, I really don’t know how they would have coped, always wondering, always thinking and always missing them. Waiting, waiting, waiting…
Cox, E 2014
Birds Eye View Theatre (2014) Shadows and Silhouettes. [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ14g1I2-Xk [Accessed 25 May 2014].
‘mediatisation is now explicitly and implicitly embedded within the live experience’
(Auslander 1999, p.35)
Throughout this performance I have been in charge of running our social media sites, documenting our progress and developing how our company have been viewed by the public. This is because ‘social media marketing via the internet is not only a trend, but also becomes a necessity for theatres striving to have their voices heard in an increasingly crowded entertainment world’ (Peter 2010, p.8). These images, videos and snippets of information have been vital as they reveal important information and insights into what we are doing and are performances within themselves therefore, they need to be relevant, content appropriate and most of all a clear reflection of ourselves as a company.
Along this journey I have created links with the Imperial War Museum Partnership, Culture 24, The Lincolnshire Life Museum, the Lincolnshire Archives and numerous schools. It is crucial to develop business to business relationships as these are invaluable when taking a project further.
Below are images of the bunting I hand-made and the sites I have managed to promote from.
Auslander, P. (1999) Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. London: Routledge.
Peter, R (2010) Social Media Marketing Takes Centre Stage. Southern Theatre. 51 (4) 8-19.
As a disclaimer I will say that this was not my routine everyday of the process as it varied very much with what was needed and other work but this is an example of a few of my days during the process just so you get an idea. During the process I’ve had to balance the responsibilities of a dramaturg as well as a performer, so here you are…
Well, I begin the day by obviously waking up around 9am, get ready and get some breakfast. I’m useless if I don’t have breakfast so I need my cereal!
Then I get all my stuff ready for me to head off to the Archives to copy up the letters from Harry Butt and other letters that we’ve been looking at. As part of my responsibility as a dramaturg, I have to collect the letters and all the research that we have done towards the show.
I’m normally there for about three hours, which means a lot of writing and aching wrist. But a lot gets done for the purpose of the show. We’re using the letters as part of the aesthetics of the piece as well as using them within the performance.
After the Archives, it’s normally about 2pm at which point I head off home to collect all of my things for rehearsals which start at 4pm. Depending on what we are doing in rehearsals that day, it may require a selection of our props from tap shoes to sheets to brooms (which was the majority of the time!) to my ipod and headphones. Today we are looking at the ‘Somewhere in France Scene’ so I need my trusty broom.
I head to rehearsals just before 4pm and we wait for everyone to show up before going to the room. We start with one of the many warm ups we have encountered over the last few months to get ourselves motivated and energised. Rehearsals require our concentration, imagination and creative side to put together the scene as it has been one of the harder scenes to stage but it is coming along nicely.
We normally finish our rehearsals for the day at about 10 to 6 in order for us to write a letter and share them with each other. After departing, we all fly back to our nests (figuratively) and get on with any work we need to sort out for theatre company or any other work. As well as feed ourselves and relax a little, but mainly work!
All in all that is my day.
Birds Eye View Theatre Company, 2014.
Birds Eye View Theatre Company (2014) Letter to Grandma, [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01vqI6HdIO4 [Accessed 28 May 2014].