News from London

The Theater & Dance Department provides students with the opportunity to work side-by-side with the staff at the Old Vic’s New Voices program while they are studying abroad in London. The OVNV program, under the leadership of Old Vic Artistic Director Kevin Spacey and OVNV Head Steve Winter, aims to support emerging talent, inspire young people and open up The Old Vic Theatre to new and diverse audiences.  Ali Reader ’12 has graciously agreed to blog about her experiences there this semester…

 

January 26, 2011

Good morning from the States! I’m home now, fighting jet lag and longing for the streets of London.

The past few days I’ve been unpacking and reminiscing over my time in the UK. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect internship. By the end of the month I had worked on every branch of OVNV, learned about the Old Vic and theatre scene in London, met a slew of amazing people, and grew as a student and a person. What more could I have asked for?

Now, that I’m back, I am jumping into my future projects with new gusto. OVNV gave me a fresh view of what is available and what I can do. And I am sure that my time with OVNV will continue to influence me as I move on to other ventures and develop myself within the industry.

 So, with that it’s time to move forward and as the British say, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”


January 22, 2011

It’s Saturday and my time in London has come to a close. But, before I sing my swan song I want to share the past few days. All week long I worked on workshop resources, proofreading, typing up scripts, databases, and evaluations, and while I have been busy in the office, there have been a few extraordinary moments.

Wednesday, I finally got to see a Think Tank workshop come to fruition. At the Honeywell Public School, I sat in on a two-hour technology workshop with students aged 10 and 11. It was wonderful to see all the games and brainstorming that we had been discussing for weeks being put to use by students. I was shocked by the creative genius that lives in their young minds. They created futuristic machinery, named their product, and produced an advert. The products and presentations were wonderful.

Wednesday evening I had the first of 3 interviews. I met with Rachel Briscoe, a young director, who has recently worked with OVNV through the 24 Hour Plays program. Rachel was an inspiration; she has established her own company that specializes in putting on foreign plays in London. She is currently assembling a season of South African plays at the Oval House Theatre, where she is the Director of the Theatre. After our conversation she invited me to accompany her to a young directors’ networking meeting at the Young Vic. There I heard 30 directors discuss their fears, goals, hopes, and motivations. It was reassuring to hear people with the same concerns and anxieties as me, and their solutions.

For more information on Rachel please visit her company’s website: www.fanshen.org.uk or the Oval House Theatre: www.ovalhouse.com

Thursday, I was invited to observe a rehearsal of a musical that will make its West End debut later this spring. Adam Lenson first directed Ordinary Days two years ago, soon after its first off-Broadway run in NYC. Adam, another 24 Hour Plays veteran, will revive it this spring at Trafalgar Studios 2. Adam approaches musicals as straight plays. As he explained, the music works with the text to give the actors more clues on how to play it, its just one more piece of the puzzle. While working with his cast, I watched him dissect beautiful music and give it a meaning that many would overlook. After rehearsal, I was able to pick his brain about theatre, directing, musicals in London, and his development from doctor to director. Adam is one who gets his foot in the door and shows what he can do; I admire his gusto and drive.

For more information on Ordinary Days, please see the Trafalgar Studio website: www.trafalgar-studios.co.uk

Lastly, Friday was my last day at OVNV. After tying the loose ends of my projects, I was able to sit down for a quick chat with Ros Brooke-Taylor, the General Manager of the Old Vic. Ros is one who has her fingers in everything. She overlooks every aspect of the theatre, be it contracts and budgets, to the upcoming season and making the artistic dreams come true. As Alex described her: she knows everything about everything at the Old Vic. And let me tell you, what an education! We discussed how the season is decided, where the theatre is going, and of course Richard III, the final installment of the Bridge project. Our conversation wrapped up the last of my questions about the Old Vic, but also opened the door to a whole new world of possibilities.

What a way to end an internship: OVNV really was an eye-opener and rejuvenator. I’m on my way back now, with a fresh look at theater and renewed enthusiasm. More about that soon, for now I’m going to enjoy the flight back to the states.


January 17, 2011

It’s raining in London (as usual) and mimicking my mood. When I get to the office I learn that all of the demographic data from the past year needs to be compiled and turned in. All hail the interns! I spent my day marking male or female, age, residence, and ethnicity for 3 different projects. Its mind numbing work, but someone needs to do it. In all fairness I can now name (and spell) a handful of boroughs and suburbs of London and have a better understanding of the diversity of this city. The real downside to all this was that we had to cancel our trip to see the Think Tank workshops. There is hope to see one later this week, but it will all be determined by the workload. Hopefully things will work out.

Outside of the office, I’m making the most of every second. I have seen friends all over the city the past few days. Some of them I’m catching just as our study abroad times overlap (Eva Ludwig for one!), others I’m trying to say goodbye to before I leap the pond and suddenly can’t catch them for tea. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, but I’ve learned one very important thing… I love London.


