JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

We’re a fair few performances in and only really have a few to go. It’s going sooo quickly… things have been going fine – there’s more of a relaxed vibe going on now. We’re hanging out together after shows with the chorus, dancers & orchestra & I’m becoming very fond of them all. It really is as though we’ve been embraced by the ENO community.

I got to interview Deborah for the blog (see video) & she answered many of our questions. She’s truly lovely and really has that presence of an amazing creative person. You know some people just have that presence?

I keep having a little mishap going on. It’s never happened before but it keeps happening now. On Tuesday I think I’m just going to go down in the interval and see if I can see what’s going on and rework this thing. In one of the transitions a few of us peel back a black covering to reveal the green garden underneath. We usually do it smoothly & together, walking backwards & folding over and over. Easy, I hear you say… well yes it is… until now. The thing keeps getting caught under the platform. I take the left edge & well, the first time it happened I had to get off the platform & tug, tug with extra strength from Kumar to free it. Anyhows, each time it happens I guess the important thing is we fix it and carry on as normal. I think my TV issues were good training; things can happen, can go wrong that you would never think could. You just have to deal with whatever is thrown at you. As we come off with the rolled up sheet, Phillip says ‘Well done. Its live theatre & you dealt with it.’

So, this is my penultimate blog I guess. I’m out working a lot in Oxfordshire at the mo. It’s pretty cool returning to London for a show. Getting off the train at Marylebone, looking at the commuters & knowing I’m going to the Coliseum. Looking at the commuters makes me ponder; these people, they’re in our show. It truly is about all of us.

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Now we’re in business!

November 28, 2009

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

I have a bit of the jitters all day, I think we all do. OK, I’m in a large ensemble & I should feel totally safe… but the adrenaline is running. It’s opening night!

I have a bit of time to kill before our call time at the Coli. As I get off the 176, I look up at the spinning, lit-up dome of the Coliseum & the busy peopled area outside. This makes it feel real. Instead of going straight there I head into the National Portrait Gallery practically opposite. I need some calm & this is one of my favourite places in London for that. I locate a Handel portrait (2nd floor, room 12 if you want to check it out too…) & I just sit on the bench right there looking at him. I take in his chubby, rosy cheeks and the score of ‘Messiah’ depicted right there beside him… how appropriate. A nice, quiet moment before taking a hop, skip, jump over the road to realise his wondrous work on stage.

I think opening night went well; nice & smooth. Nothing could have prepared me for the energy of 2,400 faces staring back at me, I will never forget that moment. My cheeks are roasting red & I’m alive. Good job I’m not singing because for ‘Amen’ with all the glitter falling practically takes my breath away. The chorus are on full power… now we’re in business. I’m intrigued to see how it will develop even deeper over the next 8 shows. There’s a pang of sadness too as it feels like it’ll be over in a heartbeat. And the applause, the applause almost knocks you over, audience standing ovation (they loved it). We’ve been getting some lovely reviews too…

And we’re all getting to know each other backstage, the ensemble, the chorus, the dancers & soloists. Oh and our stage managers – what an on-the-ball job that is, we’re so reliant on them for the seemless flow. There’s a moment every night when little Max touches my shoulder, I love that moment, what an astounding little boy.

Now lets get on with the run, lets let it fly.

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Ps. Oh and that TV? I got it on the mark (give or take an inch). Phew…

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

Its production week! Excitement, wow. We’ve been in the theatre almost every day for the last week. It’s been long and tiring but we’re all headed towards the same creative goal. It’s been totally crazy hectic. Lots of changes are being made for the good of the show. As I go to sleep at night I can hear the music over & over in my head, I feel like I’m living in it all the time, it resonates through me. I’m listening to it constantly on spotify too. I don’t seem to want to listen to anything else, this will be the bubble for the next 2 weeks & what a wonderful bubble to be hanging out in.

So you think you know all your cues & marks etc & are seemingly totally in control & on the ball. We had the Dress Rehearsal yesterday morning. I totally missed my mark for the TV at the beginning, arggghhhhhhh ooooopppppppsssss… A VERY awkward moment on stage (must remember not to hesitate if it happens again). How this happened I don’t know, it’s been fine in rehearsal… so FINE. Suddenly I just didn’t see it. Anyhows, I’m told “don’t worry that’s what a dress is for. You’ve done it here, you won’t do it in the show because now you’ll be hyper-aware”. There’s that theatrical superstition too of course: little things should go wrong in the dress, you get it out of the way & it foretells a good opening night! In the tech Fritha went to my mark with her chair… so she gently pokes fun at me & now we’re even.

For the Hallelujah chorus I am there in the middle of the stage looking out to the audience. One of the dancers picks me up and spins me around. It’s going to be so powerful with a full audience; I can feel it in my belly. I’m loving every minute of this process & seeing & being in a show of such epic scale.

I end up with gold leaf on my dress from one of the objects which needs to be placed. They must look truly majestic when the light hits them. I also ladder my black & silver sparkly tights, ooops. Costume have allowed for this possibility & they have multiple pairs for me!

So here we are, first night tomorrow, we’re almost there, 6 weeks of rehearsals, tech rehearsals done, dress rehearsal done. 9 performances ahead of us…. Bring it on…. Now if I can just get that TV back to being on the right mark (I will… I promise).

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A ghostly presence?

November 19, 2009

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

I can see a bit of the flow go, mojo going on. It’s going to be fine. We all seem a bit calmer today, knowing a little better where we’re going. TV duties the same, but my cue isn’t quite right. Will test tomorrow. Either take cue off ironing board setting or Fritha’s chair. I have the actual TV today. It has smooth wheels (thank goodness). Apparently it’s going to be ON.

