Then Again - Week Four

Day 1 - Detail time

Hal, Lily and me

Hal, Lily and me

Two major things happened today. Firstly, Jack Offord, the fantastic photographer and film maker, came into the room and took some rehearsal photographs. All the sci-fi blue cold and vibrant photos on this blog are taken by him. He had done our production photos for our last show, The Hours Before We Wake. So that was an exciting start to the day.

Secondly, we went back through act one with a fine tooth comb. This consisted of finalising the number of loops in the time loop scene, deciding exactly where Millie will go in the time bender and working out the scene transitions. We're starting to feel the time pressure of the showcase on Thursday, so we've got to get the first act fluid and together. One thing that we're still struggling with is the opening of act one. The introduction of Millie is very brief and doesn't give us enough time with the character. We want to crack on with the story but if we don't spend a little longer getting to know Millie at the top of the show then it's not going to feel like her story. In the first run we did of the whole show in the first half of act one it felt like Edgar was the main character. One solution we proposed for this was to have Millie explain, in her own quirky way, a science concept that is emblematic of the whole structure of the show. I wrote a brief monologue for Millie at the start and we'll test it with Bea tomorrow to see if it works.

After rehearsals Hal, Hannah and I went back to my house to catch up with some music and sound design work that we didn't have time to finish in the room. We wrote a disco track that will serve as the background music to the looping scene and transition into the hocketting song for Edgar's gig. I also collected a load of sound cues to add to the sound design operated from the tech box. These sounds were arranged in order using a free programme called QLab. I highly recommend trying out the fully functional free version if you ever need to play sound cues during a show.

Day 2 - Lets get it together

Tremolo Theatre - Then Again - Rehearsal Photos - Photographer Jack Offord-6353.jpg

Today Bea was back in the room and we started the day by showing her Act One. She suggested we go back to use the first Millie monologue we had in a much earlier version of the show. It allows the audience to be introduced to Millie in the same way she introduces herself to her YouTube audience. There are some details that give us a sense of Millie's character and also establish that she's starting out in the online world and has a lot to learn. This really helped solve the problem we had yesterday and highlights the importance of a dramaturg in a rehearsal process. They can be an outside eye that can take a look at the bigger picture while everyone gets their head stuck into the details. 

Another realisation from today is that we're going to struggle to get everything we've devised up on it's feet and polished enough to be impressive at the showcase. After a chat with Bea and Emma, our producer, we came to the conclusion that it's going to be more exciting to an audience to get a flavour of what we've made through a series of 'edited highlights' with narration in between rather than to try and show everything we've got. It would be possible to perform everything but some scenes would need to be script in hand and others would be under rehearsed. This idea sparked a mixed bag of emotions because it's disappointing not to be able to show everything, but after a discussion with the whole group we decided to minimise stress levels and maximise quality at the showcase.

In the afternoon we focused on the scenes in act three. We're more familiar with the first two acts so making sure everything is in place for act three is a priority at this stage. After rehearsals we had a company social gathering where Emma cooked the company Fajitas. We also used some of the time together to go over the music and songs in a casual setting. Having time together outside of rehearsals is valuable for group morale and can help the team evolve. Also you often accidentally come up with interesting ideas that relate to the show by chatting and hanging out. Also, lets be honest, its just nice to relax a bit.

Day 3 - Polish and Cement

Lily and Alice checking the script

Lily and Alice checking the script

With a new energy from last night Fajita's we hit the ground running and started the day by doing final tweaks to the script, printing and doing runs. Last night I went through the script and added in all the lighting cues, which will give us a head start during the tech on showcase day, which is tomorrow. I also made sure we had all the sound cues ready while the actors ran their own brief warmup and walked thought their own path through the show. 

Bea spent the morning making sure that our master document on Google Docs was all up to date for when we come back to work on the show for full rehearsals. This is a super important task because we'd never remember which versions of scenes were the most up to date if they're spread across different documents.

We managed to fit one run though into the morning session and in the afternoon we ran through the show twice more. Between each run I'd give out notes and we'd solve the problems that the run through had thrown up. Over the last two days we'd made a preset list, which documented where the props are set at the top of the show. This was constantly being updated as we rehearsed, but we now had the final version that we will be using on the day. If we'd employed a stage manager then they'd be on top of this, but we shared this job out as a company with each person being responsible for their own props. 

