Always Make Time To Check-In On You

We spend so much of our time as creatives, wondering about others. Wondering what the audience thought of our performance, what that director was thinking during our audition or what our peers are achieving (the list goes on and on!), that we often forget to simply think about ourselves.

I am not saying that we have to not consider those around us, as kindness is always needed in the Arts, but instead channel all that energy, on making time to check we are OK. What I mean by that, is we need to take time and effort to assess how we are coping, with the unpredictable, but exhilarating life we lead as artists. By essentially ‘checking in’ on ourselves, we are able to see if we need to take further time out, to de-stress and recharge our batteries.

Everyone is unique and of course have different ways of taking time to relax, chill, unwind and different names for it! I’ve given tips on ways to unwind in previous blog posts, but this is more of an encouragement to recognise when you do and act on it. We all know when we are tired and getting stressed, but a lot of us also try to ignore it, because we feel we don’t have time and have unending things to get done. Please don’t ignore it, take time for you as your mental and physical well-being is so vital. You are vital.

Be kind to you.💜

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When The Rom’s Stopped Coming…Or Just Evolved?

I can’t put a precise year or date to when the Romantic Comedy or more widely known ‘Rom Com’ genre, disintergrated to just a bygone era. It just, well, happened. The late nineties She’s All That heyday was over, Filmmakers and to some extent Theatre ones, were seemingly no longer investing their time and effort in to Romantic Comedy and nor were we, the audience.

For a hopeless romantic like myself, this ending could have been bitter and meant endless hours of contemplation, on the world in general, while eating an entire Chocolate Orange. But no, I decided to set about writing a romantic comedy play, with an idea that this extinction symbolised a revolution. A revolution of wit and sarcasm had to mix up the genre, make it laugh at itself. A rom-com’s had to become a parody because let’s face it, life and love is a parody.

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is admittedly not exactly uplifting, in terms of storyline, but it’s a favourite Novel of mine, because it is not a happy-ever-after story. The fact two characters Cathy and Heathcliff are entwined to the point of being one soul, but have every obstacle thrown at them, is just as relevant, if not more so, in the 21st Century. A rom-com can’t compete with this intensity, although it has plenty of humour, it doesn’t have that lingering effect in the mind.

We have to be willing to accept that a happy ending exists in many forms, that the happy is the most important bit, push the ending to one side and focus on what makes you happy, not what you think will make you happy to get that perfect ending. That’s largely where the once the escapism inducing rom-com went wrong, it have a perfect ending that was predictable and didn’t have the big gasp! moment. Even the biggest romantic needs a bit of a suprise to the tale, now and again.

In an act of pure reminissance, I shall watch 27 Dresses and Trainwrecked to remember all that’s good with the genre…Oh and She’s All That too. Ok I have a long list.

Wishing you all a lovely week 💜

Role Models: Aspire not Compare 

Everyone has someone that their teenage self wanted to become, when they grew up, usually someone who you saw as the pinnacle of their field..and usually someone ‘famous’. Yes, I was convinced I would one day be Audrey Hepburn the actress, the style icon, the legend, Barbra Streisand the legend, the voice…the list went on.

Once you get older, you unfortunately fall victim to a sense of pressure, to be that person when you reach a certain age. This dawned on me while having a conversation thread on ageism in the Arts industry, with mostly fellow female creatives on good old (no pun intended) twitter. We see successful artists such as Adele or Beyoncé for example and think Oh wow I have achieved nothing as you are all in the same age bracket. Please don’t think this, true is you have achieved so much, you don’t even realise it!

The truth is everyone is different and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. We all achieve different things and at different times in our lives. Someone might have what you perceive to be the ‘perfect’ career aged 35, but they have still so much more they can do in another thirty-five years. Everyone has a different path and no two careers are identical so why compare?

If you are going to want to look up to someone as a role model, then it would make more sense, to make it someone who has had a long and steady career, perhaps 60 plus in age. A person who has worked consistently and is still working, that’s someone you want to aspire in the Arts-Meryl Streep and Barbra Streisand, are in my opinion, the epitome of a long distuinguished career. 

