Throughout the year, students on all years of the Musical Theatre BA at Edge Hill have been given numerous opportunities to see shows, take part in workshops, and be involved in new projects, all of which give us an edge in our field and allow us to explore other areas of theatre and the arts that we might not have otherwise discovered. Below I will talk about a few of my favourites from the year.
Pippin – The Musical at Hope Mill Theatre
This trip was one of my favourites for many different reasons, and not just because the show was fantastic. The trip took place just four days into term, (the Thursday of Fresher’s Week) and was a great opportunity for out group to bond and get to know each other as we chatted on the bus, and shared opinions of the show. We also got to meet the cast after the show, and even had a workshop day with the lead actor a few weeks after.
The Em Project – October reading Week.
During the time that we were given off timetable as the first sort of ‘half term’ break, the Musical Theatre students were given the chance to be a part of a project- learning, recording and shooting a music video in Liverpool for a brand new musical, called Em- by the amazing Benjamin Till. This was an amazing experience that we could take part in as it meant we could meet and mingle with a professional in our line of work, and get to know people in the other years on our course. We spent four days learning and perfecting the vocals and choreography for the song. We then recorded our vocals in parts in the Creative Edge building on campus, which was a wonderful experience, but the most fun was definitely the day we spent filming on location in Liverpool, in full 1960’s costume, hair, and makeup. We started out the day in the infamous Cavern Club, filming the end of the music video, and then travelled around the city to get different shots in different places. All in all, although a very cold a long day, it was a lot of fun and that certainly shows in the video, which premiered last week.
In my last blog post, I was excited to have all the biomass collected and waiting to be dried – hopefully before the end of December. Well, that was certainly a low bar, since all the biomass was weighed by the 13th December! My house is now empty of plant matter – and looking slightly empty for it. Looking back, it’s almost unfathomable how many bags I ended up weighing, I’m incredibly grateful to Lindsey and the volunteers for helping out in the field, collecting just wouldn’t have been possible without them. Now all that’s left to do is empty the remaining weighed bags of biomass back onto their original plots.
In addition to collecting all the biomass from the prairie, it has also been winterized – the hoses, sprinklers and electric fence removed, as well as data from the weather station downloaded. It certainly feels like winter has arrived, to me at least, with light snow every other week, temperatures regularly dropping below freezing, and winds that often cause my phone to flash a “Weather Warning” alert at me, however, I get the impression that the worst is yet to come! I’ve received numerous sets of thermals from family as presents for my birthday, however, so I feel suitably prepared.
The past few weeks have seen Thanksgiving – which I spent with my supervisor, Andrew Hipp, and his family – and my 21st birthday, which I spent with my dad, doing various touristy things over the weekend, such as visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Shedd aquarium and Skydeck. For my birthday (observed) the following weekend, I went out for drinks and a meal with many of the other research assistants (RAs) at the Arboretum, since I am now legally allowed to drink (odd since I have been able to drink since 18 back in the UK). Since it was also the third night of Chanukah, menorahs were lit and dreidels were spun.
Ledge view from Skydeck
The Thinker and The Chicago Art Institute
I also got to see Molly again, as she visited to see Illumination (which I have started volunteering for). Finally, after my last attempt was left incomplete by the threat of the setting sun, we took the trip over to Big Rock – it was conquered. We also baked pie and visited a mall, where I saw my first Hot Topic – an unexpected American Bucket List item.
Big Rock and I
East Woods in late autumn
Molly and I at the Hug-A-Tree station, Illumination
During Molly’s visit, I was disappointed by a store-bought vegan pizza. Thankfully, my faith in fake cheese was restored the following weekend when I visited the city with Diana, one of the RAs. We saw some local theatre and a drag show – I think the first I have been to. Both shows were great, but Lizzie, the punk, feminist, musical preceding the drag show, blew me away.
Aside from the prairie work and social activities, I’ve got a university assignment to focus on, which is proving harder than I thought! Identifying problems at the Arboretum that can be discussed and solutions proposed is challenging when the place is pretty shipshape!
It’s around this time of year when the University holds any interviews and auditions for courses. If you have applied for a course within the Performing Arts (click here to see my post on all things Performing Arts!), you will have been asked to attend an audition. I was in this position a year ago, so I thought I’d share my knowledge and experience of the audition days!
