A forty page monologue that sprawls across a century or two, lurching in and out of insane asylums, spitting out mad doctors, rapists, tortured parents and mystical fishermen, driven by a purgatory-trapped soul and a young man fighting to manage his schizophrenia.
In early June 2016, Goldele Rayment sent me a copy of Morgan Stern by the playwright Gina Schien. She described it as a “darling new one man show” and thought I might be interested in performing it under her direction. I read the play and my first impression was that it was way too big for me. An hour and a quarter on stage alone with just a chair??
I started work on it immediately.
The truth and tragedy of Morgan Stern has kept me in a trance for over a year now with a preview season at Blood Moon theatre in late 2016 and another preview at Belvoir Street in mid 2017. I keep digging into it in rehearsal and in performance it is still a monster to be wrestled every night. Sometimes I feel like I come out on top, other nights I creep home telling myself it’s only a play and it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes it runs by itself through my 3a.m. subconscious, the characters taking on a disturbing life of their own, teasing me on.
In a week or two I land in London to sniff for the vestige of the dirty semi savage life of early 1800’s London where the Gent at the centre of Morgan Stern lived and died. Then its on to Edinburgh for a 3 week run. Exciting and frightening.
Graeme Rhodes – Principal Actor playing The Gent in Morgan Stern
Showing directors a new script can be humiliating and dangerous, like running naked through traffic. All your bits are in full view but you’re probably just a distraction. And if a director decides your play isn’t terrible and they want to direct it, they’ll probably kill it with bad casting.
Goldele liked Morgan Stern but I could still hear car horns honking. Why? Because no one could play this character. ‘What the hell was I thinking?What? What?’
Goldele said to calm down, she knew this guy. And she did. Graeme Rhodes filled that role with high grade petrol and took it for a beautiful long spin. Audiences ate from his hand and then got to their feet. My job was done.
Only one thing left to do now, Company of Rogues said. ‘Have a burger and Corona to celebrate?’ No – take it to Edinburgh. We’ll take a play about madness to the craziest festival on earth. We’ll work our butts off and organise everything while you go on holidays and take it easy.
And they did.
So I’m not just fully clothed again, I’m now wearing a top hat.
When I began a Masters of Arts Management at the Sydney Opera House almost 2 years ago I did so hoping that the study would lead me to new opportunities to work with creative people and their projects. It was there that I got to know Goldele Rayment. At the time I honestly hadn’t thought about returning to the theatre world (I spent my teen years on the stage) but there is a very good chance, that very deep down, there is a part of me that was yearning to be here.
Goldele invited me to see Morgan Stern in late 2016 and I was struck by the power of the production, even in the simple setting it had at Blood Moon. I knew that there was something here I wanted to explore and that deserved to be seen by many more people – locally and beyond.
But when I first starting working with Company of Rogues I was hoping for a small local festival and finding ways to introduce Morgan Stern to Australian audiences. When the opportunity to join Siren Theatre Co in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival came up I took it as a sign that this new Australian play had to go – there was no turning back!
You see it’s not just the way Goldele breathes life into a compelling story, or the honest beauty of Gina Schien’s words or, indeed, Graeme Rhodes’ transformative performance that has inspired me to join the Rogues – it’s the collective passion and belief that Morgan Stern has the power to genuinely move audiences.
When Graeme and I started rehearsing Morgan Stern we always knew we wanted to take this show further than just a 2 week season in a tiny, make-shift ‘indie’ space. In fact, we kept saying to each other “this is a preview season”.
At that stage the plan in my head was to spend 2018 networking and submitting the show to various venues for 2019. Going to Edinburgh hadn’t entered my head, until Kate Gaul did a call out for companies to share a venue with her and Siren Theatre Company. Knowing the quality of her work as a director and skill as a producer I knew we would be in good company. When I brought it to the team and asked if we should go I was surprised by the emphatic YES from everyone.
Still unsure I posted on Facebook, asking for other peoples’ experiences at Edinburgh. To my surprise I immediately got a private message from someone in the industry offering a couple thousand dollars seed money. Having already made a small profit last year, we took this a sign from the universe that we should proceed, and proceed we have!
I’ve never put so much time and energy into one production and I’m having a lot of firsts with Morgan Stern. I’ve never remounted a production before and I have never toured overseas.
Gina, Graeme and I spent quite a bit of time dramaturging the script before we started rehearsals this year. I was unsure how much time we would need to remount or how much Graeme had retained from the last production. Graeme, being the consummate, hard working professional he is, was almost word perfect with the freshly edited version of the script at our first rehearsal.
