In response to our YouTube video: “No comment from the non-professional sector? …right, it’s just us then!” on 16 June 2021…
I hope you are well.
Thank you for voicing what so many of us are feeling. It is as if we have been swept under the carpet to clear away the mess. There seems to be no-one fighting our corner, so please keep up the good work.
In response to our YouTube videos in general…
Just a quick note to say many thanks for your continued videos – they are informative and interesting and I like that you continue to challenge things whether government policy, am-dram societies and umbrella bodies quietness on issues etc.
It has been good because you have shared some info of what is happening, some of which I knew and other parts were news to me. I’ve just been listening to the one hour epic with the LTG, the NDFA, and the ex-CEO of NODA. In many ways I think your last speaker was spot on in terms of how things have gone during the pandemic. Whilst I can’t disagree with the LTG and NDFA comments re. doing what their members want, I think a lot of societies were looking to these groups for more guidance or best practice on what can be done safely within Amateur theatre.
There is always a need to comment, complain, etc. if something isn’t right… At worst you are glad you vented, and at best you may just have reached the right person’s ear…
I am in a couple of am-dram theatre groups and to be honest have not received any info from them unless I chased, and even then I believe they hid behind the policy of ‘safer not to do anything until the country is fully open again’ message, and not taking any opportunities offered to assemble or get creative.
I am also an individual member of NODA and apart from a couple of newsletters that mention some of what other societies have done during lockdowns I have seen no guidance or information, and certainly no comment on the government’s 4-week delay etc. Their website, even the members section has hardly any references to Covid, and their sub-section on NODA safe has no example Covid-safe policy for amateur theatres… almost as if Covid doesn’t exist.
I am disappointed that as an am-dram group we are still not back in rehearsals as yet – despite technically being able to from 17 May, there just seems to be no appetite to make the necessary commitment to Covid safety to make things work now… so yes, nothing happening until after 19 July. And of course we do not yet know if that date is a safe bet yet…
Your last speaker on the one-hour video made some good points about the amateur theatre needing a voice.. I think he is right, and especially in these difficult times. It may well be that the professional theatre groups might also welcome that extra (amateur) voice too, and may even sponsor that inclusion in their overall lobbying approach.
I think the biggest worry going forward is not that amateur theatre will start up again and may flourish, but on how many individual members may have got used to not doing it, and may not be bothered when it does start again. A lot of societies may see a shortfall in numbers come the end of summer…
Thank you for your continuing comments and encouragement about theatre, as I said informative and a voice (maybe the only one!) for us all… Keep up the good work.
In response to our YouTube video: “No comment from the non-professional sector? …right, it’s just us then!” on 16 June 2021…
Absolutely right! If the people involved in non-professional theatre don’t speak up then they are, effectively, devaluing their creative sector.
Small theatres and am-dram theatre companies rely on bums on seats to keep going. Everyone involved in the performing arts sector should be raising questions and leading discussions like this!
If your society has done something special, gone the extra mile or perhaps one step beyond! then please let us know and you too could be featured in Sardines.
Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and please don’t forget to take plenty of photos.
The Pen is Mightier Than the S-Word
by Keith Orton
The Miller Centre Theatre in Caterham, Surrey
Coming out of our third lockdown feels like a good time to reflect upon some of the positive things that have come out of this pandemic for amateur theatre and specifically the Miller Centre Theatre Company. The S-word in the title refers to the shutdown. Like most Little Theatre Groups, we had to shut our doors in March last year, forcing us to look for ways of keeping morale and momentum up for our actors and our audiences. I found myself as part of this ‘want’ to keep going.
After leaving full-time employment as a senior lecturer at Central School of Speech and Drama in 2011 I was able to consider aspects of my theatre profile that had, as yet, been unfulfilled. One of these aspects was playwriting. I had dabbled years ago but gave it up to pursue theatre design as my career. Then, sometime around 2011 I stumbled across the Miller Centre Theatre [Caterham, Surrey] and became a member. Initially this was to carry on with my design work and to tread the boards again, but I also began to rediscover my interest in writing. This was nurtured through attending several courses at City Lit in Central London. Keen to share my experience and to develop new writing within the company we set up a small playwriting group which met twice a month. It had started to develop nicely and we were beginning to test some of our writing through play-readings, both within our little group and by casting our actors in more open readings. No-one knew what was on the horizon for the theatre, or how important this group was about to become.
As soon as the first lockdown was announced theatre members quickly agreed to the idea of writing and filming their own monologues. These would be open to all members whether they had previous writing experience or not. I put myself forward to lead this; helping members develop their writing, providing feedback, casting and organising post-production work to get the monologues ready for release. At the time this was full of unknowns. Would there be a decent take-up? Would our actors be able to direct and film themselves using a variety of home devices such as phones and laptops? Would any be worth publishing?
