Friday, June 28, 2013

Farewell thoughts about Mind the Gap

It can't have been four weeks already. Nope, nope, nope.

This evening was my last with Mind the Gap. My last full day was yesterday, and today we went out to Halifax to see The Historians. It was great to actually see a show with the company. The Making Theatre and Acting Company guys make the best audience members. They're not afraid to laugh, cry, and give good energy the whole time.

I'm not a crier when it comes to bittersweet things, but as I was saying goodbye to everyone for the last time, there were a few times where I had to fight back tears.

Like when Howard took hold of my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, "You take care."
As the tears started to well up, he said, "Don't cry! You wuss."

These last few weeks have taught me so much about what it means to be a theatre artist and a person. I've learned the obvious, of course, like how to devise theatre with people with learning disabilities and what it's like artistically and logistically working in a company that uses theatre for social good. The Mind the Gap-pers have also taught me a lot from an acting perspective. They are a group of fearless, endlessly energetic actors, and they are always right there in the moment. You can't take your eyes off of them.

Most importantly, though, I think I've gotten a better understanding of what it means to truly humanize others. When I first came here, I thought I knew what it meant to be kind to people with disabilities, but on my very first day I realized that, while I was kind, I wasn't giving them enough credit. I saw that Joyce, Charli, Helen, Tim, and the rest of the artistic and administrative staff treated the students and actors completely as equals. They held them to certain standards, joked with them, good-naturedly teased them (and got teased back!), and openly discussed their disabilities-- basically, everything you would do with people without learning disabilities.

It's hard to convey in words just what it's like to spend a day at Mind the Gap. You have to be there to feel the life and the vibrancy and the love that this company has for its work and for each other. Getting to know each distinctive, unmatchable personality has been beyond amazing.

This past month has been like nothing else I've ever experienced, and I hope that I've been able to give as much as I've gotten. To everyone at Mind the Gap, thank you so much for making me feel so welcome. I hope to be able to see you all again soon!
On the train back from Halifax!
Back row (L to R): Blake, Israr, Euan
Front: Joanne, Jack, Vince
Making faces with Alan
They made me a card! 

Drinks before the show

Zara and Susan

At the Bradford Interchange, getting ready to go see the show
Katherine and Howard

Columbian Hypnosis (from a few days ago!)
(photo credit: Charli Ward)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meet some Mind the Gap members!

Today, I interviewed Alison and Howard. We talked about their histories at Mind the Gap, as well as their lives in general. Much of what they told me about themselves was touching and insightful.

Alison, Acting Company member

This is Alison's sixth year with Mind the Gap, and her third year as a member of the Acting Company. She first heard about MTG through an outreach program, from which she was invited to come audition for the Making Theatre course. She got in on the first time round, which is not a feat everyone can achieve!

Talley: What is your favorite role to play?

Alison: Well, I've played a lot of upright, snobby characters. With Regan in King Lear (an adaptation, of course), I had to look down at everyone. It ended up being very similar to my character in Cafe Chaos. But I also enjoyed being Grandma in Stig of the Dump! I even had a walking stick!

Talley: What have you achieved in your time here? 

Alison: Well, with the IF [Ideas Forum] Group, I was kind of thrown in the deep end. It was formed in my first year, and originally it was headed up by staff, but then they decided it would be a good idea to have a member of Making Theatre or Acting Company as the chair, and they asked me to chair! I had no idea what I was doing, and didn't have as much confidence in leading other people.
My leadership has come leaps and bounds.

Talley: What are some of your goals?

Alison: Maybe learning a bit about the administrative side of the company. But if I started doing work [in the admin office] upstairs, that would mean not being able to do as much with Acting Company.

Talley: What would you do if you weren't coming to Mind the Gap?

Alison: I'd still be with Specialist Autism Service. If I do different activities through the week, they'd provide stuff. I'd probably be doing some job seeking. They do want to get people into work eventually. Since I'm autistic, I'd probably never get work, but I'd have to be active in looking.
People see the disability, and not the individual. There's plenty of reasons not to hire me. 

Talley: Any other hobbies?

