From the President

Below is my President’s Report for the July meeting. I’m sharing it here so that members can keep up with what’s happening around the theatre.

 

President’s Report

Strategic Plan

This month has seen us tick off several items on our Strategic Plan. This meeting will see us finally pass the changes to the Constitution about membership (hopefully) and we have made progress towards updating the website so that it can manage membership.

There’s also been a range of meetings with theatre management staff about the evolving nature of the role. Vivien has also met with Jo Michel about ticketing systems as part of our investigations into changes in this area in the future. In the office area, there’s been a clean-out ahead of plans to move the photocopier into the secure store.

Back of house, there’s been a lot of activity this month. Several of our members have been busily transferring set items, materials and props to our storage shed in Cardiff, and we are making progress towards refurbishing the green room. I will be meeting this week with our WfD supervisors to work out the next steps.

The replacement of the doors into the old theatre, the repairs and repainting of the wall in the old theatre are also significant improvements.

In line with our plan, we have also had the theatre professionally cleaned and at the July meeting we will be looking at and confirming plans for the future in this area.

The ADSC has also been very busy, getting us to the point where we can lock in next year’s season.

 

Independent Member’s Projects

Much Ado About Nothing was our ‘trial run’ for this kind of project and it has, in my view, been a considerable success. This project was the result of several months’ worth of committee discussions and recommendations, and a response to a long-running discussion with members.

Where this idea grew from is from members’ comments about club nights. We were looking for a model for club nights that engaged members and audiences. Shakespeare’s Women most certainly did this. The idea of a four-night club night taking over $4,000, total audience well over 200, and with strong positive press about its quality? If anyone had suggested that this was possible twelve months ago, would we have believed them?

Of course, there were some unanticipated problems. We ended up with three large shows rehearsing at once, and there was some strain on the people involved. Could I thank everyone who showed patience and made accommodations for others?

We also hadn’t considered some of the organisational needs in detail, so a few things were done in an ad hoc way. As one example, bump-out breakfasts happened and were successful, but they depended on the goodwill of a few of the members in all three casts in order to work.

I would like to hear from people involved in the production, and from committee, about difficulties we can address in the future. Clearly, we have the makings of a long-term initiative here. If we can successfully manage two or three members’ projects a year, it would be one way that we could better meet the needs of our members and contribute to the wider theatre community.

 

Charities

Unfortunately the charity who was keen to take on The Sea has had to pull out. We have had this happen a few times lately, and it begs the question: why? Perhaps we need to revisit arrangements for our final dress rehearsal? Or is this an issue of engagement? I am keen to hear people’s views on this.

 

Audience and Membership Engagement

I’d like to acknowledge the work of everyone who has been putting time into this area. Noel Grivas, Amy Hill, Debra Hely, Susan Dredge and Vivien Jones in particular have been instrumental in keeping this side of things running.  However, we are currently operating without a dedicated sub-committee in this area. I’d like to get this going as a priority. Running our website, planning for season 2018, staying in touch with members, engaging our audience, making decisions about publicity… these things are essential to what we do. I know there are a number of committee members with ideas and the capacity to contribute, so what can we do here? Is there a good time that people with an interest can meet?

 

Stewart McGowan

President NTC

Play Selection Panel – the pointy end!

Tonight’s the night that the Play Selection Panel meets to decide on their priorities for the 2016 season. No spoilers here – we want it to be a surprise when we release the season. But there’s some interesting facts and statistics around play selection. A lot of members have been involved in the very busy round of play-readings this year so it will come as no surprise to learn that there are 21 plays that have been proposed as potentials for the 2016 season.

There’s a huge range, too, including at least three new plays written by company members, some big-name comedies and dramas, musicals and farces, Australian and international works.

There’s thirteen members of the Play Selection Panel and I’d like to thank them all for their time and effort. It’s no easy task putting together a successful season. The next step is for the committee to read the short-listed plays so that they can have their input as well. Watch this space in late October to find out the results of our deliberations.

