A Director’s Perspective on Casting a Show

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend with my production team, auditioning talented hopefuls who were trying out for a role in the Camperdown Theatre Company production of Little Shop of Horrors in May, 2020. 

The depth and variety of talent was incredible. It took us three hours to decided on the final cast, because we had some fabulous options – but that also meant that some hard decisions had to be made, too. You can’t give everyone the lead role, after all. 

When I looked at the final cast list, my first words were, “ This is going to be an absolutely killer show!” And you know what? It really is, because every one of the people the production team called last night with an offer accepted the role we offered them, even if it wasn’t the one they were hoping for. 

They are all super excited, and so am I. 
The cast list has just been posted, and I am looking forward to the excitement and anticipation that will create in the community as well as in the theatre company. 

There is a lot to do, and no time to waste, before rehearsals begin in February, but one thing is sure: It is a wonderful thing to be able to create and share this very special kind of joy and excitement that will flavour the whole six months before the show hits the stage.

Horror Scenes in Shakespeare: “Out, vile jelly!” The Eye-Gouging of Gloucester.

A black and white image of Shakespeare with the heading 'Horror in Shakespeare'.

I remember the first time I saw ‘King Lear’ on stage. I was in my final year of high school and my English teacher took us to see the play.

It’s fair to say I was more than impressed, and I particularly remember this scene. It’s one thing to read it on the page, and another entirely to see it brought to life on the stage.

I hope you enjoy Shaekspeare Nerd’s post on this most macabre scene from King Lear: the eye-gouging of Gloucester.

Shakespeare Nerd

There is one particularly macabre scene in King Lear where Lear’s daughter Regan and her husband, Cornwall, presided over the punishment of Gloucester for his “treason” in supporting Lear, the rightful king, after their rejection of him.

They are in Gloucester’s own home, no less, when they detain him, bind him to a chair and accuse him of treason. He has no idea of their evil intent, and reminds them more than once that they are his guests – and terrible ones at that.

Regan yanks hair out of Gloucester’s beard, and when Cornwall gouges out one of his eyes, presumably with a dagger, she picks up a sword and kills the servant who objects, then demands that Gloucester’s other eye be taken out, too. On doing so, Cornwall utters the words, “Out, vile jelly!” This really emphasises the vulnerability and delicate nature of the tissues and substance of the…

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Coming in May 2020: Little Shop of Horrors

For several weeks now, I have been almost bursting with excitement and anticipation, and with the pressure of keeping this news secret until now!

I am finally at liberty to announce that I am going to be the director of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’  in May 2020 with Camperdown Theatre Company. 

I’m thrilled to be working with a wonderful friend as CoDirector alongside a brilliant team of incredibly talented people. I’m really looking forward to bringing this show to life with them, and building our friendships and experience at the same time. 

And this show! I can’t put into words how much I want to do this show. 

This is another “musical theatre bucket list” show for me, and I’m incredibly thankful to Camperdown Theatre Company for having faith in me as a director, but also for giving me the opportunity to do yet another amazing show with them. 

This is so freaking awesome, I can’t even begin to express how I feel. 

Auditions will be in November, and rehearsals will start early in the new year. There are lots of plans and decisions to be made before then, and I can’t wait to get started. 

First things first, though. My school production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing TechnicolorTM Dreamcoat’ hits the stage next week, and that’s going to be my focus until it’s done and dusted. 

Oh my gosh. Hold on tight, kids: the next seven months are going to be an incredible ride!

Musical Multitasking!

Even though I’m still in the final weeks of directing and preparing ‘Joseph and the Amazing TechnicolorTM Dreamcoat’ to go on stage at my school in September, I’m already thinking a couple of shows ahead. 

Not only do the musical director and I have some definite ideas about what show we’d like our school to do next year, I’ve also been in discussion and negotiations with a small group of likeminded individuals to put a show on stage for the local theatre company of which we are all active members. 

The idea was hatched when we were all still riding high on the endorphins of a wonderful production of Monty Python’s Spamalot! in May. The fact that things are still in the budding stage is evidence that bringing it to fruition is a lot more complicated than simply deciding on a show and just doing it. 

