Opportunities at Uni – Musical Theatre

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.

Plants, Shows, and Skates

Shortly after returning from Boston, I took a trip to Garfield Park Conservatory. The conservatory hosts a number of rooms, each with a different theme – the front room is home to palms, the centre room to ferns, and another to aroids. The show room at the time of my visit was featuring the Spring Flower Show, “Hashtag No Filter”. Next up on the list is the Chicago Botanic Garden, hopefully, I’ll make it up there in time for their orchid show.

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Also towards the end of February, I saw a reading for a play called Eleanor Absolute, which is based on true events and tells the story of a journalist, Lorena Hickok, and her romantic relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt – whilst questioning who gets to decide on a person’s legacy. The play was written by someone I met earlier this year, Hannah Verdon.

In early March, I went to another show, this one with Molly, who drove up for the weekend. This show was called The Infinite Wrench and was by a group called the Neo-Futurists. The show is an hour long and the aim is to perform 30 short plays, with interrupting “wrenches” that add a new dimension or obstruction to the performance. Some plays were silly and short, others were longer and heartfelt, Molly was even chosen to dance in one of the shows. It was worth enduring the cold for as we queue to get in (we arrived far too early).

The following day, Diana and I made it down to Maggie Daley Park on the final day of ice-skating on their rink. Having not skated in years, and never being proficient at it anyway, I think I faired fairly well by simply not falling over. Diana pointed out that it was easier to skate with speed and, although far more nerve-wracking, she was right – we picked up a decent pace as we made a few loops around the ribbon. Our time on the rink was cut short by the Zamboni, but it was a nice day out and the park was nice to walk around.

I mentioned in a previous post about the Student Union elections that I was running for a part-time officer position. Sadly, I did not win the election, but the elected officer has a good team to work with and I’m sure the position is in capable hands. I did, however, win the Sandwich Placement award at Edge Hill University Careers Award Evening! Although I couldn’t make it to the Evening itself, my personal tutor, Paul Ashton, collected the award on my behalf and a video of the announcement was sent to me, very kindly, by the Careers Team.

Up and Coming at the Arts Centre!

Hey all, hope you are doing well 🙂

Every semester there is a new programme of fantastic events at the Arts Centre, and this semester is pretty exciting! For those of you who do not know about the Arts Centre yet, the Arts Centre is both the place in which the Performing Arts courses are based, and also the home of Edge Hill’s two working theatres, which host all kinds of theatre, screenings and music throughout the year. If you wish to read my previous posts about the Arts Centre and also the FREE student membership, which allows you 4 free tickets to see shows a semester, i have linked these below:

The Arts Centre Box Office- Theatre Galore!

The Arts Centre (FREE!) Membership

The most recent brochure for Winter/Spring 2018 has just been released, showing the next few months of events that are going to be happening.

As you can see, Joel Dommett is coming to Edge Hill next month (Saturday 17th Feb. 8pm). Joel is known for Impractical Jokers, I’m a Celebrity and is now one of the hosts of I’m A Celebrity: Extra Camp, as well as being a fantastic comedian. It’s definitely one of the events I’m looking forward to!

Translunar Paradise is coming to Edge Hill next Tuesday at 8pm, and is described by The Guardian as “Extraordinarily poignant… beautifully performed… packs a real emotional punch“. Translunar Paradise is a story of love, and focuses on a man who has lost his wife to old age, and is reminiscing on the fond memories they had together. You can watch the trailer below:

Frank Wurzinger, a hilarious clown will be returning to Edge Hill to perform his new show “Me! Me! Me!”. Me! Me! Me! is described as “a comedic exploration of Narcissism with a modern twist: Mobile phones, social media, selfie sticks, slapstick, and a huge ego“. You can watch the trailer for this show below:

As well as theatre shows, there are also both theatre screenings and films being shown throughout the week. On 14th February, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night is being screened in the Studio Theatre at Edge Hill. National Theatre’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is also being screened on 22nd February.

Most weeks there are midweek films, this semester including Dunkirk, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade Runner 2049 and Goodbye Christopher Robin. As well as these, there is the Free Film Friday specifically for Edge Hill students. This is a great opportunity to see some fantastic films on the big screen completely free! Yesterday’s film was Justice League, and there have also been films of the likes of Bridget Jones’ Baby, IT and Beetlejuice before.

This semester also hosts some fantastic music events. As well as the Arts Centre’s own Open Mic Night, in which students can perform and get to know other musicians at Edge Hill, there are also events such as Jazz in the Red Bar and The Art of the Modern Big Bang.

So there’s so much to do and see at the Arts Centre! If you’re a fan of Theatre, Film or Music, the Arts Centre is one of the biggest assets to being a student at Edge Hill. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments, but otherwise, you can check out the Arts Centre website here.

