Monday, September 28, 2009

Review for Everything Will Be Ok

In Everything Will Be Okay Sayraphim Lothian joins Robert Reid to perform a sixty minute show of tabletop puppetry. The performance is the surreal conception of Reid, artistic director of Melbourne’s Theatre in Decay.

As I entered the theatre for the performance, the usher advised that I should, “Listen with my eyes, and see with my ears.” I’m still not exactly sure what that means, however I can say that the visual experience of the show is very pleasing. An interesting combination of pre-recorded voiceovers, Thom Yorke style sounds, numerous kitsch props and meticulous timing, Everything Will Be Okay is a unique and engaging production.

While the visual aspects of the show are superb, the story itself is somewhat difficult. The plot follows an expatriate Australian named Doug who lands in Peru where he joins a political revolutionary group. While Doug struggles to understand the existential type dilemmas his life is full of, his girlfriend is humorously psychoanalyzed by a fat cat in sunglasses. Fractured narrative is tricky in film and literature, and even more so in theatre where the audience needs significant markers to follow the story. Reid acknowledges this fact and does attempt to give a sense to the disjunction; however I still found myself confused at times.

The show is however very funny, poking fun at Kevin Rudd and various pop culture phenomena. The size of the audience and proximity to the puppets makes for an intimate setting where you feel performed to rather than performed at. At the end of the hour I came away thinking that Everything Will Be Okay is unlike anything else you’re likely to catch at this year’s Fringe.

by Regan Brantley

The show is an exploration of the form, utalising different kinds of puppetry and creating beautiful vignettes. It's like a flash animation on stage. If you're thinking of coming, seats are limited, so book now!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fringe Fringe Fringe

Our Fringe show Everything Will Be Ok is going really well. We're playing to extremely appreciative audiences, they hang around afterwards and ask lots of questions, about the ideas behind it, about the puppetry involved, about how long it took to build, all sorts of things. They tell us that it's absorbing and magical, which is what we were going for. It's always so wonderful when things work out the way you'd planned. If you're in Melbourne any time during the next week, come along! 9:15 at 45 Downstairs (little Collin St, Melbourne) Weds to Sat next week or 7:15 tonight.

Here is a photo of one of the scenes, where Debbie is talking to Ayn Rand and Jose Arguelleus.

A couple more shots of the show can be found on Flickr here.

The opening for the exhibition I've curated for Fringe, Echo's Lost was also beautiful, a number of people braved the rain and the cold to stand under Circa's awning to watch the unveiling. I don't want to post complete photos, I don't want to spoil the surprise, but I thought I might give you a taste of the show.
(From left to right, Sayraphim Lothian (half out of shot),
Penny Neil (back) and Angelica East (front)

The artists involved are

SaraMae Belle Page, Allira Cornell, Angelica East, Claire Falkingham, Vanessa Heaton, Soncha Iacono, Sayraphim Lothian, Rebecca Miller, Penny Neil, Ilona Nelson, Roslyn Quin and Beth Robinson

So come along and see some beautiful art. The front window of Circa Vintage Store, 102 Gertrude St, Fitzroy.

And over at Miss Pen Pen's blog, she's posted about a wonderful book called Yarnbombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, which features photos of the Doiley tree outside her shop, Cottage Industrys, on Gertrude St. It looks like an awesome book and I'm heading out to get a copy this week.

If in Melbourne, you can pick up your own copy from Artisan Books on, you guessed it, Gertrude St across from Dantes (and you can check out Echo's Lost at the same time :) otherwise you can get it from Amazon here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Everything Will Be Ok.

So, last night was opening and it went pretty damn well. There was an audience of 6, and for a show that only seats 12, that’s pretty damn good.

The biggest thing for me was that last night was my first ever night performing. I come from a visual arts background, and although I’ve worked on a number of theatre shows, it’s only ever been making props or puppets, running around backstage, that sort of thing. I’ve never wanted to be an actor, never wanted to be a performer of any kind. I’ve only performed once with puppets (weird, I know, for someone who’s so keen on making them) and that was to a friendly, tiny audience after a puppeteering class.

