Nurturing Our Future Thespians

Monica Moore

  • New Zealand Columnist

There is something for everyone when communities come together in the spirit of support and in this case, a love of theatre. It is extra special when it's dedicated to promoting the talents of young people, the creators of the future.

Last night I attended a theatre awards evening specifically for secondary schools.

It's a pleasure observing young people dressed up 'academy awards style' immersed in the environment, bright-eyed and growing from the experience of belonging to this night. Well known super-talented celebrities Tina Cross and Jennifer Ward Lealand gave their time to present the awards, generous in their good will and belief in supporting the future. They added glamour and style as excellent role models.

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The atmosphere ignited the spirit in one and all.

The excited verbal vibrance of the crowd, the cheering, the laughter; all positive and exciting experiences.

The hard work that the people behind the scenes put into making this night happen must be recognised. People like them are the true super stars of the evening.

The organisation of judges to attend 32 productions across 28 secondary schools is immense. The planning of the actual night; creating a glamorous atmosphere, booking a a professional to host the evening, backstage management...on and on it goes.

Sky City Theatre is a glamorous venue in the heart of Auckland, a city with a population of 1.4million. It is no easy feat collaborating with all the schools and even getting the committee together to meet and organise this fabulous event.

Bravo to the Claire Buckley and her Showdown Committee and iTicket for their sponsorship!!
On a personal level, 'The Great Adventure' from Monica Moore Productions received EIGHT nominations and WON best male soloist with a song that I'd adapted from one of our Murder Mystery Shows and included as a last minute addition. Sometimes the snap decisions are the best ones! The song was sung in the show by the very talented Tevita Po'ese. A very good day indeed!

Photo: New Canaan High School

Performance at its Purest

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

Recently I was privileged to witness invaluable, authentic life-skills building learning experiences and some of the most fundamental and purist form of performance. A high school individual performance evening that was being graded. 

It’s a HUGE step to be courageous enough to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of others, to take risks, to make a piece of art, to stand before our closest, to be judged, to make mistakes and keep going. 

“Hello everyone. My name is (unique important individual) and tonight I am going to perform.”

There’s a big difference between the perceptions of what they, their family, their teachers and peers think they can do, their talent, their work and the actual reality of getting onto a stage to share it.

Alone you present yourself before others, taking risks to showcase what you can, or in some cases cannot quite, achieve.

Each of these individuals stood before a live audience and a video camera. Some more accomplished, more practiced and more talented than others. All of them left that performance evening changed, more experienced and heightened in awareness of self.

They were all courageous stars in their own right.

They notched up another experience of standing before others and performing.

They should all be proud. They took that step. They are heroes.

It’s the start of the journey of confidence. Yes it is about talent but more importantly it’s a statement about self. “This is what I can do and I am not afraid to share.”

Some will continue to perform. For some it will be a career or hobby. For others it’s the start of leadership skill building; for them all, it’s a lesson about self. 

I am left baffled at why performing arts does not get the credibility that it deserves in education.

Monica Moore
www.monicamooreproductions.com

Photo: BMHS Theatre

The Power of the "Pause"

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

That little bit of nothingness, silent, hesitant, defiant, fleeting at times sometimes long and sometimes very long. 

It brings life to the story.

I’ve been in many audiences watching professional productions lately and while they were polished there was something missing in the work of many of the performers; notably those who are best known for their television and screen work.

That gap between the words, the hesitation, the extra breath, the chasm of time that invites the audience into the story, the pregnant, pragmatic, productive and always purposefully powerful; ladies and gentlemen I give you the pause.

That silence between words is very powerful.

It creates chemistry, it emphasizes meaning and it allocates time for the audience to catch up with the drama of the moment.

When we are on stage our words join together and develop momentum before the hit the ears of the audience. 

This metaphysical phenomenon must be at the forefront of our minds when directing and acting or something very important is simply lost.

The words on the page are never far from the eye, however the words are quite some distance from the ears of the audience making pausing even more important.

So brush up on your commas and semi comma’s. Think about the message.

Ask yourselves where you’re going to stop or pause to give the audience time to process and catch up with what’s going on.

It’s vital.   It’s essential.