Of course the two women I have given as examples are very well known in the industry but there are so many other females consistently working, that we know not much about, they aren’t in the media spotlight and have worked in it for many years. They are true role models, unsung heroes who work hard and are pillars in our artistic community. Let’s start celebrating them!

IARA Awards: Symbolising Equality And Diversity In The Arts

Now in its fourth year, the IARA Awards-International Achievement Recognition Awards, are the accolades that signify the real Arts industry. They recognise artists from a range of genres and actively promote equality and diversity. A British founded awards organization, that celebrates excellence on an international scale, the IARA Awards are unique, with categories ranging from Best Playwright to Best TV Presenter.

The IARA Awards website reads:

We strongly believe that by celebrating, rewarding, raising awareness and empowering people committed to bringing about change; together we can start a new chapter with equal opportunities for everyone.

This ethos is why I am so delighted to be covering the IARA Awards on 2nd September for Frantastic View, as innovation and creating your own path in the Arts industry is so important. Change is what’s needed to make our industry a fair one, with equal opportunities and to make us grow as artists. This is what the IARA Awards stand for-making an impact by rewarding hard work and talent.

Here are just some of last year’s winners…

Tanya Moodie- Best Actress 2016 ( RSC Hamlet )

Joshua Kane – Best Fashion Designer 2016

Atiha Sen Gupta – Best Playwright 2016

Charles Venn – Best Actor – TV or Drama 2016

(All photos courtesy of the IARA Awards media team)

With thirty-one award categories this year, well known performers such as Amber Riley and Scott Malsen, join emerging category nominees such as Ethan Le Phong and Seraphina Beh in the list of artists being recognised in their fields.

For a full list of the 2017 Nominees and the 2016 Winners visit http://www.iara-awards.com/

Frantastic View will be bringing you all the highlights of the IARA Awards 2017 (there will be many) from it’s nominees, winners and guest presenters. The awards ceremony take place 2nd September at Stratford Town Hall from 6pm, tickets available on the awards website (as above).

Evita And Her Inspiring Legacy 

I was invited to the media night last night of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Evita, at The Phoenix Theatre, London, where the show is performing a limited 12 week run until October. Something struck me that I felt compelled to write, not so much about this stunning production, but Eva Perón (also known as Evita), the woman and what she still symbolises today, 65 years after her death at the age of 33.

Rags-to-Riches stories are often now seen as a cliché, over baked and an excuse to gain fame and notoriety from a highly fabricated back story. It doesn’t stop young and old alike, from dreaming of that fairytale coming true for them and if you have a goal and work hard then why not? This is what the legend of Evita coming to Buenos Aires aged 15, to make her name, has based it’s foundations on, the idea that any young person can aspire to be whatever they want to become. Of course Argentina in the 1930’s, is a different setting to present day UK for example, but her message is still an empowering one.

Being a romantic in a modern world where romance is perhaps unfortunately on the decline, has me believing, with a little help from the show I saw last night, that Evita and her husband Juan Perón were in love. Let’s be honest, a man in Juan Perón’s position of power in that era, could have just wanted Evita, a famous actress, as his mistress, but as Emma Hatton sung so convincingly as Evita in a duet with Juan, she was certainly good for him. OK, they were mutually beneficial for each others lives, but this isn’t a bad thing at all, that’s a wonderful attribute in a relationship- to have someone who believes in you and what you can achieve.

Evita was a woman, I know you are probably shouting out loud Yes I know that, obviously! But, this needs to be celebrated that a lady, a ‘celebrity’ was a signal of hope for the people of Argentina, a signal of change, the people’s champion. We of course had Princess Diana thirty years later, who captured the hearts of the people around the world, with her kindness and warmth a strong female figure, but Evita Argentina’s first lady, was a phenomena never seen before. The song Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, from the musical Evita, captures the mood perfectly, on a balcony surrounded by her adoring public, as well as her biggest critics in equal measure, who had doubted her sincerity.