All sorts of things have to be considered: Can we cast it? Can we stage it? How will we achieve this effect or that outcome? How much is it going to cost? Who is going to fill the various roles on the production team? These are the sorts of details a theatre company will want before deciding to proceed. 

I’ve just finished preparing the pitch for a show, which I hope to present to the theatre company on Wednesday night. I won’t reveal what show it is yet, because we have to get approval from the committee, apply for and secure the licensing rights, and make sure everything is in order before we announce what we’re planning to do. 

The team and I are super excited about the possibilities and we hope that the committee embraces our ideas. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue unintentionally mashing the two very different shows together in my mind, with a bit of Spamalot thrown in for good measure. I’m frequently amused by the “variant lyrics” that happen in my mind, which is at the very least an unexpected bonus.

Hey nonny nonny. We’ll see what happens next!

‘Les Mis’ and the Night Tigers

‘Les Miserables’ is among my favourite books of all time, and it is also one of my favourite musicals. 

I saw a fabulous production of ‘Les Mis’ last night at the theatre in Warrnambool. 

My major achievement for the evening was not singing along out loud— which took more self-discipline than you might ever realise. 

I was moved to tears by the emotion and beauty of the performances, but also— as always— by the power of the lyrics. 

There are many moments and several songs in the show that I love, but my absolute favourite lines are sung by Fantine: 

“But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder…”

‘I Dreamed a Dream’


Those words are so profound.I find them powerful because I know that whatever it is that a person struggles with – pain, grief, depression, anxiety, worry… those tigers visit more often at night, and stay for longer, than they ever do during daylight hours. 

One of the reasons I began taking my writing more seriously a number of years ago was because I found it an excellent way of dealing with my night tigers and answering their voices with my own.  

That’s why many of my poems deal with themes of  mental health, pain, depression, grief, and resilience. Its also why I insist that writing is the most effective therapy I have ever had. It hasn’t cured me or solved my problems, but it has certainly helped to heal me and enable me to deal with the challenges I face in life in a much healthier way. 

Those tigers still come at night, but they have discovered that I, too, can roar. 

A Favourite Shakespeare Play: Richard III

I enjoy many of Shakespeare’s plays, but I do have a few particular favourites. 

At the top of that list would be Richard III. one of the history plays and part of the series that explores the conflict between the Lancaster and York branches of the Plantagenet family tree which we call The Wars of the Roses. 

Shakespeare’s characterisation of Richard as the ultimate villain is so masterful that it shaped how Richard was viewed for centuries afterward. The fact that the history was severely distorted and, at times, entirely fabricated, and that Shakespeare’s representation of Richard was hardly realistic, has nothing to do with it. Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian, after all, and therefore not inclined  to let the truth get in the way of a great story. 

Of course, it was in his interests to cast Richard in a less than positive light. Shakespeare was very conscious of the fact that his Queen, Elizabeth I, was the granddaughter of Henry Tudor who defeated Richard in battle at Bosworth to become Henry VII. Making Richard less worth of the crown further legitimised Henry’s claim to it, and therefore reinforced her own. In a time when conspiracies and plots against Elizabeth were numerous, the validation of her place on the throne of England was essential for any playwright hoping for royal approval, and patronage from among the upper classes. 

Thus, Shakespeare’s Richard is a man who not only recognises his evil nature but delights in it and determines to see how much he can achieve with it. 

Richard’s choice to pursue evil rather than good from the very start sets the tone of the whole play, and the audience knows they are in for one hell of a ride. His soliloquies deliver profound insights into the evil mind of a villain. They are absolutely fascinating, crafted with intrigue and malice that horrify and enthrall the audience at the same time. It’s riveting stuff. And as Richard puts his schemes into action and celebrates his own cleverness and cunning when they succeed, the audience is acutely aware that they are watching an evil genius in action. 

My favourite character, though, is Margaret, the former queen of Henry VI. She is strong, she is angry, and she is hell-bent on justice. Margaret speaks vitriol and hurls insults and curses so effectively that Cecily, Richard’s own mother, asks Margaret to teach her how it’s done. She attains a level of Shakespearean Insult proficiency that nobody else ever quite managed, not even Richard himself.