It’s the dot on the crotchet or quaver. It syncopates, emphasizes and creates relationships, chemistry, emotion and feeling between actor, word and other actors.

It draws the audience in. Just like the breath of life; there are no words just silence as breath ‘creates’ before the next sounds are heard.

Everyone is excited by anticipation. It’s raw, edgy, and sometimes sexy; always enhancing the moment.

 He who hesitates is lost but in theatre-speak he who doesn’t loses so much.

Theatre is life

Happy pausing.

Monica
www.monicamooreprodouctions.com

Choreographers; the Lords and Ladies of the Dance.

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

The impact of excellent choreography that tells the story, supports the singing and keeps the audience interested should never be taken for granted.

A great script, awesome music, an attractive set, costumes, an enthusiastic talented cast and there’s a great show in the making. 

Right?

Wrong. 

As a ‘green’ director in the early days I never fully recognised the significance of story telling through dance and movement until
I worked with someone who did.

Choreographer Crystal Pite in rehearsal with Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers. Credit: Photo: Lindsay Thomas

Choreographer Crystal Pite in rehearsal with Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers. Credit: Photo: Lindsay Thomas

She had an eye, an understanding and an attention to detail that I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw the first finished piece.

By creating bite-sized movements and then carefully and sequentially bringing them together to create a moving picture that not only supported the storyline and singing; it enhanced it.

She was able to bring together her creative ideas, making allowances for those who ‘were not born to dance’ yet she never compromised on the overall outcome.

I remember a song about a great adventure. In essence the lyrics were about the importance of friendship and solidarity as you travel through the unknown in life.

I had diagrams and instructions to have the cast moving in all different directions on different levels.
 
In that wonderful realm known as hindsight, what I’d planned was a cacophony of discordant movement, juxtaposed and suffocating the intention. 

Fortunately this choreographer supreme ignored me and pulled everyone into a bunch indicating togetherness. A few simple moves in the right places and I could not only see but feel the message of the story coming through loud and clear.

Just like a florist, the cast members were ‘arranged’ and came together in something that could only be described as beautiful.

She teaches dance now and continues to choreograph.

Never under value the Lord or in this case Lady of the Dance.

Dedicated Parents Drive Dancers

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

It was a diverse group of dedicated parents and children but they all had one thing in common – dance.

Coming from a variety of careers in the rural sector, teacher, journalist, engineer, caterer; these parents went that extra mile (literally) to ensure their children danced.

This wasn’t a group of supporters of the arts. None of them were standouts on the dance floor. 

It was never about that. 

The fundamental belief that a dance experience would enhance the development of their children amongst the sport, the music, the speech lessons, the chores and school. They believed it was important.

They were right.

This was a group of Ballroom and Latin American enthusiasts. The parents took turns at the 320km (200 miles) return trip for weekly and at times twice weekly lessons. It was a 6-hour mission on a Friday afternoon and included feeding the troop.

Additionally there were 1000km round trips to competitions and the flights to compete further afield. Time and money squeezed out of already busy life styles but for an important purpose.

Funding the shoes, the costumes, the travel and lessons was difficult to say the least but this group of focussed parents found a way. Amidst their fulltime jobs they fundraised. They ran dinner-theatre evenings cooking, acting, decorating and cleaning up. They put their hand up for local grants and community support. They got it. 

So what was the point? 

Was there a point? 

The experience of competing, the discipline, the creative experience, interacting with others, the posture, the strength, the confidence; all great skills learned for life. 

Today any of them can jump up at a social gathering and jive, waltz, samba or foxtrot with the best of them. One continues to be highly placed as a competitive dancer. One choreographs. 
But it was more than that. The confidence and exposure to so many life skills is immeasurable.

Now adults they are making a success from their lives and are all over the globe; the nurse in London, the builder in NZ, the newly graduated teacher, the postie, the business graduate, the principal of a school in China and the Traffic Manager. 

All have the memories and unique valuable skills from a time gone by that lives with them today.

Dance. It’s worth it.

Theatre is the BEST vehicle to develop confidence

Monica Moore 

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

Confidence is the single most significant skill we need to project our best self into the world. Theatre is the single most effective means to develop confidence. We need to be able to confidently communicate, find our path, our place and make our mark in the universe.

