Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

Year End

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.” Seamus Heaney

This has been quite a year. I miss many things. Amidst the sadness and frustration I had some achievements and learnt to appreciate some things I had taken for granted.

I have picked up my studies again and have started teaching online. I resisted this for months as Zoom is not the best format to teach singing. It means changing the exercises and front loading the work. It does seem to be working, though I will go back to in person teaching as soon as that is safe.

I had a number of firsts, my first radio play, first non-singing narration work, and my first time composing for a story book. I have been learning how to edit video and sound files, as so much of what I create is now online.

And whilst most of my theatre work was cancelled I got to finish the year singing traditional carols as part of Say Nothing’s production One Silent Night.

Still At Home

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Although there is talk of vaccines and hope that things will be better next year, the show I was due to direct for a performance next spring has been cancelled. It was a difficult decision to make, but there were too many risks in trying to rehearse with a large cast through the winter. I spend most of my time inside and have been working on audio projects and teaching that can be carried out remotely.

Last month I recorded a Shakespeare monologue from my tiny garden, as part of Tokyo International Player’s Shakespeare at Home series.  

Getting to Rehearsal

Friday, October 9th, 2020

I was back in rehearsal this week for the first time since the end of March. There was thought put into how to make sure that the rehearsal was safe, so I was prepared for that, but I had forgotten how uncomfortable it is on the trains. I live too far from the rehearsal venue to walk and I planned to miss rush hour, but in Tokyo trains can get incredibly full at any time of the day. Everyone in the carriage was wearing a mask, and only two people were speaking. The windows were open but it still felt incredibly uncomfortable having so many people so close to me. Guidelines here still suggest two metres between people but it’s often impossible to do that on the trains, I was lucky if I had two inches space around me.

For my second rehearsal I found a different route, one that involved a lot more walking. It took longer to get to the venue but I felt more comfortable and less stressful. There must have been some issue on the train as an announcement was made in Japanese and English asking people to please remember to wear masks and to refrain from speaking. Japanese trains are always quieter than European ones, but now now they are eerie. No one speaks and it seems that no one interacts or smiles. Masks hide so many facial expressions.

We have so many masks. I am always wearing one if I leave the house and it seems that I have spare masks in every bag. There are masks at the front door, to put on if a parcel arrives. Then we get to do the dance of opening the door and waiting for the person who knocked it to move back by two meters while I pick up the parcel. Today I had to sign a piece of paper on delivery. This has been scrapped by most companies and I could see that the delivery person was embarrassed as he expected me to use his pen. (Since I am foreign he is not expecting me to use my own name stamp, though I do have one in the hall.)

Being heard, while wearing a mask, is difficult. And my understanding of Japanese declines when the sound isn’t as clear and I can’t see mouth shapes. Singing with a mask on means that my voice is a little raw today, mostly because I am over singing as I can’t tell if the person I’m singing to at the other end of a room can hear me. These things are not ideal, but if this is what we need to do so that we can continue performing, then we will do it.

Long Summer

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Life continues to limp on in Tokyo. The extreme heat and humidity is causing death and putting an extra strain on the health system, already burdened by the increase in cases of Covid-19. This is the longest period of time I have spent in Japan and it does not look as if I will be going anywhere this year. At the minute we are not even meant to leave the city. Every day we hear that people should remain on heightened alert, as the situation in Tokyo is still extremely severe. But like everywhere we are becoming fatigued and we may need more than a polite request to stay home.

I have finished teaching summer workshops for TIP Youth. I still find remote teaching difficult as there are always technology issues to deal with. Some of these are caused by the students switching off their cameras or logging out, which is not something they would get away with so easily in an actual classroom. Trying to find ways to deal with how differently people interact via Zoom is tiring. As we continue to do this we will find it easier but at the minute it is still frustrating and draining. That being said the workshops were still fun and I am glad that we went ahead with them.

The show I was meant to be directing for a November performance has been cancelled. Aside from the risks of rehearsing and having people attend there is the issue of making a socially distanced show commercially viable. The theatre we were planning on using is suggesting that we sell 35 seats per performance in a space that was meant to hold around 100! How can anyone pay for a show with such a reduction on the number of tickets?

Renting theatre space in Tokyo is very expensive and many spaces need booked more than a year in advance. Cancelling shows is also problematic because of the lost deposits or even having to pay the full price for the space depending on the contract. One of the groups I work with has already cancelled their February 2021 show as they couldn’t risk waiting as the cancellation fees keep increasing as time passes.

I realise that I don’t sound overly cheerful, but the current situation is difficult.

Year’s End

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

The years do seem to move faster, now that I’m older, and I am still coming to terms with the fact that it’s nearly Christmas. 2019 has been a very full year.

I started the year visiting family in Northern Ireland. I made it back a few times this year, and it’s always an adventure catching up with friends and family. This year I also managed to go on two holidays, one with a friend and one with M. I absolutely loved Canada. It was so beautiful.

