Artist Callout for Second Brighton Scratch Night

Perform at our second scratch night in March

After launching our first scratch night at the lovely Marlborough Theatre in November we’re happy to announce we’ll be hosting our second Brighton scratch in March. The event is happening on Thursday 2nd March so be sure to save the date! This event will be at The Dukebox Theatre in Hove. The reason for the change in venue is we were contacted by a wheelchair user wanting to apply to the previous scratch night, and unfortunately due to the age of the building the Marlborough Theatre is not wheelchair accessible. The Dukebox has a theatre space that is wheelchair accessible.

What our scratch night is

It’s a supportive platform for artists to share or ‘scratch’ new work in development. A space that is open and friendly. Designed to be helpful for the artists in the continued development of their work.

We set up this scratch night as a way for artists to meet and support each other. We’re also keen to get local audiences engaged in the developmental stages of new work. We had a lovely audience at the first event, and really engaging conversations and discussions after the sharing of the work.

Artist Callout

We are currently looking for artists and companies to apply with pieces of no longer than 15 minutes  to be presented at this scratch night. We’re looking for work for adult audiences, and as a company we have an interest in contemporary theatre and performance from a diverse range of practices and approaches.

If you have a new idea you’re working on and are at the stage where it needs a supportive audience and some feedback, then we’d love to hear from you.

To apply please fill in this online form (link below) by 5pm Monday 13th February 2017. You’ll be asked to tell us about yourself, the work you want to present and why this scratch will be useful to you.

https://goo.gl/forms/k0Gcvs3Br7sCGGla2

If you experience any difficulty with the form or have any questions about the event please email us at info@witness-theatre.co.uk.

We’re looking forward to reading your applications! If you aren’t applying to take part then we’d love to have you along in the audience to support the artists. You can pay what you feel for this event and more information on tickets etc will be coming soon.

Welcoming in the new year 2017 with creative plans

Ellen looks back on our best bits of 2016 and shares one of our creative resolutions for 2017. 

So here we are, at the end of 2016. It may not have been a great year globally, but I’ve been reviewing what we did this year and there’s certainly some stuff worth remembering. There have been downs as well as ups of course. Countless applications for funding and support sent out and come back unsuccessful. But we’ve met and worked with some lovely people, and really grown as a company.

I’ve put together a list of our best moments in 2016 below. If you want to keep tabs on what we’re doing in the new year remember to sign up to our mailing list.

Our best bits of 2016

327 audience members came to see our Fetish Julius Caesar at Brighton Fringe. We completed our first ever audience survey which we’re really proud of doing. This gave us some great feedback to apply as we move forward.

We made our first showreel as we had Fetish Julius Caesar professionally filmed. Here’s that showreel along with some of our favourite audience feedback quotes.

We ran our most successful crowdfunding campaign for Fetish Julius Caesar. An online course through udemy about running a crowdfunder  taught us so much and we really put this into practice.

We met and worked with some wonderful people. We were thrilled to get the chance to work with Eden Alexander again, not only as an actress in Fetish Julius Caesar but also as a core member of the company. Eden now runs the company with Kelli and I – we will be updating the people page on our website soon, promise!

We also met the brilliant actor Guido Garcia Lueches who played Brutus in our Fetish Julius Caesar and is now helping us develop our new work. For the first time ever we had a makeup artist work with us on a show. Charlie Temperton did a fantastic job helping us with Fetish Julius Caesar and is an all round lovely person to work with. And we had a lighting designer for the first time ever (I know). Oliver Bush did a brilliant job in tough conditions on Fetish Julius Caesar and we can’t wait to get the chance to work with him again.

We participated in workshops with Improbable and Complicite and learned a lot to apply to our own work! Then in November we ran our first Scratch Night which was really successful and lovely. We can’t wait to run the next one.

Our creative new year’s resolutions 2017

In November we had a 2017 planning day with Eden, Kelli and I. We chatted about our vision and dreams for the company both for 2017 and beyond. We came up with a set of goals and resolutions for 2017. One of the most exciting ones for me is to return our focus to the creative. This year we’ve found that administrative tasks have often got in the way of us taking time to play and create, which in the end is what we’re all about.

So our creative new year’s resolution for 2017 is to have Band Practice once a month. No, we’re not a band, but we liked this phrase because bands make music together and have regular practice so they can do this. We make theatre together. So we’re having a monthly practice.

At our first Band Practice in December we made this fun Christmas video.

Share your creative resolutions with us

Next week we’re hosting a creatives networking event. It’s on January 5th and will be a chance for creatives to meet and share their creative resolutions and goals for 2017. Join us if you can.

