Vision, inspiration … and enchantment

Vision and inspiration first

As a theatre-maker in my ‘prime’ (as the Irish Theatre Institute would have it), it is almost impossible to comment in a succinct way on the myriad places I have found inspiration and that have influenced my work. 

Recently, in my diary, I wrote a list of fifty people who had a positive impact on me. Many of the people I named had fed my creative life and awareness: from the teachers who loved the literature we studied (Irish, French, English), the nun who encouraged us as six-year olds to write our own Christmas play, or those teachers who took on the Christmas play every year, giving me a chance to perform, both in Primary School and then the school musicals in Secondary School, not to mention Mrs Nolan, the revered drama teacher. As a teacher myself, I later came to realise the effort involved. What a gift to schoolchildren: the collaboration, the camraderie and the enchantment!

The highlight of the school year for me in Convent of Mercy Secondary School, Clonakilty.

And what about all the writers of my impressionable years?––the Frank O’Connors and Edna O’Briens, John B Keane and Brian Friel; writers whose voices reflected our lives and told stories that we could identify with as well as the writing of Shakespeare or Guy de Maupassant that brought us to different, harsher situations, but which also resonated.

And what about growing up in a community like Clonakilty, in west Cork, where involvement in plays, musicals, attending and performing in Kilmeen Drama Festivals, choirs, an orchestra. and street performances were commonplace; not to mention taking it in turns with my two sisters to go to the opera season in Cork with our parents, all dressed up and looking at the dress suits and frocks in the Grand Circle of the Opera House!

All of it creates the tapestry of influence and vision.

In this blog, I set out the places where I find inspiration for my work in more recent times as a theatre-maker; from a practical point of view as well as a more esoteric, creative perspective. I also point our what it is that appeals to me or resonates with my learning. 

One concept weaves through it all––the idea of reflecting society as it is now, to hold a mirror to our contemporary life.

I cannot include all the sources of inspiration. I am thinking here especially of the unscheduled conversations I have with other artists which result in a refining and developing of my thinking as I write or create, or the essential support from the groups of writers that I have been lucky to be a part of for many years, or those I meet on a weekly basis whose conversations provide direction and clarity.

For these generous friends and for west Cork where this society abounds, I am very grateful.


There are a few books that I carry with me all the time through the rehearsal process of a play or when teaching. They have provided practical games and a key to unlocking an emotional journey through drama classes and theatre rehearsals.

The bibles.

1 For a focus on group work, with games to bring a group together and techniques to create images. These enable a deeper enquiry into dramatic situations or themes.


theatre should be happiness, it should help us learn about ourselves and our times.


Augusto Boal’s approach, as evidenced in this book, was egalitarian and collective. There was a constant enquiry by the group into the work in hand and empowerment of the participants occurs as a natural consequence of this approach. His interest in addressing politics and situations of oppression, and creating images to explain and elucidate the points of discussion, is incredibly effective.

Hence his development of a way of working in theatre called The Theatre of the Oppressed, a system and means of communicating and exploring issues and themes through performance has been used and developed worldwide. And which also has the intention of empowering the participants.

The variety of games / exercises / activities are helpful in any group work. In particular, his use of Image Theatre, where a tableau is developed by the group and then animated in a small way by each individual member––this results in a powerful dynamic energy within this collective creation. And the reduction of ideas or themes into intimate images / statues / tableaux, by an individual or a group is wonderful and incredibly effective. 

As an example of this work, I took a Transition Year group in the 2010s. It was a fluid group and very challenging for drama, which blossoms on consistency and trust, built on a continuing and developing relationship within the group. This class were lively and only a few only had experienced drama. I asked the students to create an image of the ‘Junior Cert Results Night’,  no talking about the image or preparation of it, just a movement into position, one after the other, to create a group picture. It included drinking groups, Guards, a vomiting teenager, concerned friends. Immediately after this image, I asked them to create a picture of the ideal ‘Results Night’. This image was of groups of friends together, celebrating, some drinking, sharing the celebrations. 

2 A focus on the practice of the individual, understanding and developing sensitivity to oneself and to others, leading to greater sensate awareness. 

DAVID ZINDER BODY VOICE IMAGINATION Imagework Training and the Chekhov Technique

Each section in Zinder’s Body Voice Imagination Imagework Training and the Chekhov Technique uses exercises that move in sequence, one into the next. The self-awareness and reflection that they bring are very appealing to me and aid my analysis of theatre particularly in relating to the actor and the movement of performers. I use them in combination with other work, particularly when working towards an intense focus and connection between the partipcants. 

Zinder not only provides a clear line of exercises to follow, he provides insight and an explanation of the intentions behind the work and that of Chekhov, whose path he follows. 

For example, he describes states of being such as ’The Feeling of Ease’, which must follow and inform the ‘Feeling of Beauty’:

In his address to the students on the opening day of the Chekhov Theatre Studio of Darlington Halll, on October 1, 1936, Michael Chekhov said, “It is very important that during the whole lesson you must be very active at all times. Your figure (body) must be beautiful during the whole lesson. In whatever you are doing, you must feel yourself full of power, full of energy.” This is not only a wonderful concept on its own merits, but it is also an important one in terms of training the performer. The three crucial elements here are: (a) accepting the idea of living the life of a performing artist, whose body is his artifact, and therefore must be at all times beautiful; (b) understanding that every gesture, every move the actor makes, in workshop, rehearsal, or performance, is an integral part of his craft, and should––through the conscious effort of the actor––be imbued with a Feeling of Beauty, as it aspires to the condition of art; and (c) taking the greatest possible pleasure in having a body that moves and creates aesthetic forms in space. 

Zinder, Body Voice Imagination Imagework Training and the Chekhov Technique, p 134

These ideas and thoughts coincide with ideas that I have found in other classes involving movement, like yoga or somatic movement. All of this experience combines to extend the learning in relation to the body and how it can be developed in giving and creating expression.  Later in this series, I intend to look at movement and the body in the creation of theatre.

For now, I would just say that I believe, ultimately, all of these methods and practices search for the truth; how we can best portray it––whatever truth means––at the particular stage we are in our careers or development as theatre-makers.


Other perspectives on the art of theatre have been interesting to read and experience in live performance. It is always a pleasure to find a coincidence of ideas or thoughts on your practice in the words of others.

3 A sense of space, the actor in it and the interaction with the audience


….to share with you a fundamental idea: that theatre has no categories, it is about life. This is the only starting point, and there is nothing else truly fundamental. Theatre is life.

Peter Brook, The Slyness of Boredom, (from There Are No Secrets) p 8

I love Brook’s ideas around the acting space and the definition of it, and his analysis and exploration of the concept over many years. Theatre students and interested people have followed his analysis of making theatre for decades: travelling through Africa, engaging with local people in an exploration of storytelling and engagement with an audience; his work with actors, constantly seeking truth and the best possible way of communicating to others.

Sometimes he frames the performance space with carpet or, when I attended his theatre in Paris, the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, the central acting area––a large rectangle––was delineated with tape. Minimal props were used, the bare essentials for telling the story in ‘The Suit’ by Can Thembe. It is the actors that are his focus, in their performance and their engagement with the audience, with the stage area reaching into the auditorium. 

I love too his focus on performance, and seeking to constantly work to hone and fine-tune the actor; in their physicality, sensitivity and in the space. 

It is in fact very easy to be sensitive on language or the face, or in the fingers, but what is not given by nature and must be developed through work is the same sensitivity in the rest of the body, in the back, the legs, the rear. Sensitive means that the actor is at all times in contact with his entire body. When he initiates a movement, he knows the exact place of every limb.

Peter Brook, The Slyness of Boredom, (from There Are No Secrets) p 19

One of the moments that stood out for me that evening that I attended Les Théâtres des Bouffes du Nord in 2015 came at the end of the performance. When the actors came to receive the applause from the audience they didn’t bow to them, the cast stood and looked at the audience. Then they moved around the stage to see another part of the audience and, again, they looked directly at them, and received the response consciously.