January 14, 2011

It is amazing how quickly you fall into an office rhythm: research, drink tea, type, photocopy, drink tea, laminate, type, drink tea and drink more tea. This week has been a lot of office work (and tea). The last few days I’ve been working primarily on the workshops for Think Tank and their resources or as the British say: resoarces.

Globalization is one of the upcoming workshops and it needs the most preparation. The students will be acting as country representatives vying for the invitation to host the Olympics. I’ve been making flags for them to design, welcome packets, info sheets, task cards, and laminating EVERYTHING. It is a lot of fun to see the workshops we have designed coming to life. I can only imagine how much fun the students will have actually doing it all. Luckily, on Monday I will be going to one of the schools to see a workshop in action.

Other then Think Tank, I’ve been helping with grant research for T.S. Eliot US/UK Exchange and the PLATFORM Evaluation Report. The research has taught me all about how much support there is for the arts. So many people and organizations are working to get money into the hands of the artists who need it most. I underestimated the power of a grant, but now I see how valuable they are in making ideas into reality. The more time I put into my research, the more I realize people want to see our work and help us, as artists, to reach our audiences and goals. The PLATFORM evaluation on the hand is an amazing insight to the facts and figures of the project I worked on this fall. Plus it’s filled with participants’ quotes and a great reminder of what one project can do to change someone’s life. Everything I’m working on is a reminder of how powerful art is and what it can do. Clearly, OVNV makes a huge difference in a lot of peoples’ lives and I love being a part of it.

Outside of ONVN, the office is filled with other departments bustling with projects. Development has a 4000-piece mail-out going out and I’ve been helping their intern with that in my spare time. There are interns in every office working on a variety of projects. Last week the interns met for lunch for the first time and we had a great time teaching each other about the different parts of the Old Vic. In my office there are 3 interns: OVNV, development, and marketing, but the other interns work in box office, tech support, funding, general administration, and the list goes on. It’s great to meet other emerging contributors to the theater world; these interns are the people who will be running our theatres very soon.

Well, I’m gearing up for my last week here in London. I can’t believe my time is coming to a close.


January 10, 2011

Whoa, what a whirlwind. Quick recap: Friday, more workshop planning. We worked on the environment, respect, and tolerance workshops; OVNV certainly knows how to cover all the important points in a six-week period. Those kids are going to have a ton of fun, I even found myself taking notes on some of the activities. They could come in handy one day. After work, the office went over to the Old Vic Pit Bar for end of the week “debrief.” What a great chance to speak with people who work in all the different parts of the theatre. One woman I spoke with does what she calls “the odd and ends.” Basically, she runs the building: booking the rehearsal spaces and stages for outside performers, maintaining the spaces, and organizing all of the upgrades for the Old Vic, like the brand new seats in the theatre. She has her fingers in everything and knows everything about the Old Vic.

 When I asked her about Kevin Spacey being the Artistic Director she started raving. She told me about this interview she saw Kevin Spacey give at some red carpet event in Hollywood. A reporter asked him a question about the film/event and Kevin responded that he liked it and that it was just like how they do things at the Old Vic. To her, it didn’t matter what the interview was about or even what Kevin said about the Old Vic, only that he said it. Everything he does, he does for the Old Vic. When I asked about Kevin being an American running an English establishment, she responded who cares? He is making big strides for the theatre, and that’s all that matters.

 This is just one example of what I’ve started to see at OVNV. The people who work at the Old Vic love their job and love this theatre. Everyone is always ready to help everyone else, no matter if it pertains to his or her wing of the company or not. It’s the overwhelming camaraderie that I find inspiring.

 Saturday, I had a completely different experience; this time I was a part of a workshop. The Time Warner Ignite program brings together 4 producers, 4 directors, 4 writers, and 20 actors to make 4 – 15 min short plays, which compete for a chance to be made into a short film. On Saturday, these 32 artists were assembled for the first time in order to create the teams. I watched every step: from the dividing of responsibilities between the producers to the decision of which director and writer would work together all the way to the actors’ auditions and the casting process. What a whirlwind of organization and decisiveness. The emerging talent OVNV assembles is really the cream of the crop. If you want to meet all the up and coming in this field, this is the place to be.

 Today, was not nearly as exciting. I have become very friendly with my computer screen, my mouse, and my chair… It was a day of database organization. I can now tell you every casting agent, acting agent, literary agent, producer, artistic director, and head of school in the London area… in alphabetical order. While useful, not particularly riveting. But, even doing the most wearisome tasks has its benefits, I now know more about the London theatre scene then most people will ever know about anything. All in a days work. Now for a glass of wine and a good book, I’m off.


January 5th, 2011

Hi again,

London is really proving itself as a city of opportunity for everyone. Yesterday, I had a chance to go to a screening of The King’s Speech, which opens here tomorrow. Not only was it an early preview showing, but also the director, Tom Hooper, was there for a Q&A. What a cool chance to hear about a film first hand from the person who knows it best. Many of the questions he answered gave me such a different view of what goes into a film: the history, camera lenses, funding process, finding the right actors, etc.