An email went out and scripts started to come in. First a few, mainly from the writing group, then more people caught on to the idea that they could write something and the concept snowballed. We started publishing them on our website and our YouTube channel in the middle of April 2020 and they went out every three days till the end of June. Fifty monologues on the theme of ‘Keeping in Touch’. I know on a personal level, this was what got me through the isolation of lockdown. I think for a lot of people it was cathartic; either a way to release inner feelings or as a form of escapism. Most importantly, it raised the profile of the Miller Centre Theatre. More of the local community got to know who we are and an ever-increasing numbers of members became interested in writing.
There was a follow-up series that ran from August to January when another forty pieces of new writing were made under the heading of Miller Shorts. This time around, as social distancing rules changed over last summer, we encouraged members to write duologues as well as monologues. Most of the duologues were recorded as Zoom pieces, whilst some took the opportunity of using exterior locations. Although most were still single-actor pieces, the editing and locations became more creative as we became more proficient with equipment and what we could achieve. There would have been more in this series but the third lockdown made the recording of several quite impossible.
Like a lot of amateur theatres we were left with an almost finished set on our stage and the strong possibility that this might have to be dismantled and stored for future use. There had been a huge amount of effort put into the build and painting and we were keen to enable it to be utilised in case the production had to be completely cancelled. So, the idea of writing pieces that could use the set as the stimulus came about. These were penned just before we were given the green light to open up in November last year. We were all geared up to film these pieces that month, but unfortunately only managed the one before we were once again shutdown.
Looking to the future, we are hoping to recommence productions. This would include finally staging The Beauty Queen of Leenane in June (sorry Chichester) on the set that now has genuine dust to add to the aesthetics of the piece. We will also finish filming the new writing pieces for that set to be published after the production has been on. After that, we are making plans for a full season starting in September provided all goes well with us all coming out of lockdown.
What has been overwhelming is the quality and scope of the writing that has been produced and, with new pieces in the pipeline we will soon pass the total of one hundred! As we move back to running the playwriting group, we are looking forward to a growing membership. Alongside the physical meetings we are looking to run a Zoom version for those writers who aren’t so local or mobile. We are also going to play with filming as a means of testing new writing in its development rather than as a final product. So our new filming skills will be re-employed.
As part of the theatre’s commitment to new writing on 17 July we are holding our first ‘New Writing Night’ in the main theatre with an invited audience. Three new works have been chosen. With directors and casts found, discussions with writers and rehearsals are due to start in June. Nights like these will give the writers the opportunity to hear their work and provide aid and encouragement in their play’s development.
It would be great to think that other amateur theatres up and down the country can consider themselves as homes for new writing and I’m sure some already do or are considering this. In these approaching cash-strapped times it will become increasingly hard for professional productions to find the money and backing for new untested work. We, in amateur theatre, have the talent and the facilities to enable us to take up that challenge and become recognised for the role we can play in the post-pandemic world of theatre.
Regular visitors to our YouTube channel will already know that things are really beginning to heat up with a brand-new video uploaded every single weekday (Mon-Fri).
If this is all new to you then what are you waiting for? Either go to our website and click the YouTube icon at the footer of every page or go directly to YouTube (https://www.youtube.com) and search for ‘Sardines Magazine’.
Once you’ve found our channel just click on ‘videos’ to view all of our uploads.
You’ll see a mixture of promotional, theatrical trailers as well as our own regular posts, the latter of which began in earnest on Friday, 4 December 2020 (during lockdown) although we have been sporadically recording & uploading videos to YouTube from six months ago in June.
This latest surge in activity started after our editor, Paul Johnson, made a rather silly promise to ‘easily’ reach 1,000 subscribers (at the time of writing we’re currently around the 200 mark) so, as you can see, we still have a little way to go!
Paul records a mix of theatre news and gossip along with his own take on the domestic situation now that the entire country is engulfed in lockdown or, at the very least, the dreaded and infamous tier system. He’s even started reading out various relevant opinions from the myriad of celebrity interviews we’ve done over the years.
So, if you like our videos and are able to, please help Paul out and click the Subscribe button and to receive a ‘new-video’ message you can also click the bell.
Amici Dance Theatre Company celebrates 40th anniversary with YouTube series.
With the planned anniversary show, Amici’s One World, cancelled after almost a year of rehearsal, Amici Dance Theatre Company still managed to celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. The world’s first integrated professional dance company featuring disabled and non-disabled performers came together to take A Look Back at Amici, one of their most renowned performances on YouTube.
With the anniversary show being rescheduled for 2021, six pioneering productions (Rückblick – 1982, 2020 – 2000, Timestep – 2003, Stars Are Out Tonight – 2005, Tightrope – 2010 and 35 Amici Drive – 2015) are now available on YouTube. Just search: ‘Amici Dance Theatre Company.’