Alison: Oohh! I'm a musician. 

Talley: What do you play?

Alison: Oh, good grief: piccolo, flute, and the alto sax. 

Talley: Which is your favorite?

Alison: I think it could be the sax. I reveled in the lovely, deep sound that the sax produced. 

Howard, Making Theatre student (and starting with the Acting Company in the fall!)

Howard worked in a factory for a long time before he joined Mind the Gap. MTG has given his the chance to start a second life! Howard has been with MTG as a Making Theatre student for four years, and next year he will join the Acting Company. 

Howard: I was really down when I started here because I had just lost my grandma, and times were hard, and Mind the Gap was like a new start. Now I've reached the top and I'm in Acting Company. I'm so proud of me! And my family are really proud of me. 

Talley: What's your favorite show you've worked on here?

Howard: Irresistible. It was the first project I worked on, and I felt so proud of myself, that I'd achieved something.

Talley: What do you look forward to most about coming to Mind the Gap?

Howard: Seeing all these guys! 'Cause I love them all. They're like a family.
Waking up in the morning, knowing I'm coming here every day-- it's refreshing. I can't thank Making Theatre enough. Making Theatre has made these the most enjoyable four years. 

Talley: What have you achieved in your time here?

Howard: [I'm] more confident; more outgoing. I've achieved so much, and I've learned a lot from everyone.

Talley: Do you have any other hobbies? 

Howard: I absolutely love music. I love every rock, actually. My favorite band is Led Zeppelin. My favorite song is "Stairway to Heaven." An absolute classic.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Movin' and Groovin'

Here's a bit of trivia:

According to Dave (the production manager), left-side-of-the-road traffic developed because it allowed people to use their sword arms if it turned out that the person coming their way was dangerous.
When the French Revolution took place, though, traffic got swapped over to the right hand side of the road. This is because being able to use one's sword arm was associated with the nobility, which completely antithetical to the ideals of the French Revolution. This change took place, and the rest of the Continent soon followed suit.

Cool, huh?!

At Mind the Gap,  Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays all start with an hour and a half dance and movement session.
Mondays are contemporary dance, Tuesdays are street dance, and Wednesdays are contact improv.
The dance sessions were instated about three years ago, and since then, Dave says, everyone's fitness, stamina, energy, and coordination have improved. I myself love starting out the day getting the blood pumping, warming up muscles, and getting my motor skills working.

Yesterday, Lorraine and Anna showed me a dance they had created at lunchtime to the song "Take a Bow." They had choreographed it themselves, and today I asked if I could tape it for the blog! 
Here it is:

Lorraine and Anna told me that they make up dances like this a lot. They use what they learn in their dance sessions to influence their own work. They were both very proud that this was their own choreography, as well they should be! That kind of thing isn't easy. 

Below are some stills from today's Street Dance session. Usually, I participate in the dancing with them, but today I missed most of the dance session, because I got to sit in on a read through of their next national touring show, Treasure Island! I only got to make it to about ten minutes of the dancing, but that meant that I could take a few pictures!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Silver Moth Ball and Stratford-Upon-Avon

This weekend has been non-stop!

Friday night was the Silver Moth Ball at Mind the Gap.

The event went so well! It was definitely a success.
We celebrated Mind the Gap's 25th anniversary.
Acting Company members Jez, Joanne, and Alan, and staff members Joyce and Lisa performed pieces from one of Mind the Gap's latest shows (and their recent tour of Switzerland), Irresistible. Jez had written all the songs himself.

Acting Company and Making Theatre members Liam, Anna, Blake, Lorraine, Jack, and Alison, interacted with the guests as Echo and Narcissus.

The newest fundraising project also got underway.

Everyone was dressed to the nines! It was such a treat to meet the parents and friends of the Making Theatre students and the Acting Company members, as well as the other patrons of Mind the Gap.

The work and dedication that everyone had been putting in to making this event a success for the past three weeks (and even longer) definitely paid off.

Now that Moth Ball's over, I can't wait to see what we do this next week!