From the Vault

The Company’s facebook page  (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Newcastle-Theatre-Company/54052341294?fref=ts) has an interesting range of photos from the ’80’s and ’90’s scanned in and posted a while ago by Susan Dredge. Here’s three of my favourites. Marat Sade was one of the first shows I saw at Rep (with Joanne Michel, for those who know her). Oh! What a Lovely War! was the first show I did for the company. And Robyn Greenwell designed the set for Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

Marat Sade Lovely War Seventeenth Doll

Giant Monster Working Bee

What really needs to be done around our theatre?
Worker
1. We need a shed out the back that is big enough to store major scenery pieces
2. We need to decommission and replace the current large air conditioning unit with an appropriate, low noise fan unit
3. The costume area! It needs new shelves, sorting, reorganising
4. We’ve collected a lot of old flats and other pieces that are well past their use by date and need to be dumped. There’s also some large items to dispose of.
5. Our set construction area is evolving but it needs finishing and organising
6. If the rail on the loading bay stairs was removable…

There’s the priority list. What we’ve got planned is a giant monster working bee centred around the weekend of the 10th and 11th of January. The plan is to concentrate on the first three items in the list.

On both days, we’d get teams working at around 9 with a finish after lunch at around 2pm. What we need now is people who’d like to volunteer for a team. To volunteer, send an e-mail to Viv at the theatre. We’d like people for:

The Shed-building team
The air-con decommissioning team
The costume room team
The clean-up team
The catering and drinks team

Vintage_WWII_Patriotic_Posters_United_States_America-4LGIf you’re available for only one day, or for both, that’s fine. If you’re not available that weekend, there’s some work to be done pre- and post- the event.
2014 was such a big year that we haven’t really had the time for some of the major work around the theatre. So this is our chance to catch up and get the place ship-shape. We’ve got enough to keep everyone busy. Each team will have a ‘Captain’ who’ll be involved in the planning of the day so if you’re interested in this role, let Viv know as well.

Looking forward to seeing a great many of the members there!

Stewart

Attack of the Periaktoids. Notes from the Sherlock debrief

Monday, 8th December.
Sherlock Holmes and the Legend of the Jersey Lily.
Sherlock Poster
Debriefs are designed to look at a production and reflect on what went well and what else we need to work on. We had a dozen people turn up tonight to talk through Sherlock Holmes.
There was a range of valuable discussions to do with a range of issues from the practical to the philosophical. The practical included working in the old theatre and the issues involved in working there. The philosophical included ideas about approaches to the play. All of us have ideas about how we would approach a play and sharing those was interesting.
One interesting idea involved the future of the old building. Everyone agreed that a long term plan that involved demolishing the old theatre and replacing it with a purpose-built theatre. There was also a lot of talk about the need to fix our costume and props storage. Luckily executive met tonight to talk about the major working bee in January designed to fix this problem. Watch this space.
On the philosophical side, the group discussed what’s best described as the set change issue. With four locations (plus a dressing room scene) this was a set-heavy show. The production team made use of the Periaktoids to solve the problem. Their theory was that the peris would speed up the set change process. However, the realistic sets and the number of furniture pieces meant that the set changes still took up to seven minutes.
The discussion around this was the highlight of the debrief. Some audience members really enjoyed the set change process, some found the breaks of no consequence and some found them distracting. In talking around the issues, there were some interesting insights for designers. The peris are designed to make changes quicker but they’re more suited for non-realistic sets with big splashes of colourful design items. They are okay for realistic plays but for the theatre savvy, the gaps and inconsistencies of finish are distracting.
The season of Sherlock itself did well financially, taking around $14,000. There were discussions about the strengths of the production, many of which centred on the quality of performances.
The whole debrief procedure is an important part of what we do as a theatre. Thank you to all who took part in tonight’s event.

