The Stage2 BlogThese are real kids, with real words
I’m Lauren Brine from Stage2 and I am taking part as a Writer in The Young Writers’ Festival.
I wrote a piece called, Two minds, One brain, which is all about a young boy and how his life changes after a brain transplant. When the piece was finally finished I was inexplicably relieved/happy, and then came the next anticipation: the casting.
When I first received the e-mail telling me about my cast, I read it and I was happy. Just happy. I thought it sounded good and all the people fit the parts assigned to them, but nothing more than happy. But then came the second Saturday back, the next week. And as I was watching the cast come together, talk to each other and read through the script, I began to realise it was in fact a very good match. Everyone works together and there is the perfect balance of ages, maturity and experience.
On this same day, was the first rehearsal. As I said, I am a writer, but I chose not to act in my own piece, so instead I sit with Alex (the director of my piece) as he directs, inputting my opinion’s and generally observing form the side. And as I watched the first blocking directions being put into place, it made me see a different side of my piece. A piece that I had written. A piece that I had spent at a whole summer on, looked different. The cast and the actions when paired with the script made it come alive, and as I watched Alex direct it, and the actors act, I was very, very, very happy.
The first rehearsal went well, and really showed how well the cast work together. As well as the beginning of the blocking process, we also did research, read throughs and character-building exercises. All of which were very beneficial. Overall, it has been such an amazing process that I am proud to say I am part of, even though it has only been fully going for two weeks.
The Young Writers’ Festival
20th & 21st December 2019 – 7.30pm – £12
@The Hexagon Theatre, MAC Birmingham
Tickets available online via the MAC Website
The Young Writers’ Festival
The Line Up
This term Stage2 brings you The Young Writers’ Festival – a festival-style evening of short one-act plays written and performed by the Young People of the West Midlands. We started our rehearsal process last Saturday and we’ve already produced some fantastic work so far!
These original piece of writing were written with the stimuli of change – we can all agree that the World is changing dramatically right now, and Stage2 believes that young peoples voices matter in the greater dialogue.
Here’s a little bit about the pieces as well as the young authors who wrote them.
Two Minds, One Brain
By Lauren Brine
Two Minds, One Brain is a weird and wonderful journey into the life of William Harper; a young boy who suffers from an incurable headache. With revolutionary new science, a surgeon manages to complete the first successful brain-transplant, meaning no more headaches for William. Only, it’s not just William who wakes up after the operation…
This play with a cast of 5 delves into the concept of identity and how our lives might change if we were to not be wholly who we were.
Lauren Brine, aged 13, may be in your heads currently for her “simply superb” (Behind the Arras), portrayal of the titular character Alice in Stage2’s most recent production of ALICE (based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland). Even as the youngest of our Writers, Brine has shown a maturity in her writing that belies her years.
By Reuben Jones-Rigby
Set in America during the roaring 1920’s, Reuben Jones-Rigby’s The Pyramid follows the life and trials of gangster boss Don Marlo as he navigates his way up the chain of command. It’s all dancing and music, cigars and good times until Marlo forgets who he is and who he’s loyal to…
This play with a cast of 6 focusses on the change of circumstance for one power-hungry Don.
Reuben Jones-Rigby, aged 17, is currently studying at BOA and has been connected with Stage2 for several years. Reuben has a real zest for life and can often be seen at Stage2 practicing his dancing or playing the guitar for the wonderful group of 7 – 10 year olds he assists with in the afternoon. The Pyramid is a stark contrast to the picture we’ve painted above, it’s gritty, solid writing with a strong structure and excellent characters.
By Ellie Waide
This yet to be titled piece by writer and poet Ellie Waide, is a performance poem reminiscent of the work of Kate Tempest. Each verse is cleverly crafted and characterises the struggles faced by a generation expected to save the world. With a cast of 5, this piece is stylised with elements of choral speaking meaning Waide’s words are brought to vivid, impactful life.
Ellie Waide, aged 16, is currently in her GCSE year – a talented young writer with a history of excellent grades in her LAMDA Devising Exams, Waide has stepped up her game for the Festival and this piece is sure to have hearts resonating and consciences questioned.
The Ones Left Behind
By Elijah Dix
1914, The Great War – little did they know at the time that it was the first part in a two-part series. War changes everything and in The Ones Left Behind, writer Elijah Dix, conjures these brave characters to life – presented by a cast of 4, we see their highs and their lows and how they change as people under such extreme circumstances.
Elijah Dix, aged 15, has recently stepped into the role of Peer-Mentor here at Stage2 – a year long commitment where dedicated young people help those around them – mentoring younger, newer members to fully achieve everything they want to! The Ones Left Behind is written with a blend of natural and stylised text – aided by a chorus of 6 voices who carry us through the trials and tribulations of the men and women on the front-line.