A pivotal figure, I believe Evita is also a feminist one, who still inspires many around the world, not to mention she has a musical about her life by one of the most successful musical theatre writing duo in history! Yes, she was very ambitious, but everyone has drive and that shouldn’t still be seen as a negative today like it was 70 years ago. The world has evolved, but the legend of Eva Perón, a visionary, remains as current as ever.

Self Validation In The Arts

What is it we all seem to want in the Arts industry?

In my experience, it’s feeling a sense of validation, of having your own niche. Even if you are someone who works in multiple areas of the arts, you want to create your own identity. But this begs the question, are you then worrying about what others think of you? The honest answer to this is yes.

We all spend more time than we should, wondering what others think about our work, not so much the audience of course, but our peers. Yes, those people you pretend have no effect on your work and there are no comparisons made by you, between them and yourself. For some reason we think everyone is so concerned with what we are doing, when in reality they really don’t. They are more concerned with finding their own place in the Arts.

So what if an audience didn’t give you resounding praise for your play? That should not mean you are less enthusiastic about the piece of theatre you have created, in exactly the same strand as if the feedback was very positive. Nurture your work and make the play the best it can possibly be. This can be said for ourselves, we need to give ourselves the same care.

The validation we need to focus on, is mostly a self one. This one we need to look at in detail with ourselves, how can we expect an entire industry to feel a sense of belonging within it for us, when we aren’t comfortable with ourselves as an artist? We need to be at peace at who we are and realise our worth, that we are irreplaceable in the arts, we are unique.

Guest Blog-From Theatre Publicist And Director Chris Hislop 

This Isn’t For Everyone

It seems odd to write an article where the brief was “inspirational” about quitting the industry, but I mean what I put in the title – this isn’t for everyone. Theatre has some incredible highs, but there are barriers to success both practical and emotional, and it takes a certain sort to survive and thrive in the industry. This isn’t a negative – far from it. This is what makes it so special.

Because this is a immeasurably hard industry to thrive in. It’s incredibly hard to get into in the first place, with the barriers to access, being quite rightly decried industry-wide as limiting theatre to the non-wealthy, after which there is no guarantee of work and/or success, with the former being hard to come by and the latter being subject to the wholly subjective whims of producers, audiences and critics. Even then, the truly successful can never rest easy, and with industry salaries being a fraction of what can be earned elsewhere unless you’re at the very apex of the industry (and, in some fields, not even then), there are truly no laurels to rest on.

And yet, every year, thousands of new drama school students apply, or make their way on to the hundreds of actor training schemes that claim to offer the same. The jaded maxim is that they’re chasing the dream – this elusive hope that they might be able to fulfil their childhood passion of treading the boards with the greatest. It’s no surprise “actor” comes up frequently, alongside “astronaut” and “rock star”, in idealised childhood job fantasies – and yet the reality pales quickly in comparison to the dream.

But is it as cut-and-dried as all that? I tend not to think so anymore – nearing on 15 years in the industry has meant that I’ve transitioned from early idealism through jaded cynicism into a sort-of zen realism – but it hasn’t shifted the little nugget at the core of my being, the thing that drew me to theatre in the first place and, despite many different jobs in many different theatres, has never really changed: the desire to tell stories.

I know, right? Hokey. “The desire to tell stories” – what silly social media meme did that come from? It’s actually one of our earliest anthropological traits as a species – we’re absolutely desperate to tell stories, to get better at telling stories, and I personally believe that, in those that make their way into theatre, that drive is just more pronounced. Be it onstage, offstage, or in support of, theatre is one of few media where you can tell a story and see DIRECTLY how it affects an audience. Unlike performing to camera, theatre gives the storyteller their audience where they can see them – and where they can see their ability at work. It humanises them to us and us to them; it creates rapport where there may be not a shred of common ground; and it facilitates the best kind of storytelling – where the reaction of an audience changes how you tell them the story.

