(news at https://www.equity.org.uk/news/2021/july/2021-committee-election-results)
As an actor & director who has always lived in Devon, the fortunes of regional theatre (as well as best practice, making more opportunities for people in the regions and improving things for those involved in it, etc etc) are forefront of my interest!
Do always message me if there's something you want to discuss, ask, input/suggest etc, and I will get back to you as soon as I'm able. ( and if I need to redirect you, I will do my best to point you to relevant help). I don't claim to be an expert (we are all learning and developing, all the time) but I do claim to be someone who really cares.
Equity have released this news update: Equity responds to Prime Minister's latest Covid press conference
It’s a minefield trying to figure out safety & backups for shows while also trying to be fair to everyone. Plans for returning to physical rehearsals and shows at The South Devon Players will involve more safety measures than “minimum legally required” simply because we want everyone to be as safe as possible in their theatre involvement and in their wider lives- though we hope the measures will remain welcoming to all as well.
We are still working on the full details, which may be subject to alteration in line with official / verified scientific guidance., however, the draft safety measures for rehearsals are as below:
In a nutshell for rehearsals and castings, we will be keeping good ventilation at all times (if it is a cooler day bring a warm top as we will have windows open and a through-draught. ).
People not actually up rehearsing a scene, will be asked, if possible, to wear a mask, and we will be encouraging the use of hand sanitizer on arrival and after using community centre facilities.
If these are not possible for medical reasons, then we are happy to exempt you.
We will ask that visitors (people who are not actors/ crew or volunteers) who pop in, are expected in advance and are visiting for a serious reason (eg: trade union visit, journalist, emergency services, etc)
Unexpected visitors will not be allowed to enter. "Do Not Disturb" signage will be on the door for this reason.
Everyone will be asked to sign in and out, and will be requested to not attend if they are ill. (there will be no non-attendance note for this). Anyone who is self-isolating due to possible Covid exposure, may connect to rehearsal over Zoom.
We will also encourage people to bring their own mugs for coffees and tea, and, if using community center mugs/glasses, to ensure that they are washed, dried and put away after use.
Crew will arrive early and check the rehearsal room. It is a shared space with other local organizations, and we will ensure that it is of an acceptable standard of cleanliness before rehearsals.
Everyone will be asked to help leave it in an equally good condition for the next user groups of the building.
Costumes will be in individual ziplock bags (not to be shared)
A specific box containing disposable masks, gloves, sanitizer, wipes, disinfectant and other cleaning and protective materials, will be present in the rehearsal cupboard.
We are sharing this to reach our actors and crew, as this may be of use to performers and models travelling to auditions with companies they don’t know, or photo shoots or just travelling to and from rehearsals/ performances at all kinds of odd times.
The direct app information website is at https://hollieguard.com/
As shared from Brixham Police on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BrixhamPolice/photos/a.230609447130645/1576040529254190 :
We encourage people to download a free personal safety app to their smartphones to help them feel safe.
HollieGuard is a free personal safety app for smartphones that can track a person’s location as they make their way home, as they’re out jogging or cycling, or simply going about their day to day tasks.
If they feel unsafe, all they need to do is shake their phone to send an alert to a group of contacts to warn them that they may be in danger. Once the phone has been shaken, it will then start recording both audio and visual footage of what’s happening around them.
This will be saved and sent to their contacts so they can see what is happening and call the police or ambulance service if they are required.
If the phone is shaken again, a flashing light and high-pitched beeping will start coming from the phone to alert people nearby that that person may be in danger.
Key features of the app include:
• Journey - Allows a person to safely and confidently travel, by providing their emergency contacts with real-time updates of their movements as they move between two places.
• Meeting - This function allows the person to identify when they are going to a potentially dangerous meeting or working alone. An alert will automatically be created if the timer expires or they do not cancel the meeting.
• Man Down - Man Down will send an alert to a dedicated contacts to make them aware if a person hasn’t moved in a while. The app will flag sudden non-movement and impact, for example if someone has been assaulted or fallen down.
• Duress Pin - If a person is being forced to cancel an alert they can enter the Duress Pin of 9999. The alert will appear to have been cancelled, but will remain active on HollieGuard’s secure server, so they will know the person has been forced to cancel an alert.
The app was set up in memory of 20-year-old Hollie Gazzard, who was stabbed to death in 2014 at the salon she worked at in Gloucestershire by a jealous ex-boyfriend who couldn’t accept that she had ended their relationship.