You are invited to Witness Theatre's winter creative's networking event. Meet other creatives and share plans and goals for 2017. Jan 5th. 6:30pm. The Dorset Brighton.

Now over to you. Let us know your best bits of 2016, or any creative resolutions you have for the new year in the comments below! Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with what we’re doing in the new year.

Why to use Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process

Helping artists stay true to their own voice

The Critical Response Process (CRP) is a way of giving feedback created by the American choreographer Liz Lerman. I think it’s most brilliantly used when work is at an early or developmental stage. Where artists are seeking feedback specifically to influence them towards making the rest of their piece. It has quite a structured format, but I actually really like this.  I find it supports and nurtures the artist presenting work.

Why the Critical Response Process works for theatre post-show discussions

Clown Funeral receiving feedback on stage at Witness Theatre's Brighton Scratch 16th November 2016.
Clown Funeral receive feedback at our November 2016 scratch night.

Sometimes post-show discussions can go really wrong. They can be hijacked and directed by particular viewers (which can be painful for the other audience members and the artists). I’ve found that when using the critical response process that doesn’t happen.  Which is great.

The first time I ever used the CRP, was when I was working on a collaborative dance project as the designer.  The choreographer and I were presenting our piece to an audience of nearly 50 people who all wanted to help by sharing and contributing their ideas.  Finding a way where that feedback can be organised and presented to the artists, ideally in a short amount of time, so that they can get a sense of what the audience thought is not an easy task.

How the Critical Response Process helps artists

There are an infinite number of options when making art of any kind and it’s tricky to hone in on what you want that specific work, at that time, to be about.  There are a million really good directions you could go in but it’s important to stay focused and driven in a particular direction. Audience members might have ideas for how the piece could go, which could be great and valid, but aren’t ideas that the artists are interested in moving forward with at that time.

It’s important to understand what the artist is aiming for. I think that’s not always taken into consideration by an audience. The CRP really guides everyone, the artists and the audience, towards giving feedback in the direction that the artists are looking for.  And I think that’s because of the structure.

The Critical Response Process structure

There are three roles in the feedback process and four stages of the process.

The artist—the person that’s presented the work.

The audience, officially called the “responders”—the people who have witnessed the work.

The facilitator—the person who runs the feedback sessions and tries to keep everyone on track and within the structure.

4 stages of the critical response process: 1. Initial Impressions. 2. Artist Questions the Audience 3. Audience Questions the Artist 4. Audience Expresses Opinions
The 4 stages of the Critical Response Process

Stage one: Initial Impressions.

Everybody shouts out words or phrases or things that come to mind that they took initially from the piece. This could be overarching themes, or how it made them feel. Or, it could be colours, pretty much anything.  There isn’t a right or wrong answer it’s literally whatever they want to express as their impression initially from the work.  Liz Lerman uses some buzzwords to help guide things.  What was “meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, striking” in the work?

This section is usually pretty quick but the artist gets an initial understanding and feeling for the audience as a whole.

Stage two: Artist Questions the Audience

The artists come prepared with questions such as: “Did this go too far for you?” “How did this section make you feel?”. Then we can all really delve into the topics that the artist is most curious about and how those came across to the audience.

So the key thing here, the rule to be followed, is the audience isn’t supposed to express any opinions unless it’s directly relating to the question that the artist has asked. They have to stay on topic with what the artist is interested in.

Stage three: Audience Questions the Artist

Liz Lerman does a really fantastic thing here in that they have to ask neutral questions.  They’re not allowed to imply their own opinion with their question.

So instead of asking “Why was it so dark?” they could ask, “What ideas guided your choices about lighting?”. By consciously staying neutral people don’t get defensive about how the work has been presented or interpreted. By understanding the intentions behind something everyone can collectively determine if that’s how it came across or if they have other ideas about what could be done to create that.

Stage four: Audience Expresses Opinions

In this phase the audience is allowed to express their opinions to the artist—but again there’s a lovely little catch—they ask permission.  So an audience member says “I have an opinion about your lighting would you like to hear it?” The artist is then able to say “yes I would love to hear your opinion about my lighting” and the audience share it.Or the artist can say “no actually that wasn’t something I was focusing on for this performance so I’m not really interested in opinions about that”.  People don’t say no very often.  Most of the time people want to hear feedback and opinions.  Also by this point in the process the audience should have a good idea of the direction the artist is trying to go so their opinions and suggestions won’t usually be completely random anymore.

There’s something else about asking permission to express an opinion that I would hope gives people the freedom and confidence to express critical feedback as well.

