In the world of am dram we’re used to meeting and interacting with our fellow cast members pretty quickly. The geographical spread of those involved in the RSC’s Play For The Nation project (98 amateur actors and their team directors), however, makes this a practical impossibility.
So, once again it’s social media to the rescue. After the intensive Twitter upskilling described in my last post I turned my attention to Facebook. Now I’ve had a Facebook account for some years and like many am drammers I had used it to promote shows I was doing, keep an eye on audition opportunities for things I was interested in doing and generally used it to follow theatrical trends. Little did I know that a new opportunity to get properly organised was about to present itself.
Wind back the clock to the #dream2016 poetry “competition”. Via this I had fallen into tweeting several Bottoms other than my own (sorry). Chris from the Nonentities in Kiddermister, Becky from the Lovelace Theatre Group in Nottingham and Trevor from the Belvoir Players of Belfast all got lucky like me and are due to play Bottom next year (yes, there are going to be a couple of female Bottoms and why not? Dawn French did it very successfully a few years back). We reached the conclusion that Twitter with its 140 character limit wasn’t conducive to in depth discussion and debate so we tweeted about setting up a Facebook group to fulfil this function. Gradually the talk evolved of a group open to all 98 of the amateurs who were going to be involved. So, fine in theory, but who was going to do the donkey work (!!!) in setting up the group? At that point I rather rashly admitted that I had set groups up in the past (actually just one group and it was some ten years ago) and that was enough to secure me the deal. No problem though; I was looking to properly reacquaint myself with Facebook anyway and here was a project that would allow me to do just that.
Firstly a group name. Originally I’d suggested The Bottom Line but clearly that would be too exclusive now we were hoping to get everyone involved. Fortunately inspiration was very near at hand. I’m a great devotee of the plays of Alan Ayckbourn (shout out to Simon who masterminds one of the best theatre websites around www.alanayckbourn.net) and just above my desk is a framed poster of an Ayckbourn play called Wildest Dreams. That was it, of course! And so the Wildest Dreamers Facebook group was born because as the tag line states “Never in our wildest dreams…..” This summed up nicely the feeling of how fortunate we all feel about being chosen for the RSC’s mind-boggling project.
During a long Sunday morning, with the help of some on-line “How to do it” blogs and Facebook’s own notes (plus, if I’m honest some straightforward guesswork) I managed to pull something presentable together. One of Arthur Rackham’s famous Dream illustrations would serve instead of a group photo – the one depicting Act 1, Scene 2, part of the play we would all know well as it was the first audition piece set by the RSC. Next upload the 14 group photos ready for tagging as people joined the group. Then some lists of key RSC personnel and the names and other details of the lucky 98. A tweak here and tweak there (actually about two hours of tweaking, all told) and finally it was ready to be shown to the world. I sent out invites to Chris, Becky and Trevor to come and join me. Then it snowballed. I invited the other six Tower members while the other three initiators (now officially given Admin status) invited their groups and we set about tweeting to get as many of the others as possible to join us. By Monday evening half of the individual drama groups were represented and the “discussion” could begin in earnest. Of course at this stage it was mainly getting to know one’s fellows and exchanging repeated cries of “Aren’t we lucky?”, uploading daft videos (did you know that in 1964 the Beatles performed a version of the Pyramus and Thisbe scene in a TV special?)
There were also plenty of bad puns about donkeys, walls and lions. Soon, however, a more serious note took hold as we contemplated the enormity of the task before us, enquired how other people set about learning (and more importantly remembering) lines and what overall project director Erica Whyman might be expecting from us.
At time of writing, just over a week later, about 50% of the participants have joined the group and when things really get started in the autumn it will, no doubt, be an invaluable tool in sharing experiences, raising questions and boosting confidence. As with Twitter I have soon discovered how good it is to be talking to like-minded people across the country even if I have never met them. It is clearly going to be a supportive and friendly experience – just as well with 98+ possible voices contributing. Unlike with the auditions there is now no competition to win; we will all be doing our own thing in our own areas but ultimately contributing to something that is going to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Most importantly the “wrap” party has already been established – very kindly hosted by the Belvoir Players of Belfast. 98 of us (not to mention partners, etc.) descending on Northern Ireland for the last night of the tour; that will, indeed be “a most rare vision”!
(P.S. To anyone reading this looking for the Twittericks mentioned in the last post, they haven’t been forgotten. Keep watching this space!)