Liam, Vince, and Laura

Back row (L to R): Laura, Joanne, Jack
Front row: Alan, Zara, Lorrane, Anna

Rob and Chris drawing the raffle winners

With Joanne, Jack, and Melissa, who's one of the volunteers

Alan's shoes and mine! Alan's shoes were hands--er, feet-- down my favorite wardrobe piece at Moth Ball.

In Studio 2, Mind the Gap sold pictures of events past as well as memorabilia

Early the next morning, I hopped on the train to Stratford-upon-Avon.
There, I got to meet up with Drs. Michael and Laura O'Hara! (For anyone who doesn't know, I'm Dr. Michael O's student assistant at Ball State)
They were in the UK for the International Shaw Society Conference (Michael O is the president), as well as a bit of a holiday.
They very generously took me under wing for the weekend, and it was great to get to meet up with them and explore the town.
In addition to seeing Shakespeare's birthplace, burial place, and daughter's house (the first and last being recreations, but fascinating none the less), we had tickets to see As You Like It at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Here's what I have to say about that performance: WOW.
It was definitely one of the best, if not the best, production of Shakespeare's work any of us had ever seen, from the acting to the design to the concept.

The RSC also does courtyard performances (this was A Midsummer Night's Dream)

The Bard's grave 

The Church of the Holy Trinity, where Shakespeare's tomb is

The River Avon

Shakespeare's birthplace 

Recreation of the glovemaker's shop where John Shakespeare (Will's dad) would have worked 

Replication of the interior of the room where William Shakespeare would have been born

Okay, this is homage to my Voice Studios: these Patsy Rodenburg books were in the gift shop at Shakespeare's birthplace. 

"Shakespeare Out Loud" at his birthplace

Statues on the grounds at the New House, where Shakespeare lived in the last years of his life
River Avon

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Getting Ready for Moth Ball

The Silver Moth Ball is tomorrow night at Mind the Gap! Moth Ball has been our focus for the past three weeks (I've already been here three weeks?!) and now we are putting the finishing touches on what is sure to be a fantastic evening.

Silver= 25 years!
Moth= Our building was once the old Lister Mills Silk Warehouse.
Ball= What better way to celebrate?

Also, the touring crew was back this week. I met all sorts of new staff members and Acting Company members.
There will be performances from the most recent touring show,  Irresistible, featuring music by Jez, one of the Acting Company!  

With Laura

Israr and Euan on lunch


The Chicken Coup stuff

Jack and Joanne


Moth wings!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Return to London

This weekend, I got to go back to London!
For anyone who might not know, I stayed for three weeks in London last summer doing Drama Summer School at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Those were three of the best weeks of my life, and I made wonderful friends and memories. You can read about those adventures in my posts from 2012.

So obviously the minute I got off the train at St. Pancras station, I started to feel giddy.

I went to visit my friend Lysanne, who has just finished her degree in Musical Theatre at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
The graduating class was doing a performance of Witches of Eastwick. It was a fabulous show. They did an awesome job.
It was great to see Lysanne and her housemates again, and even to meet some of their parents!
With Lysanne and Felix

The cast

Lysanne and her cousin

Super cool hairdo!

The station near where I was staying

I also went to the Tower of London to do a bit of research for my Senior Honors Thesis. I'd been to the Tower before, but this time went to see specific places and absorb specific pieces of information. I also wanted to know what it felt like to be imprisoned/living in the Tower. It was cold and rainy, and cannons were going off just outside the walls in honor of the Queen's birthday, so I imagined I was a lady imprisoned/seeing refuge in the Tower from war!

I also got to visit Cardboard Citizens, a Theatre of the Oppressed group based in London, with whom I've been in contact over the past year. It was neat to meet the team and see their spaces.

It's lovely to be back in Bradford, though. As much as I adore London, and adore my friends there, I missed Mind the Gap. It was lovely to get back to work at MTG today!

A bookstore just off Charing Cross

A whole street of bookstores!

The White Tower

Ruins of the Wardrobe Tower

Inside the Cradle Tower. Anne Askew, one of the women I'm writing about, was held here
Cradle Tower
The Rack

Inside of the White Tower