Quote about feedback from Liz Lerman
Wise words on feedback from Liz Lerman

Kelli’s Conclusions

It’s tricky with feedback sessions. They can often end up being this love fest of “oh this was really great” and “oh I loved this bit” and everybody just brushing over the things that still need to be worked on.  But what would be even better is to get some of that constructive criticism in a way that can still be motivating for the artist.

I was really interested in using this process for our Witness Theatre Scratch Nights because I had experienced it and I personally found it really helpful.  We’re also really committed to supporting the people who are sharing at our scratch nights. So if you’re interested in seeing the Critical Response Process in action you can check out one of our videos from our November scratch night ( coming soon!) or pop along to the next one. Sign up to our mailing list to find out when future scratch nights will be!

– Kelli

 

 

Scratch night how to: our top 5 tips

Our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre last week went really well. We had a lovely audience, a great selection of work, and the artists got useful feedback. This will definitely become a regular event in our calendar.

We hadn’t run a scratch night before this one, and there were a lot of things we had to consider (or that we didn’t consider but will next time!). So, to help out any of you who’re planning a scratch night in the future we want to give you some advice. Here’s our list of the top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night.

The Top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night

Clown Funeral receiving feedback on stage at Witness Theatre's Brighton Scratch night 16th November 2016.
Clown Funeral receive feedback.

1.The feedback process.

This was really important for us and one of the first things we started thinking about when planning our night. A scratch night is only as useful as the feedback the artists get from the audience. Our event used the Critical Response Process developed by Liz Lerman to structure the feedback (post on this to come soon). You can structure the feedback however you want, or not at all. Some key things to consider are: what do the artists want to get from the feedback? Do they have specific questions, or are they happy for an open discussion with the audience? Might it be good to give the audience the chance to give non-verbal feedback?

2.Accessibility.

Is it important to you that the venue you run your scratch night in is wheelchair accessible? Embarrassingly this wasn’t something we took into consideration before choosing our venue. Only when a wheelchair user emailed to ask if the night would be accessible did we actively think about this. Unfortunately the Marlborough Theatre isn’t accessible at present. We now plan to consider accessibility for every event we plan in future and to run events in accessible venues wherever possible. Lesson learned.

3. Ticket prices. 

Ask yourself why you’re running the scratch night. Is it to raise money for your company, or is it to provide a platform for yourselves and other artists to share new work? For us it was about nurturing other artists. Raising money was a factor, but a secondary one. We chose a Pay As You Feel set up and that worked really well. If making money is more of a factor for you, consider how much you want to charge your audience. You don’t want money to be a barrier to people taking a risk on new work, we recommend no higher than £5 per ticket.

4. Programming. 

Don’t forget that by running a scratch night you are programming an evening of entertainment. You want the audience to feel satisfied with the range of work they’ve seen. You might want to consider setting a theme for the evening, so people apply with work that fits that theme. We didn’t do this, but we chose work that we felt linked well thematically and our audience really valued this.

5. Liaising with the venue. 

It’s easy to think of a scratch night as something that will come together on the day and doesn’t require much planning beforehand. But, it’s well worth your time to make sure you check in regularly with the venue and communicate your needs for the day.

Find out what technical support you’ll be given, if any. Who will be around to offer any help on the day? Will         someone be running your box office? Also make sure you check what needs the artists have. Are they expecting you to provide any technical equipment or simple set pieces? Make sure the venue has anything you need so you aren’t running around trying to find a microphone or a table on the day!

 Find out when you can have access to the space from and get there as soon as you can. We had 3 performances        of 15 minutes each, and spent a good 6 hours setting up the space and sorting out technical aspects of their               pieces.

Let us know your experiences

Have you run a scratch night before? How did it go, and what are your top 5 tips for anyone thinking of running one?  

 

 

Scratch night in Brighton: what is a scratch night?

On the 16th November we’re launching our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre. We’d love to see you in the audience. But we realised that a lot of people might not know what a scratch night actually is. It’s one of those things that other theatremakers know, but if you’re not making theatre why would you know that? So, in the spirit of demystifying the theatre making process here’s our rundown of what a scratch night is:

Who’s it for? 

A scratch night is for artists with a new project in development who want some feedback. The idea can be at any stage in its process but is usually in the early stages. The artists should feel like audience feedback is what they need to move the idea forward. The scratch night should be a supportive platform for the artists. A place where they feel comfortable to put these new ideas forward.

What about the audience? 

