I took a note of my own reflections on the Amadeus Project and the process involved on 15th October, 2019.
The Amazing things
There were many amazing things. I loved the entire process of working with everybody, whatever their role. The venue and the outcome in the design and setting was fantastic. Constantly, I would stop to admire a look or a moment, sometimes with the actors, sometimes without.
The relationships between people were really positive from my point of view. The three of us co-ordinating the mise en scene are a great team. I would work with Julia and Alyn again in a heartbeat.
There was a positive, lovely atmosphere during the ten months of work within the Troupe. Everyone was willing to help and get involved in the most menial of tasks.
It was a huge effort and commitment from actors, designers, set and props artists, costumiers, backstage, lighting man, music DJ, projection assistant. Everyone who continued to be part of the production stepped up to the demands of the workshops and of the play itself.
It is always amazing to be in the intimate grouping that working on a play creates. To be talking theatre, and Amadeus in particular, is always a delight for me. Even when the response was difficult, it created a discussion and thoughts on the place of plays in our world. It makes you consider your own views and clarify them.
And the audience suspending disbelief. How wonderful when you are concerned about certain aspect where you feel the audience won’t let you away with it … and they do!
The Tricky things
Issues around casting and characters changing roles because of actor difficulties were a cause of great tension. As a result, the rehearsals following those changes, really up to the opening night, were extra difficult and a strain because of a shortage of time.
The most difficult was when we weren’t sure we had a full cast; after that the pressure of bringing people up to speed was still trying but there were really great moments also.
Commitment is an enormous ask in a play of this magnitude and in a project of this length. That we didn’t have a full cast together until the first Dress Rehearsal was very difficult. In another project I would be clearer in my demands where the time commitment was concerned.
I find it a challenge to demand discipline at times, to ask actors to follow my wishes and my own beliefs, when that involves focus and attention. It is easy in workshops but that control of energy and absolute focus didn’t translate into the backstage and side stage arenas. This was a disappointment and is a demand I would make more clearly in the future.
DJ Greegio brought fantastic energy and music ideas to the music plot. Although I thought the music worked very well, especially as the run developed and he and I crafted the music better, Julia had been involved in the design of the music for the play early on and she had wonderful ideas about the use of contemporary pop music. The first Act was more influenced by her and was better for it.
Lighting was also an area where we ran out of time. Ideally we would have had a lighting designer on board from the early months of the process. We were fortunate to have a lighting operator, Paul, who came on board when we were stuck and who was a fantastic help in the last two weeks. I ended up designing the lighting plan with him.
The reflections from the Troupe
I wrote to the Amadeus Troupe, asking them to write a reflective piece for me. This is an extract from an email to them on 1st November, 2019, setting out my request to them.
“… Re: my research. I would love to get your feedback on the Amadeus experience for each of you. Whatever reflection/comments you wish to give is perfect.
If you would like parameters, here are my suggestions:
1 What was your experience of the Amadeus project? –– workshops, rehearsals, performances and focus on creativity in a group context.
2 What would you do differently?
3 Any other thoughts?
My intention would be to make the information public, but I can keep it private if you wished (I will still have your reflections to learn from) or I can let your name off the comments, whatever you feel comfortable with.
I am reluctant to let this amazing process go. I miss the camaraderie and moments of magic in the work. Ah well, there it is …”
Report from Alyn Fenn, November 2019
The workshops were fantastic. I thought there was so much magic and intensity going on in them. With Karen’s guidance, we made our characters come alive in those workshops. That ball of energy, the different kinds of walking, the mirroring, the flocking, the status, the lines of text – so that when you went on stage you already knew/felt? (I don’t mean ‘knowing’ with your brain, more that you just organically ‘knew’) exactly how to move and behave, providing you engaged the necessary focus.
I love it when I can really focus and the person/s I am working with is/are also 100% present. In one of the mirroring exercises we did, I felt as if I became my partner and she became me, her hands were my hands, we were moving as a single entity. It was as if we were joined to each other by a field of energy that we had created out of the intensity of our focus. Magic. The magic is in those moments.
Ideally, before I’d go on stage I would take control of my ball of energy, put it right in the centre of my stomach and lead from there. In reality, I sometimes didn’t do it, distracted for one reason or another. It would be great if you got so used to doing this that it became as natural as breathing.
The whole project tapped into the feeling of being members of a tribe, joined together in activities that were celebrations of our collective creativity. It was wonderful to make such special connections with so many new people.
