“Joseph” – Oh, Fickle World!

Camel caravan in desert

The world of a director is a fickle one.  Several weeks pass in a frenzy of chaotic CD listening and prancing around on the kitchen floor (much to the dismay of one pet dog who is determined to take us both off for an evening walk) and then, suddenly, peace reigns again.  Has something gone wrong?  Has the enthusiasm for this crazy project finally waned for good?  No, it is simply preparation paying off.

Act 1 is all on paper (yes, believe it or not, it is true) and most of it has now been sung, staged and danced.  Although we’ll need to work through it a few more times until we reach performance standard it is already starting to be great fun to watch and the cast’s enthusiasm rolls off the front of the stage (well, over the tops of the children’s plastic chairs we are using to mark out the stage area). 

The wonderful ladies of the wardrobe have spent two delightful evenings listening to my excessively enthusiastic monologue on costumes and have now set off to seek out the goods.  The goods so far are looking extremely impressive – can’t wait until we start seeing them come to life on the cast. 

And then, on one bitterly cold night before the snows set in, I met with the delightful creative team behind the set and prop design over a cuppa or two.  After a few strange looks we started to come up with some plans.  Not helped, I have to add, by the keen footballer supporters running in and out of the room at a moment’s notice or by the incessant beeping of our mobile phones.  Ah, but creativity cannot be reigned in by even the most intense distractions and on we marched into the deep world of scenery development. 

It was not long until I realised that I do not have measuring skills.  I had not brought a tape measure and had not worked out the size of the stage versus the size of the scenery I was suggesting.  Nor had I thought through all the practicalities.  I genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with considering the possibility of a full-scale revolve in the centre of the stage or a hydraulic lift sequence built into our humble wooden stage.  I mean, who would?  With that grander vision put to one side we started out on the more interesting things like how to develop an over-sized giant Bible or how to give life to skeleton sheep.  And did I mention what colour pyramids we are going for?  It seems dusky pink is not appropriate. 

Of course, this is a kind of calm before: “The Storm: Part 2″.  Act 2 might be in my head but it is not on paper and definitely needs to be.  If we have enough interest in our little Children’s Choir I’m going to need to get moving with the rest of the staging for them.  The programme is calling for my attention and there will be plenty more discussions on costumes, staging, lighting, singing, dancing, etc still to come.  But, I will enjoy every minute while it lasts.  Where is that book I’ve been saving?

[Photo of Camel Caravan in Desert by Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280 ]

 

“Joseph” – A Feasting Story

Camel caravan in desert

Week 4 of rehearsals.  The passage of time is frightening, isn’t it?  I wonder if that’s how Joseph felt as the weeks, months and years rolled by while he wasted away in prison?  Unlike Joseph we’ve all chosen to be part of this machine known as “Joseph”.  I, for one, have not been wasting away but have instead used rehearsals and prep time as an excuse for tucking into the leftover Christmas chocolates, Friday fry-ups and everything else that is less than good for one’s health.  So far my cunning plan seems to be working and the scales have not bitten back with a nasty reading of weight gain.  All is well.

Joking aside it is vital to keep up energy levels especially when the preparation for rehearsals takes up the other three weekday evenings and at least part of one day at the weekend.  I don’t think I have ever felt quite so schizophrenic as when I am trying to be every character on stage at once.  It is, as you can imagine, quite a draining experience.  Thank goodness that we have some outstanding chefs on the Production Team guaranteeing me a wonderfully tasty and nutritious home-cooked meal every few weeks.  There might also be a glass of wine involved.

Our last Production team meeting revolved around the wonderful creation below, known as an Annlentsagne:

Annlentsagne (by L Taylor)

 

It is quite simply divine.  A luxurious take on the humble lasagne made with lentils, spices and all sorts of other culinary secrets that could not be divulged even by the chef herself.  Served with a classic green salad, garlic bread and a singular glass of wine it was unbeatable as the cries of “mmm” at the table would attest.  I won’t mention here that someone not too far away got the giggles over the number of times she uttered the “mmm” word or how hard it was to hold it back.  I’m sure you have no idea who I mean.

Not only did we have this wonderful creation but it was followed by a heavenly dessert whose contents I am bound by oath not to reveal.  I can tell you that the centre was packed with home-grown blackberry jam and topped with lashings of…no, not ginger beer (honestly)…of cream.  Beauty itself.

Ann Sponge (by L Taylor)

With so much  energy-producing food around it is hardly any wonder that we have almost finished our initial journey through Act 1.  Of course there is still a long way to go.  Lyrics need to be remembered, harmonies might need just the tiniest bit of recapping and the staging/dancing will need regular refreshing to ensure none of the little details are forgotten.  But I think we can happily celebrate how far we have come in only eight rehearsals and be justly proud of the hard work and dedication going in to putting on an amazing production.