Every parent gazes at their newborn wanting them to have the best opportunities, to be the happiest, the most satisfied and make the most of their talents whilst having successful and meaningful relationships.

Who doesn’t want to be able to stand with pride and speak with confidence?

Through understanding non-verbal communication and learning how to react accordingly, we learn to develop effective interactions with the world.

Being part of valuable theatre experiences, learning the techniques and understanding the rationale behind those techniques, leads to EMPOWERMENT. 

Skills of voice projection, articulation, pitch and tone all help us to express and contribute our unique and important self to the world.

This isn’t about becoming a famous actor or entertainer. It’s about being our authentic best. We all want that.

It’s great if you also have talent and a potential career in the theatre world but that is just one aspect, part of a much bigger holistic plethora of significant experiences.

What better way to learn life skills by simply playing the roles of other people, by being in a comfort of a chorus surrounded by others attempting to move to the left or the right, standing straight, head up, jazz hands in place and big smile hiding the terror that you might be the one who steps the wrong way. You got it right, your confidence grows and you feel more empowered.

Great directors will guide and support you, fellow cast members will encourage and support and share, tech teams will make you look better.

You arrive at the destination of your unique best self. 

The skills learned take you from being a key player in creating a story on stage to a key player in creating your own story in life. 

All children should be involved in positive theatre experiences and all educators should have full understanding of the broader and key life skills taught through theatre technique and experience. All the world is a stage and through theatre we learn to ‘be’. Support theatre education, community theatre, heck all theatre!

Fly that Flag.

Photo: California Music Theatre

Dance: Let’s hear it for the boys

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

Coming from a rural town that was all about hunting, fishing and sports one would think it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a male child to become a dancer and a recognised one at that.

Not. At. All.

He was a boisterous rugby-mad kid. He was reckless forgetful and fun loving.
Through a series of events he experienced a contemporary dance class as a 7 year old and he excelled.

The tuition-free program for younger boys at the School of American Ballet. Credit Ellen Crane

The tuition-free program for younger boys at the School of American Ballet. Credit Ellen Crane

A masculine powerful dancer who I swear went through a metamorphosis when he stepped on the dance floor, he was supported by those who knew him. His code on the rugby field was dancer-boy.

The stereotypical image or perception of a male dancer held by the small town inhabitants of the 90’s did not fit who he is. He was different. He changed minds.

His first live dance show he watched was River Dance and he was mesmerised. He went to a ballet performance as a 9 year old and he was captivated. He struggled to sit in class or stay still for too long but anything dance and he was engaged.

By age 11 he was a National Champion and by 17 he was dancing on television in another country.

He danced in musical theatre shows and acted and danced some more. He loved it.

He states until this very day that dancing was far more strenuous and demanding than rugby. He loved it with a passion. He would rehearse until he would literally bleed. The craps, the battered feet, the agony was worth the ecstasy.  

Contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, Ballroom and Latin-American.  He loved them all.

So boys and dance – a big yes! Encourage it, foster it; change the thinking. It’s demanding, it’s character and strength building.  It improves co-ordination, muscle tone, discipline and pure joy. 

The co-relation between a co-ordinated body and a clear mind is well researched and documented. 

Mental strength, stamina and confidence; dance offers it all.

He choreographs now and loves it.

Manners & the Tech Crew

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

“Ladies and Gentlemen this is your 90 minute call, your 90 minute call.”

The stage manager entered the room and raised her arm high into the air, straight and strong. She stood tall and straight and commanding. Her silent presence impacted on everyone around her.  Everyone stopped. She made her announcement and this was reciprocated in a resounding sing-songy, in-chorus with some natural harmonies  ‘way’ that only musical thespians ‘do’ .

‘‘Thank you.”

This simple ritual every half an hour from 90 minutes before the show created respect.

This  young lady was new to the role but her mentor, who has had more experience than she cares to think, carefully guided her through the process. Everyone knew that if the silence did not prevail when the stage manager entered any part of the backstage area all hell was likely to break out. 