The auditions take place so that the teachers can see what skills you have as a performer before making any offers, since the courses are so practical. Although they are looking at skill, if you have never studied a Performing Arts course within your past educational establishments, don’t worry! They understand that people are coming from all sorts of backgrounds and they are mainly looking for people who are eager and participate in the auditions with enthusiasm.
One of the best things about the Performing Arts auditions is that they are very laid back. We all know that auditions and interviews can seem daunting in a place you’re not used to with teachers that you don’t know, and the teachers also know this, so they make sure to keep the pressure off you during the audition. This helps you ease into the audition so that you can do your thing and impress!
There are both current students and staff at the audition days to take you to and from your audition rooms so that you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and they are also there to ensure any questions you may have about the courses or the University itself are answered. If you haven’t managed to make it to an open day for any reason or just didn’t get the chance to do this at any events you’ve attended, there is also the offer of Accommodation, Arts Centre and Campus tours if you or your parents wish to see the facilities! I didn’t manage to make it to an open day because I was busy with college work and didn’t have transport there and back, so I used the audition as an opportunity to speak to current students about Ormskirk, the University and ask for an accommodation tour, which they were perfectly happy to help with.
The general vibe on the audition days is very positive, so once you arrive you can focus on your performance and your performance alone! Depending on which courses you have applied for, you will be sent information on what you need to bring to the audition, what to wear and if you need to learn any songs or monologues. As I was auditioning for the Performing Arts course, when I auditioned I did not have to prepare anything, as the audition was in the form of a workshop rather than everyone taking turn to carry out a monologue, something which I found less nerve-wracking! After my workshop, I was directed to a room where I did a small writing task- something which might sound daunting, but they don’t ask you questions that are hard to answer and they’re mostly just looking for your opinion on the subjects of the questions, so don’t stress about “getting the right answer”! The audition process and workshop for the BA (Hons) Performing Arts course might have changed slightly this year, but that is the kind of thing you can expect to be doing at your audition! If you are doing a course such as the BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course, you will probably have to prepare a song to sing and will be expected to take part in some form of dance workshop. Each course has a different method of auditioning, but whichever course you are doing, you’ll feel relaxed and laid back once you get there, just do the best you can and don’t be scared to take risks and join in with the activities set to you!
If you are attending a Performing Arts audition, I wish you luck!
I hope this blog post has helped you out with your expectations of what happens, and if you have any more questions, feel free to comment below! Good luck!
This is what Ellie Clarke had to say about the Performing Arts audition process:
Hello all, hope you had a wonderful and Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays for those who celebrate other or no other festivals. As it nears the end of December and 2016, I am moving into Semester 2 of my BA (Hons) Performing Arts course at the University, and I can’t wait to be back.
If you’re looking at Performing Arts courses as a way of extending your skills and abilities, creating and performing, studying the theory behind performance or even writing your own scripts, the courses that Edge Hill offer are perfect for you! Below I have included a list of the courses which are hyperlinked so that you can check out the ones you are interested in;
As you can see there’s a course for every type of performer and creative. As I like to perform and devise performances as well as expand my skill set as a performer, I chose to enrol on the Performing Arts course.
One of the best things about the Performing Arts course is the range of modules it covers. I did the BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts at my college, which I loved, however, I did not expect to cover such a big range of skills and genres of performance as I have done and will continue to do for the next 5 months. So, here is an overview of my Performing Arts life over the past 4 months!
Fresher’s Tasks and Introductions
In the very first week of the course, I didn’t know my way around so much and I didn’t know many people. However, the staff ensured that they gave me the information I needed to get more used to life at Uni and the course itself. There were a few talks carried out in the Arts Centre’s main theatre – the Rose Theatre – that gave me all the information I needed to know about the course heading into it and the University and it’s resources itself.
In my first lesson, I was introduced to my main lecturer and form tutor- Barnaby King. The lesson was quite informal, which allowed everyone to feel more at ease than we did before entering it. There are 12 people in my class, including me, and it was nice to be able to finally meet everyone and get to know each other. Everyone came from such different backgrounds which was interesting to discover, and although we were quiet to begin with, being in a class with such lovely people is amazing and we all became friends quickly! Barnaby set us a small task based on our journey to the University to ease us into the course, which was great as it was our first opportunity to work with and around the people that we are going to be working with for the next three years of our educational careers.
