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Time to put on the Dress

So January I spent writing a funding application. That was submitted nearly six weeks ago now. I should find out next week if How to be a Man will be funded for a second time. It’d be nice if it is, and would make life much easier, but if it is or not, everything is still going ahead. Just without the funding there will be a little less time for rehearsal.

Josh is busy getting rehearsal plans sorted whilst also preparing for his performance of Particles at CPT’s Sprint. I got a nice big suitcase that I’m hoping will make travelling by train with a set much easier (I should really learn to drive) I’ve also spent the majority of my February messing with the script, tweaking little bits, hacking out bits that I didn’t like and adding in new bits. There are some changes that I really like and some that I’m eager to see put on the stage.

So with a new bag, a new script and a director, I’m now getting ready to start rehearsing. I’m going to get two new dictaphones for the show. Digital ones that cut out the white noise and are far less likely to break the day before a performance (because I could do without that happening again) There is going to be two weeks of rehearsals, one in London and one in Lancaster. Then it’s on to the performances at Ovalhouse. I’m still waiting to find out about possible performances in other places. I’m particularly keen to get a date or two in Lincoln, but we will have to wait and see.

Manfred and Leo are excited, well Manfred is, Leo is currently deflated and rolled up under my bed (I’m hoping that my kittens have not filled him with holes – should probably check that) So all that is needed now is for me to crack out the dress and put it on, maybe get some new stockings too.

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P.S. If you’re into history, you should watch Medieval Dead on UKTV Yesterday on the 30th of March at 8pm. I’ll be there, wearing armour.

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How to be a Man directed by Josh Coates

You may have noticed on my Twotter and Facepage that I have mentioned, a few times, that I will be performing How to be a Man at Ovalhouse in April and there is a good chance you’ll be able to watch it somewhere in the North West as well. It’s exciting. It’s a chance to have more than 15-20 people (he says with desperate hope) watch a thing what I made. It’s a chance to see if it is actually any good and, if it goes down well and I enjoy performing it, it’s a chance to decide that maybe I like it.

This time it is bigger and better than last year. I have submitted another funding application (feel free to cross fingers) that I will find out about sometime in the next six weeks. I have approached some folk hoping that one of them will jump aboard as a producer. I’ve budgeted for some more things to make it look a lot more impressive than it did before (expect super hero outfits and princess dresses) I’ve even gone so far as to hire a bloomin director. That’s who I’m going to tell you about briefly…

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Josh Coates is a *&’@#. No not really, he’s a delight(ish). I met him in Lancaster. He beat me in a playfight and since then I’ve liked him but been plotting his downfall. Josh has done a lot of good things, two shows in the last couple of years that he has written, devised and performed are Particles and Stevie Wonder’s Stern Warning. I’ve not seen the former, but once upon a time Josh and I double billed The Waiting Man and Stevie Wonder in a fringe, fringe festival in Manchester. We didn’t get a huge audience, we did get a pretty nice review though. He’s performed Particles internationally and I’ve been told that it’s pretty darn spiffy. He’s doing it again, potentially for the last time, in CPT’s Sprint festival, so you know, if you can, go see it. The main reason I wanted to work with Josh is because he will try and make me do things I wouldn’t do on my own, he’ll help me to turn this show from a thing that I want to see into a thing I want others to see. One of the major bits of feedback I got for HTBAM, that I really wanted to do something with, was that I needed to put a bit more of myself into the show, so that it has to be me performing it and so that it couldn’t just be a featureless figure saying some words. I’m not so good at putting myself into my writing, Josh is. He is also a lot messier than me, which can make things more exciting, and fits with the whole theme of failure that sits within the show. Josh will make me do things that I wouldn’t think of or even want to do. He told me that, at least in rehearsal, he would make me get naked, which is a bit weird and I’m still deciding whether or not to allow it. I’m looking forward to working with him. It’ll be… something.

So yeah, I’m excited about this. The show will be better, I’ll work with more people, I’ll show it to more people, and with the help of a producer I will build relationships with venues and maybe get to show it to even more people.

I’ll also be making Josh write one or two posts for my blog during the development, so you get to see his dulcet typing. So look forward to that, or don’t.

