GOODBYE MY FELENI: Village People

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Yes: it takes a village.

I’m sure you’re sick to death of the faces of the production.  I’m pretty sure you’ll soon be sick to the back teeth about the principals behind the production.

This post is about those who helped make it happen:

  • Ruby our Lighting Designer-slash-Operator-slash-Stage Manager Extraordinaire – Ruby has a calmness that I envy, a presence that I’m pretty sure averted moments of hands-around-other-people’s-throats and huffy walk-outs;
  • the Basement team who sold tickets, poured drinks and always had a sympathetic word or smile for a sweaty, thirsty, writer – Sophie, Charlie (no, the other one), John, and Alex – with particular thanks to Pete whose striking mop of hair and an abundance of nothing-is-impossible attitude got us sorted into the theatre space;
  • our lovely ushers who helped out during our season – Abigail, Beulah, Christina, and Maaka;
  • and our PR team – Kristina of Little Miss Publicity, and Qiane of Qreative Native – what can I say but AWESOME EXPOSURE!

To youse all:  Fa’afetai tele lava.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Interlude

Okay, so The Goddess and I snuck down to the capital for some time-in with cafes and restaurants and a wee bit of shopping, and Goodbye My Feleni was awarded the 2013 Adam Award for Best New Pasifika Play.

Which meant that I missed a day-long rehearsal which I should have been apprehensive about missing. But you know what? At the preceding rehearsal, the directors and actors generously granted my wishes of workshopping all remaining scenes and providing some audio for a teaser which I knocked together below. And I’ve finally come to understand the method to the directors’ ah, method.

Which is a typically long-winded way of saying that whilst I was tucking into a ribeye steak (rare) and/or churros for breakfast, I spared nary a thought for pre-production because it’s in good hands. Seriously.

So yeah. The awards. I shared space with fellow winners Paul Buckley, Renae Maihi, Philip Braithwaite and Hannah McKie. Big ups to Playmarket for the event – effervescent director Murray Lynch, the sartorially elegant Salesi Le’ota, and ever imperturbable Stuart Hoar. And a wonderful chat was had with Circa manager Linda Wilson who let slip that Circa Theatre – just like the Basement Theatre – has a risk-share model for incoming productions; something to bring up with Producer Jenni when the season is over.

Our final week of rehearsals commenced tonight. In my absence, lines have been cut, props have been introduced that are not in the script, and concepts have been introduced to me that I have difficulty visualising – but you know what? They all seem to work.

As always, the level of achievement I get in this collaboration is not what I expected.

It’s exceeded.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Rehearsal Week -3

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You think you’ve got plenty of time, you actually do have plenty of time, and then the production crosses the rubicon and you realise that opening night is less than three weeks away – that’s less than the total number of digits on your body, which means that  it’s not far away at all.

Yes: panic and hysteria are never far away from this writer.

Yes: this writer has full confidence in the team his producer has thrown together – haven’t you been reading his rehearsal reports?  He thinks they’re just awesome.

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So you’re wondering what the hell my problem is.  I’ve attended most of the rehearsals so far, catching the odd word like provocation and motivation here and there, and the directors and actors haven’t been referring all that much to the script.  Y’know, the 95-pages I slaved over, foregoing countless hours of Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead, a belated catch up with The Sopranos and Deadwood.

I think the real reason for my anxiety is that I’m experiencing in real-time and -life the once vicarious thrill and frisson of being in the middle of something bigger, something of which I can only discern a small part – not unlike the jollies I get with each rewatching of The Wire or laboriously rereading of my Alan Moore collection.

Yeah, that feeling.

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It’s a little scary.  But it’s exciting.  And the esprit de corps of the team is positively cuddly.

Bring on the final fortnight.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Rehearsal Week -4

Leki (obscured), Andy, Amelia, Samson and Taofia tell tales.
Leki (obscured), Andy, Amelia, Samson and Taofia tell tales.