Here’s to all you have achieved so far and all we are going to achieve over the coming weeks.  In the words of good old Cliff: “CON-GRAT-U-LATIONS!”  Must be time for a late-morning donut.

Empty Plate (L Taylor)
 
 

[Camel Caravan in Desert photo by Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280 ]

The Camel’s Tale

This is the first in our series of Guest Posts on the theme of Joseph, kindly submitted by the one and only, Hyder Khalil.  Watch this space for future submissions!

The Camel’s Tale

Camel in Shed (by Rob Wiltshire)

I am Noor, lead camel for a group of Ishmaeli traders. We are based in Gilead –you might know it as North-West Jordan. The traders make regular trips to and from Egypt – taking spices and silks from the East, pottery, and other things, and bringing back dates, wine, and the finest cotton.

That morning, they got us up early, obviously for another trip. The traders bustled about, while we stood around. We knew the drill – wait until they loaded us up. Not too much, we all hoped – part of the journey to Egypt is pretty rough country, and we camels don’t like heavy loads in such places. We had double rations and a good drink – both necessary to ‘plump the hump’ for the journey.

We set off, and all went as usual for two or three days.  Then in the middle of a wild place we came across a group of young men. They were beating up one of their number – these humans, always quarrelling, why can’t they just get along? Then they go and throw the poor lad down some sort of pit, and start arguing about a rather pretty coat he had. A big bearded fellow turned round, and seeing us started waving and talking excitedly to the others. They all rushed over and jabbered at our traders, waving at the pit where the lad was. Then Amir, our lead trader, nodded, and handed over some shiny bits of metal to the bearded fellow, at which point the others dragged the boy out of the pit and handed him over to Amir.

Amir and the others don’t want anything much that they can’t sell, so I knew pretty well what was going to happen here.  We were going to take him with us, quickly too, to Egypt, and they were going to try to sell him to someone rich for many more shiny bits of metal (which seem to mean a lot to humans).

We set off lickety spit. The lad had to go on foot. Amir and the rest wouldn’t make us carry him, for fear we might get hurt or lame, and we are their livelihood, so they make sure they look after us.  On and on – just scraps of food and a few sips of water to drink for him. If he thought getting there was bad, wait till he got to Egypt. I’ve seen how some people treat slaves in Egypt, and I wouldn’t wish it on a snake.

At last we crossed into Egypt, and then on to the big city.  When we arrived, Amir didn’t take us to the marketplace as usual, but straight to a big house – clearly where some rich high-up lived. Someone – some official I think – came out and had a look at the poor lad we had brought with us. He didn’t look in too great shape by now, even though the last bit of the journey had only been about 4 days. The official nodded, handed over a heavy-looking bag filled with more of those shiny metal pieces, and took the lad away.  Then we went to the marketplace as usual to change our goods over and have a rest.

Two days later we went home, with new loads.  There was no sign of the lad we had brought. He could be in for a rough time. Wonder what he was going to do.

 

[Photo of “Camel in Shed” by Rob Wiltshire: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1395 ]

“Joseph” – Goat curry anyone?

Camel caravan in desert (By Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280)

My first visit  to the costume cupboard of 2012 is complete.  What a sneeze-inducing experience it was.  Thankfully the lovely ladies in charge of all things “Wardrobe” had already pulled out the big box stuffed full of old robes and headgear used in the last production some ten years ago so there was no immediate reason for me to climb into the attic space.  However the dust on the box thought it would be highly amusing to attempt to find a new home in my nostrils.  Clearly my nostrils did not agree. 

There were some odd treasures to be found in that box.  I’m sure that someone had once torn down some curtains in a bid to make outfits in a style befitting the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music.  Lovely brown striped numbers in heavyweight curtain material followed by pastel, sparkly headgear in nylon.  Nothing but the very best quality to be found in our costume cupboard.

Given the show is still three months away, we are only just starting to think about all the different costumes needed for each musical number.  Of course this is a tricky time when we have to balance the budget against my bizarre theatrical vision (or idea, as it is more commonly known).  Needing to separate the Brothers from their wives is quite frankly tricky when everyone is likely to be wearing a skirt of some kind.  Perhaps we’ll just have the Wives showing some leg and the Brothers…not.  Plus we also have to find ways of linking each Brother and Wife.  This is in part to ensure they remember who they actually married as there is already some confusion on this point.  The added benefit is it forces them to dance in the same direction as each other.  One nice brightly coloured ribbon tied around the waists of each couple should do the trick.  It will of course make getting on and off the stage somewhat difficult, especially when the Wives have to leave before the Brothers, but I’m sure we can find a way out of that particular issue.  Perhaps by replacing the ribbon with coloured elastic. 

