Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ian McGlynn

Ian McGlynn is a playwright and director.   He has been the appointed Theatre Director for the Rondo Theatre, in Bath UK, since 2007.  Ian is also founder and Artistic Director of Provocation, a theatre company devoted to new writing.  He is the writer and director of Life and Soul, playing at the Rondo from Wed Sept 28th- Sat Oct 1st.

Tickets for Life and Soul, please visit the Rondo website.

More on Ian

Follow on Twitter @ianmcglynn and @provocationtc

Ian McGlynn
Friday, September 23rd 2011
10:30am UK

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on my new show Life and Soul, which opens at the Rondo on Wednesday.  It’s a story about three young women and their relationships with alcohol, what happens to them, the problems they have, and where their lives are going.  It’s about hope and what happens when people don’t have hope in their lives. 

What are the strengths and or the weaknesses of being the playwright and the director?

The strengths are that you have a vision of the show in your head that you are able to get to the stage, more along the lines of an auteur type of production. The main problem or difficulty is that any big flaws in the writing you may not be able to see as a director - because they’re your flaws, and they may well be carried into production without being challenged.  I think that’s a big disadvantage.   One tries to be as objective as you can.  You try as the director to forget you wrote the script and treat it like any other script.

Who or what inspires you? 

What really inspires me is the world around me.  Things that happen to people, that affect people.  Shows that have been on the surface politically influenced, that is very important to me - but underneath it all, still want to tell a human story.  I am not necessarily inspired by theatre practitioners and things that go on in theatre.  I think to some extent theatre has become far too inward looking.  As a medium it’s about expressing something about the world around us.  I prefer to look outwards.  You just latch on to things sometimes that interest you and get under your skin and somehow present themselves as stories you have to tell about people.

What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t give up.  Keep going.

What are the challenges and triumphs of running the Rondo Theatre?

The challenges are keeping it going.  It’s a difficult economic situation at the moment and the Rondo exists on a hire basis.  We don’t pay money to people to bring their shows to us, it’s all done on what they can earn through the box office.  Getting companies to take that risk, and keep coming back and taking that risk with us, is a tough call.  Its something we manage to overcome by being a good space to play in: people enjoy performing there.  The potential rewards are there, so people can, if their marketing is good and they sell their show properly, come away from us earning more money then they would on a conventional deal.  Our triumphs have been presenting a large percentage of new writing.  Which is again a difficult sell to people, because new writing at the level we work at involves brand new theatre companies, brand new playwrights, who are unknown or next to unknown with no track records.  To develop an audience for that and keep that audience coming back year after year is tough.   We’re seeing a lot of changes, with the Arc Theatre down the road possibly closing and the Ustinov theatre taking on a really bold and ambitious new strategy, so hopefully our commitment to new writing and new companies is really paying off at the moment. Audiences are pretty good and our reputation seems to be gradually increasing notch by notch, year by year.  That is a big triumph, keeping up with that policy and not giving up and going on to more commercial things.

Dream Projects?

As a playwright, the dream project is the next play.   I am very luck in running a theatre so the next play I put on, whatever it is, will be my dream project.  It would be really nice to be able to do something in a massive theatre that lots and lots of people come to, so it would be nice to write and direct something that went on at The National or somewhere like that but really, the dream is the next project. 

Can you give us a hint on what the next project may be?

The next play I'm working on is about a right wing racist group.  That’s what bubbling up at the moment.

Final question.  Is the director dead?

No.  Ever since I've been working in theatre I've never been involved in a production that didn’t involve a director.  I think a director is necessary to bring a bit of clarity, objectivity to the project.  Sometimes they bring a strong artistic stamp, sometimes their specific input is more organic and things evolve.  But no, the director is far from dead.  The director continues to be one of the links key to any production; and also in running a theatre.  I am very lucky to be a practicing director who is running a theatre and my predecessor at the Rondo, Andy Burden, is also a practicing director. It’s good to have a person from that artistic side of things in a position of responsibility and power in a theatre building – I think it’s very important.  I think we’ve all seen theatres that have been run by marketing people and the route they can sometimes go down.  The director is still a very important figure.  I hope.

Thanks Ian for sharing your thoughts!

“Be swift, be swift, be not poetical.” - Harley Granville Barker

Monday, 12 September 2011

Alison Farina

Alison Farina is originally from Poughkeepsie, NY and currently resides in Bath.  She is a director, writer, producer and actor.  She has spent the last 14 years living and working in the UK, spanning the country from London to the Isle of Man.  Her current production of Love Letters by A.R. Gurney will be playing at the Rondo Theatre in Bath, on Thurs September 15th and Friday September 16th.

Tickets for Love Letters, please visit the Rondo Theatre website.

For more info on Alison

Twitter accounts
@btterflypsyche - only Butterfly Psyche stuff
@alisonfarina - Me being me, follow at your peril/boredom/annoyance/offence/etc...