Never having really been on stage, I’ve always had stage fright at the very thought of doing it. So when Rob suggested that we would do the puppeteering, that was a little nerve racking. And the first couple of rehearsals were worry-causing, as I moved Doug here and the moon there, I wondered how the hell I was ever going to remember all of it, let alone do it competently.

But last night was surprisingly good. We set up, costumed up, turned off the house lights (the normal, every day lights for those not in the Know) and on with the theatre lights and started our pre-show pattern. People filled in, and I wasn’t a bit nervous. It helped, I think, that 4 out of the 6 people were friends, but the two people I didn’t know didn’t faze me. I knew what I was doing, I knew what needed to be done next, and if I didn’t we have a running sheet which reminds us. I was confidant, and it was, as the title of the show suggests, all Ok.

I think having a recorded soundtrack really helps. One, I’m not actually doing the voices, which would be a whole other layer of complication, plus there’s only two of us and although Rob’s pretty good at accents, I’m not. In fact, when we first met, about 9 years ago, I could only do one. And it was a Drunken English Pirate. Quite specific, I grant you, but it was the only one I’d worked out. Now a days, with much more exposure to theatre guys, accents, telly and the like, I’m a little better at a couple, but nowhere near good enough to pull off half the roles in a puppet show. The other reason I’m a fan of recorded soundtracks is that it ensures that every night it’s going to be exactly the same. The music will dip and soar as it did every time in rehearsal, the voices will come in at exactly the same time every night and say exactly the same thing. This makes it much smoother and easier for all involved. It also makes the pressure on the actors less. Instead of having to commit to 6 weeks of rehearsals and then a 2 or 3 week run, we asked them to turn up to Josh’s place one Saturday afternoon and we recorded the whole lot in a couple of hours. Go Josh!

I was listening to a random but well known comedian on the radio the other day, and he was saying that after performing, he gets this huge buzz and can’t sleep, especially on good nights. And it’s the tradition in New York after opening night on broadway that they go to a cafe and drink champaign, waiting for the reviews to be published in the morning. Armed with this knowledge, I did wonder what it would be like once we’d taken our final bows.

So last night, we finished, and they applauded and we started packing up as they started filling out. There was a few who hung around, including one of the women we didn’t know, and talked about the show for a while, and then we continued packed up. Packing up takes about half an hour, so I had time to think. It had been a huge day, I’d opened an exhibition I’ve curated earlier in the night (Echo’s Lost, in the front window of Circa Vintage Store, 102 Gertrude St, Fitzroy) and then we’d gone on to preview Everything. I was glad it had gone so well, and glad that the audience liked it. I was interested in the feedback, that the plot was actually followable (we had been less than certain on that point) and that they felt it was magical. I was glad we’d made something so beautiful, and was super glad it had worked like we’d hoped. But I wasn’t over the moon, or on a high or anything else. I was pleased but tired, like after a nice day at the beach (but, you know, without the sunburn or the sand in your knickers) and I just wanted to go home.

On Broadway they celebrate with bottles of champaign, bunches of flowers and staying out all night long. We drove home, stopping at the Sev to buy a icecream, and went to bed.

Rockstars we may not be, but gosh darn it, we make a good show.

Everything Will Be Ok Details on Melbourne Fringe website

(original post on Terrible Comfort's blog)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

tutorial - making felt finger puppets of well known people

This one is so simple and quick, which is the way I like 'em. All you need is some suitable coloured felt and some thread and scissors.

This time the brief was a finger puppet of our own Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, but you can use this for anyone at all. To make a finger puppet of someone, or indeed a doll or anything else, really you want the boiled down, essence of that person. You don't want to have to spend a year adding hundreds of the tiniest details to convey the person when you could do it with a couple of stitches in a line.