But let’s not get too bogged down in theatre theory of the whys and wherefores of this – you’re reading a blog on a theatre website so I’m guessing that either a) you’re a fan or b) you’re interested in it already – let’s focus on why people do it. Because everything above is still patently true, and five minutes spent trying to be an actor/director/thespian of any stripe will get you crashing down to earth sharpish about the long hours, lack of financial reward and intense amount of drive, self-belief, determination, gall (and maybe even guile) needed to even begin to be lucky enough to make all of these disparate pieces become a theatre “career”. And yet some people stick it out – some to immense success, most to a generally peripatetic, floundering existence from one paycheck to the next with vague grandiose plans that never quite come to fruition. Despite the humungous drop-off rate into other careers or stay at home parenting/partner support, there are still a collection of mad nutters who wrangle the very fringes of a living out of this. Why?

Because their desire to tell stories, in whatever way they can, supercedes their desire for anything else. There’s an element of self-sacrifice to it – often a crippling emotional openess that can make them both the life and soul as well as the soul-sucking vacuum of most social encounters – but these fools have decided, for whatever reason, that telling stories is more important than a stable home life, sensible working hours, traditional family/children, retirement… And it is, from the outside, entirely foolish. And if you feel at all on the fence about it – as many, many colleagues and friends have over the years – I say what I started this article with: “this isn’t for everyone”.

Maybe you have to be a fool to work in theatre. But the fools that do wouldn’t be anywhere else. So come be a fool and tell stories – or go and do something, anything more sensible with your life. Your parents and your bank manager will thank you. But if you are one of us fools: accept the hardships, face the trials, for Heaven’s sake DON’T become one of those people who endlessly moans about it, and come tell more stories. Your heart will thank you.

@chrishislop

https://www.chrishislop.com/

Guest Blog-From Writer Gemma Murray 

The arts is a place of performance, creativity, imagination and storytelling. A space for ideas and freedom – chosen by those with the creative minds to build a world on a page or tell a tale with their bodies. However, this thinking outside the box, people often struggle to prove themselves. 

The unemployment rate for actors, calculated by the actor’s equality association is at 90% and a separate study shows that an estimated 52% of every 10,000 scriptwriters are unemployed. The statistics speak for themselves, proving that this certainly isn’t an industry with high success rates, it is though, an industry with possibly the highest rates of passion for the job than any other. This combination of rejection for the art that you love, can lead to an unsurprising rise in mental health problems, affecting those working in creative industries. 

The arts is a place of expression and this is undeniably wonderful for the positivity and mental health of those who flourish in the industry – the passion to create and speak to the world in a safe place, for people to show themselves, their ideas and soul and in turn, give a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. But what happens when this art is rejected? When your passion is turned down and feels underappreciated? The feasibility, need and relevance of the arts are things that have undoubtedly been in question in the media and when creative passions are queried, this sense of self is too. Perhaps a root of this mental health crisis stems from a lack of appreciation on a larger scale, the argument of the extra-curricular nature of the arts is an angle that cannot be ignored. There is difficulty, in choosing a job, that most people see as a hobby and the constant justification to both the world and yourself, of your passion’s importance. 

Dancer Phoebe elaborates further:

‘In many schools at the moment subjects such as dance are being cut from the curriculum, which leaves dance to serve the only purpose its left with – extra curricular activities. We need to stop thinking of subjects in terms of outcome. The outcome of maths is not can you do algebra, but it is the process itself that is important. This is the same with the arts. The arts should not be valued in terms of your outcome at the end of the subject, did you produce an art work and did you achieve a correct/final answer? It should be valued in terms of its process as a disciplinary subject. That being – what it teaches you along the way, the skills you develop, how this can be applied in things other than the one subject you are specialising in. Art is important for everyone. Art teaches you how to be open minded, it teaches you values, subjectiveness and objectiveness, to think of things on a deeper level, to question and to establish your own opinion. Its important for social integration, communication, bonding and inspiration, which of course is always relevant. Where would children and even adults be without books and colouring pencils? ‘ 

The mental health of artists is something that we must not ignore – the struggle for recognition and high level of stress when this is received. Supporting our artists is something that must not be bypassed and seeking help may be far easier if this was an issue addressed, something that ‘ArtsMinds’ is championing. With a study estimating that symptoms of anxiety are ten time higher and depression 5 times higher within the arts, ‘ArtsMinds’ is a place to safely speak and gain help for mental health problems within the industry – as ArtsMinds say themselves,  life can be the hardest act of all. 