Brook speaks often of the interaction of the actors and the audience, they are together in the performance, and that’s what it seemed to me at that moment. The lighting had been brightened at this point to ensure that there was a direct connection and ‘seeing’, one group to the other.

Always, the play is performed in relation to the audience, the flow of energy from the actors on the stage to them, each bound to the other.

4 Theatre reflecting social and political issues, through collective and collaborative practices, creating an entire experience


A theatre company is not an artistic entity cut off from life. A company is a group. A group is always a maternal structure. At the beginning I didn’t know that, but I’ve discovered it. I discovered that it is not enough for actors to be good creators. 

It is also necessary for them to be free and happy. And that’s not easy. Because there is constantly amongst us all a strange mixture of generosity and selfishness, of availability and reserve. There is an explosive which has to be handled delicately. It is passion in its pure state, It is life. It is restricting, certainly, but it is also wonderful.

Ariane Mnouchkine interveiwed by Jean-Paul Liégeois, ‘Ariane Mnouchkine: “Je mets Shakespeare devant tous les autres, même Molière”’,  Le Nouveau F. Magazine,  no 1, February 1982.

Mnouchkine’s vision of theatre is based on the ideal of a collective company of equals working closely together over a long period of time, collaborating jointly on the creation of performances. It may take many months for a performance to emerge in this process, as, step by step, all of the people involved research the theme and play with the material together. 

In Paris, she has created a place, la Cartoucherie, in the Bois de Vincennes in an old, large, munitions factory for the group, Théâtre du Soleil. When you attend, you take part in the food prepared, sit at long, or round shared tables to eat, and we were served by the members of the theatre group, some of whom had just come off the stage. Food that is wholesome and good. On the way in, we even passed some small wooden houses where, I assumed, the cast lived.

Actors and musicians as well as the production team are involved in the improvisation and experimentation that takes place in the development of any production, before casting is done, with everyone involved in that process. Music plays an important role in their work also.

On the evening, the productions were not directed by Mnouchkine herself but were by companies that she had worked with. There is a singular atmosphere in this theatre, it is raw and authentic, in my opinion. The two productions we saw that night dealt with the stories of immigrants. I wouldn’t describe the event as ‘immersive theatre’ but the entire experience from the moment we arrived felt like real life was overlapping with the theatrical experience and made it all the more enriching for that feeling. It settled the theatre into real life, rather than it being somehow removed, or elitist.

Because of my particular interest in collective work, I seek to find out what that means in practice to different theatre-makers or creative practitioners.  The collectivity evidenced in this group is really interesting, as it takes on the idea of collective living absolutely. And then, it is intriguing to consider how I can imbue my productions with some of the atmosphere and values that I observe, and to calculate how they impact on theatre-making and the participation of the entire team.

Adrian Kiernander, when researching Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil, spent one year in the company of the Troupe, in particular as they developed one project, L’Histoire terrible inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Combodge. It is from this book of his experience that these quotations come.

 ‘Collective’ means that everybody is concerned with everything….I do not evade any of my responsibilities. I assume, and I have never denied it, the direction of the troupe and the suction of stage director (metteur en scène). But that does not mean that I make decisions alone. Everything which involves the future of the company, all the choices, to produce Shakespeare or not, for example, are taken collectively in general meetings. I only have the job afterwards of executing the decisions. And the principles….So we have to do all we can to make the production good:respecting the audience by preparing two hours before the performance has become one of our rules. The ethic of the company includes several other elementary principles: punctuality, equality of salaries, no smoking during rehearsals, sobriety…’

Ariane Mnouchkine interviewed by Jean-Paul Liégeois, ‘Ariane Mnouchkine: “Je mets Shakespeare devant tous les autres, même Molière”’,  Le Nouveau F. Magazine,  no 1, February 1982.


Always, the enchantment of theatre is a fundamental element.

Enchanting images from the 2019 production of Amadeus: Lighting on the two Salieris, picking up the lines of the costume, their colours and specially-made brooches; Salieiri with Orsini Rosenberg––lighting picks up the back wall gold set paint; Confectionery made of builders’ filling and decorated deliciously, sit on a painted tile-effect floor of the walk-way. Photos of the performance by Jack Zagar.

I think this enchantment has to do with being in the presence of other people, bought together for this ritual, and being transported in your mind into a more creative space; to be moved emotionally, however that impacts on you as an individual.

Sometimes, it may be the use of light on a stage, or the impact of colours on a set. I’m not really thinking of spectacle here, which can transport you with the sheer scale of scenery, or use of film for example.

I am more taken with humbler offerings, where there is nowhere to hide, and you rely on the impact of the drama. Often, it is to do with the actor / performer being what they call ‘in the moment’. Then any subject matter touches us as an audience and we are utterly in that moment with them.

It may reveals itself as a smile––where you find yourself smiling and have no conscious part in doing that act.

Once, I attended a production of Othello by the RSC in Stratford. On leaving the theatre, I found I couldn’t speak about the play, it had moved me so much. I was utterly taken by whatever alchemy had taken place that evening, between those on the stage and those in the auditorium. Presumably, it had to do also with the months of rehearsal process and direction, and the production team and the particular connection between those people.

That is enchantment, in my opinion.

Then again, for me, it can also come down to the smell of the backstage of a theatre… Let’s move on from that thought!!

The Amadeus Project: Sound Cues

Sound Matters

These notes and sound cues were prepared by DJ Gregio.

They were discussed over a number of sessions, with suggestions from Julia, myself, from the offerings of the cast, from the script and from the DJ himself.

DJ Greegio also attended rehearsals from mid-September and contributed from the outset to the warm-up. Finally, the soundscore continued to develop during the two weeks of intense work leading up to opening night.

He also had a separate playlist of relevant contemporary music –– inspired by Mozart –– for before the opening and half-time slots.

The Amadeus Project: Lighting Notes

Lighting Notes

The following notes were the draft lighting cues that I prepared in order to be helpful to the lighting man, Paul, who facilitated us by getting involved quite close to the end and when our original lighting designer was unable to be involved. He was aided in the preparation and operating by Corey.

In the normal course of a production, it would be the lighting designer who would prepare this document.

Paul prepared his notes on his script rather than adapting the method below. In doing so, he and I spent approximately twenty hours together designing the lighting plan, clarifying the action of the play and them with Corey and sometimes Niamh, running through the cues.

He would have preferred to be watching the rehearsals for a longer period of time, to become familiar with the play sooner.

There is a good selection of theatre lights in the Parish Hall in Schull, purchased over many years by Schull Drama Group. We were really fortunate to have a bank of approximately 60 lights from which to work.

The hall itself is tricky from a lighting perspective, in that the stage has a proscenium arch style and is very low for lighting purposes. Just another consideration in the planning of the overall design and the lighting.

The Amadeus Project: Final Projection List

Final projection list

This was the list of images and short video clips which was given to Colm and which was made into a short video for the performances.

It was ultimately a very short interpretation of our original intention. But even to undertake this abridged version of our ideas was really interesting and helpful.

The ultimate question was: What were the images that conveyed our meaning and vision … back to our thoughts and mind maps of the very early stages. (Included in The Amadeus Project: Day 2.) And, because of the time constraints, to use the minimum number we could.

Was it perfect? No. It was good enough. One of the items that we would have spent more time on if other issues hadn’t been a priority and if we had extra budget.

The list

Total time: 90 seconds

1       For 10 secs from beginning: __ Laser show

2       4 secs fade in, fade out


3     4 secs fade in fade out

4      10 secs in, 10 secs out I’d love this but can’t afford to buy it. Have looked for something on Youtube without success. Any suggestions??


5     From 3.30-3.34: __ Laser show

6       Fade in 2 secs and out 2 secs


7       Fade in 2 secs and out 2 secs


8    8 seconds in all piano from .12 seconds in

9    Fade in and out … about 5 seconds in total

Mozart's score

9    (sic) Fade in over number 9 for 10 seconds in total — phones

10     fade in and out 6 seconds, one after other

11    10 secs –– twinkly lights

12    5 secs —- ink droplets

13    10 secs

For 10 secs from middle of video, 1.12 – 1.20 __ Laser show

The Amadeus Project: Reflections



I took a note of my own reflections on the Amadeus Project and the process involved on 15th October, 2019.