It was exciting to find the original technicolour coat and to see our new Joseph decked out in all its splendour.  Amazingly it is the right length in arm and leg and only needs a few new panels of colour added to create the glorious parachute effect when the Brothers hold it up for all to see.  The coat has already gone off for its initial repairs. 

The undergarments remain a point of slight contention.  Joseph has to be stripped of his coat and later, thanks to the skillful manoeuvring of Potiphar’s Wife, down to very little at all.  The traditional approach is for Joseph to wear a plain white loincloth but I consider that too simple for our glossy production.  Two options are now under consideration.  A white loincloth with some tastefully placed pieces of white feather-boa as edging or a wonderful pair of gold mini-shorts (not hot pants, I could never be so cruel) complete with white lace edging.  Thoughts welcome on which you would prefer Joseph to be seen in.

Having found the original coat, and tackled Joseph’s underwear (so to speak), we attempted to find the second coat used for the scene when it is ripped into pieces by his jealous Brothers.  Sadly no coat could be found.  Instead, at the bottom of the clothing box, we uncovered two goat legs.

Now, is it me or would you not expect to find the rest of said goat somewhere nearby?  For example, the other two legs, a body, a tail and a head?  We searched box after box and finally came to the conclusion that someone had decided to try out a new recipe for goat curry.  It is meant to be quite a delicacy.  Although I am sure that it works better with actual goat meat and not chunks of cotton-wool covered wood.  Still, it takes all sorts.

We also failed to find the camel.  You would think that a camel would be tricky to miss but apparently they are masters of disguise.  I might send out a search party on our next rehearsal night.  They might even find the remains of the goat.

Originally posted on: http://hugmore.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/joseph-goat-curry-anyone/

“Joseph” – The case of the angelic jelly bean

Camel caravan in desert (By Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280)

Unbelievably we have already passed the golden landmark that is the first week in rehearsal.  Time is ticking by until the first performance now…tick tock, tick tock.  But I get ahead of myself.

It was good.  So says the biggest understatement of all time.  The beautiful melodies that our wonderful cast produced in just two rehearsals was glorious.  To call them an angelic chorus would be an insult.  It was magical hearing the melodies come alive with such depth.  I began to wonder whether we should do anything more but stand and sing these wonderful tunes.  Reality of course kicked in with requests for costume meetings (as expected)and the need to work out who was needed where but for a few moments I revelled in just hearing the music at work.  It made some of the early pain worthwhile.

For example, the casting was no mean feat, I can tell you.  I will not share with you or any other how many hours were spent by our little creative team in considering the pros and cons of every possible permutation of casting before we finally reached a solution we could all live with.  I will only tell you how little sleep was obtained in those remaining hours before the announcement.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a little.  Only a little, mind.

Anyway, with the casting finally decided it was time for me to get on with planning how to neatly move nearly forty people on and off the stage built for only half that number.  My head was awash with ideas and little pictures of how X would move to Point A whilst Y was moving to Point B etc and generally my darling little brain coped admirably with conjuring up the required imagery to ensure that this strategy would actually work.  However there came a point when I was literally going round in circles (my kitchen floor will never be the same again) and my brain swirled with hopeless possibilities each as maddening as the last. 

Suddenly a friendly voice suggested the use of my many jars of herbs and spices.  I scoffed loudly and proclaimed that jelly beans would in fact be a far greater solution to the problem.  I counted out eleven different coloured beans to represent the Brothers and another one (sadly not technicoloured) to represent Joseph.  Then swiftly bit off his head.

I don’t recommend the use of jelly beans for characters.  I proceeded to eat more jelly beans than would have represented the entire cast, pit singers, band, crew and half the audience.  True the picture had been colourful (with the emphasis on both the “have” and the “bean”) but my swirling circle issues had not been resolved and my New Year’s plan to lose those cheese-consumption extra pounds had also gone the same way.

And so it was that the Brothers became jars of spices and herbs.  No-one ended up as the Mixed Herbs (with the sadly broken lid) but all manner of spice will be represented on our stage.  Perhaps I will one day reveal which Brother was represented by which jar.  Hmm, perhaps not.

Amazing really how quickly the issue was then resolved and my little diagrams completed with names and arrows galore.  The problem of course is that my real life Brothers are not going to take kindly to being manhandled into position (or knocked over on a regular basis) like my little jars.  Maybe it will actually be easier with real people who can think on their feet and understand rather than having to be pushed and shoved.  I’m quite excited now by the prospect of seeing these little visions come to life.   It is going to take lots of patience, determination and energy to get us there but we will do it.  If the quality of the singing is anything to go by it will be a breeze.  Perhaps I ought to take a few jelly beans with me.  Just in case.

Taken from: http://hugmore.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/joseph-the-case-of-the-angelic-jelly-bean/