Alison Farina
Thursday Sept 9th 2011 12PM
Sam’s Kitchen, Bath UK

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a few things.  Currently I am producing and appearing in Love Letters by A. R. Gurney with my theatre company, Butterfly Psyche Theatre. Love Letters tells the story of Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III through their letters to each other. From 1937 to the late 1980s, they discuss the hopes, ambitions, dreams, disappointments, victories and defeats that have passed between them throughout their separated lives. It’s a funny and very touching piece and we are lucky enough to have Derek Fowlds (Yes, Minister, Yes Prime Minister, Affairs of the Heart, Heartbeat and Basil Brush!) on board as Director.

I am also in the process of writing something for summer 2012 called Fertility Objects, and it’s about fertility and how it defines or doesn’t define women.  How it affects relationships and what things represent fertility objects in modern times.  Instead of Phallic symbols, gods and goddesses, we now have ovulation thermometers, pregnancy kits and reflexologists! The story will follow 3 couples who have broken down on the road to parenthood and how they move forward.  Also on the back burner are a historical drama about Henry Edmund Goodridge (builder of Beckford’s Tower) and a site-specific community project based on a German folktale.

What is your earliest theatrical memory?

I was an only child so I had to entertain myself, and making up stories is what I did. I used myself, friends and stuffed animals to play the parts. My mom always said she could  hear me chatting away to myself and the stuffed crew as I would make up stories until I fell asleep.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by stories, mythology and relationships.  A lot of my work is based on mythology, folktales, traditions and histories. As far as people that inspire me… I'm a little bit all over the place, I like doing everything, so I really admire people who are disciplined and can stick to one thing to perfect it.  As for general theatre inspiration, I have huge respect for people like Augusto Boal, Keith Johnstone and Michael Chekov and theatre companies like Miracle Theatre, Kneehigh and Improbable.

What are the challenges of running your own company for new writing in 2011?

Money and time! ButterflyPsyche only started in September 2010, so we are just about 1 year old. This (Love Letters) will be our third production.  As a company our main focus is on new writing, which is really exciting, but it takes a lot of work to promote an unknown show and writer. A new writing audience is very different to that of the ‘average’ theatre-going audience, and it can be hard to get those people to see things they are unfamiliar with. Although this is a challenge it is also the best thing about new writing. There is nothing that has come before that will influence opinion or the production, so everything is created without outside influence (consciously or unconsciously). Also with new writing there is a real sense of ‘ownership’ for everyone involved, whereas established or better known work can creatively hold you back without even realizing it.

The biggest challenge is funding. There are so many established companies doing really wonderful stuff and the ‘pot’ is only so big.  The challenge is finding other ways of getting money and making sure that what you do, gives the people who are doing it, even if its profit share, something out of it.  That is something really important to me.  With most profit-share productions, once all the expenses are paid, actors and the team are very lucky to make any money at all.  I try to use the show as a ‘networking’ event for everyone involved. That way, industry people get to see a great show and the team have the opportunity to show off their work and speak to industry people. But, fingers crossed, the Arts Council Funding applications will work out!

What is your directing style?

I am not sure I have one.  Winging it…probably!? I suppose I like to see where people go with things, make observations and tweaks and then go from there, really. 

What differences, if any, have you found working in the American theatre vs. the British theatre?

Well, it’s been a long time since I worked in the US, but I do think there is a difference in attitude and approach. This is a huge generalization by the way, but Americans tend be more like ‘Yup, whatever no problem’ without really questioning very much.

Gung ho?

Yes, I think ‘gung ho’ is an intrinsic, American characteristic, which can be drawback as well as an asset. But at the same time, Americans can tend to be a bit more delicate. I think that is an artist’s tendency anyway. We are all asked to’ put ourselves out there’ so that opens you up for criticism. It is natural to need reassurance. We wouldn’t be artists if we didn’t have that vulnerability. Yet British actors, again, a TOTAL generalization, don’t have that ‘gung ho’ thing. Actors here seem to consider things and tend to question choices more. Performance is taught very differently in the UK to the US, the US being very film/TV oriented, so this may have something to do with it. I don’t know…

Dream projects?

My Dream Project would be Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Metamorphoses is an epic poem that tells the history of the world from Creation to Julius Caesar and focuses on transformation tales. For me, life is one big transformation tale and The Metamorphoses combines archetypal mythology, relationships and love. The things that inspire me most!  I would love to work on such an epic, and maybe include a ‘research’ trip to the Mediterranean? I mean, if you’re going to dream…!

Final question.  Is the director dead?

No, although the director who dictates should be, and pretty much is, aside from the few I have encountered. I feel that directing is like teaching a kid how to ride a bike. Once you take those training wheels off, your job is to follow them and make sure they don’t fall off.  At least that’s what I hope to do.

Thanks Alison for sharing your thoughts!

" A good director's not sure when he gets on the set what he's going to do."
Elia Kazan