The Amazing things

There were many amazing things. I loved the entire process of working with everybody, whatever their role. The venue and the outcome in the design and setting was fantastic. Constantly, I would stop to admire a look or a moment, sometimes with the actors, sometimes without.

The relationships between people were really positive from my point of view. The three of us co-ordinating the mise en scene are a great team. I would work with Julia and Alyn again in a heartbeat.

There was a positive, lovely atmosphere during the ten months of work within the Troupe. Everyone was willing to help and get involved in the most menial of tasks.

It was a huge effort and commitment from actors, designers, set and props artists, costumiers, backstage, lighting man, music DJ, projection assistant. Everyone who continued to be part of the production stepped up to the demands of the workshops and of the play itself.

It is always amazing to be in the intimate grouping that working on a play creates. To be talking theatre, and Amadeus in particular, is always a delight for me. Even when the response was difficult, it created a discussion and thoughts on the place of plays in our world. It makes you consider your own views and clarify them.

And the audience suspending disbelief. How wonderful when you are concerned about certain aspect where you feel the audience won’t let you away with it … and they do!

The Tricky things

Issues around casting and characters changing roles because of actor difficulties were a cause of great tension. As a result, the rehearsals following those changes, really up to the opening night, were extra difficult and a strain because of a shortage of time.

The most difficult was when we weren’t sure we had a full cast; after that the pressure of bringing people up to speed was still trying but there were really great moments also.

Commitment is an enormous ask in a play of this magnitude and in a project of this length. That we didn’t have a full cast together until the first Dress Rehearsal was very difficult. In another project I would be clearer in my demands where the time commitment was concerned.

I find it a challenge to demand discipline at times, to ask actors to follow my wishes and my own beliefs, when that involves focus and attention. It is easy in workshops but that control of energy and absolute focus didn’t translate into the backstage and side stage arenas. This was a disappointment and is a demand I would make more clearly in the future.

DJ Greegio brought fantastic energy and music ideas to the music plot. Although I thought the music worked very well, especially as the run developed and he and I crafted the music better, Julia had been involved in the design of the music for the play early on and she had wonderful ideas about the use of contemporary pop music. The first Act was more influenced by her and was better for it.

Lighting was also an area where we ran out of time. Ideally we would have had a lighting designer on board from the early months of the process. We were fortunate to have a lighting operator, Paul, who came on board when we were stuck and who was a fantastic help in the last two weeks. I ended up designing the lighting plan with him.

The Younger Salieri

The reflections from the Troupe

I wrote to the Amadeus Troupe, asking them to write a reflective piece for me. This is an extract from an email to them on 1st November, 2019, setting out my request to them.

“… Re: my research. I would love to get your feedback on the Amadeus experience for each of you. Whatever reflection/comments you wish to give is perfect. 

If you would like parameters, here are my suggestions:

1   What was your experience of the Amadeus project?  –– workshops, rehearsals, performances and focus on creativity in a group context.

2   What would you do differently?
3   Any other thoughts?
My intention would be to make the information public, but I can keep it private if you wished (I will still have your reflections to learn from) or I can let your name off the comments, whatever you feel comfortable with.

I am reluctant to let this amazing process go. I miss the camaraderie and moments of magic in the work. Ah well, there it is …”

Report from Alyn Fenn, November 2019

The workshops were fantastic.  I thought there was so much magic and intensity going on in them.  With Karen’s guidance, we made our characters come alive in those workshops.  That ball of energy, the different kinds of walking, the mirroring, the flocking, the status, the lines of text – so that when you went on stage you already knew/felt? (I don’t mean ‘knowing’ with your brain, more that you just organically ‘knew’) exactly how to move and behave, providing you engaged the necessary focus.

I love it when I can really focus and the person/s I am working with is/are also 100% present.  In one of the mirroring exercises we did, I felt as if I became my partner and she became me, her hands were my hands, we were moving as a single entity.  It was as if we were joined to each other by a field of energy that we had created out of the intensity of our focus. Magic. The magic is in those moments.

Ideally, before I’d go on stage I would take control of my ball of energy, put it right in the centre of my stomach and lead from there.  In reality, I sometimes didn’t do it, distracted for one reason or another. It would be great if you got so used to doing this that it became as natural as breathing.  

The whole project tapped into the feeling of being members of a tribe, joined together in activities that were celebrations of our collective creativity.   It was wonderful to make such special connections with so many new people.

I think we could have used another week of rehearsals, owing to people being away in the weeks leading up to opening night, which, while unavoidable, was somewhat incompatible with the tight schedule.  We could also have added an extra weekend of performances from the outset.

Overall, it was an amazing experience to be a part of such a creative and innovative project and I am definitely ready for the next one, whatever that may be!  Thank you, Karen Minihan, for all the magic!  

Report from Julian van Hasselt, November 2019


The audience result was OK in the end, numbers built progressively and we had approx 100 on the last night, which was not bad considering that the play was never going to be a  massive crowd-puller in the Mizen environment. The tragedy of Jody (sic) Healy probably had a bad effect on numbers over the first weekend, but it is hard to quantify this… About 330 people got to see the play, again not bad. 

Front of House

Can’t think of anything that went wrong. I remember being rather nervous going on stage on the first night  ( forgot to have a large G&T beforehand !!). Given that the play was so long, my very short intro speech, with no attempt at warm-up wisecracks,  was just the ticket, and exiting off backstage ( your idea) worked fine.  The idea of having me, Lydia and Jess in 18th C costume was inspired, and people thought that was great. The only problem I had was that my trousers were only held up my one popper and it kept unpoppjng – and the trousers kept falling down. I dreaded that this would  happen whilst I was on stage, but mercifully it didn’t.

Paul had some clever way of controlllng the house lights from up in the box, and seemed to spend quite a bit time before the show assisting with welcome and seating etc which was a help too. 

Raffle ticket sales were healthy and steady, and all the donated prizes much appreciated by all concerned I am sure. I added an extra bottle of wine on each night  ( donated 3 and bought 3 on SDG’s behalf, as I thought that only one bottle of Prosecco looked a bit thin.  My policy on SDG production has always been to provide good quality prizes and make the raffle an additional feel-good factor as much as possible.  Heating : that hall is a cold building but I think we got that about right. Leaving the rear heaters on during the show is not our usual SDG procedure but it did not detract from stage lighting effects in the event and I will take note in future. 

The Gazebo worked well despite my initial misgivings , but we were perhaps a bit lucky with the weather. A severe gale would have caused us problems. The alternative entrance idea likewise was a change that worked fine.  That sandwich board on the pavement is a good tool. 

Lighting and music,  costumes  

All fine  and dandy as far as I could see. John did a great job as DJ. The limitations of the lighting system in that Hall ( no lights above the stage itself)  did not stop you achieving some wonderful visual images, and Joy’s singing was treat of course.  The lighting did NOT bleach out the pale colours of the costumes  as I had initially feared that it might… 

The Play and the acting 

Was it too long for the Schull audience ?   Depends who you talk to !  Should you have cut it a bit at an early stage of rehearsal  ?  Maybe !  But the production  overcame this in the end , I think, the lines were learned and the acting standard was high,  and we got the full monty  , so there it is !!   Well done all, I say.

Backstage and set 

All brilliantly designed and thought out.  Jack and Winnie moved like a couple of sleek black cats moving those chairs and benches, very slick !   It was strangely fascinating to watch in itself !  And nobody fell off the walkway…….