She was diligent and she was sharp. Respect happened and it spread. Every cast member knew that while the stage was their domain they had to make themselves invisible for the stage crew. A crew member came near, you got out of the way.

The delicate equilibrium of harmonious hospitality that acknowledges and respects everyone is crucial. 

No one wanted to be ‘the one’ to upset the theatrical apple cart spilling the metaphorically placed apples into chaos and ruining the show.

It’s hard work creating flow and structure within a group of feisty, emotional, passionate theatre-worshiping, overtired, vitamin D deprived individuals but the show must go on and the show must be the best ever. 

Everyone needs to collaborate and participate in appeasing the God of all Gods, those who must be obeyed that is to say; the audience.

The sing-songy thank you was the mother-ship of the manners fleet. The ‘pleases’, the ‘excuse mes’, the ‘oh sorrys’ and the absolute silence which was required anywhere near the stage was mandatory.

The backstage felt acknowledged and respected. They were empowered and happy.

And all was well. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your 60 minute call, your 60 minute call.

Theatre brings life to life.

Happy days
Monica

The Tech Booth : A Place Like No Other

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

The atmosphere is unusual, distinct and decidedly different. It’s the inner sanctum, privy to only a few and once visited you are never the same. 

It’s the tech booth.

I’ve been in a few, quite a few in fact. Large ones, small ones and ridiculously small ones but should I venture into a new one I could hazard a guess as to what it will look like.

Amidst the array of  technical desks, computer screens and clumps of cords there will be remnants of takeaway packaging. There are chairs on wheels of varying styles that carry the shape of the people who frequent them the most. The whiff of stale coffee  lingers but mostly the smell of technology and knowledge frequents this space.

My most recent experience was in the Mangere Arts Centre in Auckland New Zealand and wahoo what luxury these techies have! They’ve got a couch too. It’s a very pleasant experience up there in that technical hub, a creme de la creme of technical space and even a corner for the takeaway packaging to be sort-of stacked. 

Then there’s the tech team. Show or not they’re in their blacks. Usually quietly spoken they move with such stealth, these nocturnal creatures who quite possibly do not sleep at all.
Of quick mind, they’re nimble and lith, always in trainers with optional cap. Their hair  is often in need of a trim if it’s straight.  The curly haired ones tend to be neat and well trimmed. (What is that?)

They appear to be jovial, welcoming and of social-incline. Their laid back persona is that but an image.

A furrow of the brow appears with a problem, the atmosphere changes and they are into action, like a well-oiled machine. Very few words are spoken. They’re on their feet moving to the bridge, to the cords, to that annoying go-bo to make yet another adjustment. In a flash it’s fixed and someone passes the pizza.

Like the Starship Enterprise they navigate through the glass into the vastness in front of them.

They’re the Gods of the stage who bathe it in light and sound and breathe life to the story.

Make Up Designers: The Artists Who Create Character

Monica Moore

  • OnStage New Zealand Columnist

The word artist is ever-so-apt when it comes to stage makeup. An ordinary person sits down in the chair and succumbs to a metamorphosis at the hands of the make up artist.

Working within a very small space with harsh lights and  impatient people only too willing to interrupt their thoughts, these clever people remain calm on the outside whilst they transform. 

With fine motor-skills and attention to detail they’ll create and generate characters to look better than imagined. Blue lips on the Ice Queen and she’s suddenly cold and the Sun Princess is warmed with gold sequins and lashes.

The Sky Witch was going to be a challenge. The ‘canvas’ being a face of love and friendliness but it happened. A contact lens to harshen and frighten the eyes, a sharpened cheek and reshaping of the brow to look sharp and mean. Transformed.

Small eyes become larger and lips full of pout. Skin tone is transformed and age or youth enhanced. It’s all down to a precision flick of a brush, a swipe of a pencil or dab of a sponge. 

They bend at 40 degree angles entering your personal space and never complain about the pain or the closeness, they put you at ease.

They’re there for touch ups whenever required and occasionally the crew will pop in just for a bit of TLC and a bit of lippy.

At the end of the night it all goes away, the lotions, the lashes and 345 different shades of beige, each one with a purpose and a power to create. 

I salute you the artist of color, who masks the performers in their facial attire.