Asking for money is horrible.

Like, really REALLY horrible.

Especially when we have received support and funding from the Arts Council and so many have had their funding dramatically reduced, or (even worse) cut. Companies that we’ve looked up to and emulated; companies that push the creative boundaries of the arts.

But funding doesn’t immediately greenlight a project. The Arts Council don’t just give you all the money you need and wave you off to make the piece you’ve been dreaming about, and rightfully so. Instead, they ensure you work for the support and make every penny count (and it really does count). The lack of an ‘easy ride’ guarantees a level of commitment and passion which can inspire creativity and in having to match your funding to a certain extent, you make a pledge to both the Arts Council and yourself that you will work above and beyond to make work that’s deserving. The industry as a whole is reliant on the support of individuals at all levels, and however horrible it is, we should all not shy away from at least asking. And asking with a confidence that mirrors that we have in our work.

The Arts is one of the most truly successful areas of the UK economy. A study by Arts and Business has demonstrated that for every pound that’s spent on culture more than two pounds is returned as Gross Added Value and yet we see funding significantly reduced across the industry. So, for every pound, it magically becomes two, and considering how we make our pounds work in our budget (I’m a stickler, I promise), I’d bet we could make it reach even further. A sort of jack and the beanstalk effect.

Our budget is made up of small pockets of money that we’ve pitched for, sold, bargained with and forecast. From selling advertising space, to high profile donors, providing workshops for schools and many other bits and bobs. PROPHESY is going ahead regardless as the bare bones have just enough meat on them to see us through, and we pride ourselves on paying our actors and our crew a living wage, supporting the industry as a whole and ensuring our team are in a position to give us their all. Most importantly we can make sure we surround PROPHESY with the best team possible. But it is the smaller niggly things that we need help with to safeguard the success through the next few months.

So however horrible this is, and however much I’m sort of mumbling, and apologising for asking, and wringing my hands and fidgeting a bit, and totally aware that times are tough, and Januarys are rubbish, and why would we possibly deserve your kindness when there are a million more deserving causes, and we have been lucky enough to receive funding what could we possibly want more for, I’m wondering if you’d be so kind, to perhaps consider, maybe, a little bit, giving us a few pounds that we can magic into more, for all the hidden but essential little bits that make a production what it is, the seemingly incidental but utterly crucial elements that allow us to achieve great things.

Because we believe PROPHESY is worth it.

We’d be so very grateful if you’d think about it and check this out here. Or if you think you know of someone who would be interested in our work, or something we could do in return of support. We are even happier if we get to give something back in return, it makes every pound that more special. There’s pretty much nothing we wouldn’t consider and all ideas will be gratefully received. We have 9 days left, and we really are so close.

I’m red-faced now, so will leave you to your day. Thank you.

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PROPHESY PRODUCTION NEWS!

PROPHESY

PROPHESY

Dearest Friends

As we gear up to Christmas, Baz can’t wait for 2013 and all it will bring.

Lots has come together these last few months, and we’re delighted to fill you in on our exciting developments in one big go. Here goes!

PROPHESY TICKETS ONSALE!

After announcing our production of Prophesy, opening on February 5th for 4 weeks in the wonderful Blackall Studios on Leonard Street, we are thrilled to announce that tickets are now available, and can be found via TicketWeb.

As with Macbeth, we would like to offer you, our friends, the chance to book directly with us to save pesky booking fees. Please contact emma@bazproductions.co.uk with PROPHESY TICKETS in the subject line if you’d like to find out more. We sold out our final few weeks of Macbeth so please do book early as we’d hate for you to miss out.

CASTING ANNOUNCEMENT!

We are also delighted to announce our talented cast, we’re thrilled to have them join us:

Natasha Broomfield
Leila Crerar
Geoffrey Lumb
Katherine Newman
Mark Weinman

NEW WEBSITE!

Why not visit our new improved website bazproductions.co.uk, where you’ll find info on the show including our flyer, updated pictures and news, and our revamped education arm which will launch in the next few weeks.

PLEA FOR HELP!

Finally, we need to ask you kindly if you’d be able to help…. Call it an early Christmas for us perhaps; it’s the season of goodwill and just think how warm & fuzzy it will make you feel. We are asking you to follow this link and see if you could help make our 2013 even better. We would be utterly grateful.

