Having been part of Pensive Federation’s Significant Other Project I was over the moon to be on board for their 2013 Collective Project. In reality, I was pretty terrified.
It began with the Inspiration night. Nerves soon turned to excitement when I saw some familiar faces and we got started. I know people say it regularly but it is genuinely like a big family. The Pensive Federation create a safe, warm and supportive atmosphere to work in with a group of giving and humble collaborators. There is a definite lack of ego and a sense we are in it together working towards something very special. From nothing we were going to create eight brand new and unique plays. There was something magical about this…yes I did say magical…because it was.
There was a male cast of six and a female cast of six. I instantly felt comfortable with the women I was working with. We had a brilliant connection from the beginning. All five women were open, talented and fun. It was incredible how quickly we bonded. My ‘comrades’ were Alexandra Donnachie, Caroline Short, Cassandra Bond, Dilek Latif and Rhiannon Story…The Z FORCE!
We had one weekend of workshops where we worked with four male directors and four male writers and developed characters and ideas…some of which ended up in the final scripts.
The next Thursday we did a first read through of the scripts. During the following weekend we were directed and the following Monday was our tech and dress run. Tuesday was the first night. Boom!
The biggest question for me was when are we going to learn the words? I just kept thinking it must be possible…they did it last year. It must be possible.
The initial workshops were absolutely brilliant. I loved every minute. As an actor it is like heaven to be able to play and improvise and develop characters for a full weekend. I think it is imperative to be working with people you trust due to the constraints of the project. It was surprising for me how quickly I trusted these five other women I was working with. We had an amazing chemistry when acting together. At the end of the second day of workshops I realised I knew very little about them personally and yet creatively I felt like we had been working together for years. The wrong directors may have found this a little intimidating…particularly our enthusiastic renditions of 5ive however we were lucky our talented directors and writers were up for the challenge… with only a small hint of fear in their eyes!
Each director directed us for four hours on a different play from the one they had workshopped. The girls’ collective nouns and four plays were Party, Coven, Pack and Congregation. The rehearsal weekend was certainly more intense than the previous weekend. It was great fun but very focused. I was quickly reminded that panic is a total waste of energy. It was my job to stay present, positive and trust that the producers were in control of the process.
It was the slick organisation of the producers that made us feel safe and prepared. They made us feel calm and reassured and yet they were firm when they needed to be, which was great. Props and set were fully organised and the fine details added to it being a well-oiled machine. Neil would always do a full warm up with all twelve actors – for me this was so important. It centred us and connected the twelve actors. As well as a physical and vocal warm up he would also do some relaxation and positive visualisation exercises which were invaluable to calm us down. Having said that, for weeks after I missed his pop video warm up…I won’t go into any more detail than that!
When it came to our first night I was scared but adrenaline was running high and I felt ready. For me personally as an actor, I found it exhilarating that I had to be totally in the moment. There was too much to remember to be worrying about what came next. I trusted the girls I was working with and it became an exercise in listening more than anything else for me. Running each piece together along with full costume changes was remarkable. Once the male and female casts came together the process was complete and we were proud of what we offered the audience as a whole company. Without a doubt it was one of the best projects I have ever been part of and I feel very lucky to have worked with such talented and wonderful people.