25 August 2014

Destination Beehive: Newest Electorate Hotly Contested

The brand new electorate of Port Nicholson, located in the heart of Wellington City, has proved to be a highly contestable area, with no clear leader coming through in local polls. Despite Wellington's reputation as a liberal Labour stronghold, it appears that the newest subdivision of the population has managed to encompass the entire political spectrum, with candidates from National, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, Conservatives, and Internet Mana all in with a fair chance of election day satisfaction.

Given such a high likelihood of a surprising outcome, it's no surprise that live television election special Destination Beehive will focus on this curious new development in the political landscape. With experienced political reporters Katrina Coleman and Tina Fisher at the helm, this special promises to deliver up-to-the-minute analysis and focussed face-time with party leaders and candidates on the policies and promises that matter to every day New Zealanders. 

Exclusive new digital technology with allow the live studio audience the opportunity to vote on the issues directly, and potentially sway the small but significant electorate.

We went out to the Port Nicholson voters for some insight on what's important to them - join Destination Beehive's live studio audience to see how it all plays out!

What's important to me as a father is the dumbing down of our children by our education system. Children are struggling at basic literacy and numeracy skills, which is limiting their potential for success when they finally enter the job market. Is that good enough? Clearly not. Even with rudimentary literacy, those children are still potential competitors for me in the future. I'd like to see policies that restrict the intellectual development of our youth, and that encourage the use of their bodies for manual labour and road surfacing.
David Napier, 31, Port Nicholson
I'll totes be voting for who has the best personality. If there's one thing the media has taught me this year it's that policy is irrelevant.
Cathy McTavish, 35, Port Nicholson
I always vote green because we need to look after our planet. Who cares about taxes if we keep having super storms which knock out power and basic services for days on end?
Hannah Solo, 32, Port Nicholson
My election issue is: preserving my right to walk around topless
Nadine Bonaparte, 28, Port Nicholson
Vote 1 for the bogans!
Vodka Marie, 60 something, Port Nicholson
Destination Beehive opens Friday, 29 August and runs until Election Night, 20 September. The Thursday, 28 August $25 Preview is nearly SOLD OUT and Opening Night is completely full! Tickets are going quickly for the whole season, so book soon to avoid disappointment. www.circa.co.nz or 801-7992.

18 August 2014

The Happy Place: What Robin Williams Means to an Improvisor

By: Aaron Alexander

Robin Williams
The shock came and the sadness lingered. The tributes have all been written, read and shared. The issues have been debated back and forth by people with wildly varying levels of basis for comment. And now, people, broadly speaking, are moving on.

But I know that from now on, every time I step on stage, I’ll remember Robin Williams.

I’m lucky enough to perform improvised comedy, which puts me in a similar relationship to Robin as to Argentinian striker Lionel Messi - we play the same game, same rules, same tools, but only one of us can make you re-evaluate the limits of human potential while doing it.

On the other hand, I reckon scoring a goal gives me the same joy as it does Messi (if not more, as he actually does it with presumably monotonous regularity). And I think I know just a little of the feeling Robin Williams had when he was in the Happy Place: on stage, with a live audience, in free flow, riding waves of laughter.

All of us who improv live for moments in the Happy Place, where you’re in tune with each other and the audience, and a creative chain reaction can occur.  While we live for it, on stage Robin Williams just lived in it. He had a direct connection, an all access pass, he could see the matrix, hear the music of the spheres and conduct it from an inflatable throne in his bouncy castle in the kingdom of fools.  And he will always rule there, like a trickster god of ancient mythology.

If you watch his early work – and you must –  alongside how funny he is, you’ll notice one other thing: how much he loves the audience. He wants to connect with them as individuals, share a moment, push their buttons, do whatever it takes to tickle their fancy. In his 1978 Live at the Roxy special he arrives on stage through the audience and within minutes he’s back among them, literally climbing the walls to get to more of them. They are his material.

One of the basic principles of improv is to say ‘yes’ to everything that comes your way. Take any offer as inspiration, and build on it. Robin Williams had a boundless capacity for saying ‘yes’ to inspiration. And he could find it almost anywhere – a light fixture, an audience member’s hair, a piece of set, an awkward body position – any offer could spark a character, a voice, a line. And the speed…everyone talks about it. To work at that speed there’s simply no room for fear or self-doubt.

And most importantly, he’s so transparently, blissfully happy in those moments. Yes, I know, cocaine and so on, but that’s not what I see in his performance (even if that’s what he felt he needed to get there in those days). I see joy. And it’s his generosity with his joy that lifts us up. His is not a comedy of cynicism, the stand-up with biting observations puncturing complacency. His is the inner child given absolute permission to run free in a world of infinite possibility. Part Genie, part Peter Pan.

That joy in play, in free creation, I don’t believe it ever left him. He worked with the famous Second City improv company before he was famous. Years later, a global superstar, he could turn up backstage at a Second City gig to perform – not solo, but sharing the stage and scenes, generously, with young improvisors. You don’t do that unless, purely and simply, you Love the Work.

As we all know now, there was a darkness inside him as well. On one hand it may have given him the power to deliver dramatic performances that stunned the world with their weight and raw intensity. No one expected Mork to win an Oscar. On the other hand, it was a darkness powerful enough to overwhelm the light within him. But while we must learn from the sorrow and the tragedy, that should not be the legacy of a man who spent his life spreading happiness across the globe.