CONDA nominations

Robyn and I are just back from the announcement of the CONDA nominations for 2014. It was probably the best announcement event I’ve seen. Agosti’s was a cut above the usual theatre foyer.
I’m very much in favour of Shane Bransdon’s call for the CONDAs to be seen more as a celebration of theatre in the region and less of a competition. But a little bit of competition’s not a bad thing, right?
It’s been a bumper year for nominations at NTC. Calendar Girls received nominations for best dramatic production, lighting design (Sarah Jane Judge), excellence by a female actor (Janet Gillam and Jan Hunt), excellence in a supporting role (Arlene Richards) and direction (Isobel Denholm).
Continuing through the season, James Chapman was also nominated for an acting award for Sleuth.

James Chapman in Sleuth. Photo by Amy Wilde.

James Chapman in Sleuth. Photo by Amy Wilde.


Emma Wood’s Mr Bennet’s Bride was nominated in the best new play category. Julie Black was nominated for direction and the whole company was nominated for best ensemble acting. Dean Blackford, Tracey Gordon and Alison Cox all have nominations for acting awards.
God of Carnage also has a slew of nominations. Directing, acting and ensemble nominations for John Wood, Richard Murray, Linda Read, Rosemary Dartnell and Michael Byrne.
The ensemble of Company was also nominated, with Stephanie Priest earning an acting nomination and Kieran Norman nominated for musical direction.
Nicholas Thoroughgood and Alex Waye were both nominated in the excellence by a male actor under 18 category. Alex Waye also earned a nomination for the lighting design on Lost in Yonkers. Nola Wallace was nominated in the excellence by a female actor category.
Closing out the year’s nominations, Mick Byrne and Amy Wilde were both nominated for The Boys.
Well done to all our nominees. To see the full list of nominees from all companies, click here. http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2704668/conda-awards-2014-full-list-of-nominations/?cs=2372
Naturally we’ll all have ideas about the list and what else should be there. But let’s not let that detract from the moment. Congratulations to all our nominees, and to those from other companies. I’m looking forward to CONDA night!
Stewart.

From the Executive Meeting

As part of the ‘keep everyone in the loop’ process, here’s a quick summary of what we discussed at yesterday’s executive meeting.

1. We’ve talked a fair bit about the major theatre improvements that need to be done. Particularly the idea of putting a shed out the back for major scenic pieces. On top of this, there’s a need to rationalise costumes and improve storage facilities for them and there’s work to do on the front of the old theatre. We’ve decided to have a major theatre improvements working bee in January. I’m suggesting the weekend of the 10th or the 17th. Feedback please.
2. Our Christmas party is on at the theatre on Wednesday, 10th of December. Tickets will be $35 per person for a pre-show get together plus the Wednesday performance of Season’s Greetings. Catering cost is $20, so cast members and those who already have a ticket need only pay for the catering. It’s a ‘bring your own’ function, starting from 6.00.
3. There’s some logistics that go with all of that – it’s still a public performance, it’s likely that people will stay around to meet the cast and share a celebratory after-show drink – and we talked through the details. I won’t write them here but please discuss any issues with us.
4. John McFadden is happy to take responsibility for marketing and promotions and has a range of good ideas. He’s also volunteering to edit Repartee! I’ll be chatting with him soon.
5. We agreed that given the cost of running the CONDA awards that we would offer to sponsor a CONDA. The glass things with wings cost around $350 each. Oh, I’ll be at the announcement of the nominations this evening. Watch this space!
6. Newcastle City Council. No further movement here. I’m still working on getting the senior Development Officer out for a site inspection.
7. We talked in detail about what we wanted to get done in 2015. I’ll present this at the Executive meeting.
8. We talked generally about some custom and practice issues. How flexible should we be with time when auditioning, for example? (Our view was that we should do our best to accommodate people who can’t make it to a set audition time.)
All in all, it was a busy meeting – nearly two hours. The minutes will be with committee members soon.

Stewart McGowan