PREP

We planned out the details for the shoot over the period of a year and a half.

We storyboarded every shot and worked it all out on the wall of my kitchen.

Without a budget to speak of we cobbled together the elements necessary to fulfill the vision of this experiment.

We built walls from discarded hollow doors painted black and made jacks and straps from salvaged wood to hold them up and suspend the black backdrop cloth overhead.

We painted absorbent drop cloth material black and used it to cover the floor.

We cut old weathered rail ties into strips for the torture bed.

We bought LED floodlights and made cardboard barn doors for lighting, then mounted them on a handmade grid system attached to sturdy tripods.

We used a GoPro 6 attached to a custom-made shoulder and gimbal mount.

We took 2 days to load and set up, 4 days to shoot, and one day to disassemble.

The Shot report is linked here.

Shot

Four hot summer days in August spent in a borrowed location, an upper floor we had completely blacked out and therefore cut off all air circulation. You could say we put ourselves, and especially our actor, through similar trials as the Prisoner, the character in the half-hour film we were shooting of Poe’s story.

To bring his words to life we need only apply broad visual strokes of the Prisoner’s ordeal to go along with the Narrator’s account.

For us it began with the platform. We called it the dais. It was our only prop.

What the Prisoner endures throughout the torturous time happens in black space where there is nothing for the eye to see but the Prisoner while Poe’s words conjure up images for the mind.

The grand experiment has begun. We are putting the telegraph mosaic into action.

The Prisoner has gone through the ordeal and emerged. Footage has been exposed.

More to come.

Lug’s Christmas Carol – staging video

Our journey to present Lug’s Christmas Carol the stage musical continues making progress. We have taken the next step. Designing the staging area. We made a video about it. A video meant to be used as a template for designing any community musical show. It provides a glimpse into how the project will look.

The Ampersand Project

Update: June 20, 2017

The latest application has been submitted to the Canada Council with quite a different approach than has been used so far and, as is often the case, the explanation has become clearer. This is the essential text of the new description of the project.

The Ampersand Project

[Describe your proposed activities, including the rationale for your artistic choices or the inspiration for the new creative work. Indicate when and where you plan to show the work. Include information about the key artist leading the projects.]

The plan is to bring theatre professionals together to create the staging manual for a Christmas Musical, a kit, that will be made available to all communities, which includes: template documents outlining how to mount the show in a gym, or a meeting hall, not just on stage; karaoke-type files, in case the community has no orchestra; dance scores; plus blueprints for sets, props, and costumes.

The libretto is based on “Lug’s Christmas Carol” one in a collection of short stories entitled “5 Fables for the Young at Heart” published by Double Dragon Publishing under my pen name J. Aldric Gaudet.

The story concerns a Christmas tree decorated with damaged ornaments who became damaged the year before in their successful efforts to save the lives of the family they are part of.

As my resume shows, I am a producer, director, and editor as well as the author and playwright. I have published 3 books of Shakespeare, a graphic novel, and the short story collection where “Lug’s Christmas Carol” appears.

Theatre has been in my blood ever since elementary school. Even while studying at Ryerson I was the first RTA student to stage a drama in the TV studios rather than a current affairs show for my term project. In my freshman year I was part of the company that took “Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs” to compete in Ottawa. In my sophomore year I co-produced a blacklight version of “Alice in Wonderland” and used the same text when I directed a Dundas Little Theatre production of “Alice” a few years ago.

My TV and Film career as Producer, Director, or Writer has always leaned toward dramatic fiction like the TV series “The Littlest Hobo” or the Feature Film “Baltic Storm”.

Theatre being such a comfortable fit it seemed a natural extension to bring my short story to the stage and because the story is about damaged ornaments I was inspired to imagine a musical fantasy which included the disabled as singers and dancers.

The goal is to create a safe and friendly environment for those who do not often get a chance to participate in, or experience, the excitement of putting on a show, the ones who usually end up watching from the sidelines.

This is a plan for two seasons. Season One, the music is composed and the lyrics written for a live streaming performance of an audio play version of the show with commentators describing what is not seen, as if they were seeing it, adding personal interest stories revealing how the disabled fit into the cast. That recording is made available during the Christmas season of 2017 and becomes a springboard to raise awareness in the performance arts community of the idea of including the disabled in musical theatre. That will serve to attract the rest of the creative artists needed to fulfill the roster for designing the show and overseeing its testing during a prototype production.

The show celebrates theatre, encourages the disenfranchised to participate, and showcases local talent.

[Briefly outline your work plan, including timeline.]

In early September the composer and lyricist will be tasked with a 2 month deadline for words and music. A voice cast will be assembled and the show will be live-streamed as an audio play in early December. The recording will be made available during the Christmas Season to garner interest in the project.

A postmortem of the live stream event and its audience response, will indicate whatever adjustments will be necessary for the stage show.

The first half of 2018 will be spent contacting and confirming the artists not already affiliated with the project. In August notification will be sent to all artists to prepare to meet in early September to discuss their plans for the project.

During the rest of September the artists will collate their contributions, integrate all elements, plan out how to handle participants with physical challenges, and work the dance routines and swing numbers into the design layout with the approval of the Safety Officer.

The template will be sent into the Hamilton community to organize its production which will be supervised by the contributing artists.

In early October construction will begin on the prototype sets and puppets supervised by the puppeteer and the Set Designer advisors.

After the community run closes, the artists will analyze response cards and debrief the project. Each artist will submit their final report and template documents by January 14, 2019 to the Artistic Director who will collate all material to send with the project review.

[How will your activities contribute to your, or your group’s, artistic development?]

This brings theatre professionals to the community level in order to design a musical celebration that is simple and safe for disabled performers.

Experienced and knowledgeable experts will be able to foresee where caution is necessary and avoid pitfalls while creating the template.

That way the best creative minds oversee the practicality and safety of the template right through to guiding the prototype production by local amateurs in Hamilton.

The artists will be challenged to design a fully flexible inclusive work, to create musical pieces that can safely integrate all ranges of music and dance ability, including choreographing the disabled.

Using video screens as an element of the theatrical palette is a natural extension of my TV experience which I also plan to explore more fully.

Encouraging the disabled to take part – screens with live puppet close-ups – mixed swing and dance choreography – creating a production template for community use. These are all unprobed areas of artistic expression worth exploring.

[If there is anything that has not been asked that is essential to understanding your application, provide it here.]

Even though the intent here is to create something for use by community theatre it is a valid contribution to professional performance arts by exposing the disabled to the joys of the theatre.

In a world of competitive para sports why not para song and dance? Sport is not the only sustenance for the human soul.

The U of BC study on the impact of paralympic games showed that 23 percent of the employers surveyed said the Games had increased their willingness to hire people with disabilities. Attitudes were changed with familiarity.

A community production involves people of all ages, from all segments of the population, who participate voluntarily on equal terms, interacting and co-operating to create one special celebratory event.

A parent could be rigging lights or on stage portraying ‘Mr Kelley’ while their child could be portraying ‘Sandra’ or backstage building sets. That is its most satisfying dynamic.

Communities that take on this project will, at the very least, understand accessibility needs better.

The template will be designed for flexibility to ensure that the production can support itself in box office returns. And, as is traditional in theatre, ornament costumes can be as simple as cast members carrying iconic placards, or as complicated as full body costumes.

[Provide a one-sentence summary of your project.]

To have theatre professionals create the staging manual for a Christmas Musical Fantasy which encourages the disabled to participate.

StoryTelling_OnScreen 101

Pick a favourite film.
Describe the main characters.
What happens?
Summarize every 10 minutes of screen time.
Break those 10 minute segments into scenes.
What do we learn about the characters in each scene?
What do we learn about the story in each scene?
What do we learn without words of explanation?
Do the scenes conform to the + (-) energy in – (+) energy out concept?
Now. Step back.
Where does the Beginning stop and become the Middle?
When does the End begin?
And last but certainly not least, how does the story add to our understanding of the human condition?

the Piper: front page news

the Piper made the front page of the Hamilton Spectator and was featured on the front page of their GO section.

And some friends helped me celebrate.

LUG 2017

The following are excerpts from The Ampersand Project’s recent submission.

Summary

To create the staging manual and template documents for a community theatre musical fantasy which encourages the disabled, among others, to participate.

The Ampersand Project

The idea is to create a staging manual, a kit that will be available free to all communities, a template for the show to be mounted in a gym, or a meeting hall, not just on a stage. The kit will include karaoke files, in case there is no orchestra, plus documents with dance scores and blueprints for sets, props, and costumes.

