Friday, 27 April 2012

Partner Theatre Here We Come

James Hands, Young Performer, Perfect Circle Youth Theatre

I’m James Hands - part of Perfect Circle writing about what it’s been like doing the Connections Festival.
The play performed by us this year was The Grandfathers by Rory Mullarkey where we took a new approach in tackling the piece. We believed that it would be interesting and beneficial if we were to apply a more strict rehearsal onto the work in hopes that it would end up reflecting in the overall product, which of course is set in a combat situation. To do this we did things like having a set number of press ups to do each rehearsal if a certain number of people turned up late, this of course ended up angering many people, and highlighted the idiots who were coming late far too often!

The characters in the play were such good fun to perform; mine for example was a teenager similar to my age who was disruptive, joked all the time and perceived by everyone else as an imbecile... I still don’t know why I got that part.
In developing the play we also came with an idea for costume, we thought it would be interesting if to show the character’s vulnerability we clothed the characters in pyjamas; in these scenes they were in their early days and we can still see through the dialogue they’re innocents. Then as the play progresses the characters gradually change into a military type uniform which we had as white shirts to show simply how they’re conforming to their Sarge’s ‘ideal soldier.’
We performed our piece at the Elim Theatre in West Malvern over two nights which was great. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it and all our hard work paid off, we all as a cast really enjoyed it, and I think a few of them are also blogging about it so you can hear from their mouths too just how much fun it was.

We’re now all looking forward to performing it again in Warwick. For quite a lot of the group it’s not their first time performing away from home in this festival; however for me it will be a first so again that adds to the excitement. Let’s just hope we can remember our lines!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Connections 2013 goes live...

Rob Watt, Connections Producer

So I am a little over excited; we have just opened applications for Connections 2013. It may seem slightly barmy that we are opening applications for next year’s programme while bang in the middle of the current cycle of Connections, but we wanted to get off the starting blocks quickly for next year.

I am delighted to announce that the following writers have written 10 electric plays for Connections 2013:

Anya Reiss, Howard Brenton, Jemma Kennedy, Jim Cartwright, Jonathan Harvey, Lenny Henry, Lucinda Coxon, Morna Pearson, Ryan Craig and Stacey Gregg.

To find out more about the plays they have written click here

I am also excited as, after a lot of listening to our current group of youth theatre companies, we have made some improvements to the 2013 programme.

Firstly, we have been able to reduce the participation fee to £400; we hope that this means more groups will be able to take part in a time when money is difficult. We also have a new application process that we will allow you to apply for Connections quicker and more efficiently.

One of the other big changes is the Directors’ Weekend. For those who don’t know, the Directors’ Weekend is unique opportunity to work with National Theatre artists, industry professionals and fellow directors to develop your production and meet everyone involved with Connections. We have made sure that if you come along to the whole of the weekend in November then not only will you get a day talking exclusively to the writer of the play you choose but you will also get 10 hours of professional development workshops. We are currently programming workshops ranging from how to use your voice to looking at the best way to achieve slick at scene changes.

You will obviously still also get the chance to: 
  • Perform your play up to five times at your home venue.
  • Transfer to a leading regional theatre.
  • A visit from a National Theatre Connections Director who will provide a comprehensive Show Report to aid your transfer.
  • Ongoing support from the Connections Team at the National Theatre throughout the year.
We also have a lot of exciting developments that we will be implementing over the next year. We aim to launch an online community workspace where we will be able to upload exclusive content and you will be able to have conversations with NT experts, the writers and other youth theatre directors. 

So whether you are a Connections veteran or you have never taken part there should be something for everyone in Connections 2013. 

Apply now and play your part in one of the largest youth theatre festivals on the planet!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

My Connections Experience

Jessica Bassett, Young Performer, Customs House Youth Theatre

I'm Jessica from The Customs House Youth Theatre and if you are thinking what is it like to be a part of Connections Festival then here is your answer.

