Category Archives: My First Production

Updates and information on the progress of my first stage production

Success!!

KEITB Poster

Phew, the show is done and dusted! Firstly, thank you to those kind people who came to watch it and I hope you enjoyed it! Before I note what watching the show taught me, I would like to take a minute to recognise the hard work of those involved.

Elena Carys Thomas, thank you for being the best Kristy I could have imagined!

Scott Patrick, thank you for an unbelievably natural and hilarious performance as Gez.

Beth Quaife, thank you for turning Tasha into a sneaky plotter (and adding that streak of malice!). Oh, and for your poker face which was most impressive!

Ashley Cummings, thank you for your dedication and comic genius.

Michael Edwards, thank you for all the hours of recording you put in, and for not falling apart on the last night and fixing those pesky tech issues!

Josh Jones, thank you for providing light in your oh-so-godly fashion. And for the hugs, needed those!

Natalie King, thank you thank you thank you for stepping in so late and handling everything. Your involvement was a huge relief.

Ian Staples, thank you for being a part of the process when I was originally writing it, and for all the help you provided as I was going along. Your input, enthusiasm and encouragement made me feel like maybe I did have a good idea there!

Last but by no means least, thank you Rob Dean, director extraordinaire. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see my first show in action and thanks for all the hours and hard work you put in. I may have provided the bare bones for this show but it wouldn’t have been half as funny without your input and changes. Thank you for ruthlessly editing the script (and for that hilarious, nervous look you gave me every time you announced you were cutting something), you made it something much more than it was.

We had a blast working on this show, and I’m sure we’ll continue to do so because I feel a tour is imminent…

 

Moving on from all my waffling gratitude, here’s what I learned through watching the audience:

1) No one can possibly predict what they’ll find funny – over the two show nights we had a lot more laughs than we expected, but each audience laughed at different elements. No single joke, line or visual gag was a guaranteed laugh (well, okay.. except for Gwyn ‘wetting’ himself….that turned out to be a hoot!). This reinforces what Ian Staples told me from the beginning – if you write comedy, write about what you find funny. You can’t write based on the response you hope to get from an audience as you can’t possibly know how anything will be perceived.

2) The ‘serious’ scenes were just a little too long. In future, I think some cuts would be useful just to tighten up the dialogue and allow the scenes to flow more fluidly. I think that during these moments, because of the change in tone, the audience disengaged a little but I’m pretty confident that this can be avoided in future shows.

3) It’s okay to let other people in on the writing. In fact, in my case for this show it made the script a hell of a lot better. I was really nervous in the beginning about letting anyone change/cut/add/alter anything at all. I was really afraid of losing control of my work. As it turns out, everyone else’s input provided huge improvements. There were moments of hilarity provided by Rob and the cast themselves that I wish I had thought of myself so I could take credit for them!

In future work, I know I’m going to feel very differently about how I view the creative process. I feel that my job as a writer is now to provide the skeleton rather than attempting to flesh out the whole thing completely alone.

Overall, this process has been amazing and so worthwhile. I was very fortunate to have such talented, hard working people to collaborate with. I still haven’t relaxed yet, for some reason those show nerves are still hanging around today, but they feel more like butterflies than bats in my tummy now. As far as writing goes, actually putting the words into action has been the best learning curve I could have experienced.

For anyone who didn’t get to see it this time around.. I’ll keep you updated about the tour!

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

It’s almost here!!!

So the show is almost upon us!

 

Kill ’em in the Brain is headed your way on the 29th and 30th of this month, and is my theatre-writing debut! If anyone can make it, I would much appreciate the support and hopefully you’ll be entertained!  Click the link to the Facebook page below for a bit more info, or to reserve tickets you can email me at ofthedead@hotmail.co.uk

 

https://www.facebook.com/killeminthebrain101?fref=ts

Leave a comment

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

Production Update #8

I’m currently working on a final draft of the script, which will be uploaded once finished. This week I’ve decided I want to talk about the actors specifically, and what I’m learning from them.

Firstly, I do realise that not all writers have the luxury of writing for a particular cast, and I think that this is a shame in some ways. I wrote a scene in which Gez forces Gwyn to sleep out on the balcony and originally I just wrote that Gwyn would go outside and shiver miserably. Ash, the actor playing Gwyn, surprised me by adding in a little pathetic cry. He just got onto that balcony whimpering like a coward and curled up into a ball and cried. It was absolutely hilarious.. honestly, hilarious. In another scene, I wrote that Gwyn walks off-stage (to the kitchen) and his line is simply “I don’t believe it!” Now, Ash did ask how we wanted the line delivered, and I just said to go with what felt natural. His line delivery actually almost killed me, for I could not breathe. In fact, I’m laughing out loud right now as I type about it. It’s such a simple line, one I didn’t even imagine to be remotely comical actually, and it’s now (in my opinion) the single funniest moment in the play. What I’ve realised over the weeks of rehearsals is that Ash is naturally hilarious. He has the ability to turn the bland into the comedic, a giggle into a bellow. He’s perceived his character in a way that’s different to what I imagined and is playing him so much better than the way I intended originally. If I’d had the foresight to write this part with Ash in mind I wouldn’t have bothered trying to write jokes into his dialogue, because this actor doesn’t need to be fed comedy in order to project it.

