News and Updates!

With the unfortunate news that we couldn’t stage Cuckoos and Chrysalides in April, I have some exciting announcements that I will list here and on the Stars or Mars website!

June is going to be a pretty heavy month for me, that’s for sure.

1st June:
logoWe are taking the stage at the Hackney Attic with our show called RESPAWN! The play follows two identities trying to find peace with their pasts and present, which has been drastically changed through the process of uploading consciousnesses. Can they prove that immortality doesn’t have to be a hard sell?

I will be giving talks at the Current Research in Speculative Fiction 2015 in Liverpool, talking about the portrayal of Time in Science Fiction Theatre, as well as the Being Non/Human conference in London and Smashing the Stigma of Science Fiction Theatre at the SFRA conference in Stony Brook. Miraculously none of these dates clashed, taking place on the 8th, 17th and the 25th-27th respectively.

sum-front-coverSUM will also be returning this year, but at the Camden Fringe from the 28th-30th August! Very excited about this! I’ll give you more updates as they arrive.

Speak soon!

Nearing the End of 2014…

And it’s about time that I update the blog! 2014 has been such an exciting year – writing, performing, producing and presenting – and I’ve met so many amazing people who have wowed me with their hard work ethics, friendliness and creative brilliance.

Conferences

This was the year of the first SF Theatre conference – Stage the Future! We had performances, papers, discussions and more. You can read reports here and here. I want to thank all those who took part and attended, as well as those who supported us throughout. Also big thanks to Christos Callow Jr. for being a great co-organiser!

I also had the pleasure of presenting SF Theatre things to Lincoln twice this year – one as part of the Performing Science Conference (just before Stage the Future actually!) and the What Happens Next conference. Not a conference, but had a great talk at the Equity North/East Branch in Dec this year – discussing the pros and cons of staging SF on stage. They were a great audience, full of ideas and enthusiasm! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spread the word far and wide!

Performances

Performances have been crazy for me this year: Terra Firma was performed as a rehearsed reading in Feb, then as part of a fully produced play at the Camden Fringe in August. Both took place at the Etcetera Theatre, who were very accommodating indeed. Thank you to Ryan Watson, Alice Havilyn, Natalie Boakye, James Unsworth, Christos Callow Jr., Barra Collins, Rus Kallan, Jessen Aroonachellum, Paul Valentine, Eleanor Russo, Briony Wyatt, Sarah Bauer and Judith Georgi.

The Reality Test was a short play of mine that was produced as part of the Writers Bloc Night “CAGED”. I managed to do a few rehearsals before I had to leave for both conferences, leaving the production afterwards in the very capable hands of Jack Heath and Alice Havilyn, who did a great performance on the night – thank you so much!

Notes from Other Worlds was published and performed! Thanks go to Playdead Press for making my 20 year + dream a reality – nothing beat the moment when I saw my book in Foyles. Incredible! The SF monologue book has been a long project for me on and off, and it was all so so worth it. Thanks also go to Jessen Aroonachellum, Briony Wyatt, Judith Georgi, Eleanor Russo, Paul Valentine and Eva Mi Becker for their readings. SUM was my last run of performances in the year, which included my own performance – which I was extremely nervous about! I’ve always wanted to act in one of my SF plays and the cast and crew made the experience so comfortable, fun and challenging (in a good way!). Thanks go to Christos Callow Jr., Melanie Crossey, Lydia Kay, Briony Wyatt, Eleanor Russo and Lucy Harrison for her amazing composition and overall managerial skills! It’s such an honour to act amongst such talented people – especially Melanie, whom I shared most of my scenes with. I couldn’t have found a better Syne! Videos will hopefully come soon.

Publications

Notes from Other Worlds and SUM were published this year, which I’m ecstatic about! notes_from_other_worlds_front_coversum-front-cover

Aren’t they beautiful? You can read more about them here. I also have a small play published at Amazing Stories, one that inspired the writing of SUM. The original idea was a posthuman version of Susan Glaspell’s (great name) Trifles. So an amazing year all round – I couldn’t have done any of it if it weren’t for these amazing people in my life. I’m incredibly blessed.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and see you all in 2015! xxx

Updates!

I’m delighted to announce some autumnal updates!

1) Notes from Other Worlds – Reading at Creative Centre for Collaborative Collaboration

IMG_20140821_122230

I’m having a reading to celebrate my first published book, Notes from Other Worlds (you can see my fingers oddly coiled in the polished sheen of the cover) at the Centre for Creative Collaboration in Kings Cross on 29th September, 7:30-9:00pm. It’s free, there’s wine and books. What could be better?