Jasper and Jack did a great job building the walkway etc, and I watched them do it over several days  whilst pretending to be of help ( usually just holding a broom to sweep up sawdust and making helpful comments like “ How does this powerdrill  actually work ?” and “ Er, I’ve never actually used an angle-grinder before so maybe you do it ?”.   I thought Jasper’s contribution was efficient and cost-effective and well-organised,  and completely easy-tempered  in the face of my rather limited expertise  with claw-hammers, screw-drivers and so on, even though it came at a price. I would put him on the “again” list for future reference…

Amadeus Report, November 2019

Name Julia Zagar

Role Production Designer

Emperor Joseph

Areas of Responsibility

Initiate and determine the ‘look’ of the production

Form design teams

Liaise with Director to realise both her vision and practicality of ideas

Liaise with Director on most areas, staging, lighting, sound, music, decoration, costumes, props and even direction.


PR, press coverage, social media, poster and programme


The process started as it always does with the development of mood boards.  Mood boards were made for all the visual areas of the production, costumes, staging, costumes, lightings, head dresses, atmosphere etc.  As with any production the scope was huge and the ideas were far reaching and inspiring. Whereas we left a lot of what we initially thought about behind, I think mood boards are great way to start and get the mind focused and they can be useful to return to when you meet a road block later in the production process.

The Director and I spent quite some time developing a mood map, determining our touchstone words.  This was very helpful and throughout the process we returned to those words for direction and reassurance.

The next step was to establish a design team.  A call out was made to anyone who was interested in the getting involved.  I was very firm that I wanted to include as many skill sets as I could, I wanted to have the benefit of a wide range of creative people involved.  To encourage people who maybe had not been involved in Schull productions before to join in.  The team was divided into two, Stage set, props & decoration and Costuming.  Plenty of meetings took place, round table discussions on what was feasible and what we wanted to achieve. (The mood boards were touch stones in both areas).The look and feel of the production came together very quickly.  We determined that we would be as gender neutral as we could be, the production would be contemporary with hints to the Baroque era.  


A huge number of suits were procured from charity shops.  Some of which were perfect, some of which needed altering and some of which were dyed to fit into the colour palette.  We thought it was important that footwear be consistent so shoes were bought.  The cast were also provided with a branded Amadeus T-shirt.  Hair and make up were minimal and unfussy.  We were lucky enough to have someone who was vey keen to make period costumes, 3 were made for the front of house crew.  We also had branded black t-shirts made for the backstage and technical crews. Quite early in the design process we held a workshop for everyone involved, this was a very positive step, it afforded both the backstage crew and designers an opportunity to meet the cast and visa versa.  The costume designers came up with a set of questions which the cast (as their characters) answered.  This was very helpful for the later development on each characters costuming.  Brooches were commissioned and each character had their own hand made one, this was almost a logo, a reference to period costuming, and another excuse to widen the reach of people involved

I enjoyed this part of the process, my team were great, excited and committed.  It was great having the input from everyone involved and we worked very well together.  The group WhatsApp was essential in keeping everyone in the loop and to arrange meetings etc.  I think it was essential to invest in the shoes and having the t-shirts printed locally thus satisfying my wish to include people who otherwise would not have got involved. 

Set Design & Props

Initial meetings were held with the Stage designer and Director.  I was keen to not over influence the design of the set, felt it was important to let the creativity flow and trust that our touchstone words and mood boards would steer the process.  We wanted to shake things up a bit and to create a performance space that included the audience from the moment they entered.  The basic staging included a cat walk like walk way along the side of the hall.  This worked very well. The set decoration developed independently of the rest of the design and though the end result was superb and utterly right, the lack of communication from the set designers created a small speed bump.  The initial reveal was shocking and both I and the Director were concerned.  This concern was un-necessary, the design grew into a perfect back drop for the cast and the visual experience of the audience was break taking.  


In keeping with the contemporary atmosphere we were creating, a DJ was obviously the way to go.  I would liked to have seen more current and edgy music in the final production, but what we achieved was good enough.  The mix of Mozart’s music and some of our warm up theme songs worked brilliantly.


I was briefly involved in the lighting plan and would like to have been more involved simply for the learning opportunity.  Our original idea of having projections didn’t materialise quite as we had hoped.  What we did get was effective and a relatively easy operation,  it was one of the victims of time, we ran out of time to follow through with a longer and slicker programme.


I think PR is possibly the area that was our weakest.  We did have a press release that was published in several publications.  We had a gorgeous and eyecatching poster and we had two facebook pages to work with.  However this didn’t result in huge numbers of bums on seats.  How to get around this is a mystery?  Obviously we didn’t want to reveal too much which did limit our coverage in the area.  It is difficult to ascertain but it seems like the large number of people involved didn’t bring with them a big following.  In hindsight should efforts been made to shorten the play?  We did have to compete with “oh it is such a long play” rumours that spread quickly after the opening night.  Of course the unfortunate and tragic loss of a local fisherman had an enormous impact on us. 


We held a fundraising ‘pass the hat’ event as part of the monthly Scorioact & Co evenings.  We specifically raised funds for the purchase of shoes for the cast.  This was very effective and had the added bonus of promoting the play.  We considered holding a quiz but it was thought unnecessary.

Emperor Joseph

What a blast!  Thoroughly enjoyed the process of discovering my character.  Thoroughly enjoyed the workshops and the bonding that happened as a result. I loved having a theme tune, I thought that did a lot towards developing my character (despite not really finding the right one!)  As Their Majesty I launched an instagram account which I thoroughly enjoyed as another tool to discovering who my character was.

To End…

In hindsight I think the long break over the summer didn’t work.  I felt it put a huge pressure on all concerned to achieve the best we could.  But having said that it certainly focused us and meant the intensity of the process was exactly that, intense.  In a perfect world with a perfect budget I am not sure I would change much to what we created, possibly have the suits custom made and dyed.  Obviously with the aforementioned limitless budget, we could have paid for some of the skills that we were lacking in, projection, sound etc.  I look forward to our next project with excitement and am ready to tackle anything.

The Amadeus Project: Opening Night

Amadeus Opening Night

11th October, 2019

Finally, the moment had arrived

The Troupe.png
The Troupe –– Photo: Jack Zagar

There is something slightly surreal about opening night. All of the effort and the planning and it has come to pass. There is so much luck in the entire body of people making it to the opening night, safe and well and ready for the challenge. For me, there has been such mental energy expended that I often feel a little removed. I suppose, I am beginning the process of relaxing from the pressure. Most decisions are made.

There also remains a tricky time during the run of the show. Having put so much time and commitment into this production, we now have to accept the audience response. Every reaction is valid.

We breathe and make our offering.

Amadeus Programme

Before the show

We had a minute’s silence to remember the Healy family, whose son, Codie, was still missing in Dunmanus Bay. All of the cast and crew came on stage before we began and we invited the audience to join us in sending our thoughts to them all. In the midst of tragedy, life continues to move onwards. But, within our excitement, we had the family, and Codie, in our hearts.

The performance

Our work paid off and, from my point of view, we had a great performance of Amadeus.

On the night, having worried about the pace of Act 1, it turned out that the second Act was a little slow.  Pacing was a concern and required attention for the rest of the run. But the pace did improve.

OPening Night
Pacing notes –– just a little more work to do!


We had one call before night two where I went through each of the entrances and exists with the cast, and brought their cues forward by a substantial amount –– at least three or four lines –- finding that it was more important for them to be in position and ready on the stage than for the actors on stage to be waiting for their line with the resulting loss of flow and energy.

An Aside

Given the style of this play, with short scenes and constant changing sets and characters, it was really quite a challenge to present in this small local hall, with a small stage.

In fact, I wonder were we slightly bonkers to take it on!

There was a demand for the prompter but that lessened over time, and one night there was no prompting required at all!

Looking after the actors during the run

In a play of this length, two hours and fifty minutes most nights, stamina and focus was central to its success. To eat well, avoiding the lovely chocolate offerings brought surreptitiously by the cast (not good for the vocal chords) was my advice.

The Salieris were the only actors for whom this became a real concern. For the Younger, the sheer length and demands of the play on one actor is enormous. It is fantastically challenging though, on brain power –- to remember the volume of words –– on the physical body and the emotional demands.

There is humour and moments of playfulness in the play and our particular take on it lifted the visual aspects of the performance to lighten and support it –– by this I mean the colour of the costumes, the style of the props, and the heightened characters.

For the Elder, sitting continuously in one place for the length of the play was a huge challenge physically, and then maintaining focus and energy when one wasn’t speaking for long stretches was highly demanding emotionally.

What we got right was plenty of tea and other refreshments and there were biscuits and home-made cake! Bliss.

Amazing Moments from Amadeus: Jack Zagar

Goya Group Dress Rehearsal.jpg

Salieri Younger + MOZART DRESS.jpg


Theatre By the Weiden Dress.jpg

Amazing moments from Amadeus: Todd Bellici

Salieri shows Mozart God - Todd Bellici:Dress.jpg
Todd Dress 22.jpg
Todd Dress 20.jpg
Todd Dress 6.jpg
Todd Dress 19.jpg

The response

Within all the excitement and anticipation of any performance, there is also the concern about what the response of people will be. Obviously, the connection with the audience is crucial for a play.

It can be hard if the response is critical. How criticism or feedback is given is part of the experience of receiving it, as is the timing of it.

My view is that when an actor, in fact any artist, presents their work, at the end of a performance, there is an openness and vulnerability that must be handled with sensitivity and generosity.

That’s not to say that a person reviewing should lie, but I believe there is a moment when that reflection is better given than others.

We had two different responses to opening night. Positive and negative.


An email from Fran and Viv:

Karen! You did it!

The first thing that struck me was the pair of chattering class biddies OUTSIDE the venue whispering behind their fans as we climbed the church steps. Viv and I thought they looked great but when we moved to greet them they turned their backs to us and carried on their deep mutterings. Wow! We were no longer going to the local church hall Then the was the ferryman to pay – Florence – for our passage across the Rubicon between Schull and Venice.

Inside, the transformation of a utilitarian ubifunctional space onto a singular gob of something specifically designed for you-knew-not-what stopped you in your tracks. The seating arranged at an angle to the accepted focus of The Stage reinforcing the deflection of attention from the obvious – just as gossiping pair outside had done – to the curious.

I loved the strands of nylon wire running laser-like across the auditorium, picking up the lights and creating the effect of a false glass ceiling. The backdrop is a work of art of course and it came to life at moments throughout the play, particularly where Salieri the younger was describing his first hearing of Mozart’s music – the dark intro pierced by the searing oboe and gentler clarinet. It was all there on the backdrop. Amazing. Clair’s opening soliloquet was absolutely marvellous and paved the way for what was to come.

It was all marvellous. The Venticelli were great and rivetting. The leading roles were everyting one would expect – and more. And the removal of gender most effective.

Congratulations and thanks to all concerned.

Fran and Viv.


The negative feedback focused on the length of the play, sore bottoms from the seating and the second half being slow.

Three hours was a long time for some people to be in a play, but others didn’t notice the time going.

It was difficult to hold our nerve. In hindsight, I think there are people who liked it and people who didn’t. That’s it, that’s life. That it seemed to affect our audience numbers was a shame. Though, since finishing the run, we have met many who said, ‘Such a pity you’re not doing it again. I heard it was great.’

A review from a theatre critic offered following the performance on Saturday, 12th October, 2019

Pass the Baton, Mozart

Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

One of the props in a staging of Amadeus, the play currently running until Sunday in Schull’s parish hall, offers a surprising link between this show and the cult television series Game of Thrones. Conducting the premiere of his opera The Magic Flute, the play’s character Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart beats time with the traditional conductor’s baton – but not just any baton. This one has a unique performing history of its own. It was donated by Emmerdale actor Sion Tudor Owen to the recent silent auction raising funds for Fastnet Film Festival after he and fellow actor Bob Pugh, Craster in Game of Thrones, sailed into Schull to take part in the 2018 festival and had such a great time here that they wanted to give something back. The baton was bought by Julia Zagar, who plays outrageous Emperor Joseph as well as being the Schull production’s designer. ‘This conductor’s baton was used by Sion Tudor Owen when he played Mozart in one of the original productions of Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus in the UK way back in the 1980s,’ explains Julia. On its journey to West Cork, the baton was also used by Sion when acting in the film One Chance, to conduct comedian James Corden playing Paul Potts, heartwarming real-life opera star who beat the bullies to win the first ever series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.

Schull’s Amadeus is a production full of surprises and not to be missed. Director Karen Minihan turned disaster into triumph when, due to unforeseen circumstance, the lead parts of Mozart and his wife Constanza had to be recast barely a month before opening night. In a stroke of gender-blind genius, she cast Bridget Staunton as Mozart and gave the part of Constanza to Max Vearncombe, son of the late pop star Colin Vearncombe of Wonderful Life fame. Much comedy follows, as Max is much taller than Bridget and is bearded, but the pair’s outstanding performances are as thrilling and poignant as they are amusing in the plot’s developing tragedy. In another departure, the huge part of Salieri, villain of the piece, is played by two actors, Victor Hayes and Clair Lalor as the younger and older character. The production’s design too is bold—the action zips between 18th and 19th century Vienna but here all period costume is dispensed with in favour of contemporary trouser suits in witty ice-cream colours worn over a specially-designed production T-shirt. 

This ambitious and outstanding play is large-scale—a cast of 18 on stage, assisted by a huge team of committed producers, designers, makers, technicians, sponsors and many others who have been working for two years to make it happen—and is the joint vision of two collectives in Schull, PlayActing Theatre and Schull Drama Group, supported by Cork County Council. Buy your tickets on the door for the 8pm start this Friday 18th and Saturday 19th, with the final performance at 5pm on Sunday 20th October 2019.

A poem from Ann

Ann's poem.jpg
The performers loved this, it was read to them before the performance on the second night.

The Amadeus Project: Second Dress Rehearsal: Day 38

Second Dress Rehearsal: Day 38

9th October, 2019 

Unexpected happenings

There was a crisis in the area. A young fisherman, Cody Healy, from Toormore, Schull, took to the water in Dunmanus Bay in the early hours of Wednesday morning and by that evening, his family had called the Coastguard as he hadn’t retuned home. The community rallied around and there were searches and support networks organised immediately. There were two or three members of the Troupe with a connection with this young man’s family, but the tragedy hung over all of our preparations and decisions for the next days, until he was found and laid to rest.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Our final preparations

The lists are being completed. Additions are made daily … the final flurry of activity.

Second Dress Rehearsal

10th October, 2019

The projections have arrived on a card and are working with the computer and projector.

The excitement is palpable. Everyone arrives early.

We have some guests coming too, some people that I deliberately invited in order to create an audience and then some others who couldn’t make the play during its run.

Discussions before the performance

In the normal course of productions, all items would be completely dealt with by the Dress Rehearsal. There should be no confusion, everybody should be fully rehearsed and ready. The performance should start when planned, like a first night, with everyone in position and ready. No stops or starts, a complete run with any corrections to be made noted and dealt with later.

In our case (as with most amateur drama productions), we still have a few bits to sort out beforehand. It’s a delicate balance, not crowding everyone’s mind with information … Is it too soon before a performance to be directing? Time to  leave the actors alone?

Tonight there were still a few musical / actor cues to coalesce. And some final touches on the images of Goya and Annie Leibowitz that we were reproducing.

Seeking the perfect reproduction Dress.jpg
Seeking the perfect reproduction of the Goya image. (Photo Jack Zagar)

Other than that, everyone was ready and poised. A smooth-running, twenty-nine-person machine. Even the front of house team were dressed in their specially-made outfits and performing.

Todd Dress 1.jpg
Julian looking resplendent. (Photo: Todd Bellici)

A proper warm up

I was glad that this became an issue for other participants as well as me. I believe it’s crucial to find a way in to the atmosphere of the play and the particular character. In trying not to impose my views I let the warm-up drift sometimes.