Well, it has been a hugely busy autumn for us, and there are dozens of projects, discussions and plannings in the works.
Halloween and a video project.
For Hallloween, supported by Arts Council funding via Torbay Culture, we created Spooky Tales of Brixham, a series of short stories, told in the first person by actors playing Brixham ghosts, based on local folklore. It has gone remarkably well, with fantastic audience feedback.
Coming up next
This side of Christmas, we have two more historical dramas, coming digitally, to our season of online productions - tickets all on sale now: pop over to our box office page to book now.
And in addition...
We are also working with Ivybridge Community Arts on a local history production that they have created,
planning ahead for further online theatre productions in the New Year (and as long as Covid nessecitates that we work online. Some very exciting projects are in various stages of planning, from castiing to being written, behind the scenes!
Castings and auditions
We have had a number of casting enquiries recently. We currently have open castings for specific roles within our production of DH Lawrence's The Lost Girl, to complete the compliment of actors. Anyone wishing to audition for those roles, please visit our "auditions" page as we are accepting auditions for the next ten days or so for those roles.
During December/January, the next big show auditions will be made live on the same site, and announced here in the news page as well as on our official company social media.
We have recieved a number of enquiries this autumn seeking auditions and "have a go" acting roles in our shows, specifically for children. As announced back in the summer, and as stated on our website in the audtions page, we were forced to close our doors to accepting new child actors, for the time being, for a number of reasons, including repeated concerns that children working with us were not being correctly chaperoned by their parents, and a deluge of very bizarre social media requests (reported to the authorities) requesting us to illegally traffic children from a number of countries, to the UK. In the interests of everyones well-being, safety and legality, we ended up with no choice to close the doors to new child actors. As always we reiterate; we are not a childrens theatre company, although the majority of our shows are suitable viewing for all ages, and we do only cast child roles, where a child is specifically required for a role, which is not the case in every show.
At the moment, with Covid, all auditions take place using self-tapes. We have found that email systems can be very sporadic in filing submitted auditions sent via file-transfer systems to different folders, including the spam folder. While we do our utmost to be vigilant and pick up the auditions, we are still concerned that some may slip through the net, which is not fair on everyones hard work, and therefore we are working on finding an accessible, easy system which allows for easier submission and more efficient casting director access. If you have sent a tape, but not had a response, please always check in with us.
A commonly asked question
Leaving aside the current second lockdown; a question that we are commonly asked, usually two or three times a week, is why we have not returned to live "on-stage" theatre, when techincally, (outside of the lockdown) the government allow for it.
Ticket sales. - As a professional company, we rely on ticket and programme sales to pay our actor and crew. If, due to social distancing, audiences are cut to 20-30, there is no way that we can even hope to break even on the show, much less pay anyone. The only way in which this could be done, is to charge extortinate amounts per ticket - which would be unlikely to fill seats anyway.
Distancing for cast and crew - The current advice that we have recieved from our Equity contact, is that actors have to be fully socially distanced from one another on stage, which means in turn that we cannot have a natural dramatic dynamic on stage. Furthermore, every actor has to have thier own dressing room (most venues cannot accomodate this), and live in a "bubble" of a hired hotel before, during and after the show - there is no way to afford this. (Also what about families, other work/ committments, etc?)
Venues - Many venues are closed, due to the lack of viability in being open under these circumstances.
And while we are all looking forward to a safe return to the live stage, it needs to be safe for the actors, crews, audiences and venue staff alike; and viable.
Until then, all our work will take place online.
The Friends of the South Devon Players
And we have a message to the Friends of The South Devon Players, a fundraising arm run by volunteers who support our work.
This year did not launch things as planned - while we were planning for social events, and all sorts of "perks" for the membership, Covid, and our scramble to keep the company ticking over, knocked that on the head.
We are however now looking at creatiing "zoom socials" where you will be able to join, socialise, chat, and meet some of the cast and crew. None of these are mandatory for anyone, but will be an option to remain in contact.
We will also be looking at various other "digital" perks, until we can get back into the live spaces, and the original plans, with an emailed announcement soon.
If you would like to support our company's groundbreaking theatre work, and join the Friends, it is only £10 per year, and please pop over to the Supporters Trust . Every penny raised goes into creating new theatre work; costumes, equipment, publicity materialls, venue hire - and when we get to that stage, union-pay-rates for our actors and crew.