The Link for more info on the book can be found here.

2) Sum – Bread and Roses Theatre 

SUMimageFB

Sum, a new play of mine, is being staged at the Bread and Roses Theatre from the 27th-29th November and the 4th-6th December – focusing on new societies created from the pilot of a hivemind technology. Odd fact – the image is actually a painting of mine 🙂

I’m actually whipping up a separate site for this, along with notes and ideas, so you can have a peek if you want!

Tickets are already on sale! Have a look here.

3) Interview with Female Arts

If you’d like to know a little more about both of these projects plus a little more, check out my interview with Female Arts where I discussed them in a little more detail. They are a great initiative that promote female involvement in the arts (they also reviewed Terra Firma for us!).

The link is here.

Thanks!

Notes from Other Worlds!

Cover

 

Here it is! My first published book – Notes from Other Worlds! What a neat shiny cover it is too – it’s hard not to get a reflection in the picture.

The idea behind the publication was to compile a collection of Science Fiction styled monologues for actors seeking an alternative to the standard as well as short stories for general readers. What’s especially unique about the collection is that they’re written for any age and gender – even if there may be the odd reference to age and gender in a couple of pieces – you’ll see why.

Each monologue comes with some crib notes (as sparse as I could make them, in my opinion), with the rest of the details to be filled in by the reader/performer. What I’d be interested to see is how people interpret the text for performance.

Where can you find them, you might (hopefully) ask? I have the initial lot of copies here, which I will be selling at a reading soon – I’m ironing out the details of those!

 

Appearances!

The month of August is speeding past (rather predictably), but it’s an especially exciting one for me!

1) Notes from Other Worlds

You may have noticed me post on monologues from time to time – well, I have good news on that front! Notes from Other Worlds is being published by Playdead Press, which is my collection of monologues based on SF tropes, but ones I feel lend themselves particularly to the human experience and therefore feels effective being acted out. The cover reveal will come soon!

2) Loncon3

I’ll be on the panel for Staging the Fantastic for Loncon3 amongst a stellar set of people, which I’m both excited and nervous for! The details are here:

Staging the Fantastic
Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)
Sat Aug 16th, 6pm – 7pm

Erin M. Underwood, Susan Gray, James Patrick Kelly, Geoff Ryman, David Wake
Is this a golden age for genre theatre? On both sides of the Atlantic, fantastical theatre has seen notable successes in recent years – from ‘blockbuster‘ productions at the National Theatre of His Dark Materials and the original Tori Amos/Samuel Adamson musical, the Light Princess, to smaller, thought-provoking independent work from groups such as The Alchemist Theatre Company, Unlimited Theatre, Luna Theatre Company, and the BFG Collective. Earlier this year, Stage the Future was the first international academic conference on SF theatre; and the forthcoming anthology Geek Theater collects genre theatre by numerous playwrights and other SF authors. So what are the challenges and opportunities of putting SF and fantasy on stage? How does SF theatre use special effects, which are so central to other forms of visual SF? And how is the audience for SF theatre growing and changing?

 

3) Terra Firma at the Etcetera Theatre

On the 18th -20th (just after Loncon actually), starts our run of Terra Firma at the Camden Fringe! Find more out at http://www.terrafirmaplay.co.uk.

See you there! 🙂

What the Evolution Lounge Taught Me

evolSo recently, I took part in this introduction to the Evolution Lounge as an exercise of mindfulness and embodied cognition in a “site of chaos”, which happened to be the centre of a busy tube station. It’s a situation that I, as a chronic Londoner, have experienced many times. It holds many resonances for me; clocking up many moods, memories and experiences just being in this particular site. Of course, they hardly ever enter my mind as I’m usually rushing to some engagement or other (like people do when they’re at stations!). This really allowed me to slow the process down.

I don’t want to spoil the experience for those wanting to take part in it, so I’ll relay my feelings and thoughts from the session.

What was particularly novel and groundbreaking for me was the aspect of practicing mindfulness in this scape of noise, of rush, of adrenaline. I’ve practiced meditation and what I would normally associate with it is finding a quiet area where distractions are minimalised to carry this out. That’s why meditation retreats are so popular, I’d imagine – so this idea intrigued and startled me.

The observations whilst in this mindfulness, as a group, what we picked up in terms of noise, touch and sensation, contrasting this to the inner space and how it felt through the body- just staying still and engaging, but also linking it to how we feel and think at that present moment in a group.