Alice, Hal and Lily

Alice, Hal and Lily

At the end of the day we made sure to leave enough time to pack up all the props, set and costume into the two cars we'd be taking to The Wardrobe Theatre tomorrow.

Day 4 - The Showcase

We started the day at the Wardrobe Theatre at 9:00 AM. We did a very fast get-in and sound check before Chris Collier arrived to help us with our lighting. He rigged some extra lights for the time machine, focussed some of the lights for Edgar's gig and plotted all the lighting cues into the desk. He worked at lightning speed so by 11:30 we started a tech run. We only stopped once to solve a problem and carried on. Jack Offord watched to see which moments we should pick out to film to make a trailer. We chose a list of 8 scenes to film before the lunch break. The actors absolutely nailed all the takes and we gave them a short lunch break before a warmup and the showcase. The audience arrived at 3:00 and I jumped up on stage beforehand to mention the nature of the showcase and to re-itterate that my narration, to fill in the missing parts of story, won't be part of the final show.

The showcase went really well. Unusually, it was actually the best run we had ever done. The audience laughed, no one forgot their lines, the sound and lighting cues were smooth and the songs went well. It lasted just under an hour so when we actually perform the whole show it's looking like it might last about 70 minutes. This could be a problem if we take Then Again to any festivals, like Edinburgh Fringe, but we may be able to cut down some scenes and re-work some sections. After the showcase we invited the audience back for a Q and A session to gather feedback and to hear what people thought about the show as a whole. The discussion was productive and informative and we audio recorded the whole thing for future reference.

After packing everything back into the cars the whole cast sat down for a drink and a chat. We all collected what people thought and enjoyed the feeling of relief that it all went well.
 

Day 5 - What do we do next?

Poster Ideas Collage.jpg

This final day came about accidentally, but was actually invaluable. We could only use the Wardrobe during the day on the Thursday for the showcase, which meant we had the Friday as a spare day which we figured we would use for a de-brief with the full company. It turned out this was the most fantastically useful day, full of reflections, insights, thoughts and plans. I'd highly recommend it to anyone making a show, give yourself a full day to digest the process, collate all the feedback and layout your vision for the future of the show.

As well as talking about the content of the show we also did some quick fire sketches of what we imagine the poster could look like. This will be helpful for the upcoming design session I'll be having with our graphic designer Harry Wright. 

At the end of the day we said our final goodbyes and took the last photo for our daily tweets. It's not all sad though because we know that we'll be finishing off the show together at some point soon. 

we did it!

we did it!


Thanks for reading our development blog, if you want to know more about the process of making Then Again, or anything else about Tremolo Theatre, then don't hesitate to get in contact either here or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Then Again - Week Three

Hannah as Millie working on the time machine.

Hannah as Millie working on the time machine.

Day 1 - Character Development

Lola and Bobby meeting Millie - photography by Jack Offord

Lola and Bobby meeting Millie - photography by Jack Offord

Today we started by looking at the character of Edgar. So far Edgar has been mainly functional, we've needed him to do certain things to fulfil Millie's story arc but now it's time to work out who he really is. Together we wrote out a character profile and talked about the kind of person we're imagining him to be. We then did some 'hot seating', in which the actor playing Edgar, Hal, sat in the hot seat in character and we asked him questions about who is is, what he likes, what makes him angry.

Hot seating is a good way to find out more about a character through instinctual/improvised responses to lots of questions, asked by the rest of the team. 

On Friday last week I told the cast who is going to play who, which for me was a very difficult decision and has been a cause of mild stress over the last week. Hannah is going to play Millie so we did a bit of character exploration for her. We also explored two relatively new characters from the pub scene. Bobbie, played by Lily, and Lola, played by Alice. These are two of Edgar's friends and there going to appear throughout the piece. Each of these characters had their turn in the hot seat and we really started to flesh them out.

Bobby and Lola are both in the pub scene so we started the process of scripting that before the end of the day.

