Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Interview with our Stage Manager MAEVE BOLGER

Here's an interview with Maeve Bolger. Maeve is the stage manager for The Frontier Trilogy. This is the second show she's work on with the company, after 2014's Edinburgh and Seoul Performing Arts Festival run of The Bunker Trilogy.

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

1. On a project like The Frontier, what does a Stage Manager actually do?
Its a very varied job! I start out in the rehearsal room with the company and keep whats called the Book. This is a copy of the script in which everything is written from the movements the actors make to what props are needed and where they are kept. Its essentially a blueprint for the show. Once we get up to Edinburgh, I'll be helping with building/dressing the set and sourcing any last minute props. In technical rehearsals, I work with our lovely sound team, Ella and Dylan, to write down the sound cues in the Book. The same goes for the lighting cues decided upon by Jethro. This is also my opportunity to learn how to operate the shows. Once the shows are up and running, I'm in a little earlier to set the props and make sure that the cast are happy to begin.

2. How does it compare to managing a more traditional show?
The main difference is that I can't see what's happening! The nature of these shows is that the audience is totally immersed in the world of The Frontier Trilogy. The set is a room which we will build and decorate to make look like a church in the wild west. Having someone sat in a corner with modern technolgy operating the lights and sound would ever so slightly distract from this! So, I'm set up outside the room listening in for my cues whether they are on actors' lines or doors banging etc. Its very strange at first because I am devoid of one of my senses so I really need to depend on my hearing. It sounds crazy, but it works!

3. How does this affect your role?
I depend on the actors a lot more than I might on any other show. If anything goes wrong in the room like and actor injury or an audience member becoming ill, I need them to be able to let me know. In any other situation, I would be able to see what's going on first hand and make a judgement call on what needs to be done. Fortunately, the group I'm working with are more than able to deal with the worst should it happen – fingers crossed it doesn't!

4. What's the hardest part of the job?
In general with stage management the worst thing is the odd hours I work. My partner and a  group of close friends work outside of the industry in "normal" jobs. It makes finding time to spend with them difficult. Its important that I can find people I enjoy spending time with to work with. I can definitely say its true with these guys! One thing that leads from this is that making plans can be a nightmare! As I work freelance, I mostly never know what I'll be doing from one job to the next. But that's equally as exciting as it is daunting!

5. What's been your favourite experience as an SM?
I have been really fortunate to travel with my job and work in some beautiful places like Pieve in Italy and Paris. But my favourite has to have been when I went to Seoul in South Korea with The Bunker Trilogy last year. Having never been to Asia before, it was such a treat to be able to go there to work on one of my favourite shows. The people, the food – not the spicy food! - and the city were simply amazing and I'd go back in a heartbeat!

6. What advice do you wish you'd been given when starting out as an SM?
The most improtant piece of advice I've ever been given about work was this nugget of knowledge from Mammy Bolger - Don't expect people to coming knocking on your door to offer you work. No one knows how great you are unless you tell them so don't be afraid to.

The Frontier Trilogy opens in Edinburgh at the Fringe this summer. For tickets and more info, click here. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Branding a Show: Making a Poster

Designing the artwork for a show can be an incredibly time consuming process, but it's something I love doing. Whilst most companies outsource their graphic design, and leave it until quite a long way into the process, it's actually one of the first things I do when starting a new project. When I'm coming up with an idea for a show, I'll often find myself sat into the late hours of the night messing around with ideas for how the artwork might look. I often feel embarrassed talking about a concept for a show, or an idea for a play; it's a mixture of worrying if the idea is any good combined with the fear that, even if the idea is great, I might never actually be able to deliver it. For some reason, once I've made a draft poster I feel that I can talk more openly about my idea. As if the (normally dreadful) draft artwork somehow makes the project more real than it was when it existed only as an idea.

I sometimes provide graphic design for other companies, but it's not my favourite pastime. Creating the artwork for a show is, for me, no different to writing it, producing it, or directing it. It's a significant part of the creative process that fills me with confidence.

Sometimes people can worry too much about a poster. The best poster in the world can't save your show if the show is no good. But a terrible poster probably could harm a decent show. I always set out to create something that I want to represent the company, the show and the brand. Something that would make me get up and go to the theatre. 

The following is a mood board of posters that I loved and felt would be a good starting point when I came to creating the artwork for The Frontier Trilogy. There's something similar in all of them, as I suppose there is in all Western posters. I enjoyed the washed-out, gritty texture of DJANGO, the sense of mystery and danger in LONGMIRE, the wanted poster paper effect in 3:10 TO YUMA, and the impression of distance and scale in HELL ON WHEELS

The final artwork for The Frontier Trilogy. Whilst clearly influenced by the examples above, I hope it achieves its own style and impression. 

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

A challenge I have always faced designing the brand for a trilogy, is that each show has its own voice, and yet the artwork must cater for all three voices in one image. Had I been making a poster for only one of these plays I imagine it would have looked very different. 

Beyond creating the image for the three shows, there is also the brand of the company to take into consideration. Our previous shows (and their posters) have been seen in Edinburgh for some years, and it's important to me that an audience can recognise our artwork in the overcrowded streets and bars across the city. But it's also vital that the image moves forward, changing and improving each year (as hopefully the shows do). Despite the similarity in branding, The Frontier Trilogy is as different from The Bunker Trilogy as The Capone Trilogy was. I trust in our audience and followers that they'll know the shows by the brand, and know that we'll deliver something even bigger and better than than we've done before.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Brief Interview with SAM DONNELLY

Here's a short interview with Sam Donnelly, who has performed with the company since 2012 and is currently rehearsing for The Frontier Trilogy.

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

What was it that made you realise you wanted to be an actor?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised that I wanted to act professionally but it have been when I was around seventeen and applying to university. I was originally looking to study history when I also applied for drama school.

How did you get into acting professionally?
I had quite a traditional route. I went to drama school and trained for three years, then after graduating got an agent and went from there. All of my family work in the construction trade so it was a bit odd that I chose this path but they are incredibly supportive.

You were also in The Bunker Trilogy, what challenges are there as an actor performing across three different shows each day?
Doing three shows a day can feel like running a triathlon on a daily basis. You get tired, run down, and have very little time for any sort of socialising outside your crew. But you have to embrace that with shows like we make at Jethro Compton Productions. They are detailed, intricate and you have to commit everything. I’m pretty sure I’ve knocked a couple of years off my life span doing these shows but they are worth it.

Which of The Frontier Trilogy plays is your favourite?
Its hard to say which of the Frontier shows is my favourite as they are all great stories. But I do have a slightly more invested interest in Blood red Moon. I have a younger brother myself and can’t imagine finding myself in position so far removed from his that the sort of conflict that happens in the show would drive us apart so its fun and interesting to play out that possibility.

What’s the best show you’ve seen at Edinburgh?
Two shows stick out to me from what I have seen at the Fringe. They are ‘Missing' by Gecko Theatre that I saw in 2013 and 'Young Pretender' by Nabokov which I saw in 2011. Both wonderful stories and strong performances. I'm also a big fan of Camille O’sullivan who works the Cabaret scene each year.

What’s the thing about Edinburgh you most look forward to?
Edinburgh has an energy that I’ve not experienced anywhere else in the world. Everyone is hopeful and optimistic and the festival atmosphere is so contagious. It's exciting.

Click here for more information and tickets for The Frontier Trilogy.