By Liv Grant-Bryson
“(…) time flies. Time is ever changing, it flies, gallops, it ambles, it crawls
but still it is constantly moving”
Time changes everything, even though we can’t see it or touch it, Time changes everything. In this piece of choral speaking, written in the style of authors Claire Dowie and Steven Berkoff, Liv Grant-Bryson attempts to give voice to this conceptual entity. With a cast of 5, aided by a chorus of 5, young people, this piece is as moving as it is thought-provoking.
Liv Grant-Bryson, aged 16, is one of Stage2’s most recent Trainee Tutors – the highest position a member can reach at Stage2. From the time that Liv joined Stage2 she has consistently surprised and impressed both tutors and audiences alike. A remarkably talented young woman, Liv has turned her attention to writing and this piece is an excellent demonstration of a young person with something to say.
By Toma Hoffman and Maddi Stewart
The World as we know it has come to an end. Unlike our current fears of Climate Change bringing our civilisation to its knees, the apocalypse in New Beginnings is a lot more bitey. This piece, written in collaboration by Maddi Stewart and Toma Hoffman, follows the struggles of a band of young people desperately trying to survive the zombie-wasteland. These young people, bereft of an adult presence, cling wildly to any sense of the civilisation they left behind, leaders of the pack come and go but do they really need a leader?
Stewart (aged 16) and Hoffman (aged 14) both have a long history in Stage2, having both achieved accolades in performance and peer leadership. Stewart is the current leader of our drama workshops for under 10’s (Stage1) having a natural ability to lead and teach young creatives. Hoffman joined Stage1 when he was only 7 years old and since then has blossomed into a talented young actor. Writing is a new game for both authors and the text carries a lighter humour even amongst the zombie-hordes.
The Young Writers’ Festival
Friday 20th & Saturday 21st December 2019
@ The Hexagon Theatre, MAC Birmingham, B12 9QH | 7.30pm | £12
The First Week of Polishing
The first week of polishing is complete and I couldn’t be more comfortable with how much Love and Information has already improved. With the notes from the previous run in my mind I had a good idea what I need to improve and approached polishing with a fair amount of excitement and a dash of nervousness. Polishing is known for being the most relaxed and stress-free part of the rehearsal process. It’s the time when you can make your ideas become whole and come to life. Blocking is the basic moves that will enable your piece to run but it will be far from the finished product. Where as when it comes to polishing it can be seen as taking a piece of wood and smoothing out the edges. Which is why it’s exciting!
The actual process is dependant on the actors learning their lines and knowing all their notes (instructions and feedback from the director), which have been accumulated through the blocking process and the runs that we’ve now done. In polishing, the director wants to be adding to the basic structure which they have created to make it an all round better show that flows and looks good!
I came into this week with fresh eyes. I knew exactly how I would carry out the polishing process. From having had a run, it meant that I was able to see what scenes needed more time, I’m not ashamed to say that one scene in particular didn’t work, so now through polishing I am making adjustments – it’s all part of the process and the role of being a director.
So how did the first week of polishing actually go? It honestly went quite well! In the first half of the session we completed a good chunk of polishing. Then in the second half I decided to do some team building exercises and character work, as there had been a consistent note from both of the runs for the cast to have more energy and react to each other’s characters. The cast and I worked well and I feel that I am in a good position to finish the polishing through the next couple of weeks.
Once the polishing is finished it’s into the swing of production week once we’ve had our final run, which from a directors viewpoint is daunting as well as an opportunity to find out whether all the hard work that has been put in has paid off.
For your chance to see Georgie at work as part of the Young Directors’ Festival visit the MAC Birmingham for final tickets!
My name’s Carmen and this term I’m directing The Gilt Frame, a short story from Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, which I have adapted to work as a 10 minute play!
Recently, we had the 2nd run of all the evening performances, which gave me, as the director an opportunity to see what had, hopefully improved from the last run and to see what steps I would next need to take with my actors in terms of polishing to help the process move forward.
Personally, the 2nd run was vital for my cast as it was effectively our first run with a full cast, and I was really looking forward to seeing the play as a whole. Another thing I was looking forward to watching was the other pieces. I had seen them the week prior, and was excited to see the pieces developed further. As I had expected, they were of high standard, and gave me a taster of what the audience’s experience would be like. It also showcased the variety of pieces; from in your face comedy to subtle, to thought provoking pieces about mental health, the night provides entertainment for everyone.
Overall, I was pleased with how my cast had performed. What struck me the most was how, for some, it was their first time performing in front of an audience, at least with Stage2. Yet, their high level of discipline and acting said otherwise. The areas that showed room for improvement, mainly were the technicalities of the piece, for example entrances and exits, all errors I was confident could be erased in polishing, the next step in the rehearsal process. However, I was impressed with the performances of the more ‘emotional’ scenes in the play. I thought that my actors showed understanding and undoubtedly, raw talent in these.