The challenge is to create a show script and staging manual adaptable to any size community, to create musical pieces that can integrate all ranges of music and dance ability, including choreographing the disabled.

The song and dance numbers will be designed to include whatever diverse range of talented enthusiasts are capable of taking part, making each production a reflection of that community’s population.

Impact

Mounting a community production involves people of all ages, from all segments of the population, who participate voluntarily on equal terms, interacting and co-operating to create one special celebratory event.

A parent could be rigging lights or on stage portraying ‘Mr Kelley’ while their child could be portraying ‘Sandra’ or backstage building sets. For me, that is its most satisfying dynamic.

The Choreographer’s task will be to design and score chorus line movement that allows for anyone who can follow a beat to participate. That kind of flexibility in all aspects of the project makes each production a unique reflection of that community’s perspective.

My idea for community theatre posits that this project has two audiences. Obviously, those who come to watch the show will enjoy its uplifting theme, but those in the community who participate in its production will experience its theme as they become familiar with the talented performers living locally who happen to be physically challenged.

Specialty Groups

The aim of this project is to involve the disabled in the community. To encourage anyone who can follow a dance step or carry a tune to join with the rest of the chorus on stage, dancing and singing and celebrating.

In a world of competitive para sports why not para song and dance? Sport is not the only sustenance for the human soul.

The UBC study on the impact of paralympic games showed that 23 percent of the employers surveyed said the Games had increased their willingness to hire people with disabilities. Attitudes were changed with familiarity.

Any community that takes on this project will, at the very least, understand accessibility needs better.

Who Stole Einstein’s Brain?

In the beginning when the Creative Exchange was the Hamilton Film Liaison a group of us wanted to put our resources to use and create a short film to showcase Hamilton’s special locations, and by their participation, the talented people who live here.

We came up with a Romantic Mystery that would take 2 investigators all around Hamilton.

With Adriano La Vella writing and Jon Soyka and I story editing we ended up with a nice tight little script that paired a gawky professor with a streetlevel PI and sent them off, on foot, looking for a missing piece of McMaster lab material – a slice of Einstein’s brain. If they don’t find it by the end of the weekend the professor loses his job.

The underlying hook of the story is that during the search the PI and the Lab Assistant fall for each other.

Normally there are only a set number of locations you can show off without becoming tedious but we overcame that obstacle by messing with continuity.

We designed many scenes as walk and talks to exploit that.

For example, we plan to show them delivering continuous dialogue while walking out of an outdoor apartment corridor on Quigley Road and step down onto James street, then turn down an alleyway in Dundas and walk past a graffiti wall in the downtown core.

The only people who are in on the joke are those who know Hamilton.

Thanks to Alexis – Marcio – Stephen – Daryl – and Ingy we created a rough version of the first scene just to spark ideas.

Because this is about promoting ourselves and the city this is a completely volunteer project – when we are assured we have support in all areas we will go ahead. But that is up to you by spreading the word or becoming part of the project which is designed to help each other boost each other.

The script is available for anyone to read.

J. Aldric Gaudet

Halloween – We’en excerpts

Halloween traditions. How did they start.

I dealt with that in Ween one of the 5 Fables for the Young at Heart.

Here is an excerpt:

John’s hat brim bobbed as he nodded and asked, “What do you know about All Hallow’s Evening?”

Patrick was startled to hear him use Nana’s words.

“Trick-or-treat, costumes, candy, pumpkins, soaped windows, black cats, etcetera, etcetera,” Rose recited immediately.

“That is Halloween,” John said. “What do you know about All Hallow’s Evening, from time gone by?”

“It’s a time of magic,” Patrick said, irritated that Rose would answer a question clearly within his area of expertise. “It’s a time when spirits roam the world and give magic a boost.”

“A very unstable time,” agreed John.

Something about the way he said it made Andrew renew his search for any familiar landmark.

“Halloween is like a nickname,” Patrick explained. “All Hallow’s Evening, E’enin’, E’en. Hallow E’en’ because it’s the night before All Hallow’s Day, or All Saint’s Day.”

“That is what it is called,” John said. “That is not what it is.”

Andrew wished he could see John’s face. Sometimes you could get a hint what adults meant if you could see the expressions on their faces.

“Long before there was an All Hallow’s Day,” continued John. “There were celebrations on this night.”

Rose chipped in with a crack, “When people lived in caves?”

John remained unswayed by her attitude. “It could have started that long ago. But it was not until there were farms and villages that people gathered on this night.”