 Back at the OVNV, 270 primary school students are about to have an amazing learning opportunity too. Through OVNV’s educational program, Think Tank, students will participate in various “tasks” to develop their leadership skills. Think Tank is a 6-week drama workshop in 9 London primary schools. Each week our facilitators, Andy and Emma, will help the students get their imagination and creative juices flowing while learning about globalization, technology, environment, etc. Today, we were doing a practice run of each workshop: editing the games, the schedule, and flow of the program, so that the classes will be flawless when they kick off next week.

 I, for one, am very jealous of the students who will get to work with Andy and Emma. Throughout the workshops they will learn about themselves and the world around them; the goal is to open everyone’s eyes to another point of view. Part of that process will be creating a play from these workshops. Every class will be photographed, filmed, or recorded in some form for a writer who will use the students’ own words to create a play that will be performed by professionals at the end of the program. These students will have directly participated in the creation of drama and will have a chance to see the fruit of their labor when the play is performed at their school. It’s not everyday that someone listens and uses your opinions in a piece of artwork, but that’s what London is… full of opportunity.


January 4, 2011

New apartment… old movies… new job… Old Vic…

It’s been a pretty great day! When I got to the office this morning, Alex Ferris was there to give me a run down on all the ins and outs of the Old Vic. He explained the different parts, what they do, who does it, and how they do it. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it, but it was a lot to digest at once. Afterwards, we took a tour of the offices and theater. I got to meet everyone along the way; it’s amazing how many people it takes to keep a company like the Old Vic going. If I thought my head was spinning after the run down, I’m living in a tornado training to keep all the names and jobs straight. Luckily, I have a few weeks to get a handle on all the information.

 The afternoon was spent working on my first assignments. Alex has me compiling the actor evaluations from PLATFORM. Its great to read the feedback from the show, it allows me an insight into the actors thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. Surprisingly, the actors have a very different perspective from my backstage view. Next, I’ve started work on the T.S. Eliot US/UK Exchange and Time Warner Ignite programs. T.S. Eliot US/UK Exchange gives 50 artists in NYC and 50 artists in London a chance to travel to the other city, workshop, network, and broaden their cultural understanding all in 1 week. James and Rachel (who run these two programs) are planning their trip to NYC for the US auditions this spring. My job is to compile research on housing options for when they get there. As for Time Warner Ignite: actors, writers, producers, and directors get together 5 times a year to create short plays inspired by the current show at the Old Vic Theatre. The best of those plays are developed into short films and one will be developed into a longer film later on. I’m looking for film studios in London that we could rent this summer in order to move on to step two of this process.

 It’s been a busy day, but these amazing projects are totally worth it. Now, I’m snuggling into my new apartment to watch an old movie before bed. Night!


January 3, 2011

Hello from London!

I’m Ali Reader, the current participant in the Colby Theater and Dance/Old Vic New Voices Internship. This January I will be living in London and working with Old Vic New Voices on the planning and launch of two of the flagship emerging talent projects.

Before I get into the details of what’s to come let me fill you in on what’s been happening here in London. I have been here for the past 5 months. I spent this fall studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). There I participated in a classical training, conservatory style program. While my days were filled with classes and rehearsals my weekends were my own and I spent them working with Old Vic New Voices (OVNV).

From September through November, OVNV was rehearsing and performing their community show, PLATFORM. PLATFORM follows the lives of a group of strangers throughout London. Set in the Old Vic Tunnels, five abandoned subway tunnels under Waterloo Train Station, these strangers come together when a pregnant woman goes into labor in a stuck subway car. Working together to help keep her calm, the actors take the audience through the tunnels while they take turns telling the stories of their lives. London is a big city, but we are all connected, living together, and influencing each other.

During the rehearsal period of PLATFORM I volunteered my Saturdays. I did everything from managing the door to being on-book for the actors. The real fun was seeing how a show of this scale comes together. With a cast and crew of nearly 60 people the process to get it up and running is quite intensive. I spent most of my time with the directors and the stage managers: Alex Ferris, the director of PLATFORM and New Voices Community Manager, is my boss and go-to person. He worked to assemble this amazing group of people who became a really tight knit community and it is through his hard work and dedication that the show became such a success.

Once PLATFORM went into the performance period I worked as a stagehand. I helped move set pieces throughout the performances, keep the performance spaces clean and safe for the actors, and reset each night for the next show. To watch a production go from the first rehearsal to the last performance allowed me a unique insight into the professional world that I will one day be working in.

Tomorrow, my work in the OVNV offices will commence. The two programs I will be working on primarily are the T.S. Eliot US/UK Exchange and the Time Warner Ignite program. My work with these programs should give me a sense of the emerging artists in both New York and London. As Alex Ferris said in one email, ” The great thing about these two projects, apart from their scale, is that you will be working with your peers. “

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Until then!