The Globe Theatre

To begin with something entertaining, this post was originally inspired by the movie Shakespeare in Love (1998). Indeed it’s old but I just came across this film last month while visiting a friend’s flat. Although I know little about Shakespeare or British history back in that time, it was great fun and made me more familiar with Shakespeare’s age.

Shakespeare_in_Love

The theatre in the film tries to imitate the theatre back in 16th century. And this week I went to see Midsummer Night’s Dream and again returned to the Globe the next day to listen to the theatre’s  Chief Executive Mr Constable’s briefing about their almost completed Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for our organisation. Before I listened to the briefing, all I had in mind was–alright, the theatre looks very different from the modern one. But I didn’t do much research about the architecture design.

On the night I watched Midsummer, I was standing in the yard. The performance started with actors playing the old instruments while the audience was still socialising with each other. And during the play, the comedy had many scenes that triggered people’s laugh. In fact, to a certain point I got annoyed. Sadly I am not used to this sort of culture, in terms of the funny parts and the audience loud participation, so I got quite uncomfortable. The next day while we went to see the exhibition as a team, I got the chance to read (skim, as there wasn’t enough time for my slow reading) through the history of The Globe.  Here are photos I got when we were visiting the site. Because the playhouse is still under construction, we were required to wear helmet and reflexive vests!

p2 playhouse

The most amazing part during the visit was to learn that the design team has intentionally created this playhouse to again resemble the theatre in the 16th century. Because this playhouse seats merely 350 people and is more intimate, smaller in scale compared to their main stage, the audience sitting on the lower gallery will be looking up. What’s more bizarre, the people who are sitting on the sides of this level will have to look up and turn around! The executive was joking that during the intermission, the audience will need to switch sides so their stiff neck won’t be too painful after the night! So we were asking how can the seating plan attract the audience? The executive said, well, it’s not comfortable either at The Globe. People are sitting on the hard bench or standing! But still, there are numerous audiences who wish to enjoy the performance here. Another brave deed is the lighting. Unlike The Glove, this playhouse is situated indoor and hence needs lighting system. The main lighting will be candles! The executive said they have contacted the candle supplier and were told they will be the biggest candle consumer in the UK. Speaking of candle, fire safety is for sure another major concern. They need to make sure the ventilation is good and for sure not to burn down their main asset, the open-air Globe! Besides the candle light, the natural light coming from the window at the back of the stage is crucial. All the pillars, window frames and leaning handrail and etc. were all thoroughly researched to authenticate the theatre as much as possible. Nobody knows for sure what the first Globe looked like. Coming her serves as the experience of time traveling back to the history. Finally, the executive said the play will also be an invaluable arena for Globe Education programmes and further research into Shakespeare theatres. Because in both these theatres there is light on the audience’s side even during the performance, researchers can observe the reaction of the audience. And there can be filming ON the audience as well. (A suitable place for ethnography study!)

In addition to the new theatre, an extensive redevelopment of the foyer spaces has been completed. With mirrors set as walls, the not so spacious front door cafe looks fabulous. I am sure it’s a great place for visitors to relax. They really are building a theme park, using the cultural heritage.

samVenue

SW Playhouse will look like this!

As a charity, The Globe made the decision to take no states subsidy. They are happy with the freedom to design their own exhibition, the educational programmes and the productions. And strangely (in a good way), they get to hire so many volunteers who are passionate and willing to work for free. The total cost of the theatre’s development costs 7.5 millions and they have got 6.5 millions. I wonder if some of these funds are ‘invested’ by other corporations. I assume, investing in The Globe sounds exciting. But of course, as a charity, The Globe is not making profits for individuals. I am just being amazed at their fundraising strategy! (Rhys told me he had a contact in fundraising department, so should chase him to kindly pass me the contact detail maybe!) Our director kept saying the executive is such a clever man who is capable of planning things in a brave way. I am sure The Globe serves as a successful case study for theatre undertaking development.

Tickets for the playhouse is on sale now! 5 months in advance. The Globe’s reputation is incredibly well-known.

 

Journey into the Theatres

The more I know what TTT works, the more I am dedicated to my role. It’s so much more complicated to run a theatre, after I know how many experts are needed to construct and maintain a theatre building. I was also amazed at the director’s ability of remembering plethora of information and schedules in her mind and tell me explicitly what I should learn before I commence the role, as the adviser’s assistant.