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P.S. There are a lot of other great shows in the spring season at Ovalhouse, so go have a look. I’ve heard great things about Rachel Mars’ Our Carnal Hearts and I, Myself and Me by Rachael Young looks really interesting. So have a look at what’s on. (Plus if you book tickets for more than two shows you get a 25% discount)

P.P.S Book tickets for HTBAM. Please, you don’t even need to come and see it, although I would appreciate it if you did.

Working 9 to 5… (you know the rest)

I’m only doing three days at work this week because on Thursday I’m heading down to Londinium for a day of rehearsals at Ovalhouse followed by a scaled back performance of How to be a Man on Saturday at CCLAP, then a day of annoying my friends Mike and Tash followed by a WIP showing of a fuller version of How to be a Man at The Roundhouse on Monday. There’s also a lot of carrying lots of heavy things all over London and then back to Lincoln.

Doing the show again, particularly after it’s had something of a re-write, requires a lot of prep work before I go to London. First off I have to re-record all of the dialogue for the Dictaphones. I also have to relearn my lines. It’s time consuming, mildly frustrating and tiring. The difficulty I’m having is that I have to do all this work after I get home from a day of working in an office. The urge to sack it off and just watch TV and play games and read books is overwhelming. I use the world overwhelming because that is exactly what I have done. I have been unable to resist my urge to not do anything.

That’s not entirely true, I managed to rewrite some of the script, but that was the easy part. It leaves me feeling worried. I will do the work I need to do, I know that, because I need to do it. What I’m worried about is doing it in a half arsed manner, because if I do that then I probably might as well not do it. I just get very tired and the thought of working hard after a day of pretending to work hard is unpleasant.

I wish someone would just hand me a large sum of money and say, “Hey, don’t have a real job, focus on that other stuff because it’s cool and you’re awesome.” but sadly no one will do that because the world is horrible and unfair. I’d spit my dummy out and refuse to work, but then I’d starve.

(Actually my diabetes would kill me before starvation set in)

This has been a ramble and there’s no real point to it, but I didn’t want to do actual work at work (actually it’s lunch time) so I thought I’d bash my fists against my keyboard and see what happened.

 

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That’s what happened. Doesn’t make for great reading.

How to be a Man – cut scene: The quiet crisis

So I started writing this, thinking maybe it would slot into the show somewhere. Then I read it and realised that actually HTBAM is still a quiet, contemplative show, and something like this, something about this doesn’t quite fit. But I liked it, so I’m posting it here.

 

“No one is angry about the crisis of masculinity. Very few seem to be even vaguely passionate. In all my research I never found an article written in all capital letters (although if I did I probably wouldn’t have read it) or a very bold red font. I never found an impassioned speech about how men don’t know what being men means any more. This isn’t really a condemnation, I’m not passionate either, I’m quietly curious.

When women started the feminist movement they shouted and screamed and protested. The did it intelligently but with heart and volume. I’m not saying this is the same thing. The feminist movement started as a reaction to thousands of years of oppression. The crisis of masculinity is more like men suddenly looking in the mirror and going ‘eurgh’.

Even so, it’s a call for change, but not a passionate one, it’s more of a step to the side with a contemplative glance and a querying cock of the eyebrow . It’s academic and it’s not really achieved much so far. It’s got a few people wondering and questioning. It’s got people saying we need to go back to the way men were in the 20’s. In general however, it’s not really changing the way men as a whole behave. Maybe that’s because we don’t know where we want it to go yet. But when we do figure it out and we want to make being a man mean something new and even a little more enlightened, we’d best be loud about it. Because if we’re not, if we sit quietly coughing to get everyone’s attention, then those of us who want to make men better will be drowned out by the misogynists and Lad’s who want men to remain loud, violent, self-absorbed, crude, creepy, leering and generally disgusting.”

 

It’s a little crude and underdeveloped, and sadly I don’t think it will ever go beyond this because it’s a little too excited for my liking. I wouldn’t perform it, but I will share it. Because seriously, have you seen many men stood up and shouting that men need to change the way we behave and model ourselves? I haven’t and I’ve been looking into it. I’ve found people saying we need to go back to the days when men had manners, wore suits and could whittle, and I agree, but they’re all fairly superficial things. It’s a little tiring to think about, and a little cringe-worthy to say, but it’s something much deeper, at the core of being a man that needs a change.

 

Eurgh, that was all very preachy and “on-message” Here’s a picture.

 

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Words

It’s been a while. I feel like I start far too many posts that way. But lets be honest, you don’t miss me when I’m not here, sad as I am to admit it.