Day 2 - Making Movement Moments

THE BAND

THE BAND

We started the day by finishing the pub scene. We scripted each moment and then ran the sequence without words so we could focus just on the movement. By taking away one element and just focusing on another we could allow one aspect of the sequence to inform the other.

We then pieced together the dreaded duplicate sequence in act two. The tactic for this was firstly to plot the outline of this section on a diagram and then think about the pace we wanted it to have. After re-reading through Bea's notes from last week we planned out an overall shape for this section. Then we split into three groups. Hal on music, Hannah and Lily on the start of the sequence and me and Alice on the final section. We then worked out a sequence for each section and taught it to the rest of the group.

As part of the afternoon warmup we tested out Hal's new song, a duplicate round, in order to keep it on the table as an ingredient in the section. While the creative groups were working Hal was exploring music for the sequence, which by the end of the day we started to match with the action.

Day 3 - Duplicates Duplicates

Alice and the osciloscope - photography by Jack offord

Alice and the osciloscope - photography by Jack offord

The main body of act two is a sequence of short scenes that tell the story of the rise of Millie's success online and her use and abuse of the time machine. Today we rehearsed and refined this section to make sure it served the story arc we'd planned out with Bea last week. The hardest part was matching the music to the various sections. There have been so many ideas for duplicate songs throughout this R and D that the choice of what to use was a tough one. In the end we settled on three pieces of music, one made from pots and pan samples for the first section that included a cooking sequence, one was made using Hal's analogue synthesiser to reflect the digital development of the time machine and one song that we developed using Hannah's flamenco chords as a ballad about meeting yourself called 'The Person I Could Be'.

In any rehearsal process there is always an ongoing conversation about design. Today was the final day to make decisions about set, to give Ruby enough time to build something for the showcase next week. Ruby also came into rehearsals with a bunch of costumes which we tried on, as well as an oscilloscope to be a possible addition to the set.

Day 4 - Script and Music Day

Millie signing the merch - photography by Paul Blakemore

Millie signing the merch - photography by Paul Blakemore

The main focus of today was on finishing all the scenes up until the end of the show including incorporating the musical ideas that Hal had been developing throughout the rehearsals. One task was to write a song that represents the twee ukulele music that is a frequent feature of YouTube. The song 'An Ode to My Wrinkly Fingers' was born.

I love to soak with a lush bath bomb,
but when I do it I do it to long.
Fingers turn out looking like a prune
and that is why I am sinning this tune,
Oh my wrinkly fingers, oh the feeling that lingers,
an ode an ode an ode an ode to my wrinkly fingers.

One of the other songs Hannah and Hal started writing was the song at the end when Edgar sings all the embarrassing things that Millie has done over the years. That was a particularly passionate writing session because one of the guitar strings broke. 

We'd brought a printer into the rehearsal room with the aim of printing it out and running through act one with script in hand. 

Day 5 - What to show at Sharp Teeth.

Too much chilli in the chilli - photography by Paul Blakemore

Too much chilli in the chilli - photography by Paul Blakemore

Today we sat down and finished the script for the whole show as it is now.  Most of the scenes had either been devised and recorded or scripted already, so there were only a few unfinished moments. We split into pairs to tackle those scene by writing them out. This isn't usually how I like to work on a scene because it takes away the shared ownership, but in the interest of time we wanted to make sure we had something in place for every scene so we could get a rough sense of the overall show. The way we worked on the script was by using a Google Doc. This allows everyone to edit the same document and make changes, that are trackable, to one shared script. By the end of the day we managed to run through everything we'd got and realised that act one was missing a proper build in the character of Millie.

After we ran though the whole show we made a decision about what to share at Sharp Teeth, a cross disciplinary scratch night that has music poetry storytelling and theatre.

Then Again - Week Two

If you're not having fun, you're not doing it properly.

If you're not having fun, you're not doing it properly.

Day 1 - Playing with Language and Music

Today we played around with all the Scrap Store stuff Ruby brought in last week. We used it to describe a couple of science concepts. This was to explore the language of Millie's YouTube videos in the show. 