As I wish to gain as much knowledge as possible about my organisation, I read the report from last year’s conference. Everything starts from arts, as in CCIs. But, these participants in the conference have gone a step further by addressing that our theatre can have a greater sustainability than just housing the arts, stated by Jake Orr. I think this idea is true in reality. One example I read in the report is Manchester City Council’s use of culture as a tool of regeneration since the 1990s. There have been three major buildings, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Art Gallery and Urbis museum. Urbis museum is now the National Football Museum re-opened just last year and was transformed from a contemporary arts exhibition centre (admission required) to British popular culture (free admission) and now the popular football museum. In addition, Manchester’s two aging buildings are seeking regeneration–Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse  will commission and co-produce theatre, contemporary art, exhibitions and films. In 2014, they will open a venue at a site not far from the centre. The transformation tells the phenomenon that the art needs to be accepted to benefits the communities and the states, when it is used in policy planning. Of course, from an artist’s perspective, art for art’s sake, leaving its utilitarian needs out is a more common belief. And I can totally agree with the artists, since I was one before. But seeing the story from a different angel is also important. I now get to critically think about the purpose of doing arts–creating, distributing, sharing and even gaining monetary benefits from it.twelfth annual conference focused on the theatre’s sustainability with speakers from the industry to share ‘sustainable development’ strategies. The main focus of the theatre I believe, is the cultural and social narrative and stories told by the theatres. ‘Theatres have the social role in fostering a sense of inclusion, sustaining communities and improving people’s well-being’, stated from Mhora, the director of  TTT. Community and social responsibility are two words that have appeared so many times in the organisation’s documents. While the relationship between theatres and their communities are the base for running the theatre, the environmental sustainability was also approached and taken into consideration.

Ok, I don’t want my blog to sound too academic… As I was doing more research on the topic of Manchester’s regeneration plan, I found a piece of fabulous news! The Manchester Art Galley is really serving the community by renting out the space even for wedding! Haha! How community-oriented and cheerful the gallery can be!

 

STAR!

Even though I am writing this post 2 days after I’ve got the internship offer, I am still very excited at this moment.

Thank you my advisor in internship course, Rhys. I seriously couldn’t have got to this stage without you. You taught me the STAR. And I think it really helps me shine!

He examined my cover letter and taught me how to address my weakness but at the same time put it in a positive way. ‘I am a motivated learner and excited to learn less familiar techniques’, things like this! It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Same applies when I am in an interview. It’s great to acknowledge what shortcoming I may have. This is learnt from my previous interview experience. ‘Talk about things that didn’t go as well as you expected’ this sort of question.

Protecting theatres, protecting the cultural heritage, without being commercially successful is the goal of Theatres Trust. I’ve mentioned previously that I’d love to work in urban regeneration which focuses on culture-led initiatives. This organisation provides advice for theatres who plan to refurbish or take a major capital project. It is true that after the recession, many (well, almost, except the very a few commercially popular ones) theatres are suffering from lack of support financially and other aspects. The Theatres Trust aims to give them the best solution to take care of the theatres.

When I was being interviewed, there were questions which I actually was so not prepared. The managers asked me my opinion on the architecture of the most recent theatre I’ve been to. I am currently interning at Iris Theatre, St. Paul Church. But I had no clue about the architecture… Luckily, while I was at the box office collecting tickets the other day, one old gentleman was telling me the church has been there for three hundreds something more year. And I commented on the acoustic effect of the church which I think it’s perfect for musical performances but difficult for a play to deliver speech. Lines can’t be heard clearly. So that’s my very shallow response. Another question is about capital project. All I know is because of the huge amount of money, any organisation or related government sector should play as cautious as possible.

They said I’ve expressed my motivation and have initiatives. I think that’s because there are so many old cultural buildings in my country that urgently need a sound scheme to either regenerate it or tear it for safety concern. The most important thing I think the state should keep in mind is community mobilisation and institutional support, rather than more state-led flagship buildings. I hope to see more small theatres, promoting and providing places for young artists to develop their passion in arts. As a former composer in music, I’ve always aspired to help artists to find potential fields to develop their career.

The job starts in three days. I am so excited but definitely worried if I am capable of dealing with the task and the dissertation. Finger crossed!

Try STAR, if you haven’t come across this!

Food and Friendship!

‘Do you like Chinese food? Or curry? Come dine with me then!’ Cooking and sharing favorite dishes are always my ways of making friends when I am abroad. My flatmates and I organize food party maybe once a month. And I love inviting friends over to cook together.

Let me introduce some of my favorite dishes that are not hard to cook and some dishes my friends have shared with me. Don’t think that I am professional cook and judge me with professional levels. I am just so keen on eating different kinds of food that I cannot bear having sandwiches everyday. (Well, no offense, but people here really are eating lots of bread and sandwiches!)