Athabasca Glacier

I’m finally at the stage where I tell new people I meet that I work in theatre. This year I performed and was part of the production team of a professional show, I taught youth theatre, and I directed community theatre. I spend most of my weekends and evenings working on some sort of theatre production. I’ve also been in enough recording studios that I can say that I sing professionally.

Cast & Crew of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I continue to study and I hopefully by next summer I will have finished my vocal qualification. The oddest thing I learnt to do this year was rock scream. This is not something I plan to do a lot, but it was interesting to find out how this can be done without destroying my voice.

2020 is looking like it will be a busy year, but I’m hopeful that it will be a good one.

Cinderella Begins

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Autumn is starting to make itself felt in Tokyo. I was out of the country, during Hagibis, and I’m glad that the more recent storms have been mild in comparison. I have been watching the changing leaves, and the surprising pumpkin displays, and thinking of my May 2020 production of Cinderella.

The fields are aglow in autumn yellow, and the sky is a robin’s egg blue.

Rodger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Often, when talking about a show, we talk about the production dates, and not the large amount of time spent before that to create the show. The process started in the summer when I put together the proposal for Tokyo International Players. Cinderella was not my first choice, of a show to direct, but getting rights to musicals in Japan is difficult. Many of the well known shows have their rights on hold with large Japanese theatre companies and others don’t grant rights in this region. It is always disappointing to work on a proposal, only to discover there was never a chance of working on the show. But I’m excited to be working on Cinderella.

The auditions will be at the end November and I have already analyzed the show and put together many of the production team. I have also been creating art work to promote the show and the auditions. Yesterday, I met with a designer and discussed possible ways of creating a pumpkin that turns into a carriage, one of the many technical challenges for the show.

I have received the rehearsal tracks and I’m delighted with them. This is the first time I have used ROC’s rehearsal track system and I love the control it is giving me over the score. I will miss having a live orchestra, and the music director I have worked with in the past, but the ability to change keys and to give the cast access to all of their vocal parts is amazing. In the past we have recorded all of the vocal parts before rehearsals start and it takes a long time. And, yes, I could change key with an orchestra, but it means re-scoring all the parts or paying to have this done – so we tend to never to that.

There is no doubt that the show will take over my life in the months to come, but it’s going to be worth it. I will get stressed and overwhelmed but the show will bring joy to the cast and the audience.

Disturbance Interviews

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

The musical opens in two weeks! I’m starting to see a number of interviews regarding the show.

The Metropolis one is interesting as they have interviewed the Director and Composer.

Ultimately, we’re a creative team of artists, and I’d like that our presentation of this domestic abuse story help audiences reach their own conclusions, allowing them to form their own productive discussions about what is a highly important and complex social issue.

Mark Ferris, Composer

As a director, I can use musical theater to be unpredictable and use techniques that reflect the reality of [victims] of domestic abuse as a kind of social message. A lot of victims suffer in secret and, although everything looks fine on the surface, they are concealing a lot of layers of pain and struggle. The music in “Disturbance” is often very beautiful and some scenes begin almost comically, but as we invite the audience into this world, the darkness under the characters’ facades begins to unravel.

Rachel Walzer, Director


Friday, June 7th, 2019

I am working on a new musical called Disturbance that is being adapted for the stage by Rachel Walzer. The production is based on the book of poems by Ivy Alvarez, with music by Tony Award-winning producer Mark Ferris. 

The book is based on a true story of domestic violence where a man killed his wife and son, before killing himself. The poems feature various family members and those involved in the aftermath of the tragedy, such as the neighbours, police officers, and estate agents.

Disturbance Logo

​I have been working on vocal arrangements and on teaching the songs to the cast. This is the first time that I’ve worked directly with the composer of a musical and it’s been an exhilarating experience. I will also be performing as part of the ensemble.

The musical premieres at Musicasa in Tokyo on 2 July 2019, and runs to 4 July 2019.

Chitty’s End

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

It’s almost a week now since the final show of Chitty. It was a more tiring experience than I was expecting, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It was the first time I had attempted to direct such a large show and I know that once I get over the tiredness I’ll be happy with the achievement.

I am grateful that the performance was well received and that we had a good audience. The cast and crew put in an amazing amount of effort and I was very fortunate to get to work with them.

Cast and Crew of Chitty
Cast & Crew of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Tokyo International Players – Photo Credit: Rodger Sono

As a volunteer organisation it’s not surprising that everyone ends up having to do more than one job. I sorted out most of the costuming for the show myself, and given the time and budget constraints I ended up borrowing as much as I could and buying pieces overseas. In the end I was happy with how the cast looked, though it was not an easy task, nor one I want to do again anytime soon.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

It won’t be long now.

Flyer for the Tokyo International Players production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Flyer for TIP’s Production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang