Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips with Theatre Producer Robin Rayner

Robin in Rehearsal

Robin in Rehearsal. Photo credit Pamela Raith.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”

Despite being in the relative spring-time of his career, producer Robin Rayner has already gained a reputation as both one of the most sought-after and best-liked members of the UK theatre industry.

Robin’s work spans the stage’s most grandiose heights (as of this month, he is the Associate General Manager of the prestigious Olivier Awards) to its most intimate, providing a platform for bold new work through his production company TREMers and a voice for independent artists by way of the provocative showcase Political Pageantry.

“To create something (however large or small) is a wonderful thing—to excite and inspire, contagious.”

Together with TREMers co-founder Tom O’Brien (currently Resident Director of West End hit Half a Sixpence), Robin seems to have mastered the art of theatre production and its delicate demands of successfully gaining Arts Council Funding, receiving 5-star reviews and multiple award nominations.

“Groundbreaking theatrical productions can be created through spoken word and the power of imagination.”

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#BreatheMoveReact: New Beginnings

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Happy New Year!

This is my favourite time of the year. Some people live for December—they love the carols in the shops, the Christmas lights, the parties, and the buzzy lead up to the holidays. Me, I adore January! The renewed zest with which we examine our health, dreams, and relationships excites and drives me. It’s like being given that new notebook that is pristinely blank and waiting for you to create whatever you desire on its pages!! (Am I the only one to get excited about a visit to Officeworks?!)

Self-evaluation and goal setting should not be confined only to the start of the year, but it feels great start a new cycle off with fresh intentions, goals, and loads of hope and determination. I take an hour and write down everything I’d like for my year to hold, where I’d like to be, and what I’d like to release, etc. I encourage you to do the same!

On the other side of things, I definitely enjoyed myself over the holiday season and will be looking at getting my body back to tip top shape for the upcoming year as quickly as possible. It is imperative as actors to be ready to go always.

Check out my tips and the Bust your Butt workout vlog below.

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5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Producer Brian Cobb

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It is said belief and imagination manifest reality—supplement this formula with an infectious enthusiasm, plus a rigorous work ethic, and you could very well find yourself building a vision and executing a dream.

Finding one’s feet in any profession is challenging, and the Australian film and television industry is no exception. Success is often measured by the notion of ‘right time, right place’ and the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is infamously heard amongst the creative masses, who are often inspired by an itch that feverishly needs to be scratched.

Brian Cobb, Founder and Creative Producer of Cobbstar Productions

Brian Cobb, Founder and Creative Producer of Cobbstar Productions

Fueled by heartfelt conviction and enthralling intuition, Brian Cobb, founder and creative producer of Cobbstar Productions, is one of Australia’s liveliest up-and-coming film and television producers. Cobb, originally from Canberra, had a hankering, which led him to Sydney to study Acting at the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art (AADA). After graduation he toured the country in many theatrical shows and starred in a number of short films, as well as a four-year stint as acting teacher at AADA. However, his behind-the-scenes fascination began to surface, and Cobb was accepted into the prestigious Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) where he studied Producing and Screen Business. Once completed, a surplus of opportunities materialised for the passionate alumnus, and in 2012 and 2013 his two short films The Last Match and The Advisor were selected as part of the Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Cinemas Des Antipodes’.

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John OHare Studios: Let’s Pretend – Emotions

Greetings!

FullSizeRender (15)Remember last month we finished the blog on a cliffhanger? “Do actors feel what the character is feeling, whilst onstage in front of an audience?”

In psychology, emotion is often defined as a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behavior. Many professional actors I work with admit that this never happens to them whilst performing. Emotional things do happen, yes, but not emotional identification with character. At any rate, not in performance. It may occur briefly as part of the rehearsal process, however, not onstage in front of an audience.

This raises a number of vital questions doesn’t it?

Let’s have a look at the first question from my last blog.

Why is the actor in performance not experiencing inner emotional alignments with the character being portrayed?

In a bit of luck, I had lunch with my friend, well known London-based Australian actress Frances O’Connor (The Missing, Mr Selfridge, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Conjuring 2), who is currently in Sydney filming the groundbreaking ABC series, Cleverman, created by Ryan Griffen, and we got the chance to discuss this very topic.