In time we returned to the belief that it assisted most of the performers. From tonight on, we made sure that we started the warm-up early enough to spend time at it: strutting and parading on the set; hearing the music set the tone; absorbing the atmosphere created by the set decoration and the lighting; relating to the other characters towards the end of the session;  being playful with the text and practicing the dialogue.

Amadeus before an audience

The performance went well but slow. A lack of fluency with the lines kept the flow down. The shapes are holding up well … by this I mean the overall movement of the actors –– the physical flow –– and the various vignettes.

And the audience responded well. Though it was very late when we finished. Again, any notes I had were communicated in the email to the Troupe or directly the following day.

It is the flow of the play and the momentum of it, that will become the biggest conversation over the run. How to make it move more quickly. It was funny how it happened that on the night of the Dress Rehearsal, it was Act 1 that felt less rehearsed and needing attention. Later on, Act 1 became smooth and moved well and Act 2 slowed down!

I ended up being the prompter every night, though being used less and less each night (and one night not at all!).

Keeping the audience happy –– practical steps

Another issue that arose tonight was the comfort of the audience. We had opened the centre door of the hall as an entrance point to create extra acting space for the Troupe and to surprise also.

This resulted in a draught through from the open outside door. There was a curtain hung half way down the corridor leading from the outside door into the hall itself to ease the draught and one half of the outside door remained shut during the performance. This curtain also served to hide the actors from the audience as they waited for their cues to enter.

Heating the hall before performances and at half-time was crucial. But, in fact, we also ended up putting on the heaters during the performances int the lower half of the hall. This interfered with the lighting as they emit that strong red light that has given such an intensity to some of the photographs. But, audience comfort was a priority!

We also decided to bring cushions to the hall  in case some audience members had to use the hard wooden benches. In the end, all and sundry used the cushions. It was a nice addition to the decoration of the hall, in fact.

The photos

We were incredibly fortunate to have the time and expertise of two photographers, Jack Zagar and Todd Bellici, on the night of the Dress Rehearsal. As a result, we had amazing shots to use as publicity and as a record of our work.

Salieri  pleads - Todd Bellici:Dress.jpg
The Younger Salieri and Mozart (Photo: Todd Bellici)
Clair Dress Rehearsal.jpg
The Elder Salieri (Photo: Jack Zagar)
V1&V2 with Constanza - Todd Bellici:Dress.jpg
Constanza with Venticelli 1 & 2 (Photo: Todd Bellici)
DECAY Dress .jpg
The Troupe: Decay  (Photo: Jack Zagar)

Email to Amadeus Troupe on 11th October, 2019

Hey Amadeus Troupe,

well, it is here. And we are ready. The play has form and structure, visuals that are being lauded already and an energy and excitement that is palpable. The play is long, and the pace is pretty good. However, we might tighten up on uncertainties and cues and that will help the action.
Last night was great. Well done to everybody!!
Pausing a moment
With the tragic loss of Cody Healy in Dunmanus, there is a slightly surreal air in presenting this spectacle and excitement. Julia, Alyn and I have been monitoring the developments and wondering how best to respond. Our suggestion is that we hold a minute silence at the very beginning of the evening. I would introduce it and invite all of the cast on to the stage to participate. Lights would be low, we will have revealed you all but will have acknowledged the devastating circumstances for the Healy family and our community.
We will keep abreast of developments during the day, in case we need to reconsider, if Cody is found, for example.
Act 1
1 Please come at 6pm for little rehearsal bits. We must warm-up as the characters. It took a little while for everyone to settle last night. Of course, that is also because it was the first time in front of an audience. Warm-up at 6.30pm sharp.
2 There are moments when the energy / alertness dips in characters. Please be aware. I’ll mention to you individually also. Please remember that you are your character at all times, before you come on stage, during and as you leave.
3. VOCALS need to be stronger…radiating to the back of the room please. Especially those with lots of lines: Constanza, Valet, Cook, Salieri younger
4 First Venticelli + groups Scene needs a rehearsal and then it will be BRILLIANT!
5 Scene 5 – I’m trying to have cream al mascarpones for you Victor. I think you need 3 in all. And Constanza needs something. The small sweets are for the ‘Nipples of Venus’ Something else when Constanza searches and then the creme al mascarpone,with glass and small spoon. Note Jack/Winnie. 
6 Scene 5 Mozart, you need to fart louder! I didn’t hear any last night. I wonder if you were to grab Constanza’s hand and do it into it???
7 Scene 5 Constanza — when you are mocking someone, you can play this up much more.
Audiences so far are having no difficulty with the gender fluidity bit!
8 Scene 7 Mozart––when you ‘listen’ to the music of Salieri changing it, it’s a bit of a leap for the audience. So, let’s be absolutely clear and make the most of this piece. I’ll do this with you. I like the headphones for this Scene but we’ll get rid of them in the theatre. They can come back when you’re at home later on, trying to work.
9 Scene 8 Salieri meeting Constanza I’d like this scene to be a bit more flow and fluid. Will talk later.
10 Scene 8 Venticelli 1& 2, great but move please.  Careful of your cues, ‘catch the wave’ as it were. Scene 10 was very late. Don’t wait for music please.
11 Scene 10 Mozart and Constanza –– a bit angrier?/ Physical??
12 Scene 11 – Salieri / Constanza?? Did you do ‘clever as cutlets’ bit??
Elder Salieri, I’d like a little more reaction to the harassment scene.
13 Scene 12 –- Elder Salieri ‘Capisco. Now I know my fate.’ I think this is developing very nicely from previous moments but it could be bigger Clair. It’s a moment of extreme clarity. And mentions in the script of ‘mediocre’ are very important. You might capture them more, I think.
Was amazing.
14 Have chair on 5 minutes before Act 2 begins please Jack / Winnie.
15 Scene 1 I’d like this to be more edgy, Salieri and Constanza. Let’s see if we can do something with it later.
15  Scene 2 Salirei commiserating with Mozart, Venticelli groups please watch. When is this??? We’ll do quick run-through of scene that went awry last night.
16 Scene 6 as the Emperor, Orsini Rosenberg, von Strack, van Sweeten arrive at the theatre for rehearsal. All should be a little quieter with then text, as if in on the rehearsal and not wanting to interfere.
17 Scene 11 The Prater, Constanza and Mozart, come in bit earlier. Be on steps as Salieri saying his lines.
18 “It all began so well.” Mozart, you can slow this a teensy bit.
19. Final images are great, into Annie Leibowitz. You can all enjoy this and maybe start first to move back before turning to Salieri. It works when you are seated also. Don’t forget to eyeball the audience as you disintegrate.
That’s it. All bits and pieces. It’s running really well. Just the sheer enjoyment now.
Scene 5 was late starting. Can’t remember if I said this last night John.
P 39 Music from part with V1  & V 2 can continue on into Bonno’s a bit longer John, over Mozart’s text.
Scene 10 a bit late.
P 88 softer – mentioned last night
P122 Softer.–– mentioned last night
Page 24, not sure what was wrong Paul. Man note says, “lighting on stage”?? Maybe the spot is gone and I would have liked one.

The Amadeus Project: Day 37

Rehearsal: Day 37

8th October, 2019

D-Day minus 4. Just four days to sort out the remaining matters. There are still production meetings to be had and preparation for the evening’s gathering.

At the end of the previous night’s rehearsal, I had asked the question: Which was more important, a practice of the lines or a rest?

Some of the actors chose to meet and rehearse –– just a shorter gathering with a few people to iron out small issues and repeat those elusive lines. The others would rest before the hectic schedule of the latter part of the week.

Meeting with the Salieris, Mozart, Constanze, V1 & V2

We hadn’t yet properly finalised Scene 10, Act 1, between the Venticelli and Constanze. There had been brief discussions about the energy of the vignette and the tension between the characters, as the Venticelli endeavour to get at Constanze’s calves to measure! But this was the first proper opportunity to have a run-through with some time and space to find the right approach.

All of these little scenes that pepper the play add to the flavour and energy of the work. The youth and playfulness of the actor playing Constanze brings a lovely contrast to the rest of the cast and particularly the heavier text and themes of the Salieris.

