“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #7

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 6th Feb 2022

“When you depart from me sorrow abides and happiness takes his leave.” – Don Pedro 1.1

Pennsylvania, it’s been a blast.

This week we were in residency at Bloomsburg University – a university which had not previously been visited by AFTLS in the history of their tours, and who welcomed us so warmly. The campus felt exciting and full of great students and facilities.

Of course, there was lots of snow around which didn’t let up – in fact it got worse, and by the end of the week there were severe weather warnings and an ice storm due to hit. I have never seen ice like it! Our cars were covered in what looked like an outer shell of glass which we had to crack off each morning. It was definitely thermal wearing weather and, despite worries that the show might not go ahead because of it, the team at Carver Hall were resilient and brilliant and we played on Friday as scheduled.

I was both excited and intrigued to see how the a totally new audience would take to the AFTLS style of multi-roling and the stripped back nature of the shows. The wonderful students we met over the week’s workshops sounded just as intrigued, particularly those due to perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” themselves in the next couple of months. Tom and I got to have a zoom Q&A with most of them and they were so generous with their questions and attentive with our answers.

I’m pleased to say that the show went down a storm (not of the ice variety thankfully). As soon as we heard the audience respond to the first few lines we settled into the show – having not done it for a week can always be a bit daunting, but thanks to the intense nature of our rehearsals it’s firmly in our muscle memory now.

The next morning we got to host workshops for the local community. Will and I met some of the local ‘River Poets’ in the morning as well as the founding members of the Bloomsburg ensemble and owner of the Alvina Krause Theatre in town, Laurie. She was kind enough to secure us tickets for that evenings performance of The Mountaintop. We were lucky enough to go onto stage after the show to see the set up close and meet the very talented two cast members in the production. It was a treat to get to be audience members for the night – it was clear that this small town values its local theatre immensely and the buzz about the place was great to see.

Then on Sunday a few of us decided that New York was just too close to pass up a quick day trip to. I was designated driver and we set off early to maximise the time we had in the city. The drive was beautiful – past the Pocono mountains and through states including New Jersey before finally getting into the Big Apple. I had never been to New York and, boy oh boy, it did not disappoint. Luckily we were joined by a friend of Katherine’s who took us on a whistle-stop tour of the best sights in the city. 5th Avenue, Central Park, the 9/11 memorial, St Nicholas’ church, the Empire State Building, the Flat Iron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge to name just a few, and some great food spots. Although we only had a day, we packed it all in and were left feeling so lucky that we got to experience this iconic place together.

Now, onwards to Colorado! I’m currently on the flight from DC to Denver and can’t wait to land and see this amazing state and its natural beauty. We will be in residence at the prestigious Air Force Academy which, no doubt, will be an amazing opportunity to be a part of.

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #6

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 30th January 2022

“I know we shall have reveling tonight” – Don Pedro 1.1

We have officially opened the show!

Our opening three performances at Notre Dame were electric. For all the stress, challenges and adversity that stood in our way, it was all worth it as soon as we stepped out onto that stage. To see an audience in real life again after 2 years was emotional to say the least, and they were so generous.

But before I get carried away with telling you about the performances, here’s a little about the show week prep. On Monday we moved down into Washington Hall and onto the main stage. It’s a gorgeous space with a big capacity and we spent the day adjusting vocally and physically to the space and setting up the stage with our props. For those that have never seen an AFTLS show before, you have one large suitcase to fit the whole show into; that means costumes, props, any set pieces and scripts etc. This might seem impossible, but it’s all about being savvy. For example, walking sticks that can collapse right down, boxes that can flat pack, bunting and washing lines that can coil away – with these few items alone you can change a space or a character completely. Our biggest prop is probably the ukulele I play as Balthasar – it’s bubble wrapped within an inch of its life and so far has been all good on its travels.

We spent the last few days before opening night (Wednesday) refining the show and tech-ing. All sound is made by the actors on stage so the only thing to tech is lights. Again, the simplest lighting really compliments the stripped back nature of working in this way, and so we really only have two lighting states: light and bright for Leonato’s residence and the party, and dark and moody for Don John and the villains. We also run a singing call each day to keep the music in the show in good form. Apart from a few songs on the ukulele, the rest is totally sung acapella and by this point, we are really in sync with one another. It’s really challenging singing with no accompaniment or start note, but it’s in our muscle memories now and we know the songs well enough to hear if they are a little off etc.

And then Wednesday comes around. We are all nervous and excited, still in slight shock we have made it, and above all else: we are ready. There always comes a point in rehearsal where either the cast or creatives say ‘I’m ready for an audience’ or ‘you guys just need the audience to see it now’ and they’re right – the audience is the final part of the puzzle when performing theatre. Having an audience is what makes live theatre – having their attention and time to listen to the story we are telling. And, as I mentioned earlier, it was amazing. Bearing in mind we hadn’t shown the show to anyone except once through to Scott, to hear them laughing and equally silent when they were listening was incredible.

Did things go wrong? Yes. Were they major? No. Did we have fun? Absolutely. All of the hard work, emotion, surprises and playfulness that we had stored up over the past 5 weeks was finally released to the world. We really felt that the audience were as happy to be back in a theatre watching a live performance as we were to be performing it. So much so that they leapt to their feet at the end. I will never forget that moment.

Thursday became slicker and by Friday it felt like we were really in the driver’s seat. There were many moments where I was watching the other 4 on stage and feeling overwhelmingly proud of them and to be part of this company.