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Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips with Award-winning British Actress Adi Alfa

Photograph courtesy of Chima Luke Okifor

Photograph courtesy of Chima Luke Okifor

“Every day is new and unexpected. You walk in having blind faith, determination, and passion for a product you know you can deliver on, but at the same time trying to convince everyone else you can too!”Adi Alfa

This month, British actress Adi Alfa brings us her 5 Top Tops to success— a journey which has seen her overcome personal hardships and limited opportunities to become a multi award-winning actress, listed as one of 2016’s Most Influential Creatives. This, however, is just the beginning for Adi, who has not only founded her own production company, BOSSS Media, this year, but continues to write and produce her own comedy, drama, and action work as well as star in two upcoming feature films (to be announced).

Her secret? Don’t doubt, do!

“What excites me as a writer and actress is the ability to create the world I choose, and the people and beings I desire. Creative freedom is such a wonderful thing!”read more

#BreatheMoveReact: Vocal Fitness

Prudence Holloway - Actor, Singer, Voice Teacher.

Prudence Holloway – Actor, Singer, Voice Teacher.

This month the worst thing happened to me: I lost my voice. On set. This has never happened to me. I am diligent about health and have a killer immune system – if I do say so myself. The last eight weeks have been a very busy time and my tenacity weakened. My health became a second priority as I rushed from A to B and sleep was put aside in order to find more hours in a day. I also travelled from summer to winter for five days and my body just shut down. I wasn’t gonna stop, so it stopped for me! My voice, unfortunately, was the main casualty.

Luckily, I had the wonderful Prudence Holloway on set with me. Singer, actor, and voice teacher, Pru helped me manage my vocal performance with little strain and maximum result. I thought I would know what to do in a situation like this, but my sick, spluttery, foggy brain was so clouded I couldn’t think of anything.

It got me thinking – imagine if I didn’t have Pru on set with me! I’m sure I would have pulled it together somehow, but wouldn’t a go-to list of what to do when such a disaster strikes be awesome to have on hand?

So that is what I am giving you this month!

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5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Actor Nicholas Hope

Nicholas Hope gives a brave and sometimes astonishing performance as the naive “wild child.”

– David Stratton, Variety

Nicholas Hope in "Gallipoli"

Nicholas Hope in “Gallipoli”

Pristine oceans, lush rainforests, majestic bushland, and enchanting deserts – this is the vast Australian landscape. In the words of the band Icehouse, the Great Southern Land,” in all its mystical remoteness, has spawned the imaginations of some of the world’s finest storytellers.

There is no denying Australian actors are highly respected in the industry. With their strong work ethic and innate authenticity, they hone the craft with admirable conviction, endlessly raising the bar for their peers. Some join the glitterati of Hollywood whilst others blossom domestically – each journey equally enchanting, and the work beautifully understated.

Nicholas Hope is the quintessence of this, with his distinct features and glorious versatility, Hope first came to our attention in 1993 as Bubby in Rolf De Heer’s acclaimed feature film Bad Boy Bubby. The film was Hope’s first feature and earned him the Best Actor award at the Australian Film Industry Awards (now the AACTA Awards). Thirty years later, his career now spans Film, TV and Theatre with a surplus of distinguished credits including, The Daughter, Truth, Rake, Rogue Nation, and Gallipoli, along with performances at some of Sydney’s most prominent venues, namely The Opera House and Sydney Theatre Company. Nicholas is also an accomplished director, teacher, and writer, having written many profound works, including his 2004 memoir entitled Brushing the Tip of Fame.

From “wild child” of the screen to celebrated author, the exquisitely sincere Nicholas Hope is undoubtedly a true artist, a masterpiece who channels his talents in a multitude of ways solidifying his place amongst the influential creative Australian landscape.

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5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Casting Director Kirsty McGregor

“I greatly admire actors who have the determination and passion to stick it through rejection”.