It is such a complex and layered text that this period of rehearsal has allowed us to go deeper and keep refining the physical journey he takes through the story and his psychological arc as a character.
Goldele Rayement. Director, Morgan Stern.
Morgan Stern can be seen on stage at Belvoir Theatre (downstairs) on July 1 & 2, 2017. Tickets on sale now from www.belvoir.com.
Don’t miss the show in Edinburgh – C Venues Primo (Hill St Theatre) from August 6-28, 2017. Tickets on sale now at C The Festival.
I’ve been having a creative crisis, a loss of faith. I must admit that at the age of 36 I am lucky to never have experienced this before. Being an independent theatre maker is incredibly stressful and takes emotional fortitude as well as a multitude of skills both creative and practical.
Theatre has been the biggest joy in my life since I was 9 years old. It has been my only career choice since I was 12. When I directed my first show at university it felt like every thing clicked into place. THIS was what I was supposed to be doing. Since that time my sole focus in life professionally has been to direct theatre and be recognised as a professional theatre maker. My drive has been immense. It has trampled romantic relationships, it has weathered the crappy retail jobs and been my constant companion through sever mental illness and homelessness.
There is a unpleasant side to my creativity, my ego. Ego tries to take over, it feeds jealousy of others creative achievements, it makes me bitter and it tells me my success lays in being recognised by “important people” and securing jobs at the “major companies”. Ego whips me into a frenzy in the middle of the night worrying over the possible results of grants and programming submissions. It takes what was once a labor of love and transforms it into a heavy mantle on my shoulders until I fear I will collapse under it.
That’s where I have been this January. I’ve questioned if I really want to keep doing this hard, hard work. It’s made me feel desperate to grasp at any opportunity that might move me forward to “success” and fearful my whole year of plans will fall a part.
Yesterday was hard. I suspected someone was stealing a significant opportunity from me. I felt devastated and I sent an SMS to a good friend and fellow artist saying “I feel like throwing in the towel”. If it’s one thing I have learnt over the years it is REACH OUT. No matter how alone I feel, I’m actually not. She responded saying “No! We will help each other through it. It will be OK”.
After than something in me shifted. I realised I had lost sight of why I make theatre. Why I work so hard. It’s because I love it. It’s because the act of creation fills me with joy and wonder. Because making theatre is how I examine and better understand the world we live in. It’s because I love sharing what I have made with YOU.
Returning to the core of who I am as an artist allows me to free myself. If I spend the rest of my life making little, self-funded shows that connect to little audiences, that is enough. When I remember why I make theatre I release the pressure to succeed and make space to create. Most importantly I find peace.
Company of Rogues is an emerging independent theatre company based in Sydney and we are looking for a new partner in crime! You will work in close partnership with the Artistic Director to program, manage and develop all aspects of the company. This is a part-time, (currently) an unpaid role with a profit share offered on productions.
WHO ARE YOU?
This role will suit a creative and entrepreneurial emerging producer/arts manager who wants to have ownership of an exciting new company. You will be a focused individual who takes initiative and finds creative solutions to get things done. You may be a recent graduate or looking for a new career experience. You may have a background in or qualifications in Theatre/Performance, Arts Administration, Event Management or Business. You may also have a creative practice such as lighting, set, or sound design you wish to contribute to the company.
Most importantly you DREAM BIG and are PASSIONATE about theatre.
This is a broad role that will be tailored to fit the right person, who has the desire to establish a real career in the arts.
Tasks may include, but are not exclusive to:
Fundraising and sponsorship development
Grant and funding application writing
Production Management (schedules, equipment and venue sourcing and logistics)
Staffing and Talent recruitment and supervision
Front of house management
Budget preparation and financial management
Marketing and PR
NOTE: You will not be required to perform all of these tasks; they will be shared with the Artistic Director.
Please address the ESSENTIAL criteria and any relevant DESIRABLE Criteria
Experience and/or qualifications in Theatre/Live Production or Event Management or Arts Management or business management.
Strong written and verbal communication skills including document preparation and copy writing
Strong Organizational Skills
Fast Learner and confident undertaking new tasks
Stakeholder relationship development and management
Marketing and PR for events
Stage/Production Management experience
Grant writing and fundraising
To apply please email your CV and cover letter addressing the ESSENTIAL criteria and any relevant DESIRABLE Criteria to Goldele Rayment Goldele@gmail.com.
For further information please contact Goldele Rayment on 0448 340 034 or email@example.com. Applications close 5 pm 4th February.
“I stopped acting in 2007 because the feelings that where coming up where so overwhelming…”
Goldele Rayment, who will perform “Sylvia” and is co-directing The Typists, talks about her relationship to acting.