Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow, Sherman, Show

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
Like most of the UK (with the exception of our writer in Shetland it would appear!) I woke up this morning to several inches of snow. It looked fantastic. I decided to be sensible, not run, stay in the warm and I switched on my mac to check the news/facebook/twitter etc.

Lisa Parry

Ah. Samantha Ellis, one of our writers, was travelling north, from London to Scotland, by train for rehearsals. I'd spent yesterday on the road, driving back from Wales and had forgotten. Via twitter, I discovered she had chocolate for the journey - always a wise measure, with or without snow. I glanced outside the window again, checked the East Coast website and saw all services were running. For blog readers outside of the UK, this is rare: trains are regularly cancelled over here for the wrong type of snow or leaves on the line. We'd had a lucky escape.

I'm hoping our good luck continues this week, because this is the week when everything goes up a notch. You may have noticed an escalation of activity already on our twitter feed and facebook updates. Rehearsals have started in Scotland and are soon to start in London and Wales. Casting is almost complete and the directors and our techie are discussing the look of the show. Our producer is bogged down in spreadsheets, trying to make figures add up and devising codes and formulas, and our dramaturg is not only talking to the writers about last minute nips and tucks, she's also editing videos, posting photos on twitter (follow the #agent160feb hashtag if you don't already) and baking at unsocial hours for relaxation. One day she sent me an email at 4am and I replied at 6am. Agent 160 was down for approximately two hours.

Things are, without a doubt, crazy at the moment, but something happened this week which, combined with pots of tea, some yoga and a real belief in what we're doing, is helping me at least get through.

On Friday night, I went along to Sherman Cymru in Cardiff. The building has finally reopened following a massive refit and the theatre's having a series of open nights for people its worked with, donors, curious Cardiffians etc. The rehearsal rooms are so potential-giving, it's incredible and the theatre seats are really comfortable, even for people with (I tested them out) bad backs. Anyway, over drinks in the foyer where I caught up with Mared Swain, one of our directors and Branwen Davies, one of our writers, I talked shop. Then I caught up with some other people, but throughout the evening several people approached me. And they all wanted to talk about the same thing - Agent 160.

I was told people are looking forward to the shows at Chapter, students on creative writing courses can't stop talking about it, everyone thought it was a great idea, people are excited about the writers... I was absolutely bowled over by the enthusiasm and encouragement being sent in my direction, often from people I'd only just met. When preparing for a show like this, particularly this one where a lot of the communication is being done online, it's easy to sometimes wonder if you're reaching anyone at all. Of course, twitter and facebook help in that people sometimes do engage with you, but it's not the same as face-to-face contact. But from what I saw in Cardiff, there's clearly a strong appetite for our work and an enthusiasm and belief in what we're trying to achieve. People out there think we can make a real difference.

So that's spurring me on this week. And one more thing is too. I've been emailing some of our actors to sort out where to send contracts etc, and one emailed me back saying how excited he was to be working on the show. He didn't say he was excited because of the company ethos; he didn't even mention it. He said he was excited because of the cracking scripts.

And that's what we're about: the scripts. Our ethos stands because we believe women can, and do, write cracking scripts which belong on stages throughout this country.

And so on with the admin, the emailing, the marketing - and hopefully people will come to our shows and see that's true.

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