In the afternoon we explored some more of the musical elements of the show. We made a 'jargon maker' which was a list of interesting science words that we found in the multiple copies of the New Scientist we have in the rehearsal room. We turned phrases like 'Quantum Entanglement' and 'Dark Matter' into improvised lyrics in a science themed love song. Here are a few lines from our improvisation that we may feed into a song at a later date:

Sometimes I can feel your frustrations but baby there just our quantum fluctuations
And on my date with you, together we eat a Pi. Thats, three point one four one five nine two six five. 
Oh you make me fall a-particle.

These lyrics aren't exactly Dylan but either way, it's good to build up an archive of musical recordings throughout the process so you have lots of material to draw from at a later date. These may become the nugget of a new idea that does eventually make it into the show.

Day 2 - Time Travel Sequences

Bea, Alice, Hannah, Emma and Lily

Bea, Alice, Hannah, Emma and Lily

Today Bea was back in the room so we're back to work building the outline of the show. One scene that we've been playing around with for a while is made up of a series of moments from history. We've started to refer to it as 'The Bender' because our protagonist, Millie, will be abusing her time machine and going on a wild ride through history. We've been playing a game to generate ideas in which anyone can call out a historical event and someone jumps into the circle to create the start of a short scene. Someone else then enters as a time traveler to either make the event happen in the first place or stop it from happening. We'd generated lots of ideas for the sequence and today we set them in place and worked out a logical, as well as funny, order for the scenes.

After rehearsals Hal came back to mine and we had a jam with Sam Valentine. We explored some musical styles and opened up the possibilities for what the music could be. The main outcome of the jam was me an Hal writing a song, using some flamenco chords Hannah had shared with us on Monday, about the frustration and fascination of sharing a house with multiple copies of yourself.

Day 3 - Speeding up the creativity.

A new method for making scenes quickly was proposed by Hannah, to help shorten the time at the start of the creative tasks. Rather than launch into a large discussion about how to stage a scene, we're going to give one person the responsibility of writing out a plan and then leading the whole group for that scene or moment. This new approach allowed us to stage another flurry of scenes we'd wanted to make from the Scene Archive.

Now we have a clearer outline of the whole show, Bea made us a neater and more useful scene outline. It has colour codes for the type of scene. Whether it's music led or movement led, whether it's a two hander or a big group scene. This has become our way of visualising the whole story.

In the afternoon James D Kent came into rehearsals to explore projection with us. After talking him through the story, using the new timeline, and explaining what we wanted to achieve, we tried out some different approaches to projection. It could be used as a time travel special effect, it could be used as a way of instantly creating location but in the end our main conclusions is that it at odds with our story telling 'Poor Theatre' style. At the moment it doesn't feel like we're going to have any projection in the show but it's not completely off the table because there were some things we really liked about it.

Day 4 - Music and problem solving

Lily, Hannah, Alice and Hal singing in music corner

Lily, Hannah, Alice and Hal singing in music corner

Hal made some more great music today, including a musical round that each duplicate can sing on top of each other and the layers make a pleasing harmony. This could be used as underscoring for a piece of movement. Possibly during the duplicate montage at the end of act two to make it feel more frantic.

Today we also worked on the pub scene in which we meet Edgar's other friends. This was useful to expand the world of the play and explore who Edgar is. We need his character to be as well rounded as Millie's. The function of the pub scene is also to highlight Millie's insecurities so each of the pub characters will make her feel uncomfortable in different ways.

Day 5 - All the scenes in place.

Today is the last day we have with Bea for a while. She's not in next week so we want to make sure we’ve got all the scenes and story beats planned out for the show. The first task is to get our heads around the way Millie interacts with the duplicates in act two. When talking about time travel we often get too bogged down in diagrams and working out the logic of the world. The conclusion we've come to with this show is, if the scene is fun or the moment happens as part of a song or movement sequence then we're willing to let the strict time travel rules slide for the benefit of the story.

There is another key aspect to the show we wanted to explore with Bea in the room. The music. Alice and Lily made a great song that was very musical theatre influenced, which we're putting in the music archive to be adapted and tweaked later. Hal and Hannah wrote a song using the idea of hocketing. That is the singing technique that we heard about through Verity Standen where a group of singers share the syllables of a word. We've been interested in this idea for the last week because it could be a way of hiding meaning in the music that can be revealed later on. At the end of the day everyone learnt the new song.

