Friday, July 30, 2010

Che Kwan's internship

Che Kwan finished with us today after a seven-week placement as a Production Assistant, focussing on our work with China.

Here is what she had to say about the experience:

"I think I had a unique internship that not everyone has the chance to experience. Most of my schoolmates work in business firms or big companies, staying in the office for the whole day and dealing with the paper works.

Border Crossings is a small theatre organization, but here I can see exactly how things work with a limited budget, like using the internet to connect and promote about Re-Orientations, writing application forms for funding, going around China Town and ask for making advertisement (although I failed the task)… In here I can see the possibility of my future career. In
Hong Kong, everything is about business and money, that seems to be the only way to success and I am always confused about my future because that’s not the way I want to go. The experience in Border Crossings makes me believe that it is possible to go a different way from the mainstream society.

Although theatre organizations seem to have nothing to do with what I am studying, I am very happy to find that they are actually related— some themes in Re-Orientations, like homosexuality, cultural and language issues, are just like the topics I am studying in university, just with a different form of expression, I am very happy to find that Sociology is everywhere!

I also learnt a lot about the theatre community. Before coming, my only theatre experience is watching dramas in
Hong Kong and I always only focus on the story and actors. During the internship, I see there actually need to be many parts to form a theatre production—actors, actors, lighting, stage design… and every part have its own message and is helping to tell a story. I learnt how to understand the message from the producer through all those parts, and to express myself in the ways other than ‘talking’. I remember Julian Bryant who talked about ‘how to rate a theatre production—artistic value, social impact and business potential’ during the graduation exhibition, I think that is really very useful!

Li Che Kwan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Frinton experience

For years I've known about Frinton-on-Sea weekly rep - but only last night did I finally get to go. It's being run by a guy called Eddie Max, who I knew at Oxford a mere 25 years ago, and who found me on Facebook, and sent me an invitation. Well, it had to be!

Frinton is famous for being tiny but professional, and for running a summer season on the old system of one play in rehearsal and one in performance, for a week each. It all happens in what looks like a church hall with a tiny stage, one front of house bar, tabs, and Ed himself selling raffle tickets before the show. Before the play starts, the National Anthem is played, and everybody stands up. It's like travelling back half a century or more.

Which said, Ed has got some very talented people to go there and sample the experience. I saw a Neil Simon comedy, directed by Antony Clark, no less. Jonathan Holloway is also on the bill for the summer. So these are professional people, and no mistake! I asked Tony what it was like to direct a play in a week. "You just do it", he said.

I was sorry to get an email from Nancy Crane a little while ago, saying she couldn't be in Re-Orientations. She's been one of the mainstays of this project for years - but long-term contracts at the Old Vic don't get offered very often, and I understand why she took it. The replacement is a wonderful performer called Geraldine Alexander. I'm excited to be working with her.

Friday, July 16, 2010


LIFT continues to be very exciting. Yesterday, I was at the discussion of Theatre from the Arab World in the afternoon, and then in the evening went to see Aftermath in the Old Vic tunnels. This is an American piece, by the same team that created The Exonerated, and again makes use of verbatim testimony. The witnesses whose words are used are all refugees from Iraq, now living in Jordan, and each with a horror story to tell. It's done incredibly well, with lots of humour, warmth, and humanity. The acting is very compelling, without being totally naturalistic - you are always aware that this is an actor relaying somebody else's words, particularly since much play is made of the translator, who was presumably present at all the interviews. The actors speak in English almost all the time - but he is always there and is frequently told to translate.

I often don't like verbatim theatre, because it's often undramatic and preachy. This was neither. My other concern about verbatim remains, however. In bringing us close to the psychology, the humanity of these victims, it loses sight of the wider political structures which caused this suffering in the first place. Even a play like Talking to Terrorists, which engaged with the "bad" side, rather than the "victims", reduced terrorism to a psychological aberration.

Friday, July 09, 2010


For a while, we've been wrestling with a cash flow problem. The EU grant, which is the bulk of the funding for Re-Orientations, only pays the last 30% after the entire project is finished and accounted for. This means that we have to spend quite a lot of money before we've got it. The main banks don't seem to understand how charities work, and have been singularly unhelpful. One banker actually said to me: "We can't lend to a charity. I mean - they don't make profits, you know!"

Luckily, we found out about Venturesome, which is a really terrific organisation working in just the way we need. Two of their people, Emilie and Rob, came to our office last week, and talked for two hours about the overall mission of the company, and the arts sector as a whole, as well as the particular project. And yesterday came the agreement to give the loan. A huge relief.

Emilie said that their internal meeting turned into a discussion about arts organisations in general, and ways in which they can develop through social enterprise etc. as the cuts in grant aid start to bite. We do need to start thinking like this.....

Friday, July 02, 2010

Chinese language blog

Thanks to Che Kwan, we now have a Chinese language blog on Re-Orientations. Check it out here.

這是 Re-Orientations 的中文博客, 點撃這裡看看!