“In the Olde Country,” Patrick said using Nana’s phrase.

“Yes,” John agreed. “Over there, and here, winters were harsh. People died from the cold, or from the hunger, or both. And so they measured their year to harvest’s end. That was when they stopped putting livestock out to pasture, preparing many for slaughter in order to survive the coming weather. At the death of the old year they celebrated all that enriched their lives because they were about to face terrible hardships.”

“Why not celebrate in the spring when everything was better?” Rose asked.

“They did. In the spring they consumed whatever had not been consumed, congratulating themselves for surviving, but at harvest time, when the sun’s warmth became distant, the people remembered a time without the sun and feared for its return. They built bonfires to mark the end of the sun’s reign, wishing each other good fortune until the sun’s return.

“All Hallow’s Evening is time set aside to remember the fallen and hope for the future. It is time set aside for making wishes, for calling magic. Changing names on a calendar does not change reality. The Olde New Year, the Magic New Year, begins on the first day of November.”

“That’s not Halloween!” Rose cried out. “Halloween is on October thirty-first!”

John stopped walking and turned to her, “As their year ended when the sun faded, so their day ended when the sun set. October thirty-first ends when the sun sets and November first is born.”

He turned around and resumed walking.

“I thought we waited until dark so we had time to put our costumes on,” Rose whispered to Patrick.

A little further along in the story more traditions are discussed:

Rose was the first to break the silence, “If this all started in the Olde Country as Patrick calls it, why pumpkins?” she asked. “They’re North American.”

“True, they are a recent addition to a long time practice,” John replied. “But they are superb. They are easy to hollow. They even look like spawn of the harvest moon.”

“Why hollow any vegetable?” Rose persisted.

“Tradition. In the Olde Country, on All Hallow’s Evening, children travelled over the countryside from farm to farm begging for Soul Cakes. Glass was too precious to be allowed outdoors, so they lit their way with candles protected from the wind inside a hollowed out gourd
.
“When they knocked on the door of a person of poverty – – if there were no Soul Cakes – – they asked for candles to keep their way lit. When they knocked on the door of a person of wealth – – if there were no Soul Cakes – – they asked for money to buy candles. Persons who gave nothing were warned that the imps would target them for their earthside pranks.”

John paused as they stopped on a rise overlooking the two bonfires. They could see the fresh fire flash momentarily brighter as the last of the new wood collapsed into it. The stale fire glowed with orange cracks cutting through its dark ash.

“There is an ancient legend about a lantern of eternal fire,” John said.

“And I bet you’re going to tell us about it,” Rose cracked causing Andrew to laugh. Patrick swatted both their shoulders.

John faced the three friends, pumpkin light boiling in their eyes, and spoke to Rose.

“A long time ago there lived a selfish peddler who never did anything unless he got something out of it. He did not care about anyone but himself and he never gave a gift unless he expected a gift in return, always making sure that what he gave was of lesser value than what he expected to get.

“The peddler was clever and tricked people into doing things for him. As a result he became very successful. The peddler always boasted that he had made his own way, by his own schemes, never acknowledging help from any other source, even refusing to believe in luck or fate.

“One day, the devil came to meet him, having heard about the peddler’s deeds. The devil knew he would soon die in a carriage crash and wanted to make arrangements for the peddler’s soul. The peddler wouldn’t agree to the terms and during their debate he tricked the devil and trapped him inside an outhouse by scratching a cross on its door. He refused to open the door until the devil promised never to take his soul.

“The peddler figured that playing such a trick on the devil would be an instant guarantee of a place in heaven. But on the night of the carriage crash, he was turned away from heaven’s gate for having lived such a greedy and selfish life. As for tricking the devil, the peddler was told it was easy for a clever person to trick someone as greedy as the devil.

“The peddler felt cheated by heaven and planned to get revenge by offering his services to the devil. When he arrived at the gates of hell the devil refused to meet with him and he was denied entry. The peddler asked the devil’s gatekeeper where his spirit could rest and was told there was no place for him to rest, that he must always wander the outer world. When he complained that the way back was dark, the devil’s gatekeeper threw a lump of hell’s coal at him. ‘Take that and go!’

“And so the peddler hollowed out a turnip and put the piece of hell’s coal inside to light his way.

“Ever since then, he has wandered the night, travelling every road, looking for lost souls who need to find their way.”