Winter Approaching In Chicago

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.

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It may not be visible, but it was snowing when this photo was taken.

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.

 

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.

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!

Theatre in Liverpool and 96/27 Review!

Hey all! My last few posts have been around the topic of the performances you can see on campus at the lovely Arts Centre on Campus. I will link these below:

The Arts Centre Box Office and the Red Carpet Review!

Interview with the Red Carpet Cast: Employability and Edge Hill’s Future Opportunities

But one of the things I haven’t mentioned yet are the amazing opportunities within Liverpool to experience all kinds of the best and bravest theatre and music! There’s the Liverpool Empire Theatre, which hosts the likes of War Horse and Circus of Horrors, the Philharmonic Hall, which hosts the likes of Islands in the Stream and Jake Bugg, and even more. One of the best things about Edge Hill being close to Liverpool, a well known city in Britain, is that you get to involve yourself in this amazing culture.

Not only are there these shows for those interested in theatre, but there are also always some amazing independent performances going on too from local creatives. I had the chance to see one of these today, so I wanted to give you an idea of what is on offer. The performance I saw was Rachael Mutch’s 96/27; a harrowing account of the Hillsborough Disaster, its effects on the survivors and the media coverage, through the eyes of one of the survivors.

 

Mutch brilliantly used a mixture of video projection of the footage from the day the disaster happened and dialogue based on a real life experience of being in the standing area of the grounds where the awful crushing happened. The whole performance was very immersive; firstly, the performance took part in one of the changing rooms in the sports centre of the University of Liverpool, a very small space with astro turf on parts of the floor and scarves hanging from the hooks around the room, which made it feel very personal, everything Mutch said felt very direct and made the experiences she was explaining hit me ten times harder. There were moments were she would hand scarves to the audience or hold a hand, and the atmosphere this created and influenced was one of the strongest I’ve seen in a performance.

One of the things I loved so much about the performance was how it focused on not just what happened on 15th April 1989, but the media and its impact on the survivor, quoting and projecting some of the disrespectful things that were said about the Liverpool fans at the match and showing the anger the survivor feels at being portrayed in such a way across the UK. Mutch also focused on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that followed the survivor she was giving a voice to and probably a lot of those who were caught in the events that took place that day, putting across the important message to the audience that, although these survivors weren’t physically hurt in the way that those who sadly died were, they were and might still be mentally suffering.

96/27 is an excellent biographical piece which focuses on a local event that took 27 years to get the justice for the victims that it deserved. Performances like this are what create much needed and important conversations in those who see them and in society. One of the amazing things about this particular performance, also, is that Mutch is a graduate of Edge Hill and actually developed this from her dissertation piece, so it goes to show that the work here at Edge Hill really does lead to amazing places.

The Arts Centre Box Office and the Red Carpet Review!

Hello all! I hope you’ve had a good start to October and are enjoying this spooky season (I know I am!).

I am writing this after going to one of the many theatre shows that are performed within Edge Hill itself in the Arts Centre! As a Performing Arts student, I practically live within the Arts Centre, and I couldn’t love it any more. There are so many wonderful rehearsal spaces, teachers who are there whenever you need them, but most of all there’s the Box Office and the lovely staff there to greet you! Here you can book tickets to see theatrical performances of all genres, or screenings of films or shows by the National Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare Company. And as an Edge Hill Uni student, you even get 4 free tickets a semester!

I did two posts previously on what is offered here, which I will link just below:

The Arts Centre Box Office- Theatre Galore!

The Arts Centre (FREE!) Membership

The main reason I am writing this article is because, although these tell you the fabulous stuff that you can be a part of within the Arts Centre, I’ve never given a full example of the kind of show you can see at the Arts Centre. There are comedies, tragedies, contemporary performances and classics. The one I’ll be reviewing is Red Carpet by the Confiança Collaborative Theatre Co., which was an intriguing collective of humour, dark and sensitive subject matter and amazing visuals!

The Confiança Collaborative Theatre Co. base their work around mental health issues which are very much not talked about in society- although we’ve come a long way with mental health awareness, it is still very taboo in many ways in society, so I think their work is much needed within such an expressive and meaningful medium as theatre. This show in particular has been scheduled at Edge Hill to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, with the first performance occurring yesterday at 6pm, the second and third occurring today at 2:30pm and 7:30pm and the last performance occurring on Saturday at 7:30.