So, new things. I finished the first stage of R&D for How to be a Man, or HTBAM for short. There’s a trailer I spliced together that is floating around somewhere. Then I got a job for Lincoln Cathedral, working in the Grants and Donations office. Basically helping raise money to keep the building upright and pretty.

That’s sort of why I’m posting. I like having a nice comfortable job, getting paid more than I ever did working behind a bar, and being treated like a real person rather than an idiot who is only there to give you an drink. At the end of this week I will have been working here for a month. I have treated myself to a new TV and a new game as well as some whisky and other things I have not had in a while. It’s been grand.

That said, there is a small amount of despair. It has been over a month since I have done some of that theatre what I like doing, that’s not counting a scratch night in which I performed some of that show HTBAM. The despair isn’t from not doing anything, or not wanting to do anything. It’s not a fear that I have got a nice easy job that pays well and so I will slowly stop wanting to be a dashing maverick creative with things to say (never really had much to say anyway, I just like making pretty) The worry I have is that I will forget to be that dashing creative. I will get home from work, wanting to do something but feeling tired so I think to myself, I will do it later, or tomorrow, or on the weekend. For now I will play my new game on my new TV. It’s a worry that I will keep wanting to do an theatre, but it will always be tomorrow.

Thankfully that wont happen yet as I have been booked to perform HTBAM at an event in London on the 1st of November. But even that is tinged with a small taste of despair. Because to fit my show in to the small space I have to lose some of my set (a third of it) and I have to rewrite some of it because there is no stage lighting, and it’s in a light open space with lots of windows. There’s nothing worse than theatre in a light open space with lots of windows, apart from musicals. It’s a puzzlement, on the one hand, yay I’m being forced to do the work. On the other hand it feels like a half baked version of the show that can’t even be disguised by dark, mysterious lighting. And this isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to it. I get to show people some things that I put together and see other stuff that other people put together that relates in some way or another to the stuff that I put together. And there’s a dinner too. I will get to talk about and explain my work. It’s exciting.

So I guess the major worry is that even if I manage to get passed the first worry, if I manage to keep working despite having a job, that I will be consigned to the fringes. Of making and performing theatre, but always a slightly shitter version than I want to. Of being constrained by not having enough time and/or money to make what I really want to make. That’s my real worry I guess. That I wont be able to perform in the theatres that I really want to, or to make the shows that I really want to. It’s seems a bit silly to make pretty theatre that isn’t that pretty.

It’s ok though. I’m talking with Ovalhouse and Lancaster based folk, setting out the next stage of R&D for HTBAM in which I will hire a director who will make it less bad or maybe even more good. I’m going to write another GFTA application and try to get as close to finishing the show as I can. Then I’ll worry about showing it in the places I want to. I don’t mean to finish sounding optimistic or positive, that ain’t my bag yo. I just didn’t want you to finish reading this and feel sad. Don’t feel sad. Feel threatened by my dashing looks and maverick ways. I may well be the best.

I’ve also been watching a lot of Archer, he looks like me. I Know the pictures don’t look that similar, I don’t have one of me from that angle without my beard. But trust me, we look similar.

 

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How to be a Man – Lancaster Residency

So last week was my residency with Live at LICA and the first week of making How to be a Man.

It was good.

That’s all.

No, obviously I will say a little more than that, but it was good…

The trip started with a detour to Yorkshire where I picked up Manfred, my male/female hybrid mannequin. Here he is on his travels…

The Journey of Manfred, from humble mannequin to Theatre star

 When it came to actually making material, I had some bits and pieces of script written and some ideas, but really it was a case of seeing how these could be staged and if it worked. The trickiest bit was actually recording onto the Dictaphones so that I could have a conversation with both of them at once, getting the timing right was difficult, but possible, eventually. I have to say that it made me feel a bit crazy, spending hours trying to organise a conversation with two other me’s, in a room, on my own. Luckily I was able to run over to Leo’s office to get a coffee every now and then.

Also to give myself breaks from these more technical and planned elements of the rehearsal I tried out other things that hadn’t been scripted yet. Silly things like waltzing with a mannequin, sword fighting with a mannequin and demonstrating the universal man hug with a mannequin (there are actually step by step instructions for how a man should hug another man – it’s weird and a bit scary that these exist).