It’s taken some time to percolate, but I realised how much it resonated not only in my daily practices, but in my actual PhD practice too.

What I’ve always found quite difficult is to actually distinguish between thoughts and feelings and how they react on the body. I’m often centered in my own head space and don’t often realise how much my feelings are playing out as well. I’ve always known it, in a way, but the exercise that I did yesterday really brought that to the foreground.

I’ve also realised that my PhD practice focuses on this concept too, from the more blatant 3 degrees – a monologue that I’d written that focuses on citizens undertaking this compulsory mindfulness, allowed to only think to 3 degrees of separation in a world even more saturated in data then we are today – to Object meet Subject, whereby a solipsistic conversation takes place to the point where object and subject cannot be distinguished. My current play that I’m writing, Pioneer, deals with the different test stages of hiveminds – from the pilot where people are becoming convinced to compromise their individuality for this idea of strengthened community and enhanced intimacy (which seems to me to be an extrapolated social media) to the ways in which this technology becomes increasingly warped and uncontrollable.

Because of this, embodied cognition becomes increasingly important to me, not only in my daily practice but how characters can envisage and portray a world that differs from ours, in both an acting theory and an engagement through writing. This is what I’m researching for my worldview chapter now.

Find out more about the evolution lounge here

Stars or Mars!

Another delay – so it goes!logo

Some stuff has happened since my last post:

Stars or Mars, my new theatre company on SF Theatre, is now up and running at http://www.starsormarstheatre.co.uk! I really should buy a domain for this site, I think… if you go on the site, you can see updates for Terra Firma and collaborations between futurists and artists, which I’m in the midst of organising now actually! Email me at starsormarstheatre@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved!

 

Also:

I reviewed the Headlong Theatre production of 1984 at Amazing Stories, which you can find here – thrilling, dark, unsettling and timeless!

Stage the Future, myself, and Science Fiction Theatre at large also got a mention in the SciFi London Blog: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/blog/2014/05/brave-new-world-science-fiction-theatre-or-beam-me-la-right-now-scotty!

If you want to see me in the flesh – I’m going to the CRSF (which is actually tomorrow, oops!) in Liverpool – giving a talk on SF Theatre and Worldbuilding. If you’re in the area, do drop by – I’d love to meet you!

Susan

Thoughts on Theatrical Jenga

Jenga 3Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you are all well and taking the opportunity for the next calendar year to accomplish a new and established set of goals and achievements. Of course, time is a human construct and you can make goals at any time, but it’s always a nice marker to play by.

It’s been strange, but I haven’t had the clarity that I had of last year in terms of my creative work. I had a plan of some sort and I draw out scenes, acts, characters and tropes by simple sentence synopses. I still write longhand in notebooks and manage to get through so many in the process (I have abnormally large handwriting, as some of you will know). I usually have a notebook for one or two plays specifically (originally called “play books”), where I will dedicate its entirety to ideas, scenes and timelines.

However, I’m becoming increasingly scatterbrained, which I hoped last year wouldn’t happen. It’s nice when ideas come, but they shatter the illusion of confidence (that I know what I’m doing, where this is going, that it feels consistent-ish to the characters and their intent) and the play becomes unrecognisable. It happened to Cuckoos and Chrysalids, it happened to Newshound and I’m a little scared that I don’t take the transitions as well as I had hoped. I often chop and change my writing projects and it isn’t as fun as I thought.

The theatrical Jenga of the title though, is from what I’m “researching” for my critical work. Theatre has been seen as notoriously hard to create a world only for it then to be disrupted later in a way that the audience can identify and run with as soon as the piece has been taken away and the structure compromised. Would we be able to see the piece from all angles? Do we have to wait for someone to gasp and cry “Oh no! The puzzle has collapsed!” or the equivalent in SF pulp literature? I’ve been looking at it, however, through the anthropological theories of Tim Ingold’s taskscape and how patterns of behaviour can build up this picture, punctuated by the dialogue.

I’m working on a few creative projects at the moment – but these descriptions are going to be incredibly vague. One play is about a character who is unable to focus on the present moment, instead dwelling around past and future, unable to see how people have changed around her (it’s to do with memory development and enzyme reactions). Another is dealing with virtual representation, mass hive-mind juries and A/B testing. Another is to do with the transition between mind transfer and living in another skin, monologue style (which I’m hoping to structure in a similar way to the amazing production of There has been an Incident).