That’s a great question. Although a scratch night is for the artists the audience is so important to the process. As an audience member you get to see a bunch of new theatre and learn about its development process. You also get to have your say on what you think works and what doesn’t. It’s fun to follow the progress of a show you’ve seen at scratch to see how it develops and what the final piece turns out like. Plus, as scratch nights tend to have very cheap tickets (or, like ours, are on a donation basis) audience members can check out unknown artists with no financial risk.

But surely not all feedback is going to be constructive? 

We think considering how feedback is given at a scratch night is one of the most important things. A few people have written and thought about this question, including this really engaging report from a Devoted & Disgruntled Event: Scratch Nights, Useful?  This talks about how the way feedback is dealt with is a very sensitive issue for artists. It suggests “written feedback gives audiences a chance to be honest, and perhaps more articulate”.

There’s value in written and spoken feedback and we’ll be using a mixture of both. We’re also going to incorporate elements from Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. This empowers the artist and puts a certain amount of responsibility on the audience members and the feedback they give. Read more about that process here. 

The conclusion

A scratch night is about risk. Audiences take a risk on seeing new work (but remember, no financial risk if you’re coming to ours). Artists take a risk by presenting very new ideas and offering it up for feedback. A scratch night can be so valuable to artists if done right. We hope ours will fall into this category, and that we’ll see you in the audience on the 16th. Remember, the event is free but ticketed. You can get your ticket here. 

Scratch Night in Brighton Artist Callout

Exciting news

We are launching our first Brighton scratch night at the lovely Marlborough Theatre in November and we’re so excited. The event is happening on Wednesday 16th November so be sure to save the date! It’s a supportive platform for artists to share or ‘scratch’ new work in development. A space that is open and friendly. Designed to be helpful for the artists in the continued development of their work.

We set up this scratch night as a way for artists to meet and support each other. We’re also keen to get local audiences engaged in the developmental stages of new work. We’re really looking forward to working with the Marlborough Theatre again. They supported our very first project ‘The Darkroom’ back in 2011/2012. It’ll be like returning home!

Artist Callout

We are currently looking for artists and companies to apply with pieces of no longer than 15 minutes  to be presented at this first scratch night. We’re looking for work for adult audiences, and as a company we have an interest in contemporary theatre and performance from a diverse range of practices and approaches.

If you have a new idea you’re working on and are at the stage where it needs a supportive audience and some feedback, then we’d love to hear from you.

To apply please fill in this online form (link below) by 5pm Wednesday 12th October 2016. You’ll be asked to tell us about yourself, the work you want to present and why this scratch will be useful to you.

https://goo.gl/forms/8u1RAALjEyXJqkNY2

If you experience any difficulty with the form or have any questions about the event please email us at info@witness-theatre.co.uk.

We’re looking forward to reading your applications! If you aren’t applying to take part then we’d love to have you along in the audience to support the artists. You can pay what you feel for this event but you will need a ticket. You can get yourself a ticket through the Marlborough Theatre website. 

Fetish Caesar show week!

We’re preparing for the final few rehearsals of fetish Julius Caesar before we open at The Warren: Studio 3, Brighton Fringe on Friday. We can’t believe it’s come round so fast. There are so many great discoveries and experiences we’ve had in rehearsal that we want to share with you. But we’ll get to that another time – Kelli and I are scheming to produce some vlogs so watch this space!

For now we’re very excited to share this video teaser trailer we’ve created for the show. We hope you enjoy it, let us know what you think and we hope you can make it to the show. Performance dates are 6 – 8 May and 30 May – 5 June, tickets can be bought online here.

 

Q&A with Jessica Cheetham of Spun Glass Theatre

Fellow Brighton based theatre maker Jessica Cheetham and I decided it’d be nice to interview each other about our respective Brighton Fringe productions. Jessica runs Spun Glass Theatre and is doing not one, but two (I know!) shows this May. Here’s what she had to say in answer to my questions.

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Image courtesy of Spun Glass Theatre

 

E: You’re doing two performances at Brighton Fringe this year, do the two have anything in common or are they wildly different?

J: Operation Love Story and Stamp are both storytelling shows but the way they tell stories is totally different. Operation Love Story uses humour and warmth to take the audience on an imaginative journey through one women’s tale of loneliness and match making – it’s an anti-rom-com. We use very little onstage to tell the story, it all comes to life through Marie Rabe’s gorgeous storytelling and Jennifer Williams’ inventive prose. Stamp takes it’s inspiration from the worlds of cabaret and television game shows so the audience are very important and they play with us to tell the story. So similar aims – to create an authentic relationship with the audience – but really different forms for each show which is very exciting and a good challenge for me as the director.

 E: Both performances are shows you’ve staged previously, very recently in the case of Stamp and a few years ago for Operation Love Story. How are you developing the shows for Brighton Fringe? 