Offering help to performers, writers and artists is something that I feel is particularly important. I myself have suffered from anxiety all my life, and writing, scripting and art are all things that have allowed me not to suffer this in vain, being able to transform my overthinking worrying brain, into scripts and art. Another, rather relevant quote for you ‘No artist sees thing as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.’ (Oscar Wilde)  The place of creativity, freedom, art and love should not be one of loneliness in the inevitable times of rejection , and so perhaps it is time to ask. Ask you friends how they are, do not presume their happiness. Question their coping mechanisms and encourage them without prompt. The arts is a safe and glorious space for championing the wonders of the brain, and so perhaps, give a second thought to those wonderous brains when they are not creating.

If you feel as though you would like some help , please do not be ashamed! This is such a common feeling , and help is not as scary as you may think (trust me, I have asked, and the world, much to my surprise, did not collapse around me).

 http://www.artsminds.co.uk/
@_GemmaMurray 

Always Remember What Motivates You In The Arts 

We all need a reminder sometimes, of just what makes us tick, that drives us to want to succeed at what we are working on.

The Art? Fear of failure? Pride?

In an ideal world it would always be about the Art. But, in truth we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to the point, where we as creatives, worry about everything. Of course we don’t intend to put pressure on ourselves, but when we worry about what we perceive to be others expectations of us, we do.

We need to focus on what we are doing and our path, but this is easier said than done. Constantly, we see what others have achieved and we start to question our own achievements, rather than being proud of ourselves and what we aim for in the future. Why should it take others to validate us to give us self worth? Of course it’s a lovely feeling to get praise now and again, but it’s NOT the most important thing in the world.

Think of all the reasons why you love what you do..I know it’s a simple philosophy and the best part is it works. Write them down and then read the list, you will be amazed at how many wonderful points you have. This can unlock your consciousness and remind you of all the amazing reasons you enjoy a career in the Arts. 

Be bold and be kind 🎭

Guest Blog-From Theatrefullstop Founder Lucy Basaba

I was honoured when I was asked by Fran to contribute an article to her blog. We met last year when she very bravely trusted me to direct a recording of a monologue she had written. From that very moment a friendship blossomed, and it has been great to see how Fran has grown as a theatre maker, founding her own theatre company.

I am the founder and editor of a theatre website called Theatrefullstop. Theatrefullstop started life as a lone blogger writing her thoughts on the latest theatre happenings in the Fringe theatre scene. I’d read a few reviews prior to writing my very first however had been brought up to think that theatre reviewing wasn’t something that I was entitled to do. What I’ve learned along the years is that this is not the case. If you have the passion for theatre, you already have that unique perspective, your own voice. Theatrefullstop started in July 2013 and celebrates 4 years this year. In that time I’ve been able to build a small but dedicated reviewing team. Team members have left, whether that be to pursue careers in the arts or have returned to their native countries, however we all still keep in contact, with members returning and contributing occasionally.

In 2015 we won the Young Person Recognition Award at the UK Blog Awards and that was a fantastic confidence boost as we were being celebrated for something that had been created out of a passion for theatre. Fast forward to 2017 and this year has already witnessed the first Pub Theatre Festival; a festival giving emerging theatre makers the platform to showcase their work at an established pub theatre venue. It was a lot of fun organising the festival (and a lot of work too) and it was great to watch the 14 companies chosen. This year will also witness the first Theatre and Technology Awards; an initiative celebrating the artistry and creativity happening technologically both on stage and off. There are 11 categories and voting is now open so please vote if you can!

What’s been great about theatre blogging is the people I have met along the way. I started off writing and now I’ve found that another passion of mine is organising events. In terms of advice that I can give in terms of starting up a blog; use a blog platform such as WordPress and don’t pressure yourself into writing a lot of reviews in a short space of time. See a show a month, a show a week if you’re up to it and before you know it you’ve built up a portfolio of reviews. Once you’re comfortable with that and figured out a routine, you can focus on a variation of content such as interviews, videos, features etc.

To find out more on Theatrefullstop here: http://www.theatrefullstop.com/