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Summer 2020 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Jen Rigby

How to rehearse a play during Lockdown!

Our first rehearsal took place on 7th July 2020, before the announcement by the Government that Outdoor theatre could take place! We wanted to be ready to leap into action the moment the announcement was made.

Little did we know it would be much sooner that anticipated! Just two days later we announced that our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ would be taking place… we were extremely excited! But we had many challenges ahead.

Firstly, rehearsing via Zoom is utterly exhausting! Not only is it difficult to concentrate for much longer than a couple of hours (we manged 4 hours split into 2-hour sessions), but also how do you get any movement into rehearsals that are taking place in five different locations?

So, we started playing different games; our favourite was ‘one standing, one sitting, one lying and one kneeling’ which was hilarious!

We spent a lot of time discussing our individual characters, which is a luxury I’ve never had when directing Shakespeare in the past, there never seemed to be the time. This means that we really understand the characters we’re playing, found their back-stories and even created a team of bin-workers in tribute to the key workers who have kept our nation going throughout the Covid-19 pandemic (I think Shakespeare would approve)!

And then finally, wonderfully, we got together in person in my back garden for socially distanced rehearsals! Our stage is a curtainside trailer, so we marked out 8 metre squares on the lawn. And then began the task of creating movement, tension, and drama, without coming into close contact with each other!

And we discovered that these restrictions, instead of being stifling, were actually liberating! Allowing us to create closely choreographed scenes, where a diagonal move has more power than a move in a straight line and where a pom pom (made by our community volunteers) became stronger than a punch in the face!

We can’t wait to show you the magical, romantic, complicated play that we have created, we hope you’ll enjoy it and that you’ll join us again for future productions – we’re already planning a socially distanced pantomime here in Studley and a children’s production for next summer.

Keep an eye on the Aunty Jen Productions Facebook page for updates.

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Autumn 2020 – it’s the panto season ! by Nicolette Morgan

How to rehearse a socially distanced panto during lockdown… 2 !

Our first aim as a production company was actually to put together a pantomime for the community, during what turned out to be a very strange time !

In the summer we stage a socially distanced version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the back of a lorry… which was so much fun and gave us all some purpose back. As actors we are used to adapting to different situations (the vast majority of actors across the UK all have a range of ‘side’ jobs to be able to continue to work doing what we love) but literally everything had stopped. To have a project to pour energy into was just brilliant, and to see people in the community helping each other was so lovely.

Lockdown lifted, and things began to go back towards a ‘new normal.’ We were thrilled to receive an arts grant from the Arts Council and the National Lottery, and from Warwickshire County Council when bam! A second lockdown was announced. We were determined since the beginning that this panto will go on… lockdown or no lockdown! Zoom quizzes and script readthroughs became our way of staying in touch and keeping spirits high. Zoom rehearsals have their pros: the kitchen isn’t to far away and you can always grab a quick cuppa to keep you going but trying to explain to the family dog that he does actually need to move out of the way so we can rehearse movement is a surreal experience for sure; and rehearsals online are somehow quite draining – although fun.

Jen sending us amendments of scripts, and even dance routines choreographed with her daughters over WhatsApp was the new norm.

I write this two weeks before we can meet in person again to rehearse – and I cannot wait! Everyone is so excited to bring some festive cheer to Studley. It might not be the usual Christmas we all enjoy but in these strange times people really have pulled together and shown the true spirit of community.

Happy Christmas to you all !