The Venticelli also ran through all of their entrances and exits for the scenes in Act 1. Often they lead their respective groups on stage and so, for them to be confident with their appearances is crucial. Tessa had organised a written list of every movement and every scene. Really good work and important in the overall running of the play.

Mozart and Constanze

Every opportunity we had we returned to their relationship, it developed and changed right through these final rehearsals and on into the performances. It became more energetic and assertive, more aggressive at times, more physical, as the actors became familiar with each other and were comfortable being playful together.

Both were very able to improvise and change, happy to use the stage, the set, the windows, the floor, each other –– even the beard on Constanze was tugged for effect!.

The Salieris

There were a few Salieri sections of the play that were continuously left aside, for the sake of other actors needing attention and just because the roles were so huge. This was an issue for all three of us. I had a note of the various sections that we needed to get to, if we could find the time.

What was really interesting tonight though, right at the end, almost as we were leaving, we went though the last Monologue for the elder Salieri and spent time on the understanding of it. He worked through his text sitting opposite the younger Salieri.

By this stage in the play when being performed live, three hours has nearly passed, so the actor has to raise herself in energy and intensity to perform.

This rehearsal gave us a lovely insight into that last piece –– when Salieri encapsulates in words his misery and shame, to be only mediocre in music despite all his deals with God and his hard work.

… a surprise …

The most interesting bit for me was that I hadn’t realised until that moment that we needed to work on it so closely. Having that last bit of space to consider it made an enormous difference.

… a continuing issue …

A second issue arose in the continuing Salieri work: having divided the main role, until we were all absolutely sure –– should I say, until I was absolutely sure –- how the role of the younger Salieri was coming across and showing itself, it was impossible to know how much or how little the elder Salieri would contribute to the main body of the play.

This had been a constant conversation between the three of us, from the outset of the rehearsals. At the beginning, we could see potential for many options, it was a lovely conversation, full of potential.

As time moved on, it became more tricky. Lack of clarity caused concern and confusion for the actors, in my view. We tried one way and another. And often I would hold off on making decisions on various sections. Sometimes it was difficult avoiding a categorical answer. I knew this was causing anxiety for the actors but I believed that I had no choice.

In the way this play was developing, the teasing out of the shape of it and the arc of the emotional work of the actors as Salieri was an essential part of the process. I believed that any final decision could only be made when the time was right.

An Aside

Of course, now I can be absolutely confident that this process that we followed will work, and did work.

From now on I can pass that level of confidence to the actor with this knowledge. But in this process, I think it was difficult for the actors to trust this way of approaching a script.

Part of that difficulty was down to the personalities of the actors, what made them comfortable in rehearsals. For the elder Salieri in particular, this actor had to wait for a long time before certain concepts or ideas became clear in the work and I could guide her in the secure knowledge that this way of working would yield results.

The projections

In discussion with Julia and Deirdre following the Dress Rehearsal, I had said to them that the projections had to remain. So, I prepared a short list of images for Colm who had agreed to put them into a video for us.

Having passed images around in earlier weeks, for inspiration purposes, we stripped everything away and came up with a 90-second video, that we could then repeat if necessary.

A result.

Email to the Amadeus Troupe on 9th October, 2019

Hey Amadeus Troupe,

Can’t quite believe I’m writing that the dress rehearsal is tomorrow night! Very exciting!
Dress Rehearsal:       Hall open from 5ish.
                                   Make-up  and costumes will be available from 6pm
                                   Latest time for cast to arrive 6.20pm please
                                   Warm-up 6.40pm followed by quick Goya Image and Annie Leibowitz
It will be the first time many of the supporting team will see the play and their work and there will be extra bodies also –– just to warn you there will be an audience. So, the auditorium will not be available from 7.15pm. My plan is to begin the dress rehearsal at 7. 30pm.
It is getting very busy with all the cast in the one space. We will work at the ‘feng shui’, to make the best use of the room. During the play we will put the Burco boiler in this room also. Because the kitchen has become part of the backstage area, access will be stopped during the play. Instead it will be dark and a ‘quiet room’ for anyone wishing for some quieter space. I think you could have an individual torch here if you wanted to read, but not a lamp or light.
Just a gentle reminder, from now on, as stage manager, Jack Harrington becomes the ‘King’ as in the card status game. ‘Winnie’ the Queen. Whatever they say goes.
Clean-up –– It seems to me that this is happening organically. Let’s keep an eye out that this is shared. If someone could please take over the task of ensuring there are supplies of tea etc, I’d be grateful. Been slipping up on that job!
First Principles
I’ve been thinking about the warm-up and prep for the plays. I think a short one, concentrating on the ‘first principles’ is the way to go: that’s centering, moving using the ‘ball of energy’, radiating, alertness (bringing with it the magnetic ‘bounce’, and the ‘elastic band’ connections). When you feel the butterflies or a little confused, I think these will help return you to the enjoyment of the work and settle you into the fantastic characters you have created. There are so many beautiful moments, images which you are making. I want these to be relished by everyone –– within and looking on!
For those more experienced in this playacting lark, please keep an eye out for the people new to the game. I’m mostly saying this as a reminder to myself to check in on you –– the atmosphere has been really and beautifully supportive so far.
Opening Night
I’d love a good crowd to support us on Friday night. If any of your family or friends might be encouraged please do so. Keep sharing the social media posts also. Julia, Deirdre and I are cracking them out.
Julia may have instructions for make-up so keep an eye out for updates please.
Karen xx

The Amadeus Project: First Dress Rehearsal: Day 36

First Dress Rehearsal: Day 36

7th October, 2019

Thoughts about this stage

By the dress rehearsal the work of the Director is essentially done; the play is handed over to the actors, the backstage crew, the costumiers, the lighting and sound technicians.

In this arena, where the amateur involvement is half of the contribution (and most of the acting involvement), the Director holds on a little longer to the reins. There are still constant discussions with actors about their roles and the scenes.

I would like all of the rehearsal of the play to be entirely completed at this point, and scenes being repeated only for fluency or intimate knowledge of the play. But, it doesn’t work like that always and not here either. Nerves also play a big part, and managing anxiety a part of the role of director.

The priority this evening, five days before opening night, is the run-through; any of the working through mentioned in the previous paragraph happens before the performance or when there is a break or afterwards.

The show must get its chance to be a whole piece. The logistics of the building and how actors get around it for their cues, their familiarity with props and costumes needs to be practiced for familiarity.

These cakes looking amazingly luscious … whatever the angle!

An Aside

I had originally noted when doing the schedule months ago that we would have two practice run-throughs and then two dress rehearsals. We ended up having one practice run-though only on the Sunday.

If I were doing this size of a show again, I would do two previews of the play, where the actors would become used to an audience response to the work and they would be very comfortable with all of the elements before a big opening night.

Arriving early …

It’s lovely to be in to this part of the theatre routine, where you arrive to an empty hall, anticipating the crowd and the buzz later. I like to arrive before everybody. Even the smell of the room is great as you arrive in. (Should I now admit my penchant for the smell of any theatre –– really the stage and backstage area??)

So, I begin to set the place up for the evening: clearing the stage, setting out some extra chairs for a few extra audience members. Alyn usually arrives next, or Jack, or Julia. And we set to work.

Jack prepares.jpg
Jack prepares the stage for the actors

The cast also arrived early to put their costumes on and check that they all still fit well. This run-though will be the biggest test so far of this aspect: seeing if there are any issues with the clothing, footwear and accessories. It will also be a challenge for the lighting, seeing how the body of actors in their costumes looks on stage. No make-up yet.

Each new step brings excitement and wonder at the spectacle. The actors on the lit stage and setting look amazing, particularly when they are together in one large group.

Dress rehearsal 1

It is the very first time that all of the cast attend at the same rehearsal. Looking back, it is astonishing we achieved what we did.

Though we mostly began each night with a warm-up it was less than organised tonight. We continued with a complete run-though. There were lots of good things happened but there was stopping / starting moments: actors unsure where they should be or not sure of lines. The flow of the play stuttering as a result.