The 2nd run was incredibly useful for me, to gauge exactly where the play, and the actors are, in terms of the rehearsal process. It helped me plan the structure of my future rehearsals and see what I can do in upcoming sessions, to help and push my cast further.
Carmen is the youngest of the six directors as part of the YDF and has been in Stage2 for many years. To support her and the other directors, why not book for the YDF by phoning Stage2 at 07961 018841.
Stage2 Advisory Boards
You speak, we listen.
Stage2 is more than a youth theatre; it’s a company, a charity, a community, even a family! With over 70 young people from across the West Midlands, Stage2 Tutors have quite the job keeping up with individual journeys and nurturing independent developments of each and every young person.
In the Spring Term of this year, Alex instigated a “Kids’ Advisory Board” which presented members the opportunity to raise their thoughts and opinions about Stage2, their experiences when they’re here and of course offer suggestions on how to improve.
The first Advisory Board was a huge success with over 30 members attending – nearly all of them reporting that they felt as if a “weight had been lifted” having been given the opportunity to raise complaints (previously felt unaddressed) in an anonymous and safe way. I feel that this was a major milestone in moving Stage2 forward, by actively listening to our members we are able to make changes (within reason) to enable this company to become “more than a youth theatre”.
To remain transparent, we ensure that we communicate these changes to our members – and what better way to disseminate this info than through our brand spanking new blog! The original feedback document is 8 pages long so we won’t bore you with all the science; just the bits that Stage2 Staff are actively pursuing!
In General (since the first Advisory Board), of the 16 members who took part:
- ALL reported that they were less stressed, less pressured and more relaxed at Stage2
- ALL reported that they enjoyed the Project Options and their versatility
- However, 4 members of the group said that they wanted Shows to return because they felt there was less to be excited about.
- Parents were very positive about the changes since the first Parents Forum (Oct 2017)
- The majority of members felt happy with the way that Alex is leading Stage2.
- However, many members of the group raised thoughts on how Alex could improve their experience (such as producing more shows & doing more to correct bad behaviour).
From the latter point, Alex has implemented behaviour management strategies at Stage2 to tackle more difficult presenting behaviours.
In regards to doing more Shows – Alex says he would love to, and will continue to seek out new and exciting performance ventures!
- Parents stated that they were relieved that there were not so many full-scale productions any more – they had seen a noticeable decrease in the pressure & stress experienced at home.
- Parents reported that they felt Stage2 was too strict on lateness when arriving and that often times lateness was caused by traffic or a fault on the parents side.
Alex reassured parents at the time that he agreed and that he would alter the Stage2 system of managing time-keeping, this was actioned the following week (20th October 2018).
- Around 4 members reported that they felt that many Stage2 Activities were still too Kings Heath “centric”.
Stage2 Staff are currently looking for more central locations for future events.
- Members reported that they were happy with George Bandy as the new General Drama Leader.
- However, members also felt that Stage2 had a noticeable lack of permanent staff – i.e. Staff not being consistent.
Alex will instigate “interview” activities amongst Staff and Members to try and bridge this gap.
This is just a small sampling of points from a much wider document. I think one of the most important aspects of the Advisory Board is the trust that is placed in Stage2’s hands when navigating the feedback. Some points that are raised won’t be able to be actioned (my favourite is “that Stage2 should buy a Mini-Van” when most people know that Stage2 Staff don’t/can’t drive!!), some points that are raised will be actioned outside the view of Stage2 members and many will make noticeable, tangible differences in the way that we operate.
To everyone who attended this meeting and anyone who has in the past, thank you for making this company a stronger, safer place to be!
My name is Robert and I’m directing an extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Young Directors’ Festival. On Saturday 27th November, we had our first “run” of the evening’s performances. This means performing each piece in sequence whilst I make notes!
The first runs of our performances for the Young Directors’ Festival was a great chance to finally see each others work. I must admit I was unsure of how my own cast was going to be able to handle this, though I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised!
I found watching the other performances to be a most enjoyable experience with pieces ranging from the comical to the tragical, giving some great variety. I found that my own group, for what weaknesses were presented performed very well and I was very proud of them, I can see what is already good and that which needs to be made great. I have high hopes that come our next run I will see a performance that is on an even higher level.
This run has been, from a directing standpoint, a great chance to see how the piece plays to an audience, which gives a fresh look upon my work and will enable me to work on parts which I felt worked far better than they did in actuality. In short, this sobering look at my piece from an audience eye will mean that I can, as a director, continue to work on and improve my piece for both the actors and audience.
Alongside the YDF, Robert is Stage2’s current Mentor Manager. Having been in the company for several years Robert now assists Stage2 Staff in the office during the week. He has been Cast and Chorus in a litany of shows as well fulfilling Technical and Assistant Roles.
See how far Robert has come by reading his previous post on Working with Cast by clicking here.
For a full line up of the performances of the YDF visit this cheeky round up blog post here.
For Tickets and Venue information just click here!