We look forward to seeing you in February, and many many thanks for all your help and support.

With love for a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

The Baz Team xx

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

In Baz’s upcoming play Prophesy the Baz ensemble of adult actors will have to portray the world of children and the more I observe the workshops, the more I appreciate what a complicated and fascinating process this is. Drama is all about overcoming obstacles and therefore in Baz’s work understanding how children deal with the difficulties they face is key.

My day job as a nanny means I get to watch children problem-solve first hand, and the different choices they make are fascinating as well as funny. One day I picked up a four year old from nursery after a few weeks of looking after him and he greeted me confidently with “Hello Paula!”  Bemused, as my name is Anne, I asked him why he called me Paula. He became very serious and told me “I forgot what your name was and I didn’t want to hurt your feelings so I decided to call you Paula.”

But adults and children are not inhabiting the same reality, which can be demonstrated by a story from one of the Baz actors; when playing with his three year old son outside they heard a lawn mower start in the neighbouring garden. His son listened tensely for a moment, before shaking his head muttering, “No, not pirates”.

Playing a child is more complicated than putting hair in pigtails and turning in toes – it is embracing a whole different way of thinking, of feeling, of viewing the world. They are not born knowing the rules, they learn them through exploring and there is a vast divide between the behaviour of children and adults. On the first day of looking after a five year old, the boy showed me how he liked to use his father’s electric toothbrush to scratch his back and clean his feet. I suggested that he should stop and he agreed, telling me “Daddy doesn’t like me playing with his toothbrush.” No, I don’t suppose he does. One man’s cleaning tool is another child’s toy.

The way children express themselves, think and behave is endlessly fascinating and I can’t wait to see how Baz deals with the early years of some of the most famous names in the world.

 

Anne – Baz Curator

 

A weekend of sport and drama …

On Sunday I had to drag myself away from watching the Paralympics on TV to go to observe a Baz workshop. My recent obsession with sport has come as a surprise. I was one of the people who sneered at the Olympic games as they approached and then have spent the rest of the summer completely sport mad. Channel Four’s amazing advertising campaign rang true – the Olympics felt like the starter and the Paralympics the main course and on reflection I think the Paralympics and Baz having many things in common…let me explain.

The Paralympics has traditionally been seen as the poor relation to the Olympic games and there hasn’t been an appetite for sport where the athletes have disabilities. It isn’t exciting, they’re not as good and mainly, there just isn’t the audience. The Paralympics 2012 has blown its critics out of the water – it is as exciting, they are as good and you only have to look at the packed stadiums to know that there is the audience. I think there is a similar attitude to experimental theatre – it is assumed that it isn’t the same audience as West End commercial theatre. When you think about a devised show about the Classic Greek Myths shown in an Art Gallery in Shoreditch it sounds like a minority interest for arty types. But if Baz stays true to its desire to create work with the excitement and tension of a sporting event then without a doubt there is a hungry audience out there.

I sat in the dark corner of the workshop watching the actors play games, improvise scenes and work on the text. There was a dramatic moment where Sarah took an arm to the face during a ball game and split her lip (perhaps in future she will not start a game with “I’m in charge and I can change the rules at any moment”!) but its the emotional punches that are the most memorable.

It was exciting to be present when the actors were given a script for the first time – several scenes had been written up from the exercises they’d been working on. Devising the play means that they are essentially getting rid of any writer. This is something I have always been suspicious of (which is completely separate from my own desire to be a writer, obviously!). I felt that by doing this, it was denying the play is most powerful element. However, watching the actors at work that afternoon proved enlightening in this respect. When actors are working with a script, they are usually exploring the discoveries of one person, the writer, but here the actors were exploring the discoveries they themselves had made and that didn’t feel any less legitimate. For me I felt as though it bridged the gap between drama and reality. If I needed any further reassurance about the power of the discoveries in workshops, I witnessed a moment which I’m still thinking about over a week later.

During one exercise the actors were asked to write down a series of ‘Prophesies’ to their ten year old selves. This was the message they would have given the child they used to be, in order to prepare themself for their own future. The pieces of paper were put in a bowl and picked out at random by each actor to use in a stream of consciousness exercise where the prophesy itself was not heard. As the exercise ended we were about to take a break when, as an afterthought, it was suggested that the messages were read out loud. The author of each prophesy would be kept anonymous and everyone took it in turns to read them.