A few people of late have asked us why, as a professional touring theatre company, we have not returned to live rehearsals and theatres following the Government's annoucement that theatre can return with socially distanced audiences. However, following industry-standard safety advice, this is not feasible. While we fully intend to return to live, as opposed to online, shows as soon as we possibly can, the situation outlined below, is current as of the date of publication; and from the recent official press conferences is expected to continue for some months.
For theatre shows, it is very simple. We rely on ticket sales to pay our actors and crew. If, for example a 200 seat theatre, to maintain social distancing, can only admit 20 audience members, we are unable to pay our cast and crew. Not paying your cast and crew, and becoming an amdram club, is not something we are willing to entertain as an option.
Outdoor venues need to have strict marshalling, distanced areas, specialist equipment (which we do not own), as well as strict backstage procedures, and are not currently an option due to people-power and equuipment.
Behind the scenes, backstage procedures reccomended by unions, and the Health & Safety Execuitive, require single occupancy dressing rooms, one way systems, performing through masks or visors. Physically, theatres do not have that kind of space backstage, where they can be rather cramped, and historical dramas do not lend themselves well to performing through masks and visors .
Casts and crews should also isolate in a bubble for the length of the show, and for a time before and after, requiring the hiring of a house or a hotel. Many of us have second jobs, which we cannot afford to take the time off from especially if we are not able to earn from the shows, and the company does not own the funds to hire a house or hotel.
In rehearsals, actors must stand in taped areas, enforcing the 2M distancing, as well as wearing masks, with staggered breaks. They also should not face one another while speaking in case of exhaling in the direction of the other person. This makes it impossible for any natural dramatic performance.
Finally, there is the general directive to work from home where you can, and to avoid putting vulnerable people at risk. Many of us work more than one job, or live in households where we have a relative who relies on another job, or who is in an at-risk category. By exposing ourselves, we also put them at heightened risk.
We understand that some theatre companies and drama schools have returned to creating work, or classes, but it is not something that we find we can safely do for our people.
We have been very pleased to hear of the UK governments move towards allowing limited indoor performances from August 15th 2020, and the associated guidance on the uk.gov website.
Having reviewed the information as updated, we wanted to set out, for clarity, how this will affect us.
For the time being, we will not be returning to live shows in physical spaces (though once it is safe and possible, we will be back with bells on!) and will be continuing to focus on our Autumn “Virtual season” and while we will regularly review the situation whenever new information and guidance comes out, we are not expecting a return to live physical performances until at least the awaited announcements from the British Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, expected in November 2020.
This decision is for a number of reasons.
In the meantime therefore, we have our Virtual Season, which is allowing for some incredible collaborations to form, and some super broadcast theatre with new and established creatives to our team, working almost entirely online. We are also working with the Arts Council and Torbay Culture, to create a filmed performance piece about local Brixham ghosts and spooky tales, which creates some brilliant fully paid work for some of our actors; and we are in rehearsals for physical shows, to return to the physical stage once it is safe, and cost effective. We are also planning further ahead with writing for new shows, and working with more theatre shows through 2021 and 2022.
When we are able to return to the physical stage, our cast, crew and audiences should be aware that there will likely still be some level of restrictions, or additional guidance still in place, and to work with us on those.
We also recognise that there may still be a number of people, who may feel unsure about attending the theatre in person. We are working to run livestreams of our performances (at least one per production) from the venues, so that for those who would rather attend the theatre from the safety of their own home, they are able to, for the same ticket cost. Early equipment tests are proving very positive, and we are now working on linking the systems to high-quality cameras to provide the best audience experience.
There are also a number of other creative plans, the viability of which, will be looked into through the autumn, and developed from this work. (Some will succeed and others not be deemed as likely to work) so we are using this time as usefully as is humanly possible.
We fully realise that some of these “realities” of why we are not doing the “distanced indoor shows”, are hugely disappointing to many, both our audiences and our creatives, however, we feel that it is very important that we do everything in our power to ensure the wellbeing of our cast, crew and audiences, while also continuing to create work and . It is much better to come back to physical shows, a bit later with everyone well and happy, than to have had some avoidable disaster.
With the understandable confusion already appearing in some articles circulating online, regarding the August 13th announcement, we wanted to take the time to explain in detail, where we stand, and the reasons for our decisions.
Updated by our founder