Roast chicken with honey and soy sauce is very delightful for someone favors sweet flavor! Honey in main dish seemed odd to my Portuguese flatmate but I insisted chicken can be a bit sweet! I mix garlic, sugar and soy sauce to make the sauce and left the chicken marinated for four hours. Some people prefer to leave it overnight so that the flavor is deep inside the drumstick. I know lots of European people prefer chicken breast in dishes but I like drumsticks too. (Juicy and comes with great value!) Before I put the chicken into oven, I applied honey onto it. After left it in the oven for 15 minutes, I took it out and applied another thin layer of honey. The honey helps make the outer layer yellow and a little crispy.

Beef curry with rice is another easy-to-do dish. The tip is to pan fry the beef until medium rare only. After the veges (onion, carrots and I luv apples in it as well!) are pan fried, put the curry paste and water in it. Finally add beef in the curry pot and slowly boil them until everything mix well together!

My American flatmate introduced me a very healthy dish! Roast butternut squash.

I couldn’t believe how easy and how delicious it can be! Simply cut them into half (or a quarter to make it faster to cook). It takes strength to cut them as they have hard skin but the skin will be so soft once it’s cooked. Usually after 30 minutes in the oven, you can smell the fantastic fragrance of the squash and you make sure the top looks a bit dark brown and means inside is already soft.

Cooking for oneself can sometimes be boring so I love inviting some friends to share dishes! Preparing meals makes me eat a wide range of food which I believe is healthier and cheaper saving the service fee at a restaurant. It’s fun and I feel sense of accomplishment every time when I see my food is done! Awesome~

Away from the city, an amazing trip

Over the weekend, I had fantastic time with the British host family who are living near Bath, Mr Victor and Mrs Helen Heldon. The opportunity came from Host.UK organisation, which gives international students valuable experience to enjoy a real, proper British family life. My host family is a couple who both worked as dentists and are so generous and friendly. I had a male companion from Malaysia who’s doing undergraduate degree at Reading. He speaks not only English but also fluent Mandarin, to my surprise. He’s Chinese descendent as well. And our host parents have been to many places in the world that include both of our countries. They are very experienced and knowledgeable travellers around the world.

So, the first thing we did was quiz night! I’ve heard of quiz, which people do at pubs but never tried before. I found it so entertaining when everyone was getting more and more excited and fought for the points when they were calculated mistakenly. As I’ve predicted, I could only answer the one related to classical music. But it’s ok. I’ve got the idea! This quiz thing kept coming back into our conversation for these three whole days! Victor would tell us to remember the Latin name of a plant. I don’t have the brain obviously! The moment I tried to remember the world, for example…Christmas rose; the moment I forgot it. And the quiz thing connected to the Sunday morning crosswords game! That’s the first thing after good-morning Victor said to us, ‘ready for the crosswords?’

So besides the joyful conversation we had at home and in the car, we went some local towns and an adventure park, Longleat. Because the weather was unbearably cold, especially during this time of the year, we did not stay out for long. . Before we went, I pictured it as a zoon. But I was completely wrong. Well, the animal part was correct! There is a splendid house owned by an aristocracy and a safari park. I mean, a huge park you stay in the car and watch the wild animals strolling. I was speechless when the tigers were walking in a fashion-show way in front of my eyes. How cool is it? And another lovely big cat, lion, who came in the next section! That was so fun! I mean, in the UK I was enjoying the safari, not in some African countries. Also there are sections for the cute little market, and plumri, whom I saw on the animation Madagascar. The animals are not in a conventional cage but in a more spacious enclosure (in my opinion but not sure if they like it or not).

These wonderful experiences led me think about the beautiful nature of human beings. My host parents were saying that, in the end, we all are the same, from England, Taiwan or Malaysia. Same thing apply to different religions. I mean, how can you judge a person, a place, or even an entire nation, country based on a few incidents you have encountered or you haven’t even encountered but just influenced by the media. The host mum was saying they enjoying having foreign students to come visit them and to better the international relation. I can’t express how grateful and touched I felt about their offering not only to me, but to other students as well. Also, the friends of the host were so kind and generous to invite us to visit Bath someday. How lucky I am to have come to this trip, which might lead me to another trip!

Nothing is better than to feel HOME after being away for seven months. I really felt like I was home with my own room and having meals and outings with my parents and brother. It was such a pleasant trip that I cannot forget! Thank you so much dearest Victor and Helen!

Creative Management

 

‘Management’ is one of the most popular classes students take. The other day I was doing some research on ‘Organisation and Management of the CCIs’ and I found Pixar as a stunning example.

Pixar started in 1979 as only a Computer Graphic group. It was just part of the computer division of Lucasfilm and in 1986 it became as a corporation. Then Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm’s digital division and founded Pixar. By this time, Pixar was mainly selling computer hardware to Walt Disney Studios. But the company wasn’t doing a good business selling computers. Jobs invested so much money and considered selling it over these 10 years. This corresponds to the lecture saying it takes years and lots of time to foster a master especially in arts field. (I can’t agree with it more since I was trained as a classical musician before this programme for 10 years and I still haven’t mastered anything.)