 Success in any industry is challenging, yet when your chosen vocation consists of an enterprise built entirely on the lucrative world of entertainment, one’s obstacles exist in another stratosphere. Throw in the scarcity of Australian show business and you have yourself an audacious professional recipe.

Casting director Kirsty McGregor is the crème de le crème of the Australian film and television industry. Originally an actress, in 2001 her passion for talent ignited the birth of McGregor Casting in her modest one bedroom flat in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. One year later, Kirsty’s strong work ethic was reaping the awards, and she opened her office in the Sydney suburb of Stanmore. Fast forward 14 years, 68 TV and Film credits, a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, a Casting Guild Australia (CGA) Award winner, and two time nominee for the Casting Society of America Awards, Kirsty now runs her business from a deluxe warehouse space in the chic suburb of Redfern – home to McGregor Casting since 2011.

With the grander space came the larger projects, and Kirsty has been appointed local casting director for Thor: Ragnarok, currently filming in Queensland, Australia and Mary Magdalene, directed by Garth Davis and starring Joaquin Phoenix. McGregor first worked with Davis as lead casting director on his first feature film LionStarring Nicole Kidman, the film received glowing reviews at its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016 and is due for a USA release on November 25, 2016.

The dynamic team now comprises of six key players (including Ollie, a majestic Cocker Spaniel – aka the resident “Casting Dog”), and Kirsty’s determination has undoubtedly established McGregor Casting as a prominent fixture in the daily lives of local and international acting agents.lion

Here at Casting Networks, we are proud sponsors of the Casting Guild Australia Awards and can say wholeheartedly it is hard to imagine a time without the incomparable McGregor Casting. This year a plethora of CGA Award nominations have been added to their list and the winners will be announced on November 18, 2016. With nominations in seven categories, including Best Casting for a Feature Film, Best Casting for a TV Commercial, Best Casting for a Short Film, two nominations for Best Casting in a Telemovie, Best Casting in a TV Comedy and Best Casting in a TV Drama, it is evident that Kirsty McGregor and her troupe have sealed their place as Australia’s go-to Casting Agency.

On behalf of everyone here at Casting Networks Australia we would like to congratulate McGregor Casting and wish Kirsty and her crew the best of luck at the awards.


Alixandra: As a young actress why did you decide to take the leap from performing to casting?

Kirsty McGregor: I worked a decent amount for a young actor. I was very fortunate to work on some great projects and for some amazing companies and networks. But I realised that there’s no guarantee of “working your way up’.” I had actor friends who were AMAZING, the best in the biz, and selling wine in their 40s between gigs. I just decided that whilst I loved the industry, I wanted to find something for myself which didn’t depend so much on my exact age at any given time and what I looked like. I greatly admire actors who have the determination and passion to stick it through rejection – I just wanted something more stable for myself.

A: Starting your own business certainly has its challenges. What are some of the obstacles you faced in the early days of your start-up?

KM: I was very fortunate to have some wonderful clients early on and friends who held my hand and gave me advice – like the wonderful Antonia Murphy at Fountainhead Casting. She encouraged me and made me believe I could go it alone. But we still face obstacles! And I still face rejection! Casting is still a very freelance job, like acting – there are still jobs we would LOVE to do that naturally go to other people. I think one of the greatest constant worries is employing people. We are a business, but still work from job to job. It could dry up at any time! You worry as much about your employees and making sure you can pay them as you do about yourself.

A: Describe a typical day in the McGregor Casting office?

KM: Can’t – sorry! It varies so much from day to day. And we like to retain some mystery.

A: What is some advice you can give actors on scoring a role and staying pro-active?

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Ollie the Casting Dog

KM: Try not to think of it as scoring a role! Think of the audition as the job, not something you need to ‘get through’. If you can, come in with something to offer . . . come in and PLAY the role, don’t try and get the role. It’s a very powerful, positive, and refreshing way to approach an audition.

A: You have a number of exciting projects which you have been signed to, including Thor:Ragnarok and Mary Magdalene. How important is it for actors to have complete profiles on Casting Networks in order for them to maximise their chances of landing an audition?