After rehearsals me and Ruby had a design meeting where we talked about the options for set and costume. Things like whether we need a base costume for everyone so they can be anonymous and how to do the duplicates. Next week we'll have more to share about design. No concrete decisions will be made without conferring with the whole cast. Thats the way I like to work so everyone feels a shared ownership of the show.

 

Then Again - Week One

This blog will be a day by day outline of the devising process for Tremolo Theatre’s new show, Then Again.

With the support of public funding by Arts Council England we now have 4 weeks to research, develop and devise our next show. The show is a time travel story about a woman who is visited by future versions of herself.


Day 1 - Get the ball rolling

Then Again Team on Day 1 - Hannah Kamen, Hal Kelly, Alice Richie, Lily London, Jack Drewry, Ruby Spencer Pugh

Then Again Team on Day 1 - Hannah Kamen, Hal Kelly, Alice Richie, Lily London, Jack Drewry, Ruby Spencer Pugh

Our first day is all about forming a collaborative team and building up our mutual trust. For me this is an essential part of the creative process. The atmosphere in the room is everything. It needs to be an environment in which everyone feels comfortable to share even the most insane of ideas. To get to know each other we start by playing some theatre games. To keep things fresh throughout the 4 week process we build our own Deck of Games, which is made up of cards on which we write all the drama games we could think off.

The Deck of Games

The Deck of Games

We set up the rehearsal room to be as useful as possible. Making Hal’s music area, putting tape down to mark out the Wardrobe stage and making sure we have milk and biscuits to keep us going through the day. We then trawl through all our old notes from a short Research and Development we had back in September. We stick the old diagrams that we still like of time loops, possible characters and storylines up on the walls and put away any old ones that no longer apply. I’m a hoarder so I want to keep them just in case we want to go back into the collective memory and drudge up something later on. (hoarder’s mentality).

Hal's Music Area. Look at that tasty synth!

Hal's Music Area. Look at that tasty synth!

We start to devise a few scenes about duplicates (who have come back from the future) meeting with our protagonist. Everything we make in the room is always recorded in some way, filmed, typed up or audio recorded. This isn’t so we can reproduce the scene exactly, it functions more as an archive that we can refer to later in the process if we need to. Every scene is given a title and written on a post-it that we stick to a big sheet of paper with two sections, ‘Scene Archive’ and ‘Scenes to Make’. There is also a section called 'Music to Make' for any musical ideas.


Day 2 - Time for some diagrams

Our second day is all about getting to grips with the logic of our time travel story. Ruby, our designer (pictured below), and I sit down and try to illustrate on paper the time travel rules of all the films we’d watched as research. We end up with lines and loops of different colours that act as a shorthand for all the ways to approach time travel. The rest of the team create scenes which answer some of the questions we have about the world. This is all builds towards a better understanding of the world where Then Again takes place. We also name our protagonist, Millie, short for Camilla. 

Ruby Spencer Pugh - Designer

Ruby Spencer Pugh - Designer

After lunch we do a vocal warm up which evolves into a circle jam. This is when someone starts a rhythm, a note or a melody that is easy to join in with. Then someone changes one of the components and the rest of the circle go with it to make new rhythms and sounds. This way the music evolves collaboratively. It's a really good way to get everyone working as a musically tight team.

We've also got a new device in the rehearsal room, Donnie, the egg the timer. We set him to count down when we know we need to stick to a certain short time frame for a task. This is also a way of tracking the passing of time when we enter into a deep discussion. We'll show you a picture of him next week, he's a bit camera shy.


Day 3 - Character maps and more devising.

By now we have a good sense of who Millie is but want to spend more time exploring all the other characters in her world. To do this we make a character map,  which is a devising task I learned from Miranda Cromwell from Twisted Theatre. You start with a post-it in the centre of the floor that has your main character’s name on it and then anyone can announce the name of a new character and add their post-it to the map. The position of the post-it relates to how close they are to Millie and how they relate to the other characters. Similar parts of her life group together like her friends from Uni, her family and people she lives near. This exercise helps expand the world of the play. We then devise some brand new scenes with these new characters. Again, we give everything we make a title, writing it on a post-it and recording it in some way.