J: Operation Love Story was originally staged by Jennifer herself and I helped her out with producing so this is the first time that Spun Glass Theatre as a company have staged the text. This means that we are able to bring our own artistic vision to the piece and develop it from Jenny’s fantastic performance a few years ago. Stamp has undergone a lot of changes since we performed at the Vault Festival in February – the set has been revamped, we have a new lighting design and we’re casting on Monday for two new performers to take the roles of Team Leaders. The audience will also have quite a different experience building on what we learnt up in Waterloo. 

 E: Stamp takes the form of a gameshow, and has been devised by the company. Can you tell me a bit about how you created the work, what your aims are with it, and what role the audience plays? 

J: Stamp has gone on a long journey of development since February 2015. We were originally broadly looking at gender and sexuality in performance and how those themes relate to individual performers. A Midsummer Night’s Dream provided some narrative inspiration and we became increasingly interested in popular culture and how gender stereotypes are disseminated through television and the media. The first showcase performance at The Marlborough Theatre comprised of snippets of material ideas. The snippet that stuck with me and blossomed into Stamp as we know it today was an extreme masculinity game show segment where performers had to compete – downing beer and eating chillies while putting together flat pack furniture. 

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Image courtesy of Lou Rogers.

 

Stamp is essentially an extension of that segment into a full show, asking what it means to be masculine or feminine today, telling stories in a competitive game show set up. Our host Helen White has a great sense of humour and command of the show, really guiding the audience’s experience. Our aims with the show are to attract a wide range of audience members, especially young people to see how they play the game and to entertain them. Audiences always leave commenting on how fun the experience of taking part is. 

 E: Operation Love Story is a piece of new writing, what originally drew you to the story and why did you want to direct it? 

J: I was originally drawn to Operation Love Story because of the warmth and deft storytelling structure of Jenny’s writing.  The character has many twists and turns of optimism and defeat and the text keeps you bobbing alongside her, desperate for everything to work out alright in the end. 

I wanted to direct the piece because I thought I could bring out the true depth of the character’s loneliness without making the piece too heavy and convoluted. I feel that Spun Glass Theatre’s performance style – understated, spontaneous and delicate – was exactly the match for this text. I also felt strongly that I could build up the imaginative world for the audience using minimal stage elements and some carefully chosen music tracks so that they fully step into Jennifer’s imagination for the hour.

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Operation Love Story image courtesy of Spun Glass Theatre

So there you have it. A little bit of inside info about Spun Glass Theatre’s process and their two Brighton Fringe shows. You can catch Stamp at The Warren: Studio 2 6-9 May, 21st May, 3rd & 5 June 8:45pm. Operation Love Story will be at The Warren: Studio 2, 6-8 May 4:45pm. You can get tickets for both at otherplacebrighton.co.uk.

 

 

Fetish Caesar photoshoot and more!

Last week was a busy and productive one for Julius Caesar based activity. Director Ellen Carr spoke to Boogaloo Stu on his Brighton Nights show on Brighton’s Juice FM, and we had a fun time in the photo studio taking some promotional photos!

We’ve popped the radio interview on Sound Cloud, and you can listen to it by clicking on the link below. Stu had some fab questions, so if you’re interested in finding out more about why and how we’re making this show have a listen. Especially if you want to hear about why this isn’t just going to be a ‘smut fest’!

 

For the photoshoot we created some poses around our three key themes of the taboo of fetish; gender binaries; and women in power. Here’s a selection of the results.

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And the last thing for now is that the crowdfunding campaign is still going strong, and running for one more week. We’ve got up to 50% funded, and now have this last week and a bit to raise the final 50%. There really are some great prizes for people who want to support the project at Brighton Fringe. As always we’d be really grateful if you could click through and take a look at the campaign.

Thanks for reading! x

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Julius Caesar at Brighton Fringe

Preparations are now totally underway for the return of Julius Caesar set in the world of a fetish club for Brighton Fringe in May. We’ve found a great bunch of people to work with on the show and are really excited to have such a big team behind us (there are 7 of us on the creative team!)

We’ve also completed a week of R&D  with our fab ensemble exploring our themes, key questions and playing around with the text and characters. Here are three fun little rehearsal diaries for those of you who’re curious about what we’ve been up to!

 

 

 

We’ve also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for the project, and that’s actually a really great place to get more information on the show. We’d be really happy if you clicked through to take a look. We’ve got some great rewards for supporters of the campaign, including tickets to the show and membership to our Annual Friends of Witness Theatre scheme.

More updates soon as we continue our journey towards the fringe!

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