28 March 2011

August: Osage County - "One of the great plays of our time."

Taking time from rehearsing Circa’s mammoth 35th anniversary production, August: Osage County, former Shortland Street actor Laura Hill tells drama on the waterfront all about this “epic family story”.

DOTW: Please tell us about August: Osage County; what is the basic story?

LH: On a stinking hot August day in Oklahoma, Beverly Weston, award-winning poet, world-class alcoholic, and patriarch of the Weston family, goes missing ... In the following days, his family gathers at the family home where his wife Violet now presides, and more than a few skeletons are rattled from their closets. It's an epic family story, but very recognisable and very funny (in a kind of dark and twisted way).

DOTW: What is your role? How do you feel about your character?

LH: I play Karen, the youngest daughter of Beverly and Violet Weston.  She hasn't been home for a long time, but is here now and has some big news to share.  She's great to play, and a real contrast to the other characters. I feel very affectionate towards her – she's relentlessly positive, but very deluded.

DOTW: August: Osage County is a huge production – are there any particular challenges to being part of such a large show?

LH: Getting everyone together in the same room for rehearsals!  Sue (Wilson, our director) has been doing something of a jigsaw puzzle with the schedule to make sure we have the right people for the right scene there at the right time. We've got a fantastic cast though, so the audiences will be in for a real treat when they see thirteen actors on stage.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your fellow cast members?

LH: They're awesome. I have to single out Jennifer Ludlam, because her character, Violet, is the real lynch-pin of the show, and Jennifer does a simply outstanding job.  I missed the ATC production, which Jen was also in, so I consider it a real privilege to be able to work with her on this production.

DOTW: What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal period thus far?

LH: It's great working on such a richly-textured play, but for sheer comic value, I loved this moment the other day when Sue was giving us notes after a run through: one of the actors said, “I'm like a little onion with all my layers”, to which Sue replied, “Just put on the outer layer again.”  Brilliant.

DOTW: Finally, what do audiences need to know about this show?

LH: They need to know that if they miss this, they will kick themselves and forever after regret not seeing a performance of one the great plays of our time.  No pressure.

August: Osage County opens 2 April and runs until 7 May, with a $25 Preview on Friday, 1 April and a $25 Special on Sunday, 3 April.  To book your tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

21 March 2011

Fairy Stories: Absolute Legends on Stage

In a drama on the waterfront first, we sat down with the Lighting and Sound Operator/Stage Manager for Fairy Stories, Anneliese Mudge, to find out what goes on in the booth during this fun and fantastic show.

DOTW: What can you tell us about Fairy Stories?

AM: It’s a fantastic romp – for adults. Retelling fairy tales with dance and music, lashings of humour, some naughty, some just plain beautiful to watch.

Fairy Stories. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What is your role?

AM: I am the Lighting and Sound Operator and do a bit of Stage Management – though the cast are very self sufficient and disciplined so they don’t need much managing!

DOTW: I understand you have worked on Fairy Stories before; what is your history with this show?

AM: I did a heap of different shows with Paul, Louis and Kate: Fairy Stories, 2001 Nights, Dance for Dummies’ and more around the Millennium. We did a cracking show New Years Eve 1999, and then I ran off to help with the waterfront pyrotechnics. I also worked on the show that was at the Opera House where the audience was seated on the stage. All of them were really entertaining and fun to work on.

DOTW: How is it to work with Paul Jenden, Sir Jon Trimmer and the rest of the cast?

AM: Just lovely, they are so professional and a joy to watch on stage. They really bring huge personality to the characters they portray. I reckon I had a definite career highlight during pack in week when I got to tape the dance floor down with Louis Solino and Sir John Trimmer.

I really am constantly blown away by Paul’s costumes and all the effort that goes into the show.

Also I leapt at the chance to work with Lisa Maule and Jennifer Lal as Lighting Designers because they are both hugely creative and talented.

Fairy Stories. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: Are there any particular challenges involved in working on this show?

AM: Fitting all the fantastic wigs and costumes back stage! Also I have such fun watching the show I find it hard not to sing along and dance about the operator’s booth.

Plus I feel guilty for sitting down while the cast are “WORKING IT to the MAX!”

DOTW: Finally, what should audiences know about Fairy Stories?

AM: It’s really a great night out – there’s razzle and dazzle and you get to see some absolute legends (not just talking fairy tales here) on stage!

Fairy Stories. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Fairy Stories runs in Circa Two until 9 April. To buy tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

14 March 2011

Designing the Set for Our Man in Havana

drama on the waterfront sat down with designer John Hodgkins to talk about the dynamic set for Our Man in Havana.

DOTW: Can you please tell us about your vision for the set for Our Man in Havana? Were you familiar with the original novel before you began working on your design concept?