The Introduction to Performance Module
As performers, it’s always great to be up on our feet and creating- I know that personally, when I enter a performance space, I’m itching to get up and produce something! However, as a performer it’s also important to know where performance came from and what performance itself is. This is where this module comes in. I have this module on Monday afternoons, and I’ll either attend a lecture or a workshop where we can discuss ideas surrounding the course and anything that we might not have completely got to grips with yet- one of the best things about these workshops is the level of support it offers you in your studies! The idea of sitting in a lecture might put performers such as yourselves off, however, Barnaby and the other lecturers ensure that it’s not just you sat listening bored! We often listen to songs related to ideas discussed in the lectures and watch videos from practitioners and researchers that are a nice change from powerpoints. In my classes this year we’ve even mentioned Hamilton the Musical and watched something about the background of the musical, so don’t let the word ‘lecture’ put you off! This module runs for an entire year, rather than one semester.
Performance Skills Workshop
This module was one of the two optional modules I had to choose from- the other module was Introduction to Technical Theatre. On Mondays I also attend a lesson for this unit. This unit is all about developing your skills as a performer, and so far I have tried my hands at all sorts of things from mask work to juggling in workshops.
For this lesson we have a teacher called Olly Crick, who always keeps lessons lively and fun whilst teaching you so much about different performance genres. For the past 4 months, Olly has run workshops with us to show us what techniques and genres there are within theatre and performance, and as we progress into the second semester we get to narrow what we are studying to particular techniques we want to pursue further- which is great if you really want to have time to master a technique or begin your path to mastering it! This module runs for an entire year, rather than one semester.
If you studied Performing Arts at college or are just a regular theatre goer, you’ve probably come across Physical Theatres of the likes of DV8 or Frantic Assembly, just to name a couple of companies. For the last 4 months I have been having lessons for this module on a Wednesday morning; something that might sound daunting, as Physical Theatre in the morning can be a very exhausting task. But the best thing about these lessons is that Barnaby did a small yoga warm up before each lesson he led, which warmed the body and mind up perfectly and also helped bring our awareness of what was occurring in lessons and of each other as performers to a level that aided us in performance and devising. At the end of the unit, we had devised a half hour performance on love, hate and the situation in America with Donald Trump, which we performed to an audience of our friends and which was followed by a Viva Voce- a spoken assessment. The great thing about Vivas is that it’s like having a chat with your teachers about something your passionate about (Performing and your performance!) but it helps with your grade! If the idea of being assessed on speaking worries you, don’t let it! It’s so much less nerving when you’re in the room just speaking. This module runs for one semester, rather than a whole year.
My class- my PA family!
Visual theatres is something I had never studied before, so this was an interesting module for me! If I had to summarise what this genre is and what I studied in this module, I would summarise it using these three techniques; Object Manipulation, Puppetry and Mask Work. Throughout the module we were given the opportunity to explore the use of these techniques and even create our own 3ft puppets and masks, which was frustrating at times but definitely worth it once we got to put them to use in our final performance! For this module, there is another performance, which we again showed to friends and our assessors, and a small written piece. As someone who loves Arts and Crafts, this module was a challenge but one that I welcomed with open arms! This module runs for one semester, rather than a whole year.
The finished product
Our puppet based on one of the Where The Wild Things Are
So that’s what I’ve spent my time at Edge Hill doing so far! You might have a different experience with what you cover in classes and especially if you choose a different first year optional module to me, but I hope this has given you a better idea of what Edge Hill’s Performing Arts course is like and I hope you make the choice to audition over the coming months! In my second semester, I will be studying the Devising Performance and Multimedia Performance modules in the replacement of the two semester-long modules I’ve done so far, which I can’t wait to explore. In the second and third year of the course, you have a lot more optional modules, from things like Popular Musicals to Prosthetic Makeup. This course is so different to the one I was on at college in all the right ways- I’ve always wanted to stretch myself as a performer and learn new skills, and with the aid of the teachers on the course this has proven to be an accessible goal!
If you have any questions, I’m very happy to answer them, just pop them in the comments!
I hope you have a great end to 2016 🙂
Here is the link to the Arts Centre’s page for more info on the theatres themselves and the shows that the Uni organise for staff, students and the people of Ormskirk;