Tasha was a part I wrote with ease because I based her on someone close to me and I basically just wrote her as she is in real life. When I wrote her lines I imagined her to come across funny, because that’s who the real Tasha is. Unfortunately, the first time I heard the words read aloud I realised that the character (not the real person) comes across as quite boring in comparison to the others, weak even. In the end she turns out to be quite devious and manipulative, but the road to get there in terms of her character is actually a little tedious. But I didn’t know this until we cast it and started rehearsing. Luckily for me, I have two great things in my favour; Rob – the director who I can’t speak highly enough of. I’m learning a lot watching him direct, he just has a way of easing what’s needed out of the cast and he seems to pick up on things within the script that I was barely conscious of myself; Beth, the actor playing Tasha. She’s perfect for the part in terms of looks. She’s naturally pretty and quite sweet looking but with a smile that hints towards a devilish side! What I’m finding with her is that she’s added an element of sarcasm to Tasha’s nature. It’s very subtle, and it’s not always through her dialogue, but there’s a little ripple running through each scene that just about hints that maybe she isn’t quite the way she seems. Sometimes it’s just an eye movement that contradicts the tone of something she has just said, and it’s working a treat in adding a bit of mystery to the character. If I had written the part with Beth in mind, I would definitely have played more to this specific skill that she has as a performer, to make the character more three-dimensional. At the moment, Beth is managing with Rob’s help to create this interesting element to the character, and I feel that the way I’ve written the part is making this harder for her than it actually needs to be. Definitely a lesson I’ll be taking forward as a writer – if I can’t write with the actor’s strengths in mind then I need to clarify and emphasise the strengths of the actual character so that they can be brought to life.

Scott, who plays Gez, is also a naturally funny person who’s bringing a lot of comedy to his role in places I didn’t imagine there could be. The thing that works for me with Scott in this role though is that he is a very nice person, and this quality shows in his role. Of course, if Scott were supposed to be playing someone completely dislikeable I imagine he’d be perfectly able to (he’s a talented chap is Scott), but Gez isn’t meant to be that one-sided. There’s an underlying reason for his bullying tactics and it boils down to his self-esteem issues, which Scott manages to get across wonderfully through his line delivery. In fact, appropriate line delivery seems to be a real strength for Scott – very rarely does he need the inflection in the line explained to him as he’s already interpreted it accordingly. Gez originally was meant to be disliked but understood. With Scott in this role however, it’s impossible to dislike Gez, even when he’s behaving badly, but this adds so much more to the character than what I envisioned and I think it’s working out beautifully. I much prefer the character the way Scott plays him as opposed to how I wrote him. If I were to write this part with Scott in mind I think I would dare to crank his bullying up and tone his low self-esteem down (in terms of when this is expressed through dialogue), as I don’t think Scott needs to explain this to the audience – it just comes across naturally with him.

Kristy was the hardest part to cast for me personally, as this is the character I care the most about and the one I was most concerned with ‘getting right’. She’s the source of the majority of the conflict and is involved in all areas of thematic plot development, so she is very important. The main thing about the character is that she’s so over-dramatic, whereas the other characters are relatively believable. What I was concerned about was that the actor playing her wouldn’t be able to capture her sense of drama in a way that was both fitting of the character but believable to the audience as someone who could actually exist. I’ll admit that I was so stubborn about this character that I was reluctant to cast anyone at all (in the entire world), but luckily for me Rob wasn’t about to take any of my crap about it and then we found Elena. I was concerned at first because she’s so entirely different to what I imagined the character to be but I’ve found that her main strength is something she actually has in common with Kristy – she’s fearless. And she just gets things. She’ll deliver a line one way, but if you want it done differently it’s just a matter of a three second explanation and she just knows what you mean, and will deliver exactly what you want. Additionally, she’s obviously very hard working (as is everyone) and is already off-script the majority of the time, which impresses me because the play is extremely heavy with dialogue. Kristy was the part I wrote with the most intentionally funny lines, and although Elena delivers each and every one in a way that totally contradicts what I actually envisioned, she’s hilarious. She’s able to tone a line down so that it’s not over the top, but all the comedy will then come through her facial expressions and general manner. She never misses a joke – she simply conveys the humour in a variety of ways and this adds a lot more depth to the character and actually makes her more consistent (rather than ridiculous) as a person. If I were to write this part with Elena in mind, I think she would have a lot less dialogue. She’s incredibly skilled at making exactly what she’s thinking known through her face, so much so sometimes that if the dialogue wasn’t there, the audience would still understand and it would still be funny.