During the week I had a bit of a slap-dash set because I am still work with Simone, the set designer to come up with a comprehensive set for this stage of the project. So I had a lot of stand in elements. I was also lacking a mannequin as the second one (named Leonard) was ordered to Lancaster but has only just arrived there this week.

At the end of the week I had made about 20 minutes of rough material. Rough in that it needs rewriting and more work, but in essence the material is there. I did a small showing to Leo and some other Lancaster based folk. What I showed them was only 15 minutes of the 20 that I had made because the other 5 minutes was still incredibly rough and needs a lot of work as it it quite complicated (it involves speaking in unison with two Dictaphones, really not easy, especially when it becomes obvious that for some bizarre reason the two Dictaphones don’t actually play at the same speed)

I have learnt quite a bit at the end of the week. For starters I have more of an idea of what the show is going to look and feel like. I’ve also learnt that for the dictaphones to be heard clearly they need to be turned down and mic’d up. I’ve learnt that the idea of the missing performers, although useful is not that essential for the show, as such the two ‘missing’ performers, played by the mannequins/dictaphones will become other versions of my voice/a voice for elements of my research. This makes the show more obviously about one man (me) trying to define what it is that makes a man and how to be one. The confusion that follows will hopefully show that such a diverse topic and open ended question doesn’t have just one answer, if it has one at all. Most importantly what I have learnt is that, with help, I can actually make a show out of this topic. It will not be comprehensive, or complete and it will never actually answer the question of how to be a man. But it can exist at least.

So now I have a lot of work to do. More research, more planning, more writing etc. It really is a lot to do, but hopefully it will work out… Guess I’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from my week.

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Thanks for paying enough attention to get this far. Here’s a treat…

Bint.

It’s a good word. Enjoy it.

How to be a Man: Appearance

In the next week or two I’m going to be posting up bits and pieces of my research.

These notes are not comprehensive and they are not necessarily an expression of my views and opinions, they are simply an overview of what I have found to be the running themes in the discussions of How to be a Man.

So first off…

Appearance

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In the course of my research appearance has popped up a lot. There are some more prescriptive versions and some more analytical looks at the topic.

One thing that is in there all the time is exercise. If you are a man and wish to be considered one by your peers, it is important that you exercise in some way shape or form.

The prescriptive versions range from the very specific to the fairly vague. The more specific include things such as how to polish your shoes, iron your clothes and tie your tie (I genuinely had no idea that there was more than one way), as well as different hem lengths for trousers and various ways to fold a pocket square. The vaguer ones include simple things such as, your clothes should fit you (always good advice).

The general consensus however seems to be that appearance is an important part of being a man. Will Arnett says in the introduction to ‘Mansome’, “…no being afraid to take care because if you don’t take care of how you look, you’re a boy.”

The main point that seems to be ever present in discussions about manly appearance is that appearance is the only way of expressing masculinity that is left. There is also an argument that, in the past masculinity was constructed by morality and now it is physicality that constructs masculinity.

One example that seems to support this is the resurgence of beards and facial hair, it’s been argued that to express their masculinity men retreat to body issues that differentiate them from women and facial hair tends to be something that men can do that women don’t.

An argument against this idea that masculinity has moved away from a moral construction to a physical one is the Adonis complex. It is seen in Michael Angelo’s David, in The Vetruvian Man, in depictions of Man throughout history, Man has been rippling with muscles, tall and chiselled (hah, pun). Man is expected to look like a Greek God, in the same way that Woman is supposed to look a certain way. The appearance of man has always been important in the definition of what a man is and therefore how to be a man.

Whether or not there has been a shift, or whether it’s been there all along, how to be a man, and how to look like a Man seem to go hand in hand.

So that is appearance. Next time I’ll be looking at something else. You thought I’d tell you, but that would spoil the surprise and involve to much of a commitment on my part.

I’ll leave you with this…

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How to be a Man is funded!

Hello,

So as usual I have failed to regularly update my blog on the comings and goings of life, but lets be honest, you don’t want to hear about my 48 hour week in a pub and restaurant, do you? No, you want to hear the exciting things like the fact that the Grants for the Arts application I submitted to get Arts Council funding for making ‘How to be a Man’ was accepted and I am now a funded artist, for realsies.

That is why you may have noticed that nice new logo on the bottom of the page. Exciting I know.