So to find a simple image that's recognisable as your chosen celebrity, the easiest way is to find a professional who's already done it for you. Political cartoons in newspapers, for example, are perfect for any politician, a quick google search of "Kevin Rudd Cartoon" brings up heaps of examples. Spend a little time looking over them, you want a simple, not really detailed drawing that perfectly captures your celeb. If you don't recognise the person in the drawing, don't use it.

For Kev, I'm going to use this image:

It's by Mark Knight from the Herald Sun, and it comes from here.

My next suggestion is to redraw the face for yourself. Even if you have poor drawing skills (like me), a quick drawing of it will help you understand the shapes you're about to create. I copied the shape of the head, and then drew the hair over the top of that. Don't worry if it's not Van Gogh, no one's gunna see it (you know, unless you put it on your blog :)

Even though Mr Knight's cartoon is a simplified version of our Kev, I decided to simplify it further. Really all that's needed to suggest Kev is the facial shape, the blonde styled hair and the glasses. A suit will help suggest him further, but that comes a bit later on in the process.

So I've cut out his face shape in a pale pink felt, and then copied the hair shape in yellow. Then I'll stitch the hair to the head in tiny yellow stitches.

Next is the glasses. I liked the idea of the fringe falling over the glasses rim, so I stitched it thus.

Eyeballs are next, a couple of tiny bright blue stitches is all you need. And that's it for the face. Now all you need is the body. You can use a finger sized tube of felt, or for this project I wanted him on a glove. The suit is a blue rectangle of felt with the corners snipped off and hot glued down and the tie is two red triangles.


(The clever ones among you will notice that this finished Kev is a different version than the example one in the tute, please don't send me emails about it! It's because there were quite a number of Kevs made and this was just the one I happened to photographed when finished. You get all get a gold star each!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tutorial - gold leafing and gold leafing round objects

Gold leafing seems pretty tricky, but it's actually really simple. For the puppet play I'm working on we decided that we'll copper leaf some sticks, to give them a fancy edge. Which explains the photos :)

You'll need:
gold leaf (or silver or copper or whatever)
gold leaf adesive (can be purchased where ever gold leaf is sold)
matt varnish
a paintbrush you don't mind ruining
your object
and if your object is round, then some plastic food wrap

Step one:
Grab your object and paint the glue on. It'll go on blue/white, which makes it easy to see where you've covered and where you've missed.

Once the item is covered, you need to put it aside to dry. Once it dries, it will go clear and you'll know it's ready to use. Don't fret, it dries tacky or sticky (no pun intended) and that's how the foil sticks to the object.

Step two:
Make a cup of tea and have a bit of a sit while you wait for it to dry.

Step three:
Once the object's glue as gone clear, lay it down on newspapers on your worksurface. If you are foiling for rounded objects, lay out a big strip of plastic food wrap.

step four:
Now you need the gold foil out of it's packet. Make sure all windows and doors are shut, even the slightest breeze will make this whole process almost impossible. Open the packet and take out the whole lot very carefully. There's always paper layers between each sheet. Peel one sheet off, then carefully place the rest of the foil sheets back in the packet. If your object is much smaller than the foil sheet (the sheets are less than A5) then it's probably best to cut the sheet to size and place the rest of it back in the packet. Here I've cut the foil a bit wider than I've estimated the diameter of the stick will be.

Step four part B:
Again, for rounded objects, I've laid the copper foil in an approximation of the shape of the stick on the wrap. If you have a flat item, lay the foil gently down onto the item. As soon as the foil touches the glue, it'll be stuck there forever. But the appearance of foil is always a little wrinkly and that's ok. You can use a clean paint brush to smooth the foil down, but you'll probably find that it gets sticky with glue very quickly, and then the foil will stick to the brush more than it sticks to the item. Try using a little square of plastic wrap that you can throw out and get a clean one when it gets sticky from the glue. Which it will. Trust me.

Step five:
Here is the clever bit for rounded stuff. Place the item down onto the foil and then pick up the plastic, item, foil and all. You can now wrap the foil around the stick carefully using the plastic to keep your fingers away from the glue. If there's any spaces on the item that hasn't been covered in foil, you can cut a little more from the sheet and place it in the space.