What was amazing to me, was that the two actors who had missed the weekend rehearsals had been present at every scheduled rehearsal for them since August prior to this weekend. Despite their attendance and practice, in missing that final weekend they were behind the other actors in knowledge of the play, and in their confidence as a result.

An Aside

It has made me realise, more clearly than any other learning, what an amount of work is done in any rehearsal.

And also, how difficult it is to bring a body of people along in a  combined task if there are people missing.

There were subtleties too in the music that needed to be worked out over the next few days: music cues that were too loud as an audience member, other moments where the actors needed more sound to play off. The elder Salieris, in particular, had moments where the music was crucial to their text and where they needed the sound to enable their acting to develop. 

An Aside

As the play developed this final rehearsal week and in performance, my understanding of this connection changed.

With the development of the roles between the older and younger Salieri, the music became important for both of them; the acting connection between them became stronger, with the elder Salieri becoming involved in the scenes throughout (not just where he acted through his text) –– thereby highlighting the work of the younger man and bolstering his demanding, emotional role.

The biggest issue tonight was slow / unlearned lines –– not uncommon in an amateur play, that lines are learned at the last minute. But the energy of the play is completely afftected by the slowness of delivery. A big concern.

The prompter

Because of the issue with lines not being ready, I pondered for the next few days on how to bring confidence to the actors. I had tried in the previous few weeks to find someone to prompt. But this isn’t easy.

A prompter requires to sit on the side stage for the entire play reading and concentrating only (not looking at the action), sensitivity to the actors and a good knowledge of how the actors play this script. (Actors get very bothered when their exquisite pause is disturbed by a loud whisper from side stage!)

It looked like I was the only one equipped. Both Jack and Winnie backstage had prompted during the weeks leading up to now but they were busy enough with their stage management tasks, as well as ensuring the good, efficient working atmosphere backstage was maintained as the play ran.

My ‘middle of the night’ thoughts dwelt on this issue especially!

Chair and door …
Props Oct.jpg
Props ready for collection

Finishing up tonight …

As before, this being a Monday night and all of the cast being tired with three full days rehearsal (as well as work in the morning for many of them), the notes from me afterwards didn’t address the play (I did this separately by text, email or when I met an individual person before the next practice) but were short and practical: such as arranging a rehearsal for a few of the scenes that needed to be completed on the following night with Constanza and the Salieris. 

We love doing this

Despite all the issues outlined above, I felt that the play was was holding up as a piece of work. There comes a moment when the actors were ready to be seen by an audience, in fact, they need to be seen by an audience. There has been enough preparation time put in.

It’s always really good to remind yourself that why we do it. Despite the workload, being stretched with nervous tension and lack of sleep, presenting a play, live, after all this work and effort, before an audience that will react and respond (however that will be) gives us an enormous buzz, pleasure and sense of achievement. It is good to be reminded to enjoy this part of the process as best we can.

One more thing … the projections

As the time moved on and our workload remained heavy and demanding, I was getting more and more uncertain about the need for projections. Our aims in all areas became simplified. Was this a creative step too far to have on the agenda? There was a feeling amongst the design group that our desired effects needed more time and effort than we had allotted to it and that we might not have the energy left to bring this to fruition.

Tonight, with a sense of determination and stubbornness more than anything else, I set up and put on the projector to have a look at the impact it made on the actors during the run of the play, especially in the opening scene.

There was no film or image projected, just the blue light that the machine throws on the wall when it is lit up without being attached to anything.

It was fantastic. The quality of light, so different from the stage lights, created a unique atmosphere and bounced up the eeriness of that part of the performance. The actors moved in and out of the rectangle of light along the catwalk, partially lit up, some of their faces obvious in the light occasionally.

My decision was made … to go ahead and make whatever short video we could in the time remaining to us.

The Amadeus Project: Day 35

Rehearsal: Day 35

6th October, 2019

Stage painting.jpg
‘The magic is in the lighting’, Manus. a previous lighting designer, once said

Drawing to a close

Not touching the finishing line, but within sight of it.

We prepared the next block of lighting cues, working again all day, scene by scene, moment by moment, before the run-through at 4 o’clock.

It would take all the next week to get the lighting properly ready; for the lighting personnel to become really familiar with the play and confident with the best moments to illuminate.

We had a few of the proper costumes to try on and see what they were like against the backdrop lit up by the stage lights.

The organised chaos …

Decisions, decisions …

Decisions on every issue were becoming harder as we drew to a close, and were tired as a result. The inclination is to make quick choices, as we don’t have the brain capacity to linger over the alternatives.

There are many more issues requiring discussion around peripheral matters: Should we cover the entire front of the stage with fabric, to hide the writing over the stage? (No); Should we paint the sides of the stage to darken? (Not at first –– eventually we painted one side to enhance the lighting); How often should the actors use their smart phones? (At certain points only –– we had to go through each section to determine this); How should characters wear their hair? Should a certain character have more than one pair of trousers? Should we use the Mozart chocolates in the performance or in the raffle or for a treat for the cast?

Day 32 Mozart sweets
Specially purchased in Vienna.

Each item, whether of large or small impact in my view, is a matter of importance to the questioner and requires consideration and patience. It is the nature of a production that this part of the process is demanding from that human perspective.

Note to self

When undertaking a project in the future, ensure the other co-ordinators working on this project from the beginning are not also acting in the production, as they become unavailable towards the end for these manifold matters.

The run-through

That was the priority, to run through the entire play from start to finish. Essential for everybody to see what the others were doing and to know the length of the play.

At 120 pages, the play is about 40 pages longer than most full-length plays. I wasn’t entirely sure how long it was going to be, but I was a little surprised it was lasting over three hours. With continuing familiarity, this would definitely be reduced by a substantial amount –– I thought. 

There were actors still missing from rehearsal so we couldn’t have an entirely complete run and it made the pacing hard to judge. And some scenes remained to be done, although we were facing into the dress rehearsal performances during the week. 

It was the entire play today –– it would be a long, but necessary, session for everybody. Again, in terms of the focus of the day,  it really gave everybody a chance to familiarise themselves with the play –– especially the running order of the scenes; that has taken some actors a long time to be comfortable with.

The practice of the lines is also fundamental. Those were still not perfect. And the physical movement on the stage and catwalk was a continuing challenge, getting the timing right and becoming increasingly aware of the potential audience.


It was time to get all the props together and used in the way they should. The backstage crew went through the final props list today and the props were were nearly completed by the set decorating team or had been sourced. All were usable for the run-through.

Cakes Day 32.jpg
Cakes of filler

Presence on the stage

As we began the rehearsal process months ago, I was asking actors to disregard any idea of an audience, or moving to accommodate them, so as to increase the actors’ focus on the work they were doing rather than any imagined onlookers. As of now, on occasion, this means they turn their back to where the audience will be.

Note to Self

Have a think about this request.

It requires further clarification for myself, and then in communicating with the actors.

What am I achieving by this?

What is the balance between the actor’s work and the onlookers’ presence?

Sound Cues

DJ Greegio and I had spent a second session going through the cues for Act 2 of the play; checking for length, atmosphere, appropriateness. Many of the cues are given in the script, often Salieri is describing the music of Mozart or is responding to it, eg, the Requiem that Mozart completes shortly before he dies –– we added the contemporary music especially into Act 1. In Act 2 any additions were sound effects.

Tweaking the sound cues and making them fit the performances was another big element of these rehearsals. We had always wanted to ensure that, while bringing the sounds in our production uptodate, we also needed to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Mozart’s music. What developed for me was a sense of how that music lifted the performances and the understanding of the meaning of the play. Sometimes in a subtle, gentle way. As any addition should, it provided support to the actors and to the presentation of the piece.

As with the lighting personnel, these sound cues developed continuously over the remaining rehearsals as the DJ became intimately aware of the actors and their work.

The exhausted chat Day 32.jpg
No lingering notes, just a quick finishing up with the exhausted Troupe gathered