Alice, Lily and Hannah

Alice, Lily and Hannah

The devising process is a fine balance of making, talking and playing. If you only work on staging ideas and don’t talk enough about what they are actually for, then you can end up wasting time by making things you can't use. Also if you only talk and never get on your feet you can end up discovering that your planned scenes aren’t actually interesting to see on stage. So far we have made at the very least 3 new scenes a day. This may not seem like a lot to the seasoned devisor but the complexity of time travel means the balance is more towards talking and planning at this stage. Any discussions will be recorded in some way, either a mind map, a bunch of post-its, a set of bullet points or occasionally an audio recording.


Day 4 - Thinking about the bigger picture. 

After a few days the post-its really start to build up

After a few days the post-its really start to build up

This is the first day we spend with our dramaturg, Bea Roberts, in the room. Her job is to help us structure the story and provide an outside eye on the creative process. As per usual we played a few games from the Deck of Games and sing a couple of warmup songs.

Once we're ready to get going, rather than talk Bea through all the ideas, we decided to show everything we’d made so far in chronological order. We lined up all our post-it notes, from ‘Scene Archive’ and ‘Scenes to Make’, on a big strip of paper. I then call out the scenes and we cobble together what we know of the show so far. There are some completely improvised moments that we now add to the Scene Archive.

In the afternoon Bea helps us shift focus onto our main characters story arc. As soon as we get the backbone of her emotional journey we will be able to concentrate on how we will tell the story and how we can play with the ideas of time travel. Together we figure out what we want to say with the show, what we want our overall message to be. After another post-it storm we group the ideas into similar areas. Bea introduces us to Arthur Miller's idea that you should be able to describe any story in a single sentence. Something along the lines of :

"This is the story of _____ who _____ but then _____ so _____."

its useful to have some things to play with in the room

its useful to have some things to play with in the room

Here are a couple of our attempts for Then Again:

“This is the story of a woman who invents a time machine to save the world but is corrupted by its power and has to destroy it”

“This is the story of a woman who uses a time machine to edit her life by going into the past but loses herself in the present along the way"

We have a few other options that cover different aspects of the show. It's useful to sit on these overnight and see how we feel about them tomorrow.

Ruby arrives with a car full of useful things from the Scrap Store that we can have in the room to play around with.

 

Day 5 - Emotional arc and time machine ideas

Today we need to make sure our piece has an emotional back bone from which to hang the story. In order to set this storyline, we need to answer these main questions to help guide our choices. The questions are:

  • What happens when Millie meets her successful future self? Do they get on? How does that feel?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between Millie and Edgar? Are they old friends? Or lovers? Or siblings?

We have been working on these over the course of the week but after Bea's exercise yesterday it seems they are key to the emotional journey of Millie. 

Millie facing her future self is tackled by Hannah and Alice. Previously in the week we developed a character called 'Hardened Cam' who is Millie's uber successful older self. It's good to see this character in a scene.  Lily and Hal worked on Millie and Edgar to help us flesh out their relationship. He's an old friend of hers and they've been working together on building a synth for his band. 

With all this in mind, we worked together to draw out our story arc using the post-its. While we were talking, Bea recorded a list of scenes for us to think about over the weekend.

Time machine sketches

Time machine sketches

The final task of the week was to draw Millie's time machine. We set Donnie the timer to 3 minutes and had to throw down as many ideas as possible. The aim was to annotate them with all the components and functions. Giving yourself a strict time limit can be helpful because it forces you to get all your thoughts on paper as quickly as possible. This is liberating because you're ideas aren't expected to be amazing they're just the first tings that come to mind.

Finally, before the end of this first week we sat down and listened through some of Hal’s own music and discussed what we could use in the show. We also listened to the genre of Vapourware as a stimulus for the sound world because its a genre that has grown out of the internet. 

I'm looking towards next week, we’re going to test this outline by fleshing out the scenes, making new scenes, working on our movement language and exploring the music and sound world of the show. It's been a really fun week and we're only half way through the deck of games.

We've had a laugh so far

We've had a laugh so far


So there you go, thats a brief overview of week one, keep and eye out for week two next week.

If you have any question about any of the content of this blog, or you want to know more about how we work, then please get in touch either on Twitter @TremoloTheatre or on our Contact Page.