Finally, I don’t think I can talk about what the performers are bringing to Kill ’em in the Brain without mentioning the other people involved. I’ve mentioned Michael, the sound technician in previous posts so I need not repeat the level of creativity he’s already adding to the production. We have just acquired Josh, our lighting technician, who hasn’t been involved for as long but is very enthusiastic and has jumped right in to the work.  Our stage manager Naomi has been to every rehearsal, and actually I think she would make a great assistant director as she’s often suggesting helpful things and has come up with some great ideas that have actually changed bits of the script, including crucial things near the ending. And then of course we have Rob, who has been discussed in more or less every post. I’ve rambled on enough I’m sure about how much I’m learning about writing and directing from him, but I just can’t stop talking about this as I just haven’t stopped learning from him yet. He’s managed to extract the best things to work with out of my script and hasn’t been afraid to discard the bits that are, frankly, rubbish.

Now that I know some of the strengths of the people I’m working with, I would love to create something new. This time though, I would write as we devised, building characters from the strengths of the performers and really utilising their skills, rather than handing them pre-formed people to inhabit. In future writing projects, I imagine that I probably will construct characters with actors in mind (even if those actors aren’t a sure thing). I believe in creating characters from scratch and using my imagination, but I’ve now learned the value in building from the strengths of the people you need to make these characters a reality.

2 Comments

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

Production Update #7

The sweet sound of zombies….

Last week I had a bizarre experience, even for me, and I’m always up to weird stuff. Head of sound, Michael, organised some studio time and recruited a group of willing volunteers to record the zombie horde for Kill ’em in the Brain. The zombies are a continuous noise heard throughout the entire show, so it’s quite important that the actors have several rehearsals getting used to this before the show.

I assumed that Michael would simply take a zombie horde loop from somewhere on the internet, but he insisted on creating his own for authenticity. We had twelve volunteers in total and Michael managed to make each one of them, including myself, feel comfortable enough to perform individual zombie sounds. At first, this was embarrassing and hilarious to everyone. Hearing the sounds in a film in context is one thing, but seeing someone stood in front of a microphone looking normal but making these sounds is quite another! After this, Michael had us all walk around the studio, groaning and rasping like zombies to create a ‘horde’ track. We then repeated this but went from ‘calm’ zombies, to ‘slightly agitated zombies’. Finally, Michael explained that we were now ravenous, he explained – “You’re irritated, you’re bored, bits of you are rotting off and you’re starving. But oh look, there’s some food! But oh no! You can’t quite reach it! You are starving and now you’re really p***ed off! Go!” And with that, he hit the record button.

sound zombies

Michael, second in on the left, and some of our ‘sound zombies’.

Additionally, Michael also had a few of the volunteers scream, swear and yell other panicked expressions to create a nice field of depth to play with when constructing the loop we’ll be using for the production. Naomi, the stage manager, then came up with a stroke of genius. In the play, Gwyn is constantly getting angry at the very word ‘zombie’ and insists that ‘they’re not zombies’ several times. At the end, Gwyn makes a run for it. Originally, I planned to just have the actor record some panicked noises as he ‘runs through the horde’, then Naomi suggested we record him screaming ‘they’re not zombies!’

This is what we did, and I’m now re-writing this small section near the end of the play. It’s so fitting that this phrase is the last thing we hear from Gwyn, and I think it will be funny that he still insists this even while he’s pursued by the horde. This day recording has filled me with a new energy for the production, I can’t wait to get these effects into rehearsals!

Leave a comment

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

Production Update #6

Just a quick update regarding the initial sound meeting with our sound technician, Michael Edwards. Wee bit of background about him: he’s a first year Music Tech student also at The Atrium, is 20 years old and as you might have guessed by his surname, is my brother. I asked him to do the sound for our production because he’s extremely reliable, trustworthy and hard working. He thinks this will be a great experience in terms of work and is very enthusiastic about the production as a whole. Additionally (and this isn’t so much sibling bias as general consensus among all who are familiar with his music), he is a phenomenal musician and composer. He’s achieved grades for several instruments, including grade 8 drums and can play everything from percussion to the ocarina, from the saxophone to the piano. Brother aside, I wanted him as Head of Sound because he’s a highly intelligent, skilled and creative individual who I think will add another layer of creativity and depth to the production.