We all have our memories of Robin Williams. To those of us who are driven to walk on stage with no script and no safety net, he will simply always be the master. We’ll try to squeeze and channel just a few drops of the creative quicksilver that ran in his veins. We’ll hope that maybe one day in a scene we’ll hear his voice in our heads, Obi Wan-style, saying “Go for it. Climb up there. Do that voice. Don’t think, go with it. Just say ‘yes’, goddammit!”

I’ll always be grateful that he walked among us, that he made us laugh, and cry, and love him.

He was the Greatest of All Time.

Vale, magister ludi.

Aaron Alexander was scheduled to write a DOTW blog post about The Improvisors Go to the Movies (7pm SUNDAYS, August 10 to October 5), but following the tragic passing of Robin Williams, no other subject for a blog about comedy improvisiation seemed appropriate.

11 August 2014

Constellations: An elegant production of this fascinating play.

One Relationship. Infinite Possibilities

In this universe you don’t have infinity to catch Constellations. We’re already in our final weeks of the show, and what a time we’re having.

Responses have been heartfelt, connected, emotive and energised, and there have been many fantastic conversations that have sprouted in the Circa Theatre foyer after the show.

CONSTELLATIONS offers us something special. It feels like no coincidence that our team has been brought together to tell this story and all the ideas it offers. Most of our team all studied together at Victoria University a good ten or more years ago, and this project has been a sort of ‘artistic reunion’ for us. Richard was given the script to read from a family friend who saw the original production of it in the UK. There they give the stageplays as programmes for the audience to take away, and well, luckily for us, it flew back to NZ and landed in Ricky’s hands.

Programmed originally for 2013 at Circa, we were delayed a year when the rights didn’t come through as Constellations hit the West End and they tightened up on international productions of the show. But finally, two years on, here we have Constellations on our Circa Two stage, and this is your chance to see it.

A show about the ‘what-ifs’ in life… Constellations offers us a chance to reflect on all the decisions we make daily. They’re not always big decisions like ‘should I quit my job’, and they’re not always clear ones such as ‘should I take the No1 bus’. But rather, the small decisions, the choices we make daily that we might not even realise absolutely affect our lives. It might be the simple way we say something – perhaps how we’ve entered a room, that influences how the rest of a situation might play out.

Erin Banks: "There are few plays that are as satisfying to perform as Constellations has been. The amazing dialogue, the lightning quick changes in tone and space, and it’s been such a joy discovering all the humour and pathos with a live audience. Several people have spoken to me about how the play has stayed with them for days, and we’ve both had instances of strangers approaching us to tell us what the show meant to them. It’s a wonderful feeling to be working with a group all at the top of their game and knowing that what you’ve created is accessible, moving, funny and truly connects with people."

Erin Banks and Richard Dey's "very fine performances move with lightening speed from light to dark with a deftness that is always startling and moving...in Rachel Lenarts elegant production of this fascinating play." 

NZ Sign Language Interpreted Performance
There will be a New Zealand Sign Language interpreted performance of Constellations on Friday, 22 August at 7.30pm.

Circa Theatre is offering a discounted ticket price of $38 to members of Deaf Aotearoa and the Wellington Deaf Society (Inc).

To book for the NZSL interpreted performance, email circa@circa.co.nz. Please advise of your name, and that you would like seats in the designated area in view of the interpreters. Tickets can be paid for on the night, but must be paid by 7pm.

Make sure you see Constellations in this universe – book now 801 7992 / www.circa.co.nz

05 August 2014

The Improvisors go to the Movies ... with Tim Gordon

This week on drama on the waterfront, The Improvisors Artistic Director Tim Gordon talks about their next show at Circa, The Improvisors go to the Movies, opening on Sunday 10 August.

DOTW: Many of the Improvisors work in the movie industry – what insights will this bring to the show? 
TG: Our show climaxed in a complete improv-ed movie but getting to this will mean that some scenes are set in its pre-production . All of the performers are familiar with the auditioning process, the wardrobe calls, the on-set antics of some directors and diva actors, all of this will be explored. But some of our performers are also film makers and script writers.

DOTW: What is your favourite Movie snack?
TG: Popcorn and cold coke are OK but nothing beats the chocolate covered ice creams, rolled , dipped and held frozen in their plastic bags getting harder and harder. The only time I ever seem to eat ice cream is at the movies.

DOTW: What format will The Improvisors go to the Movies take? (games, rival teams . . .)
TG: As I say, the first half is about determining the genre, the stock characters, exploring the auditioning process and the creative technicians of the movie industry, the second half is a long form movie – pulling all this together and creating an entire movie  - well, a short feature anyway.  

Tim Gordon.
DOTW: In rehearsals, what movie genre mash ups cause the most trouble/fun?
TG: The multi-million big block busters complete with months of CGI are kinda hard to re-create in Circa Theatre on a shoestring budget, but with a shared imagination and suspended disbelief  that theatre often requires it can happen.

DOTW: What movie are you looking forward to seeing this year?
TG: I have already loved NZ movies this year (The Dark Horse, What we do in the Shadows, Housebound, Everything We Loved), but I am particularly looking forward to The Dead Lands, complete Te Reo Maori pre-European martial arts movie. 

To book tickets for The Improvisors go to the Movies, visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.