The language of the play is magnificent. From the insult competitions to the curses that burn with the brimstone of hell itself, there is not a word wasted in this play. The imagery is incredibly powerful, and the emotive language is so clever and subtle that while the audience may recognise that the characters on stage are being deceived, they don’t realise until after the fact that that they, too, have been positioned and manipulated by a master of the art. 

It is only at the end of the play, when one realises they feel a little sorry for the villainous Richard, that the audience understands how the language and drama of the play have seduced them.   

To take a man from the pages of history, craft him into something hateful, and have the audience still feel something other than hatred for him— albeit, while most likely feeling hatred for him at the same time— is testimony to Shakespeare’s genius as a wordsmith and playwright. 

Why I Love Shakespeare

I’m currently reading a great book titled ‘Blood and Ink’ by DK Marley. It is a really well written historical fiction novel that explores, in part, one of the theories about the identity of the man we know of as William Shakespeare.

Rumours and theories that Shakespeare’s works were written by someone else have abounded for a long time. Various people have been proposed as the actual author. 

That’s all very interesting, of course, but the fact is, I really don’t care whether his name was actually Filchin McFarkle. 

My love for Shakespeare isn’t about the person: it’s about the language, the writing, and the craftsmanship that combine to be the genius of the writer. What his name was doesn’t matter one bit. 

The power of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry is that they take something ordinary and transform it into something extraordinary.

Themes of love, passion, ambition, revenge, hatred, despair, desire, and family dysfunction make his work interesting and relatable to just about everyone. And while there are at least a dozen ways to write any story, the way Shakespeare tells each story is absolute magic. 

Shakespeare used rhythm and poetic devices like imagery, allegory and highly emotive language to heighten the feelings and drama of the situations his characters find themselves in. He enmeshes them in a complex web of conflicting emotions and ambitions and then exposes their innermost  thoughts in the most profound ways. He really is the master of intrigue and dramatic irony, able to hold the audience spellbound, even though they probably already know what’s going to happen and what the various characters are thinking.

To be honest, some of the storylines are pretty rubbish. There are very convenient coincidences, leaps of logic, and plot holes galore, particularly in the comedies. The history plays are at times more fiction than history. Despite all that, Shakespeare dramatises the stories and scenes in such a compelling way, and so deeply engages the audience in the dilemmas and conflicts experienced by the characters, that any issue of credibility actually doesn’t matter.  

I will still pick up a play and read it, or watch a performance, or read the sonnets and be as entranced as ever. Even when interpretations change, the magic with which the words are crafted and woven never gets old. 

Time Flies Whether You’re Having Fun Or Not.

They say time seems to go by faster as you get older. 
Today, I have two questions in response to that premise: 

  1. Exactly how ancient am I?
  2. How is it already June?

I don’t actually think it’s age that does it. I blame deadlines and responsibilities. They’re the things that put us under pressure, that make us work more than we play, and that stop us being all lackadaisy and carefree about how we spend our time like we were when we were kids.

Pressure put on us by employers. Pressure put on us by kids and families. Pressure put on us by ourselves. Pressure put on us by society to be perfect, to be leaders, to be models, to be lots and lots of things we feel we can’t be. We struggle to do it all, and the vortex of expectations and time pressure that is created by those pressures drags us into a cycle of racing against time and waking up every morning surprised that it’s already Wednesday, already June, already 2019. 

Sure, I want to be a responsible adult. But I also want to be able to relax without feeling guilt. I want to be able to slow down sometimes, and drink my coffee without actually thinking about all the things the caffeine is going to help me to achieve within a given time frame. I want to be able to fill my day doing things I enjoy doing without having to rationalise or justify how I spend my time. 

Those dratted deadlines and responsibilities keep me from doing those things. These days, you can’t even be deathly ill and stay in bed for two days without doing paperwork and announcing your impending demise on social media to account for your whereabouts. 

That was one of the many things I loved about being in Spamalot! last month. It was a responsibility and a demand on my time, for sure, but it was loads of fun, and being in rehearsal or on stage meant that I could say, “Sorry, not available” to everyone and everything else that wanted a slice of my time. Even better, I took on a role and left myself and those darned responsibilities behind for a few hours at a time.
It was wonderful. 