I gave him a list of sound effects we need (identified by myself in the script and then others by Rob during rehearsals), and he’s agreed to attend rehearsals from now on to get a ‘reading’ of the rehearsals, and in 2 weeks he will start filtering in sound so the actors can get used to it. Additionally, he has read the script and has suggested some sound effects of his own to add in some extra comedy moments where he felt there was an opportunity – so I’m quite excited to see what he’s come up with. As the audio clips and sound bites become available they will be uploaded with the production updates so that you guys can get a sense of the atmosphere we’re trying to create.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

Production Update #5

The play is really coming along now 🙂 On my Writing Examples page you can find the original script (excuse the formatting for the time being, a final draft will be uploaded in it’s place once final changes have been made). Underneath is a file link to what has been edited by myself, the director Rob Dean, and additions/cuts suggested by the cast. Changes are highlighted in red, with explanations for these changes underlined in green.

Kill ‘Em in the Brain – Edit 1

Some changes were made just for the sake of practicality, what works on paper is sometimes very difficult to actually block and this is a lesson I feel has been extremely valuable to me as a writer. In future I will be acting out what I write with willing friends, just to make sure that what is on paper is doable effectively. All of the changes highlighted in the Edit 1 will not necessarily go down in my Final Draft as some of them are Robs directorial decisions and every director would do something different. However, I thought it useful to cite them here so as so pay attention to how my material is being worked with, interpreted and manipulated (all with positive results, I think, so far).

I’ve been encouraging the cast to improvise during rehearsals according to what they feel their character may do/say at particular moments. The system we now have is that they don’t run these changes by me first, they just perform them and if Rob and I like what they’ve done we include it. This has turned my work into a collaborative process – and much to my surprise I’m absolutely loving the experience. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve finally ‘let go’ when it comes to how my script is being adjusted, mostly because I’ve realised that everyone else’s opinion is very valuable. Rather than fighting the changes, as I was a little at the beginning, I’m now embracing what each person is adding.

Set pic 1

Above is a picture of Scott (playing Gez) being directed by Rob Dean (in his lovely pink shirt). This is the basic set up of the stage, as seen from the left side of the audience. That little structure on the left of the picture there is what we’re working with as our balcony at the moment, although we will be building this up. In the middle we have our sofa, which much of the action revolves around, and scattered on the floor there is a load of popcorn (not so tasty once it’s been on the floor unfortunately..).

Leave a comment

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production

Production Update #4

The first rehearsal of the year was very productive, with a couple of the actors managing a fair amount off script and we are now able to rehearse in the theatre, which is very exciting! We moved the set around a little (we have a balcony and now that we’re in the space we could finally make a decision on how to build it and where it should go in relation to the audience). Over Christmas I created a facebook group for the cast and crew just so I can keep track of things and alert everyone to rehearsal changes, etc, at short notice.

Okay, so changes:

I decided that actually, I would act as A.D and give some input. It’s quite possible that I’d like to remain attached to a lot of my work in the future so I thought it would be silly to waste the opportunity to have a go now, especially since I know the director and feel quite comfortable making mistakes around him!  We’ve decided on a change in title so the play is now called ‘Kill ‘Em in the Brain!’, rather than ‘Things That Go Chomp In The Night’. I feel that the title is now punchier, and gives way more to the type of humour within the play. Additionally, it’s a line within the play and I always appreciate this sort of detail when I go to watch something.

I have yet to change the ending, but this will happen soon, and some minor changes to the dialogue in the script are being changed as I’ve found the opportunity to push the humour a little more in certain places. This is down to the humour injected by some of the actors themselves, and lines that have just slipped out accidentally in place of what they were meant to say. I told them that when in the swing of things during rehearsal to just go with it if something other than what I wrote occurred to them, if they felt it was more expressive of their character or more natural to the scene. Obviously, the stipulation was that the next person would still need their cue, and the essence of what was being said must remain the same – but this freedom really made for some hilarious results.

What I’m now finding, particularly with certain parts blocked to a fine point, as that the script is evolving quickly. The important things remain the same, but the way in which the story is being interpreted by the director and the actors is adding so much more depth to the characters – a lot of their ideas are things I’m really kicking myself over just because I didn’t think of them initially. Also, I’m finding that I’m thinking of a lot more ideas myself, as I’m drawing on the strengths of the actors that we have cast.

To chart these changes in my writing I will shortly be uploading the original script to my blog, and also the alternative versions that are being developed as the process continues.

2 Comments

Filed under Kill 'em in the Brain, My First Production