With the sources I’ve read, I came up with these 6 main principles used by Pixar

1. Challenge the status quo

After Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Disney’s Chief Executive put Directors from Pixar in charge of the Disney animation studios, so directors have more control as collaborators on their projects and to give them the creative freedom to use traditional animation techniques. This idea was opposed to the former Disney’s CEO Eisner’s decision that Disney would do only digital animation. Lack of actual progress despite the technological development was the issue.

2. Hire creative ppl who dare to jump 

The writer and director of The Incredible in 2005. Brad Bird is the 1st Pixar’s outside director. Bird had produced numerous films and tv series but didn’t have prominent success. He wrote the story without knowing the limitations of computer animation, so the movie was the most complex one for Pixar at that time.  Bird won his first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and the screenplay was nominated for Best Original Screenplay!

3. Learning

Employees not only learn the animation sector but also learn about culture and arts. Pixar offers classes for everyone to take and learning generates innovation.

4. Discipline

Story artist, Mr Downing stays inspired by drawing everyday, literally 365 days. He wants to overcome the pattern of creative drawing. So even after work, he draws. Original news is here.

Another example comes from the animation Brave, which just won the Oscar yesterday! The film show remarkable focus on detail, only present products of the utmost quality.‘It’s just a cartoon’ is what we normally think. But not what the artists think.  It must be hard to imagine that the hundreds of characters in the background actually require a ‘crowds’ department to accomplish. The production of a movie takes about 4 to 5 years from conception to a film. And this crowds department takes about two years along with the production process.  For the main character, red and curly haired Merida. The simulation department calculate the volume and weight of her hair and make it look real. They even knew why hair is curly from its biological nature. And they are aware of the water and heat will affect the curls.

Finally, her hair was a huge challenge for the ‘rendering’ department. Every hair isnumbered, in this case, 111,700. It takes hours to animate a single shot of her. In total, it takes three years just to get her hair correct. A very long original report about this.

Look at these fantastic pictures!

5. Dream like a child and put actions to realize it

The Co-Founder and President of Pixar Catmull had his degrees in physics and computer science. He tried to explain geometrical operations in high-school-level math but was discouraged by the professor. “This is ridiculous. I am not going to look at this.” But when he show to others, everyone understand it!

6 Don’t imitate, innovate

The coming short film Blue Umbrella is under the first-time director UnseldThe filmmaker comes from the more technical side of the Pixar division and not from the story department, which is where most of the short film directors originate. It’s the first Pixar film to be done in a completely hyper-real visual style. Unseld explained, “The feeling comes from the fact that we didn’t expect it”. So if the creator make the work stylized and make it formula, it would take away all the surprises. Animation is the magical moment of things coming to life.

We can see the management style is liberal but at the same time the ‘intrinsic’ desire to make a work perfect and the ‘extrinsic’ consideration about its effects on marketing have set extreme difficult standards for the artists to follow. It’s marvellous to see the management of this company and not to forget the hard-working behind splendid screen.

A circus?

Hello everyone!

As a Cultural and Creative Industries student here in London, I’ve been enjoying the diverse geners and media of performances. My favorite pastime is going to classical music concert at Royal Festival Hall, which is literally 5 minutes walk from the SSA student accommodation. However, today I would love to share with you my experience watching the Cirque du Soleil at Royal Albert Hall. I am sure many of you have heard about it, and probably have been amazed by its fantastic visual effects and theatre settings.

Kooza is just one of the 18 shows the team currently tour around the world. Although there’s a story line run through the show, honestly I couldn’t really follow it. I was enjoying the lively atmosphere brought by the main characters, but at the same time, sensing the melancholy from the clowns. The whole performance was interwoven with clowning stories as well as amazing, audacious and breathless acrobatics. I remembered during the one part, three girls were demonstrating extreme flexibility and seemed they don’t have the backbones, moving like a snake, I would say. I heard people exclaiming ‘Gee’ and scraming over the performance! I witnessed that all the actors were really challenging themselves, pushing themselves to the impossibilities we generally believe.

In the area where I was sitting, there were a group of school children. I really am envious at their opppotunity to watch the performance as part of their education. It is amazing to see that in this country, people are aware of the proportion of arts appreciation in children’s school life. Although this team is called a circus, we know there is more to enjoy. The show nailed it by its efforts on perfect link to the soundtracks, the splendid visual effects.

Lastly, International Students House regually offer student tickets for various shows. They offer unbelievably great bargains. I highly value their efforts and you need to be quick because the tickets are always sold out fast! Good luck on getting the student discounts!