It’s quite hard to see things backstage. It’s either really dark or really light. I look up & am convinced I see someone high in the scaffolding-like structures supporting the lights. Probably a techie guy, but he’s ridiculously high. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me as I’m still adapting to the light back here, or perhaps a ghostly presence? There is definitely a ghostly magical feel back here.

Orders are reshuffled, entrances & exits changed for ease. There’s some candle action & truly wonderful dancing. I feel like we’re somewhat a mirror for the chorus, & we’re there reflecting back on them quite often in the depth of the space.

We watch the beginning of Act 2 from the Dress Circle as we’re not involved in this part. Laurence is right, it’s already incredibly moving. It’s bizarre now looking onto the stage, you get the real perspective. All the departments are starting to come together meticulously & many stunning light/projection options are tested out. Believe me; this show is going to be something extremely, extremely special.

Sounds simple huh?

November 17, 2009

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. I think this will be the pattern for the next few days. Stage left? Stage right? Up stage or down stage? Start SL. On after desk 2, behind chair 1 (Alison’s), walk down SR, TV on mark, a tiny white tape corner edge. Off SR. Will pick up TV on chorus’ second entrance, merging with them, navigate way through them. Off SR. Then to USL. In back line USR between Zoe & Amy. Move DS through chorus. Sounds simple huh?

A shiny mirrored floor & big blinding lights in the wings. High, high black racks, layers going high and deep back. Can’t see the ceiling. Beautiful gold floating at the overture, setting the scene. Cue, move, watch and hear. Energies running high. Finally entering through the “Stage Door”. Dressing rooms found at the top of windy staircases, this building is a total rabbit warren. Costumes worn, stage journeys handed out & discussed. Meeting stage managers, chaperones, prop guys & stage hands. A guy on a walkie-talkie with a fire extinguisher. Lots of people on Madonna-mic-like headgear. We’re all a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of it to be honest.

We run the entire first Act, we’re pretty unsure of where we were supposed to be most of the time. Totally thrown in at the deep end. Maybe that’s the best way as we had to stay on our toes. Tiptoes that is as it’s silence backstage. Reminds me a bit of organised chaos, but there’re smiles all around, we’re just finding our feet, it’s OK. Gone are the safe white rehearsal rooms of the Lillian Baylis. We’re now in the huge black box & we’ve got to get on with it.

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

This week has been a lot about blocking & practicalities. Today we entered the rehearsal room to a mock up of one of the acts. It looks dynamic even in the rehearsal room. Things represent other things that haven’t yet been made. There’s definitely a feeling of space & we are told that the stage area at the Coliseum goes back double the size of this playing space. Wow. I can imagine what some of the images are going to look like. I’m dying to tell you but I won’t. There’s a lot going on – things floating & video projections. Our ensemble is going to fill this space, along with the chorus, principles, dancers & kids! There are other spaces mocked up too, the kinds of spaces you and I would come across in London. Ordinary spaces, everyday spaces. It reminds me a bit of an art installation.

We also spend a lot of today lying down. Lovely – I’ve had a manic week. We’re possibly going to be present on stage when some of the dancing takes place. I watch Joy & Christian (the dancers) do their thing & am instantly into the story they are telling through exquisite, mesmerising movement. At the point of their dance we are supposed to have our eyes closed but I couldn’t resist a sneak peak. They move through the space, sometimes very close to us. There’s a lot on the stage at this point. Laurence is here again taking us through the various pieces of music. He does a killer impression of a Soprano that has us all in stitches.

It feels like we’re headed towards a slick feel. Everything is written down in real detail for us to recreate at a later rehearsal. We learn that there are going to be children with us at one point. I’m intrigued to see what their role is. Someone says there might be a goat on stage at one point, but I think they are winding me up…

I see many threads being pulled across this space & I see a tapestry starting to take form. I’m not yet sure of the order which we’ve been going in so not entirely sure where the stuff we did today fits in. I picture some of the images in my head & I think they are going to blow the audience’s mind. I’m very lucky – I’m going to be there within it. 

Like a headless chicken!

November 3, 2009

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

More getting to know each other games first up. I look around the room & realise I probably still only know half of the ensemble by name. Improve this, I tell myself! We pair up & give each other a head & shoulders massage. This is lovely as we let go of all our individual stresses of the day. We then work with tensing up our legs, arms & focusing our eyes on a certain point in the room. This amazingly affects how tense our neck is & the mobility of our head. This is fascinating & Joyce explains that this is to do with ‘being available’. We must ‘be available on stage’. We play this great trust game where our partner makes a recognisable sound for us & we close our eyes & follow them. It’s great, I feel like I’m walking around like a headless chicken, desperately trying to hear Maureen’s ‘nenarnenarnenar’. Lots of laughter & Amba says it’s like being lost in the forest & I think she’s right.

We work more on group dynamic & exploring ways of moving together through a point we are focused on. If we are in a group how far away from each other can we be from each other and still feel connected? How close can we be with each other and still feel comfortable in our own space?

After the break we explore the objects again, the important story objects that we worked with briefly last time. I remember that the ‘Messiah’ doesn’t have a narrative like many of the other operas. This, all along has made me wonder how it’s going to be done. I realise it might just be through symbolism. Or, at least that’s what I’m thinking at the moment. We go and claim an object. My instinct says pick up the crown of thorns so I do. We start at playing around with blocking our placement of the objects on the stage in a specific, white tape cross spot. The stage managers help us work out our route. This part has been very well organised. We try different speeds & orders & moods & angles to come on stage. 

Later, we look at another section towards the end of the show & I don’t want to give too much away, so I’m not saying what it involves exactly but there’s a strong linking with the ENO chorus. I wonder when we’ll get to meet the chorus?

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