Another thing I loved doing in May was blogging about my favourite classic books. Yes, it was another commitment to doing something every day, but it gave me a daily opportunity for a few minutes where I could justify picking up a favourite book, leafing through it to  reacquaint myself with it, spend some time reading, taking a photo of said book, and enjoying my not-so-secret life as an unapologetic book nerd.
That, too, was wonderful. 

June promises to be a busy month with auditions and casting for the school musical, grading exams and assessments, writing reports, and meeting a bunch of work deadlines that are looming. I shall put my plans together today for possible blog topics so that I can keep up my momentum here, and for images and ideas for Instagram posts, because I really enjoy those aspects of my author/blogger life. 

June will also see the release of a new fantasy novella, which I am very excited about. Titled ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’, it was one of my stories included in the fairytale retelling anthology titled ‘Once Upon A Fabulous Time’, and which is now back in my hands for individual release, as that collection is now only available in paperback. I’m in the process of having a new cover designed for the story, and when that’s ready, it will be good to go! That’s the advantage of having a manuscript that is already thoroughly edited!

So, a busy but hopefully enjoyable month looms ahead, and no doubt it will fly past as fast as the months before it have done. All I can do is hang on and do my best… and maybe hope for a little downtime, too.

Spamalot! aka The Show That Ends Like This.

This weekend and last I achieved one of my ultimate theatre goals as an actor, singer, and not-quite-a-dancer in Monty Python’s Spamalot! The Musical. 

A lot of people have done an incredible amount of work, both on stage and off, to bring the show to life and make it run smoothly and professionally. 

It’s a really, really funny show. By the time our cast was done with it, it was non-stop hilarity and good times for the duration of each performance. To be honest, that was pretty much the order of every rehearsal, too,

Sure, there have been moments of frustration and, occasionally, despair for some of us. More than anything, though, it has been fun. It’s fair to say that however many tears may have been shed in tiredness or anxiety, a hundred times more have been borne of laughter. 

From our first read-through of the script to taking our bows of the final night, we have laughed together, learned from one another, inspired and encouraged each other. 

From the final week of January to the second week of May, the cast members have grown from acquaintances into friends. Those with whom I have worked most closely have begun to feel like family. It’s fair to say that they understand my love for theatre and performance more than most members of my family, and it seems they have fully accepted my own individual brand of weirdness and subversive humour. I have found my theatre tribe. 

Today, dismantling the absolutely amazing sets and cleaning the theatre felt kind of surreal. Yesterday I had tears because I didn’t want it to be over. Today, tears threatened again as reality set in: the show really is done. 

My heart is heavy, and even though my Fibromyalgia-plagued body and permanently rather dodgy spine are expressing a strong and well-earned sense of relief, I regret nothing. 

At the end of it all, I am blessed to count these amazing people as my friends, and to be able to say “see you next time!” with every confidence that there will be another show and we will be keen to do it all again.

All photos in this post are by Joel Barker aka Sir Bedevere, and have been used with permission.

A Shout-Out to my Favourite Co-Star

I commented here recently that life had been hectic with work, rehearsals and all my other commitments each demanding sizeable chunks of my time.

That has gone up another notch or two this weekend with full days of dress and tech rehearsals for Monty Python’s Spamalot, which opens on Friday May 3rd.

The sets are magnificent and the crew are great. The directors are positive and proactive and their standards are high. My fellow cast members are talented, encouraging and supportive. The band is that good, it would be worth just coming to hear them play without any of us being on stage. We’re all having a blast because the show is hilarious and great fun. There is no doubt this is going to be a sensational show.

Thus far, I have managed to keep things under control for the most part, and get things finished by deadlines and due dates. 

It’s fair to say, though, that I would not be doing anywhere near as well as I am without the consistent, faithful support of my favourite co-star: caffeine. 

It will continue to play a crucial supporting role this week— possibly even more so, given that the week ahead is further complicated by two evenings of parent-teacher conferences sandwiched between school and rehearsals, almost an hour’s drive away from where I work. 

Anyone who wishes to tell me that caffeine isn’t good for me or suggest that I cut back would be well advised to wait until after the final show, at least. 

Until then, I will continue indulging in my “morning  cup of don’t hurt people” as my husband and I like to call it, and rewarding myself with as many others as I need to get through each day. 

As for keeping me awake at night? I honestly don’t think that will be a problem. I’m beat.