Step six:
Now remove the item from the plastic wrap and run your fingers up and down it, smoothing down any foil that might still be sticking up a little.

Step seven:
Paint the varnish on, which will protect the foil and thus your object. Place it aside for the varnish to dry, and you're done!

Monday, September 7, 2009

I am in love with both of these artists

I was thinking about things I could do with my classes today, and I remembered somewhere on Craftster (I think) a girl was translating her childhood drawings into dolls. They looked incredible! So I decided to find some children's drawings on the net so I could start thinking about doing it as well.

I discovered Lizette Greco who creates softies from her children's drawings. Check these out:

images from CultCase

How wonderful are they? I'm so sold on this as an idea. There's this great resource called Build Your Wild Self where you can make an almalgum animal from elements from heaps of different animals, it's really cool. So you could do that with the class and then make one of them, but then there's issues of jealousy as to whose gets made, so maybe building it all with the class is a better idea.

I also found Yeondoo Jung, who used to be a kindergarten teacher and he collected something like 1700 drawings over the years. He then analyzed them all, and decided on which ones he was going to recreate. He got teenagers from the local high school to be in them, got fashion designers to make the costumes and created all the sets himself.

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
(images from Yeondoo's site)

How awesome are they?
I love children's drawings, and I'm really looking forward to being in the classroom. I'm really looking forward to being inspired by them, and learning from them as much as they're learning from me!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

When you have the day off...

When it's no longer raining outside,
(another prop for Everything Will Be Ok, our Fringe puppet show. More details here, from the Fringe website)
When the sun is shining and it's the weekend, the wearing of loudly patterned clothing is required, to announce to the world that you are indeed on your day off.

Items such as the following is approprate:
This was made by Becclebee of Marjory Jane from an old 60s curtain she found in an op shop. How good is the material? It closes with a wrapping motion to the front of the skirt, which is decorated with buttons Becclebee inherited from our grandmother. It's an awesome pattern that she copied from a skirt she bought in Nepal. I'm a big fan of the skirt and the pattern, which is why I've ended up with it. Becclebee and I have a continuous flowing wardrobe between us.

And once you've annouced to the world, all day, that you're having the day off, what could be better than cooking yourself a delicious dinner? Because I wanted to try something new, I turned to the Handmade Help recipe book, and picked the Butter Chicken recipe from Karen Roberts (page 60 for those of you who already have the book).
The dinner turned out beautifully, and I'm really happy with it! I added in mushrooms and tofu, because I'm such a fan, but the recipe base is awesome. I'm not going to tell you how I made it however, the whole book, stuffed full of loving family recipes, will only cost you $20 from the website, and you'll also be supporting a good cause. All profits from the book go to the victims of this years bushfires. So go buy one and then you'll have the ability to make these wonderful family recipes for yourself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

POstal goodness

The other day I recieved something wonderful in the mail.

I'd been talking to a friend of mine's mother, who knits her grandson all sorts of clothes, and I jokingly said to her "Oh, you should knit me some socks while you're at it!" She laughed, I laughed, and the story was forgotten.

Until the other day, when I recieved this in the mail:

How beautiful are they? They're actually purple and orange, the camera couldn't capture the colour properly. HOw wonderful is she, to have gone away and knitted me socks?

I was so touched. So I'm going to make her some jam in return.

In random news, my article on how to organise an exhibition is now up at Artstuff ( If you haven't seen it already you can view it here.

And the lovely lady behind DELicious Designz featured my marionette a couple of months ago (I only just found it) so thank you! You can see the post here and check out some of her wonderful jewellery at the same time...

Echo's Lost is bowling along nicely, I have about half the works on my desk as we speak. I know I say this every time, but it's going to be such a beautiful exhibition! You can see all the details on the Fringe website here. Drop by and check it out, it goes for the whole 3 weeks of Fringe...