They were mostly predictable – aimed at inspiring and reassuring their ten year old self – “The best is yet to come”, “stop obsessing about things, soon you won’t care” and “work hard and you’ll get all the freedom you desire”.

Then there was “Nothing you do will make you happy”.

The mood in the room immediately changed and everyone looked concerned. It was completely unexpected and I have been trying to work out why it was so memorable.

Firstly it was because it was unexpected. Had each prophesy been that heart breaking it would have lost its power because we would have been sitting with our stomach muscles clenched, prepared for the punch. Such is the ‘X Factor’ effect, where the drama is lost because they have created a play where the tragedy is relentless. Every character has a sob story and we can see it coming from a mile.

Its a simple, obvious point and one that is discussed constantly – I suppose the complexity is working out how many punches an audience can take in one play before they start to clench. People who make drama often wax lyrical about not allowing their audience to relax, which is important if you use ‘relax’ to mean ‘uninvolved’. Of course you want the audience to be as involved as possible, but you do want them relaxed so that you can punch them as hard as you possibly can (metaphorically of course).

With the prophesy we don’t need to know who wrote it in order to understand that it says something very intense about childhood – and speaks directly to Baz’s central theme for their play which is ‘to investigate the notion of self-identity in children: the roles they take on, the expectations they have and the choices they make.’. Crucially ‘nothing you do will make you happy’ is not about how this particular 10 year old feels about their life  (perhaps the 10 year old was excited about his or her future) it is an adult who has experienced the childhood who feels that any attempt for joy was futile. The message is that the helplessness we all feel as  children, was in this case, correct.

Fate is constantly explored in the Greek Myths – famously Achilles was allowed to choose everlasting fame – for most of the characters their fate was non-negotiable. Cassandra’s prophesies may have fallen on deaf ears, but the truth they contained proves that the characters’ future was essentially out of their hands. This is sad enough when we consider it with adult characters we are so familiar with,  but to see it in the children is devastating and will be fascinating to explore in the eventual play.

Just as “Nothing you do will make you happy” was a dramatic moment that was rooted in reality of feeling, so the script that the actors worked on that afternoon about Cassandra and Paris was rooted in the explorations that had taken place during the workshops. Because the exercises had been about being truthful to how the actors felt in the moment, the script reflected that. I noticed one of the actors smile in recognition when in the new script Paris kicked Cassandra under a table. Although she was playing Cassandra that afternoon, and therefore receiving the kick, it had been her in a previous workshop as Paris who had been motivated to land it.

I went to the Baz workshop with my head full of sport and it was something I was thinking about while I watched the actors rehearse. My belief that the best sport cannot ever compete dramatically with the best theatre had already been shattered this summer – similarly after watching the workshop I no longer hold that the best devised drama cannot contend with a well written play. Writers and theatre do not have the monopoly on being thought provoking, moving, memorable and exciting. I’m off to watch Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius race for their gold medals and I’m waiting in anticipation for Baz’s upcoming show. The play will explore the moments in Paris and Helen’s childhood when they receive prophesies – and like my new found appetite for sport I am hungry for the potential tension and questions this investigation will provide.

Anne – Baz Curator

Exciting News

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At BAZ, we’ve always explored the bond between theatre and sport and over the course of these last few weeks it has never felt more evident.

We are inspired by the training and discipline of athletes and their ability to react in the moment in their strive to perfection; something we try to emulate and instill in our team as we develop the work we’re passionate about.

We saw this quote on the weekend and we felt proud. Our own ‘anything is possible’ happened this weekend too, our hard work and grafting paid off, as we received an award from the Arts Council to secure our production of PROPHESY, and to further develop our Education work and our training.

We couldn’t be more excited and invigorated about what this means and what it allows us to achieve. Many thanks to all who have given their time, expertise and support to us over the years, we are incredibly grateful.

From Workshop to the page….

Baz took a few weeks off over Easter to give our actors a well-earned break after a term of exploratory workshops that helped shape our ideas for PROPHESY. As everyone took the opportunity to eat countless chocolate eggs and catch up with family over the long weekend, the Baz office attempted to digest everything we’d learnt from the workshops and structure our story.