Last week I  was very lucky to perform  at Northern Stage  as part of the NT Connections Festival 2012.  It was amazing! As part of the Customs House Youth Theatre we were giving the opportunity to open the whole festival on Wednesday 28th March.

As soon as we arrived on Wednesday we were given bright orange wrist bands and got a tour of the whole building. The tour was very interesting as we got to look around a professional theatre and see what goes on behind the scenes. All the staff involved with Connections were lovely and made us feel welcome as soon as we arrived. But I must admit I just loved the wrist bands it made us all feel we were an important part of the Connections Festival. After the tour we were shown to our dressing rooms, they were very glam with stage lights around the mirrors making us feel like stars. We then had time to chill and make ourselves feel at home. Some of us decided to practice the fight scenes in the dressing rooms to make sure we were ready for our rehearsal.  Can you spot our lovely mirrors and wrist bands?

Once we were all ready and settled at Northern Stage it was time for our technical rehearsal. When we got to our performance space I noticed that our set had arrived, straight away part of the Northern Stage team started to set it up, I just sat back and watched them do their stuff they had it done in no time. We were ready to start! Everything went smoothly as our director Fiona Kelly worked with the lighting and sound team to make sure everything was set for the night's performance.

Now all we had to do was get our costumes on a do our makeup. This was my favourite part of the day everyone was excited and nervous at the same time. I'm sure I had hundreds of butterflies in my stomach. We all worked together making sure everyone looked great before we performed. We even straightened the boys' hair, they complained, but I secretly think they loved it! 10 minutes to go and we played a focus game to get us ready , done some last minute makeup touches and we were all set to go!

Wow! We came off stage and everyone was in another world. Buzzing is not the word! We had just performed at Northern Stage as part of the NT Connections Festival 2012. What an experience! It is very hard to put it into words the feeling I had; I would just encourage anyone to go for it and enjoy it!

But our day was not finished yet! We all put our best dresses on and made our way to the after show party. There was a small stage with a red backdrop and a slick chill out area in the corner. But my favourite part was the games area there was any game you could of imagined guess who, connect 4, giant jenga , twister and that is just a few.  It was a great idea to keep us all entertained. There was also really good music on and we were all dancing away all night we never wanted to stop.

Just before we left we signed to autographs board just to make a mark and say we were part of the Connections Festival 2012. But I know I will never forget being a part of Connections as this has been a day to remember. I would love to come back next year and take part as it has be an unbelievable experience!

Check out The Customs House website here.
Have you got a story from Connections 2012 - why not leave us a comment below?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tales of a website worker...

Tom Harland, Connections Assistant Producer
In case you hadn't noticed we've refreshed our website. What do you think? It's taken a few meetings and plenty of time in front of a computer screen but we think it's looking great. Look here's a sneaky preview:

Connections Homepage

Since I started on Connections in January I've been tasked with looking at how we can use technology and the internet to make Connections even better than it already is.

Now I love the Internet. I mean, the guy who invented it is a genius for coming up with something that presents me with videos of animals playing the piano in a few simple clicks... But I wouldn't say I was an expert.

So I have had to learn things fast. This blog is the first is a series of new developments we're working on to make Connections a truly nationwide festival. The Internet can make it easy for someone from Plymouth to feel like they're involved in the same project as someone from Inverness (my geography has also improved!), so we want to embrace this as much as we can.

In the 2013 cycle of Connections we're planning to launch a brand new community for companies to be part of. It's hoped this will allow directors to be able to discuss the successes and challenges they're facing, as well as provide an easy way to talk to Partner Theatres and Connections Directors. Sounds exciting doesn't it?

I'd love to know what features you'd like to see in a Connections Community site. Whether you're a Connections veteran or thinking about taking part for the first time what would you like us to include? Don't be afraid to make your ideas as ambitious as possible! Although I think Connections: The Online Adventure Game is probably a bit too far...

Why not leave me a comment below with your ideas? Hey, if you come up with something we make happen I might even name it after you*

Have an amazing week.

*Unless it already has a name, in which case you'll have to change yours to match.