It’s taking me longer than expected to hone these theatrical sculptures, but it could be a good sign. I feel that I’m taking more risks with the writing I’m producing, which can only be a good thing at this stage.

Gravity – a review

What is this? You may ask (Fortasse requiris – sorry, that structure always reminds me of Catullus). She’s reviewing film!? Yes, yes I am. Because I can and because it’s a set up that would work very well in a theatrical sense.

It would be foolish of me to say that the following sentence contains spoilers – the visuals are *stunning*. That goes without saying – the amount of work and the size of the team working their technical wizardry has paid off. It basically has to be seen in 3D. Mindboggling. The variety of long shot and close-up to contrast between the sublime and the claustrophobic are really done masterfully here.  I could basically look at that for hours, without any plot. This leads me neatly to my next point.

The set up is rather absurdist. Not absurdist in the “Haha! That’s absurd!” sense, but in the Beckettian notion of shouting into the void (quite apt in the realms of space). Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and their crew are attacked by debris caused by a satellite explosion, which causes a chain reaction of chaos, confusion and a chain of incredibly bad luck as they try to find their way to each other. Ultimately though, it’s about Sandra Bullock’s story of survival and her means to overcome the losses that she has experienced on Earth. There are no aliens, no monsters (except in our own heads), no other civilisations – we are the only ones kicking in this universe. The overriding message is: there’s nothing to see here, folks, so enjoy the view.

There is an extended metaphor of birthing, which isn’t new when it comes to art dealing with the representation of space. Think of the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example. I also dealt with this Russian Doll effect in Cuckoos and Chrysalids (although it’s about how people will use technology to privatise and conquer both spaces – the womb and space itself). It’s very apparent in one scene whereby Sandra Bullock floats in a fetal position, having escaped near death by another debris shower, enjoying what peace she has (unsurprisingly, it’s short lived). It’s tense, repetitive and ultimately meaningless, but it’s her story that gives it meaning. There is a scene where she shouts to the radio, where the crew replies in Chinese. She sings along with them, enjoying this connection that transcends the language barrier; only to find out that they’re singing to a child and not to her. There is a spiritual essence in the strength of her character in the face of almost certain imminent death and no hope of rescue – her escape will ultimately be a re-birthing, to emerge from the void once more.

And yes, Gravity is sexist, quite strongly so. I do realise that Sandra Bullock is inexperienced in the mechanics of space flight and George Clooney is the veteran, but even when she’s a brilliant medical doctor, he advises her when her oxygen is low, to “breathe slowly. You’re inhaling CO2 now, which will make you feel dizzy”. Patronising much!? Even I could tell that! There even is a segment whereby Bullock mentions on several occasions that she never manages to park correctly on the simulator, and has to rely on the instruction manual. Really? Really, guys? A lot of screen time is also taken up by her being tethered around by Clooney, who flirts with her rather oddly, but hey – it’s George Clooney. And Bechdel Test!? What Bechdel Test?

I’m not going to say much, because I can’t really without giving the ending away (I could tell you the whole plot in a sentence without leaving much out) that in terms of visuals –  it’s an absolutely stunning experience. I saw this film with a friend whose background is in Artificial Intelligences and Physics and he is basically the most intelligent person I know – when he says it’s pretty much accurate apart from a few issues here and there, I’m inclined to believe him.

Writing news!

 

So, on the 1st November I performed Object Meet Subject as part of a collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a Composition PhD student, with the voice acting expertise of Helen Durnell. It’s been years since I’ve done anything off-book and performing to a recording was like doing a sprint without doing a warm up. Really enjoyed it and I think it went well! I’ve written about it here and as an added bonus, you can see the video clip of me performing it!

Object, Meet Subject

In other news, Newshound has been in rehearsal, which I’m really excited about – it’s the first play I’ve done which has quite a lot of movement so it’s been really interesting interpretation in practice! It will be staged on the 10th November at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre!

I’m also giving a talk on SF Theatre for RHUL on the 8th November, making a case for why it should be staged, why it should be presented and why it should be recognised. I’m also going to be talking about how it’s informed my creative work and rehearsal process. 

The day after, 11th November, I will be reading as part of the Purpureus Writers with Liza Klaussman (writer of Tigers in Red Weather). The reading is most likely going to be The Russian Doll Case, and if you’ve read it you will know what a challenge it will be to perform!

In other news, here’s my review of Override, a play by Stacey Gregg at Amazing Stories!

http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/11/theatre-review-override-stacey-gregg/