We’re really hoping to continue the experimentation we began in Macbeth, but this (of course) is expressed very differently as we use devised text rather than that of the most famous wordsmith. Whereas before we attempted to define a new rehearsal technique, here we are actively steering away from a more standard approach to improvising. Instead of asking our actors to improvise a character in a scene, refine it and do it over again until we have a final product, with PROPHESY we will know the structure and the content of scenes which we’ll then break down and explore bit by bit – sometimes situations, sometimes characters, sometimes movement or more conceptual ideas – before taking it away and wrestling it back together into rough script structure which will be explored by the company as larger chunks. By the end, every scene will be a condensed patchwork of work from various different members of the company and sessions throughout the year.

This has meant documenting every workshop and the work that our actors made. Over Easter we spread this out over the floor and reminisced – the weekly workshop write-ups, the photos and scribbled notes, the video clips, flip chart family trees and the pages of lines and ideas that came out of the work we did. It seemed almost impossible to imagine wrestling it into a single structure that would engage and make sense.

So armed with this patchwork floor, we began to trim and focus, expand and develop….. all that was left was to agree on our method of storytelling and devour chocolate to make up for all those eggs we missed out on……

WRITING EPILOGUE FOR BAZ

Joan Stansbury, our poet-in-residence, recorded her responses to Macbeth in her fabulous 5-part Poem – Epilogue – which we published in the lead-up to Christmas.

Her unique and inventive response prompted up to ask how she went about creating her beautiful poems, a discipline that intrigues and fascinates us as theatre-makers…. Below is her thoughtful response.

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Baz asked me how I write poems. The seed can be an image (most often a metaphor), or a few words that sound interesting, or, best of all, a combination of both. How to find them? 

A QUICK SNAPSHOT

I make a brief note, ideally within twenty-four hours of an experience, of one or two striking sounds/sights/smells/tastes/tactile responses. For example, I immediately saw St Andrew Holborn crypt as being like rows of barrels or of rounded pregnant bellies. “Barrel” and “belly” also alliterate. Together they triggered the first five lines of the opening poem in the sequence.

(I also recorded the colours and shapes of bricks and stones, the dust, and the sharp taste and skin-prickle of air that indicated a freshwater spring close by. These fragments were eventually discarded; however, as they are still in my notebook, they may be useful one day.)

EMOTION RECOLLECTED IN TRANQUILLITY

Wordsworth needed tranquillity to recollect and portray emotion. I can’t write about grief until long after the event. Although I can examine good feelings after a shorter interval, I do still need a cooling off period. The critic’s emotional response was therefore the last poem to be written.

RESEARCH AND PLOTTING

The time between enjoying the play and writing the poems was spent reading and thinking. I learnt  fascinating facts about Holborn and the church, but these were not poetically very productive. I looked in archaeological papers to see whether my suspicions that some of the stones looked Roman could be true. I checked the record for winter-roosting wrens: I knew it was sixty-something, but not the precise figure (which luckily turned out to be a word good for rhyming).

I jotted down the themes of the play that had excited Baz as being relevant today: tyranny; good government; systems of justice; loyalties; spying. I noted their passion for teamwork; the sharing out of juicy bits among the actors, ignoring gender; their desire to train like athletes; their sense that the crypt was a perfect setting for the play.

SNOOZE

Then I set my snooze alarm and allowed my brain some undirected dream time.

ASSAULT

After a week I felt ready to write. As there was so much material, I decided that a bundle of poems in different voices could encompass more of it, so I aimed for five voices to mirror the acting team. 

I intended a tidy sonnet for the historian, but had to bust it because I couldn’t resist dropping in “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”. The birds demanded the dipping flight of short regular lines. I remembered that in school reports PE teachers concentrate on tasks rather than personalities, rarely writing in full sentences. The flip fashion writer is there partly for light relief (for me and, I hope, for the listener or reader). The critic is so much under the influence of the play that he speaks in blank verse, but, as frequently happens in Shakespeare, begins and ends his scene in rhyme.  

REVISION

For several days I revised relentlessly, much of which was extensive pruning. (If I don’t have a deadline, I revise on and off for a year or two.)

DEADLINE

Curtain.