JH: I had some recollection of the movie, but had not read the book prior to reading the script for the play.

(left to right) Jessica Robinson, Jeff Kingsford-Brown, Simon Vincent. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What is the process involved in developing a set for a show like this? Can you give us a quick description of the process from concept to final build?

JH: Initially there was a lot of discussion with the director, about the overall concept and in particular how we could achieve the multiple locations required. The design went through a number of concept and development stages before arriving at a final design. This design is further modified during rehearsals. As the design required video and still projections, these elements were developed with the AV designer in a style to blend with the set concept. The majority of the set was constructed and finished off site then dismantled and re-assembled in the theatre.

DOTW: Projected images are a big part of the set and provide the means to switch between locations; how did this part of the set come to be? Where did the images come from?

JH: Most of the images are location settings for various scenes in the play. These are indicated in the script, a large number of possible images were then sourced by the AV designer, and through discussion a short list drawn up. The images where then processed by the AV design team to achieve the look required. The majority of images were sourced via the internet.

(left to right) John Wraight and Jeff Kingsford-Brown. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

DOTW: Were there any particular challenges in realizing your overall vision for the set?

JH: The main challenge for this show was achieving quick scene changes to multiple different locations while still keeping a unified feel to the set as a whole. This was achieved in part by use of AV projections, but also by the overall set giving a sense of place (Havana / Cuba) rather than trying to create multiple specific locations.

DOTW: Our Man in Havana is very strong visually and really succeeds in evoking the seedy world of 1950s Havana; what was your favourite part of designing the set for this show?

JH: The most satisfying part of designing the set was blending the different architectural elements, surface textures and colours of Cuba, into a few set elements. To give a feel for the setting of the play without overwhelming the audience with lots of detail.

DOTW: Finally, what should audiences know about Our Man in Havana?

JH: It a great night's entertainment with lots of humor, but the story will keep you on your toes with some unexpected twists.

John Wraight. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Our Man in Havana runs in Circa One until 26 March. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

07 March 2011

Fairy Stories: Sheer escapism!

Taking a moment from rehearsing the magical tales that make up Fairy Stories, Kate O’ Rourke tells drama on the waterfront all about working on the show that puts a 'skip in her step'.

DOTW: Please tell us about Fairy Stories; what can audiences expect?

KOR: Nothing I say can prepare you for Fairy Stories. There is no other show like it, and I really, really mean that! We have chosen some well loved fairytales to share with you all but please DO NOT expect the Little Golden Book version – we are retelling them in a very unique way! It is a totally spell binding experience, jam packed with belly aching humor, heart stopping drama, glorious movement, costumes fit for the Wearable Arts Supreme Award and music that, after four weeks of rehearsal, still gives me goose bumps. What more could you ask for? Fairy Stories is enchanting and one of those rare shows that everyone can enjoy, and will continue to do so long after you have left the theatre. Sheer escapism!

DOTW: What is your role in this production?

KOR: What isn’t my role would be an easier question to answer! I play nine different characters, six of which appear in the first Act. Busy busy….!

DOTW: What sort of challenges come with working on a show like this?

KOR: Remembering which costume to put on when and quite often having to achieve this in 45 seconds. Oh, and did I mention the wigs ...?

DOTW: I understand that Fairy Stories has been staged at Circa before; how does this show compare to one of its earlier incarnations?

KOR: When Fairy Stories first hit Wellington it instantly became the talk of the town, a show that bewitched its audience and put that magic back into live performance. We are now in the 21st Century. Everyone has moved forward, as has Fairy Stories. We’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to polish the jewel. 

DOTW: What has it been like working with Sir Jon Trimmer? What can you tell us about the rest of the cast?

KOR: The last time I shared the stage with Sir Jon (and no, we don’t call him Sir in the rehearsal room!) I was 11 years old and was one of the children lucky enough to be chosen for the RNZB production of Coppelia. I never thought I’d be fortunate enough to work with him again!

Jon is one of the most gracious, generous and authentic people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His presence on stage is truly inspiring and the twinkle in his eye impossible to ignore!

Paul Jenden, choreographer, performer, designer, writer. A constant in my performing life and the light behind Fairy Stories. Words cannot begin to describe Paul’s brilliance.  Watching Fairy Stories gives you a small glimpse into the mind of a wonderful creator.

Louis Solino and Jenny Beech complete our amazing cast. It is an honour to work with such talented, inspiring artists.

DOTW: What has been your favourite part of working on Fairy Stories thus far?

KOR: Leaving the house for work with a skip in my step. How many people can say they look forward to Mondays? I love what I do. I love it all. And I simply cannot wait for opening night!!

Fairy Stories opens in Circa Two on 12 March, and runs until 9 April. There will be a $25 Preview performance on 11 March, and a $25 Special performance on 13 March. To buy tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 04-801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz