25 April 2011

August: Osage County

Taking time from the powerhouse Circa One hit, August: Osage County, actor Anya Tate-Manning tells drama on the waterfront all about her character, the cast and the ladies’ dressing room.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your character, Johnna, and her place in the overall story of August: Osage County?

ATM: It’s certainly a privilege and blessing to have the chance to play a Native American of the Cheyenne Nation. I have tried to arm myself with as much research and imagery as possible (though what little I have done seems impossibly insufficient) to attempt to do small amount of justice in representing not only a wonderful character but a proud and beautiful nation of peoples that I have personally never had any contact with.

Johnna has an interesting function in the show, she doesn't drive the narrative or complete an emotional journey in the same way the other characters do. In a family drama she's not a member of the family, in fact she's a stranger. In the last two thirds of the play she barely speaks. But she stays. In her room. In the attic. She is the Indian in the attic. And the fact that she stays is important.

I believe that Johnna is a strong political statement from Tracy Letts – he is representing what is often thought of by White America as an invisible race, a forgotten, extinct culture. She is a servant but she is strong and smart and articulate. He places her at the beginning and end of the play, she is there throughout and she will remain.

Anya Tate-Manning. Photo by Stephen A-Court.
DOTW: What has been the biggest challenge of working on this play?

ATM: As an actor, one of my biggest challenges has been to stay still. My body will find all kinds of ways to twitch and fidget, and it takes a lot of effort for me to be able to control it. Also this is a long show, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the longest season I've ever done, so maintaining health and energy become paramount.

I found the research into Cheyenne history difficult, it was upsetting and it made me very angry. Such a bloody history with so many broken promises. The most helpful book I found was a collection of essays by new Native American authors, called Genocide of the Mind. This was a turning point for me, the writers' voices were so strong and proud and beautiful and articulate, talking of identity and culture, language and family.

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

ATM: They are formidable. Each and every one a powerhouse of New Zealand's Theatre community. They are absolutely terrifying. And amazing.

It’s great being in such a huge cast, with so many wonderful and experienced actors, I feel very, very lucky. And it is a real treat to perform with so many extremely talented and incredible women (of course the men are all pretty good too). Working with and watching such great actors work is a rare opportunity, it's inspiring, instructive, hilarious, heart breaking and a little scary.

Lauren Gibson and Anya Tate-Manning. Photo by Stephen A-Court.
DOTW: How have audiences been reacting to August: Osage County?

ATM: The reaction on the preview night was overwhelming, I didn't realise people would be so moved. I wish I could watch it from the outside. The overall response has been extremely positive.

DOTW: Finally, what has been your favourite part of the experience?

ATM: My favourite part of the play is the dinner scene. I don't talk and I eat the whole time, it’s my favourite kind of acting. It’s high drama, but I'm almost a spectator, as I'm not directly involved. It’s extremely well written and cracks along at a mighty pace.

It’s very difficult not to crack up sometimes, I'm terrible at keeping a straight face, but I manage somehow, as long as I don't look at Jason Whyte.

Backstage, my favourite part is the ladies’ dressing room, when we're getting ready for the show. There's seven of us, so it’s where everything goes down, the fate of the universe decided with a single stroke of eyeliner. Of course then I'll go ruin it all by saying something stupid like “Who's Elric Hooper?” (oh I know who he is now, be assured of that). 

Michele Amas and Anya Tate-Manning. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
August: Osage County runs in Circa One until 7 May. To book tickets, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

18 April 2011

Leave your guns behind in the Mild Wild West!

Howdy partners! Saddle up the old bronco and bring all of your little cowpokes down to Circa during these here school holidays for a bit of fun with the Improvisors! Greg “DeadWood” Ellis, one of them outlaw Improvisors, tells drama on the waterfront how they rustled up the latest school holiday kids show, The Mild Wild West.

DOTW: What can you tell us about The Mild Wild West? What is the general story?

DE: It’s a story about a wannabe Western hero who wants to make a name for himself but doesn’t like guns. It’s set in a part of the West that wasn’t as wild and lawless as the rest – more polite and mild.

DOTW: This is your fourth kids show at Circa Theatre; how have they progressed over the last year? What do you know now that you wish you knew going into the first one, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

DE: That most parents are quite OK with their kids wandering onto the stage and beetling about up there oblivious to us for 40 odd minutes. We thought they’d be concerned – but it turns out the parents of every tot to do that have been just fine with it. So now we don’t try and get them to go back to the family we just roll with it and work them in.

DOTW: What is your favourite thing about putting on a show for kids VS one for adults?

DE: Kids just love to get involved and they say the most unpredictable things. Once you’ve established the convention that they can be involved in the show they often call you on inconsistencies in the plot.

DOTW: Where did the idea for The Mild Wild West come from?

DE: I liked the title but I also wanted to do a Western without guns. There’s a bit of uneasiness out there now about gunplay for younger kids and I just thought the challenge of doing a genre without something that is such a key part would be fun and ridiculous.

DOTW: How do you prepare/’rehearse’ for an improvised show?

DE: We work out a skeleton to improvise around. One of the things we’ve found is that the kids like to have a basic idea of where things are going so they know how to get involved. We also play around with characters, ways to get the audience involved and just the conventions of the type of show we’re doing – like Western sayings, locations, characters and situations.

DOTW: Finally, what do audiences need to know about The Mild Wild West?

DE: Come along in cowboy clobber if you like – we’ll be in it. But leave your guns behind. Also be ready to take part but don’t be afraid of being embarrassed. And adults can expect there’ll be a layer of humour just for them as well!

The Mild Wild West runs 18 - 30 April, with performances at 11 am and 1 pm Monday to Friday and 11 am on Saturday. [Please note, there will be no performances on Good Friday, 22 April, or Easter Monday, 24 April.] To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

11 April 2011

Celebrating 15 Years of the BEAT!

Callin’ out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?

Lead singer and co-founder of The BeatGirls, Andrea Sanders says the winning girl-group combination originally started off as a ‘fun thing to do’ and 15 years down the track the beat goes on.

“We took our name from the 1960s movie Beat Girl and originally the band did primarily Beatles covers which was unique at the time because, although there were many Beatles tribute bands, none of them were female.”

With the driving force of husband and co-founder Billy Watkins behind them, The BeatGirls quickly built up a loyal customer base, performing regularly at bars and pubs with their jazz and swing, disco, pop, motown and soul routines.

“Having all the genres and eras covered means that we can cater for corporate functions with a slightly older audience but also younger groups who prefer the more modern repertoire,” says Andrea.

This group really does cover all the bases and with their recent introduction of The Lollipop Hour, even children can boogie on down to The BeatGirls.

The BeatGirls’ unrivalled approach to providing an overall amazing event, bursting with energy, positions them in a league of their own.

“I don’t think any act I’ve seen even gets close to the professional performance that you put on every time. Long live the BeatGirls!” – Dominion Post

Around 24 girls have had the privilege of calling themselves BeatGirls over the years and today, nine talented women wait for the call to take the stage as one of the infamous trio.

Proud to call Wellington home, The BeatGirls travel extensively around New Zealand, as well as Australia and most recently Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Colorado Springs, San Francisco, Des Moines, Rapid City, Palm Beach, Fiji, Hong Kong, and Singapore

The group has also been broadcast to millions on NBC’s The Today Show and has performed in front of some of the world’s greatest athletes at not one, but two official Olympic Games in Sydney 2004 and Athens 2008.

But The BeatGirls love calling Circa home when they take to the theatre stage. They have had a wonderful relationship with Circa Theatre over their 15 year incarnation and have performed 5 sell out shows here, with sell out return seasons, to excited and enthusiastic crowds!

Let The Beat go on!

BeatCamp! opens in Circa Two on Saturday, 16 April. Tickets are available and going fast! Book yours by calling the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

04 April 2011

Wharfside Restaurant: Behind-the-scenes with chef Dan Dubois

New Wharfside chef Dan Dubois takes times from his busy schedule to take drama on the waterfront behind-the-scenes at Circa's favourite restaurant.

DOTW: How long have you worked at Wharfside and in what capacity?

DD: I started working at Wharfside in May 2009, so it has almost been two years! I started as everyone does, just working casually,  and asked for more and more shifts, as life as a student got more and more expensive! I have moved my way around every area of that place! Now to the kitchen, the place that excites me most. 
DOTW: What is your background?

DD: I've been interested in food since I can remember! So it was inevitable that the hospitality industry was going to play a part in my life. I got my first job in a kitchen when I was 16, washing dishes and playing fetch for the chef. I got promoted and there was no other future it seemed! I have spent the last two years studying culinary arts at Weltec and now I never want to stop learning about food! It's just so delicious. 

DOTW: Are you excited about your new role as chef at Wharfside, and what do you see for the future in that position?

DD: I am excited for many reasons in my new role at Wharfside. Of course the main reason is that I get to work with a fantastic team who are passionate about quality food! I have the opportunity to create a fresh, innovative, locally sourced menu with a slight lean towards seafood. We are called Wharfside after all! For the future I would like to see Wharfside  focusing on bringing non-theatre goers in to dine, promoting Circa and the shows further! 
DOTW: What challenges if any, does working as a chef at a quality dining establishment in a theatre environment provide?

DD: Time! Time! Time! I feel this is the main challenge within a theatre/dining environment, everything has to be well organised, The kitchen at Circa has one of the shortest service times in Wellington, often catering for 50-100 people in just over an hour, and often for three courses! 
DOTW: Wharfside caters for a lot of events at Circa; how would you rate Wharfside/Circa as a venue and what do these events mean for you in your role as chef?

DD: We cater for some very large corporate clients, and with its location, its combination of great food, excellent service and exciting theatre, Whafside/Circa is a venue I rate very highly. I enjoy catering for large functions, It gives me and my team a different challenge! It's especially exciting creating new cocktail items.
DOTW: Do you get along to the Circa shows, and do you have a favourite?

DD: I get along to as many as I can! I wish I could go to more. Sadly I work evenings Tuesday-Saturday. I don't really have the best job for theatre going! Often the shows are sold out when I do have time off.  I cannot wait to see August: Osage County, I have heard such great things. 

Wharfside Restaurant is open for pre and post show dining, in addition to the operation of a daytime cafe. To make a reservation, please call 801-7996.