Red Carpet, as described by the company, is “a comedy, a drama… a tragedy, a life!”. If I was to describe the show myself in a short sentence like that, it’d definitely be “a creative, funny, yet heartbreaking way to show the effects of depression and mental illness”. But it was so much more than that! Once the doors were open, we were allowed to walk into the Rose Theatre, where it was being performed, and was greeted by an amazing set of cascading white fabric on either side of the stage, littered with cans of soup, shopping baskets and other common life debris, a wedding dress hanging from the ceiling paired with red flowers, and what appeared to be a cafe. At the back stood the character of Susan, the main role in this play, eating slices of toast.

Once everyone was in and the show was starting, the opening scene showed a cafe day unfolding, laced with silly and pun-based humour. It was a lovely, lighthearted opening which introduced several of the characters beautifully, and this humour paved the way for the darker subject matter within the play to be performed and not leave the audience feeling miserable upon leaving the theatre- something that is super important when it comes to creating material based around mental health!

The afore-mentioned ‘darker subject matter’ surrounds the character of Susan, and the fact she has been suffering from depression, and has attempted to take her own life. The thing I loved the most about this play is that you don’t get all the information about what happened and what is happening onstage from the start- you piece things together from different scenes and I even learnt knew things about all the characters right in the very last few seconds of the play. This lends itself perfectly to the less comical moments, as you hear her family and friends talking to her in the hospital, which both gives you more of an idea of what happened, and also eases the audience into topics that might otherwise be jolting to an audience upon surfacing.

Overall, I will not hesitate to say that this is one of the best, creative and well-handled pieces of contemporary theatre and performance I have ever seen. Being someone who loves anything that promotes such a good thing as mental health awareness and also loves performances that have a dark edge to them, maybe it played right into my hands, but this is definitely the type of play that has something for everyone.

So, if you are interested in seeing one of the many performances on offer at the Uni and are around or close to Edge Hill for the performance tomorrow at 7:30 I’d recommend you do! Of course, it’s not the only genre and type of performance you can see at the Uni, but it’ll give you your first insight into what kind of stuff there is! If you are wanting to bring someone under the age of 12 though, they are not permitted due to the nature of the performance- there is some strong language, and obviously some strong subject matter!

Below I’ve linked a follow up to this blog where I talked to the cast about Red Carpet and what Edge Hill offers its students and alumni!

Interview with the Red Carpet Cast: Employability and Edge Hill’s Future Opportunities

Theatre Screenings- National Theatre, RCS and more!

Hello all, hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far!

I’ve made previous posts on what Edge Hill’s own wonderful Arts Centre offer to students and the surrounding public (these will be linked at the bottom of the post!), and although I’ve mentioned the Theatre Screenings briefly, I thought I’d provide a little more detail on these!

These screenings usually occur in the Studio Theatre, which has a huge projection screen; it’s like being at the movies! The screenings are streamed live from the best London theatres, and as they are filmed from several angles, you get to see theatre like you never have done before! I went to see Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and what I loved about it was that there were some camera angles that I never would have seen unless I’d bought really expensive seats for the theatre it was filmed from.

There have been many screenings over the past 7 months I’ve spent at the University, and more are yet to come!

Coming up, there’s the Royal Shakespeare Company’s renditions of Julius Caeser and Antony and Cleopatra, and there’s also the National Theatre’s renditions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Twelfth Night and Angels in America (parts one and two are split between two nights). So lots of shows you might be interested in or want to see if you’ll enjoy! One of the best things about being a student is that if you sign up for the free Arts Centre membership you can get tickets to see these screenings for free! If you’re near Ormskirk and want to check out some of these screenings, click here to be taken to the webpage that will give you more details on dates and tickets!

 

Find my previous posts here:

The Arts Centre Box Office- Theatre Galore!

The Arts Centre (FREE!) Membership

Love Film?

What Can I Watch in The Arts Centre?

Edge Hill’s Arts Centre has a lot of different productions and events throughout the year, from professional productions to student-run shows. They run a special membership scheme for students where you get a number of free tickets per term. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a play written by one of my creative writing tutors called Borderland, put on by Public Burning Theatre. I really enjoyed it and I’d like to share a review of it with you to give an idea of what you can expect from the Arts Centre.

Cast

  • Lucky Sanghera as Aminah
  • Chloe McLauglin as Kayla
  • Rob Ward as Terry

Storyline

Kayla, an aspiring boxer and Aminah, a muslim girl become friends after the girls end up in detention together. Kayla saved Aminah from a group of girls who were bullying her and makes it plain that she expects Aminah to be grateful, which doesn’t set them off on the right foot. However, they grow closer, despite the threat and forbidden nature of their relationship. Terry, Kayla’s uncle and boxing coach finds out about their friendship and is furious. They carry on seeing each other regardless and they finally realise they have feelings for each other. They must battle with their feelings and what they are taught is right. They then meet years later when Aminah is married, though unable to conceive children and Kayla has a partner and a daughter.