Watching a director and actors in rehearsal is not unlike watching a kitten at play with an unfortunate cricket: at first it can be baffling but then you realise why the feline is doing it (better hunting through play) while the process is alternatingly cute and cruel.

The actors form up for their director (seated).
The actors form up for their director (seated).

Watching director Amelia Reid-Meredith work with actors Taofia PelesasaSamson Chan-BoonLeki Jackson Bourke and Andy Sani using exercises, provocations and other actorly-technical-stuff was mostly baffling for this writer.

And yet… seeing the actors begin to get under the skin of not only their characters but the story and its milieu was exciting to observe.  This wasn’t just some let’s pretend kind of thing going on – it was about understanding the how and why, and how that knowledge just seeps through to the performance in such a way that within an instant on walking stage, it’s not just an actor reciting lines and hitting marks – it’s a person in the middle of their story and the audience is right there with them.

Director and actors look over the printed word.
Director and actors look over the printed word.

As one of the characters keeps saying in the script:  Phwoah.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Rehearsal Week -5

From left to right:  co-director Shadon Meredith with actors Samson Chan-Boon, Leki Jackson Bourke and Andy Sani admire the Toi Ora artwork during a break.
From left to right: co-director Shadon Meredith with actors Samson Chan-Boon, Leki Jackson Bourke and Andy Sani admire the Toi Ora artwork during a break.

No plan survives contact with the enemy.
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, by way of Edward Zwick

The plan for the first rehearsal was for Jack the Military Consultant to put the actors – Samson Chan-Boon, Leki Jackson Bourke and Andy Sani – through their paces on how to move and drill like enlisted men while co-director Shadon Meredith observed, and I recorded the rehearsal for posterity. Sickness delayed Jack’s attendance so we had three boys ready to rehearse but nothing to do. Anyone with experience with actors (or children) knows that idleness inevitably leads to mischief. A new plan was needed.

Last year’s production had squeaked by with a short running time and dredged-up memories of these:

Samoa Independence Day schools' march past (pic courtesy of See Reeves at seereeves.blogspot.com).

Yes, the annual independence day schools’ march past in Samoa. I hereby acknowledge the brothers at Chanel College and the teachers at Samoa College for basic drill instructions that I have somehow retained a quarter-century later. These were dusted off and reapplied to the boys. Then – thank you, fond memories of Stripes and a rifle drill manual – some basic rifle drills were practised. And then – thank you, Youtube – a couple of bayonet drills were practised.

And you know what? Sure the details may be a bit sketchy but keep in mind it’s only the first rehearsal – and what quickly became apparent on the floor was that there’s something about three guys moving, marching and drilling in sync that immediately conveys soldiering, camaraderie and discipline. Exactly what the play needs.

Onwards to the next rehearsal.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Order of Battle

The “Goodbye My Feleni” cast (left to right): Taofia Pelesasa, Samson Chan-Boon,Leki Jackson Bourke, Andy Sani

We don’t have stocktakes or inspection days at Fortress Mamea where the menagerie present themselves front and centre with clean nails and shiny coats.

We do have a standing order of battle: our Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pi*, The Dog, The Goldfish, and The Chickens. I like to keep The Amphibian, The Kaimanawa Pony (Goddess permitting) and The Kitten** in reserve.

The Goodbye My Feleni production also has its order of battle:

Rehearsals commence next week.  I’ve gone cold turkey on Left 4 Dead II in order to finish the last draft of the script.  And our faithful and loyal avatar, Chocolate Stigmata, has gotten itself a twitter account.

At Goodbye My Feleni HQ this phase of operation is not called ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’ – Jenni insists that we  call it getting ready to stomp on your shit.

* Pi – Samoan for honeybee (pronounced ‘pee’), rather than the Greek letter and irrational number.
** Yes, an update on the expanded menagerie will follow, complete with pictures for your desktop, laptop and phone wallpapers.

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