I think we could have used another week of rehearsals, owing to people being away in the weeks leading up to opening night, which, while unavoidable, was somewhat incompatible with the tight schedule. We could also have added an extra weekend of performances from the outset.
Overall, it was an amazing experience to be a part of such a creative and innovative project and I am definitely ready for the next one, whatever that may be! Thank you, Karen Minihan, for all the magic!
Report from Julian van Hasselt, November 2019
The audience result was OK in the end, numbers built progressively and we had approx 100 on the last night, which was not bad considering that the play was never going to be a massive crowd-puller in the Mizen environment. The tragedy of Jody (sic) Healy probably had a bad effect on numbers over the first weekend, but it is hard to quantify this… About 330 people got to see the play, again not bad.
Front of House
Can’t think of anything that went wrong. I remember being rather nervous going on stage on the first night ( forgot to have a large G&T beforehand !!). Given that the play was so long, my very short intro speech, with no attempt at warm-up wisecracks, was just the ticket, and exiting off backstage ( your idea) worked fine. The idea of having me, Lydia and Jess in 18th C costume was inspired, and people thought that was great. The only problem I had was that my trousers were only held up my one popper and it kept unpoppjng – and the trousers kept falling down. I dreaded that this would happen whilst I was on stage, but mercifully it didn’t.
Paul had some clever way of controlllng the house lights from up in the box, and seemed to spend quite a bit time before the show assisting with welcome and seating etc which was a help too.
Raffle ticket sales were healthy and steady, and all the donated prizes much appreciated by all concerned I am sure. I added an extra bottle of wine on each night ( donated 3 and bought 3 on SDG’s behalf, as I thought that only one bottle of Prosecco looked a bit thin. My policy on SDG production has always been to provide good quality prizes and make the raffle an additional feel-good factor as much as possible. Heating : that hall is a cold building but I think we got that about right. Leaving the rear heaters on during the show is not our usual SDG procedure but it did not detract from stage lighting effects in the event and I will take note in future.
The Gazebo worked well despite my initial misgivings , but we were perhaps a bit lucky with the weather. A severe gale would have caused us problems. The alternative entrance idea likewise was a change that worked fine. That sandwich board on the pavement is a good tool.
Lighting and music, costumes
All fine and dandy as far as I could see. John did a great job as DJ. The limitations of the lighting system in that Hall ( no lights above the stage itself) did not stop you achieving some wonderful visual images, and Joy’s singing was treat of course. The lighting did NOT bleach out the pale colours of the costumes as I had initially feared that it might…
The Play and the acting
Was it too long for the Schull audience ? Depends who you talk to ! Should you have cut it a bit at an early stage of rehearsal ? Maybe ! But the production overcame this in the end , I think, the lines were learned and the acting standard was high, and we got the full monty , so there it is !! Well done all, I say.
Backstage and set
All brilliantly designed and thought out. Jack and Winnie moved like a couple of sleek black cats moving those chairs and benches, very slick ! It was strangely fascinating to watch in itself ! And nobody fell off the walkway…….
Jasper and Jack did a great job building the walkway etc, and I watched them do it over several days whilst pretending to be of help ( usually just holding a broom to sweep up sawdust and making helpful comments like “ How does this powerdrill actually work ?” and “ Er, I’ve never actually used an angle-grinder before so maybe you do it ?”. I thought Jasper’s contribution was efficient and cost-effective and well-organised, and completely easy-tempered in the face of my rather limited expertise with claw-hammers, screw-drivers and so on, even though it came at a price. I would put him on the “again” list for future reference…
Amadeus Report, November 2019
Name Julia Zagar
Role Production Designer
Areas of Responsibility
Initiate and determine the ‘look’ of the production
Form design teams
Liaise with Director to realise both her vision and practicality of ideas
Liaise with Director on most areas, staging, lighting, sound, music, decoration, costumes, props and even direction.
PR, press coverage, social media, poster and programme
The process started as it always does with the development of mood boards. Mood boards were made for all the visual areas of the production, costumes, staging, costumes, lightings, head dresses, atmosphere etc. As with any production the scope was huge and the ideas were far reaching and inspiring. Whereas we left a lot of what we initially thought about behind, I think mood boards are great way to start and get the mind focused and they can be useful to return to when you meet a road block later in the production process.
The Director and I spent quite some time developing a mood map, determining our touchstone words. This was very helpful and throughout the process we returned to those words for direction and reassurance.