Thoughts

I found this play to be very powerful, it’s subject matter was so relevant and really made you think about the prejudice in the world. The character were incredible relatable, the actresses brought them through their realistic portrayals. The set design was very cleverly made use of. There was a row of lockers that held costume pieces and props that were brought out when needed – I thought that was very Brechtian (there goes my A level drama). Above all I found the play hilarious but the ending was so heart-breaking – this balance was what struck me the most as it kept me interested and wasn’t all comedy or drama but a good mixture of both. The ending had me conflicted though; from a writers point of view I thought it was very clever and very well written but from an audience point of view it tore my heart to shreds!

So, this is the kind of thing you can expect to see at The Arts Centre, but there is so much more! The Arts Centre is one of my favourite places to go on campus as it has such a huge variety of events and shows.

Until next time! 🙂

Love Film?

Hello all, hope you’re having a wonderful week!

Although I’ve done a couple of posts on the Arts Centre and the wonderful things they offer, I haven’t quite let you in on all of it just yet (unbelievably!). Although the Arts Centre is a working Theatre and has both theatrical and musical events throughout the year, there are also many events and showings for those who are a fan of film or screenings, which can also be a part of the free membership (meaning free films, free screenings, and free fun for all!).

 

Free Film Friday!

Above are a few posters from the Free Film Friday events! This is exclusive to students, unlike most of the theatre showings throughout the week, and sometimes there are even student “cook-offs”, which you get to indulge in, eat some great food and vote for the best team before enjoying your film! If you’re a fan of the kind of films shown above, or of the kinds of Beetlejuice, Suicide Squad or Finding Nemo, this is definitely one of the biggest perks of the Arts Centre and being an Edge Hill student!

 

Weekday films

During the week, there are occasionally extra films too! These are open to the public like the theatre shows, however, the membership still applies for these, and if you want to save your free tickets for theatre shows it’s only £2 to see some of the best films of the year! So far I’ve been to see Me Before You and Bridget Jones’ Baby, both of which I’m glad were shown so close to the comfort of my accommodation!

 

National Theatre (and other!) Screenings!

If you are a fan of theatre screenings, these also occur throughout the Arts Centre schedule! Live screenings from London of companies such as the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company are shown in our very own Studio Theatre, with many different plays to take your pick from! I think this is a great opportunity to see shows you might not otherwise have a chance to see! As a Performing Arts student, I’d learnt so much about Bertolt Brecht, yet never seen one of his plays, however, last Semester I saw his Threepenny Opera streamed by the National Theatre from London, one of my favourite experiences at the Arts Centre to date! So I’d definitely recommend attending some of these if you join the University in September! Other plays and such that are streamed and are going to be streamed this year are Twelfth Night, Saint Joan  and Hedda Gabler, all by the National Theatre.

 

If you would like to know more about the Arts Centre and what it has to offer, I will link to my last two posts about this below and the relevant pages on the Arts Centre’s website:

The Arts Centre Box Office- Theatre Galore!

The Arts Centre (FREE!) Membership

https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/artscentre/

 

Feel free to drop me any comments on questions you might have and I hope you have a wonderful end to your week 🙂

The Arts Centre (FREE!) Membership

Hello all, hope you’re having an easy Friday!

As a follow up to the post I made yesterday on the Arts Centre and the performances that run throughout the year, I thought you should all know about the wonderful membership they started up just this year.

The Arts Centre membership is a completely free membership for any and all students at the Edge Hill University- not just for those on the Performing Arts courses!

Although most of the performances and screenings shown at the Arts Centre are £5 or below, this membership allows you to get 4 free tickets to see anything you want during each of the two theatre seasons in the year- Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer- which I think is a great offer! Especially if you love theatre, film or music but don’t have so much money (something all students come to at some point in their time at Uni!).

My new membership card!

Every member gets one of the brand new membership cards which is quite cool too!

One of the things I love about this membership is that usually when you hear the word membership you’re expected to pay something towards what you’re getting out of it, but this membership is completely free. I think it’s great how this opens up theatre to students who maybe don’t get as much student finance or who are interested in theatre but struggle to pay prices in big theatres.

 

As I’m on the BA (Hons) Performing Arts course, one of my modules requires me to review and analyse performances, which would become an extra stress as without the Arts Centre and the membership I would both have to travel into Liverpool and pay that expense, then pay £25+ for the actual shows- whereas I can simply walk 5 minutes from my room in Back Halls to the Arts Centre and see a show for free.

 

So if you’re looking at coming to Edge Hill in September and you’re a theatre fan, be sure to check this out!

If you want to read my previous post on the Arts Centre, click here!