Essentially, aside from meaning that I can make the show, it means that I have a lot of work to do, which I have been doing. So I’ve been;

  • trying to get in contact with various groups across Lincoln and in Manchester to see if anyone is interested in talking about what it means to be a man.
  • Researching online and in books, to find out what writers and film makers say being a man is all about.
  • Learning that there are different ways of tying a tie.
  • Trying to source mannequins.

It’s fun, there are other things to do as well, such as hiring a designer and continuing the research and setting dates for all sorts of things, but I’m handling it.

Speaking of research, I intend (this does not mean I will) on posting some of what I’m learning on the blog next week. What I’m particularly interested in is the patterns that emerge in people’s guides on how to be a man, the things that appear in nigh on every article about manliness. So look forward to that, or don’t.

And if the urge takes you, don’t forget to comment, on any page or post, with what you think being a man is all about. I’ll read it, I promise.

Peace.

(Here’s that logo)

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Common Land

Hey all, this is just a really quick post to let you know about a new project by my company, Paper People Theatre. I am not creatively involved in this project, it’s being led by Hannah Mook, but I am doing an awful lot of heavy lifting, moving a living room to and from a field. The project is called Common Land! and it is really rather interesting and exciting.

The kickstarter isn’t seeking loads of funding, just enough to help by some turf to lay in a living room. So if you can then please support the project and if you can or not, please spread the word about the project so that we can reach the goal as quickly as possible.

Take a look at the project by clicking Here.

And here are some lovely pictures of the living room in a field.

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Thanks very much folks.

My thoughts on the Value of Art

There’s been a lot of chit chat online about the value of art and the importance of those involved with the arts being paid. I thought I’d chuck a bit of my nonsense in. Why not?

Whilst I was studying for my MA at Lancaster Uni I had to write an essay (the cheek of it) and I had to write my own question too (I know, that’s just lazy) So I did. I’m just gonna fess up right now and say that I probably don’t deserve my MA. The reason I say this is because when asked to write my own question I decided to try and be really clever and deep. I could have written about anything but I chose the following question…

 

What is the purpose of Art?

 

I’m just gonna let the idiocy of that question sink in for a moment.

 

As idiotic as it is to try to answer that question in a 5,000 word essay, I think that the answer(s) to it are tied in with the issues here.

Another quick confession, my post is a sort of stream of consciousness, so I will make some very weak points and the conclusion could get a bit confusing/pointless. That’s how I like life to be. So please don’t abuse me for it.

Funders and philanthropists have an urge to assign a value to art, to assign value they need it to achieve something. I am fully behind Art that makes a difference. I like that it can cause social and political upheaval. That it can change people’s lives and that it can simply make its audience view the world in a different way. That is all great.

My problem is that people, and by this I mean the people with the money behind the Arts, have forgotten that Art doesn’t need to do any of that to still be valuable. For example, was there any political upheaval after The Mona Lisa was unveiled? Did Shakespeare do anything to change the society of England when he was writing? (This is what I mean, there is a good chance that the answer to that question is yes, if so please let me know what it was) Did Dali incite a revolution? (I really hope he didn’t, that would be a fairly glaring mistake to make) As far as I am aware there is a massive catalogue of great artistic works that have been viewed countless times and are worth ridiculous sums of money and a great deal of these would, if they were to be created now, not fit into the bracket of “Valuable Art” in the current environment. So this is basically an argument for Art for Art’s Sake. There is very little room in the Artistic Industry for Art that simply contributes to culture.

Of course I am not suggesting that such work no longer exists, it’s just harder to come by, either because it is relegated to The Fringe scene or because it is so expensive that it cannot be experienced by anyone who earns under a six figure salary. Again I am not saying this as an absolute; I’m just saying that Art that exists for its own sake is harder and harder to find and to successfully create.

I think that if there is to be a reassessment of how we view the value of art and those that create it there needs to be something of a reversion to the times when beauty was appreciated for being beautiful and not for the things it achieves with its beauty. Also I’m not saying that we abandon the idea of art that achieves wider goals, which would be a terrible suggestion. Essentially what I’m saying is that (and this is why it was silly to try and find and explain the purpose of Art in a 5,000 word essay) there are so many things that Art does but only relatively few of those are seen as valuable, which is just plain wrong and could be killing or simply hiding some amazing works that we will never know about.

I did tell you that this would not be a particularly strong or even understandable contribution to the discussion so if you have read this far, you can’t really complain. I delivered what I promised.

Thanks.