The next step was to establish a design team. A call out was made to anyone who was interested in the getting involved. I was very firm that I wanted to include as many skill sets as I could, I wanted to have the benefit of a wide range of creative people involved. To encourage people who maybe had not been involved in Schull productions before to join in. The team was divided into two, Stage set, props & decoration and Costuming. Plenty of meetings took place, round table discussions on what was feasible and what we wanted to achieve. (The mood boards were touch stones in both areas).The look and feel of the production came together very quickly. We determined that we would be as gender neutral as we could be, the production would be contemporary with hints to the Baroque era.
A huge number of suits were procured from charity shops. Some of which were perfect, some of which needed altering and some of which were dyed to fit into the colour palette. We thought it was important that footwear be consistent so shoes were bought. The cast were also provided with a branded Amadeus T-shirt. Hair and make up were minimal and unfussy. We were lucky enough to have someone who was vey keen to make period costumes, 3 were made for the front of house crew. We also had branded black t-shirts made for the backstage and technical crews. Quite early in the design process we held a workshop for everyone involved, this was a very positive step, it afforded both the backstage crew and designers an opportunity to meet the cast and visa versa. The costume designers came up with a set of questions which the cast (as their characters) answered. This was very helpful for the later development on each characters costuming. Brooches were commissioned and each character had their own hand made one, this was almost a logo, a reference to period costuming, and another excuse to widen the reach of people involved
I enjoyed this part of the process, my team were great, excited and committed. It was great having the input from everyone involved and we worked very well together. The group WhatsApp was essential in keeping everyone in the loop and to arrange meetings etc. I think it was essential to invest in the shoes and having the t-shirts printed locally thus satisfying my wish to include people who otherwise would not have got involved.
Set Design & Props
Initial meetings were held with the Stage designer and Director. I was keen to not over influence the design of the set, felt it was important to let the creativity flow and trust that our touchstone words and mood boards would steer the process. We wanted to shake things up a bit and to create a performance space that included the audience from the moment they entered. The basic staging included a cat walk like walk way along the side of the hall. This worked very well. The set decoration developed independently of the rest of the design and though the end result was superb and utterly right, the lack of communication from the set designers created a small speed bump. The initial reveal was shocking and both I and the Director were concerned. This concern was un-necessary, the design grew into a perfect back drop for the cast and the visual experience of the audience was break taking.
In keeping with the contemporary atmosphere we were creating, a DJ was obviously the way to go. I would liked to have seen more current and edgy music in the final production, but what we achieved was good enough. The mix of Mozart’s music and some of our warm up theme songs worked brilliantly.
I was briefly involved in the lighting plan and would like to have been more involved simply for the learning opportunity. Our original idea of having projections didn’t materialise quite as we had hoped. What we did get was effective and a relatively easy operation, it was one of the victims of time, we ran out of time to follow through with a longer and slicker programme.
I think PR is possibly the area that was our weakest. We did have a press release that was published in several publications. We had a gorgeous and eyecatching poster and we had two facebook pages to work with. However this didn’t result in huge numbers of bums on seats. How to get around this is a mystery? Obviously we didn’t want to reveal too much which did limit our coverage in the area. It is difficult to ascertain but it seems like the large number of people involved didn’t bring with them a big following. In hindsight should efforts been made to shorten the play? We did have to compete with “oh it is such a long play” rumours that spread quickly after the opening night. Of course the unfortunate and tragic loss of a local fisherman had an enormous impact on us.
We held a fundraising ‘pass the hat’ event as part of the monthly Scorioact & Co evenings. We specifically raised funds for the purchase of shoes for the cast. This was very effective and had the added bonus of promoting the play. We considered holding a quiz but it was thought unnecessary.
What a blast! Thoroughly enjoyed the process of discovering my character. Thoroughly enjoyed the workshops and the bonding that happened as a result. I loved having a theme tune, I thought that did a lot towards developing my character (despite not really finding the right one!) As Their Majesty I launched an instagram account which I thoroughly enjoyed as another tool to discovering who my character was.
In hindsight I think the long break over the summer didn’t work. I felt it put a huge pressure on all concerned to achieve the best we could. But having said that it certainly focused us and meant the intensity of the process was exactly that, intense. In a perfect world with a perfect budget I am not sure I would change much to what we created, possibly have the suits custom made and dyed. Obviously with the aforementioned limitless budget, we could have paid for some of the skills that we were lacking in, projection, sound etc. I look forward to our next project with excitement and am ready to tackle anything.