This weekend we have been in Chicago before we fly to Pennsylvania on Monday to head to Bloomsburg University. Chicago is wonderful and, yes, I did get to try pizza pie which I’m sure my Italian family will either applaud or boo at when I tell them…

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #5

Sunday 23rd January 2022

“If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.” – Leonato 1.1

Hello Notre Dame!

What a great first week it’s been in Indiana. We are finally in a proper rehearsal space again! I had almost forgotten what it was like to have space and the freedom to move around – it’s a far cry from the cottage kitchen back in England!

It’s also great to meet the Shakespeare at Notre Dame team properly in real life and have the brilliant Scott Jackson in our rehearsals. He’s been helping us figure out any sticking points with transitions and blocking within the show which has been so useful. And we got to celebrate his birthday with a fantastic meal out at a great local spot, Bantam. Everywhere we go everyone is so friendly and wants to support the show by booking tickets and spreading the word. I already feel like I’ll miss South Bend! There is a real sense of community from Notre Dame and I can see why people choose to study here.

The show is getting slicker and slicker now we have the room to start running transitions and sequences with space. Being just the 5 of us multi-roling all the different characters, clarity is key when swapping back and forth from one character to the next. For example, Katherine plays both Leonato and Hero (father and daughter) and flips back and forth between them with real distinction and commitment. It’s inspiring to watch and I cannot wait for our audiences to experience the many crafty moments like this within the show. Another example is Will who, in one scene, is playing 3 characters all on stage at the same time! No spoilers, but look out for it, it’s great…

Today was our first full day off in Indiana so some of us went for a drive and ended up walking around Potato Creek State Park. I know to locals this is probably a relatively small park, but to us it is HUGE! It was completely covered in snow and the lake had frozen over. People were even skiing their way around which I became increasingly jealous of – walking in thick snow is tiring! But beautiful nonetheless.

We seem to have finally shaken off the jet lag and tomorrow we move into the theatre space. Notre Dame’s facilities are amazing and the Washington Hall theatre is stunning. It’s felt like a long time coming and no doubt it’s going to be an emotional moment to have an audience watching us and being able to finally share this show that we have put so much into.

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #4

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 16th Jan 2022

“One foot in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never” – Balthasar 2.3

We are in Indiana!

Due to the pandemic there have been many moments where it seemed like the odds were against us, but fuelled by pure determination and the ongoing support from the Notre Dame team, we have made it over. We were greeted with open arms and the welcome was both emotional and surreal – a real ‘pinch me’ moment that, despite everything, we were finally in sunny (but still -12) South Bend.

Today I’m a mixture of excitement, jet lag and relief. I should mention that it’s my first time ever visiting America so everything has massive novelty… fire hydrants, stop signs, Chipotle, friendly people – I like it here already. Earlier we took a walk around the Notre Dame campus which was simply amazing, and even more picturesque being covered in snow. The streets were quiet as we learned of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday tomorrow, so it gave us time to get acclimatised and walk off the tiredness.

I still can’t quite believe that just over 48 hours ago we were sat in the British countryside in a quaint little cottage kitchen and now we’re here!

As for the show – I am so proud of what we have achieved in only 12 days together the cottage. We realised that it was the first time since starting the job back in December that we had been altogether as a complete 5 piece. Despite the time and space limitations, we have blocked, learnt, choreographed and composed the whole show! Now comes the refining, detailing and sharpening in our American leg of rehearsals which start tomorrow through to opening night on the 26th. And this, for me, is the best part. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant Shakespeare is at providing us with everything we need as actors – in this instance, we have the most potent, emotional, witty and playful text in “Much Ado”… all we have to do is deliver and receive it. Thanks, Will!

I’m also looking forward to working with the Notre Dame students and watching them discover this same innovation with Shakespeare’s work. Hopefully many of them come to see our “Much Ado” and enjoy its heart and just how human it feels, even hundreds of years since it was written.

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #3

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 9th Jan 2021

“Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your Grace” – Leonato 1.1

Where to start!

I write this blog sitting in the garden of a little farmyard cottage in middle of the Gloucestershire countryside. I am also not alone… with me are the rest of the cast and all our suitcases ready for our flight to the USA in a week’s time. We have been bubbled in the middle of the country to avoid going back to London and risk the remainder of us contracting Covid. This came as a huge relief for all of us; having been apart for 2 weeks on Zoom we were itching to get back to putting the show together in real life, but were equally nervous about travelling around London during the current climate. So after a meeting with Scott, Deb, Jen and Jack, it was agreed that this was the most logical thing to do to prevent anymore disruption to rehearsal and illnesses within the cast.

So here we are! We have been here for a week and, I have to say, it is beautiful! The cottage itself is totally secluded apart from a neighbouring field of sheep. Once we had sorted logistics of divvying up bedrooms and getting groceries delivered, we truly hunkered down; now all negative from Covid and ready to crack on with the show.

Obviously the cottage doesn’t have the space that our beloved London rehearsal venue provided, but we have the next best thing – a kitchen diner! With a bit of Feng Shui we manouver the furniture around and have room to move and finally block the rest of the show. It has been so refreshing to be in the room together again. Seeing how the text has developed after having the time to individually marinade it is exciting, and this first week has been super productive. We have had Jen picking up anything we might need for the show and delivering them to our doorstep, as well as multiple online orders, and we now have pretty much all our costumes and props sorted.  

Of course, living together is not the usual rehearsal set up and it has proven intense, but we have all adapted fast to one another’s needs and taken personal space. We have formed a little team; eating communally and going for walks to get some air and reminding ourselves that what we have overcome is immense. 

We are such a tight knit ensemble now that the show will only benefit. We start rehearsal again tomorrow after a day off today and a big Sunday roast.