KM: We use Casting Networks every hour of every day. I cannot express how important a tool it is for us. We brief on it, we book sessions via it, and we send every casting session to directors on it! Not only is it important for an actor be on the site, it is important to keep your CV and headshot UP TO DATE. We send a link to every director; they see ALL your information. What is the point of spending money on a new headshot (for example) and then not updating it so that directors will actually see it?


Alixandra is a graduate of the Actors College of Theatre and Television Sydney and the Terry Schreiber Studio and Theatre in NYC. She has also studied at the Eric Morris Workshop in LA and the Bova Actors Workshop in New York under scholarship and The Actors Studio NYC. Alixandra interned at The Performing Garage NYC run by William Dafoe where she was involved with their interpretation of Richard Burton’s original stage production of “Hamlet.”

In March 2015 she launched her own company, Suspicious Woman Productions with the opening of John Patrick Shanleys “The Big Funk” in Sydney. Alixandra is also an accomplished Jazz and Cabaret Singer having performed in Sydney, Melbourne and NYC as well as the Australian Content Specialist, writer and editor for Casting Networks Australia.

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John O’Hare Studios – ‘Acting From the Heart’ Acting and Emotions

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Maeliosa Stafford in The Gigli Concert (c)  John O’Hare.

Hello fellow actors and directors!

Welcome back.

This month I would like to begin a discussion about acting emotions.


I will start the analysis with a question: Does the actor have to feel the emotions they portray in a character?

During our Shakespeare Intensive workshop last weekend the actress playing Beatrice from ‘Much Ado’ broke down halfway through her ‘Kill Claudio’ scene.

She declared: “I should be crying here shouldn’t I? Beatrice would be crying now!”

I replied: “No, I’m not interested in what you feel right now, I want to engage emotionally with the drama of the story. The stakes of the play will be reduced if you ask me to become involved with your (character’s) personal crisis in a naturalistic sense.”
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#BreatheMoveReact: Nutrition and Exercise with Actor Marcus Vanco

Growing up, I lived most of my life in a fantasy world. My family pool became the deep blue sea and I, a mermaid rescuing my sister from the big bad octopus during the long summer nights. We went trudging through the bush, leaving behind clues in case we got lost searching for the missing gold. On holidays in Ireland we would disappear for the whole day to build hay houses whilst finding fairies to grant our wishes and dance with us.

Childhood imaginations are such a fantastical thing! I never wanted, and still don’t/won’t let go of the opportunity to play and believe in anything (some might say grow up, but hey, tomato, tomAto!) so I became an actor!


Marcus Vanco Our guest contributor this month is doing just that. Actor Marcus Vanco plays Bandon, an Elf who has mysterious visions in MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles. Based on Terry Brooks best selling fantasy books, The Shannara Chronicles follows elvin and human heroes in a world thousands of years in the future. Humankind has wiped itself out and an evil demon army must be stopped before they destroy the universe.

Hailing from Brisbane and another ridiculously talented QUT graduate, Marcus kicked off his career playing a WW2 fighter pilot in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. We’ll see him in the remake of George A Romero’s zombie flick Day of the Dead to be released next year and in January he will return to New Zealand to shoot the second season of The Shannara Chronicles.

Being cast in such physically demanding roles, I asked Marcus a few questions about how health and fitness impacts a role and the choices he makes in his career.


1. What does a normal day involve for you when it comes to training and does it change when you’re shooting compared to down time?

A normal day in terms of training would involve anything with supersets and compound movements. Basically weights coupled with cardio focused exercise to get the heart rate up. Squats, burpees, box jumps, farmer’s walks, ropes, sled push, bench press etc. A personal trainer I once had always used to say, “So you think you’re strong? Let’s get that heart rate up and find out.” I think that’s best way to burn fat/build lean muscle.

Of course when you’re shooting you have to make compromises. You may not have access to a fully equipped gym plus you’ll be flat out working most days leaving you with down time when you’ll really want to relax. So you’ll have to adapt. You can still do a lot with your own body weight (push ups, stair sprints etc). Or you might have to bite the bullet and not exercise at all if your role requires you to. I believe it’s important for actor’s to stay healthy and physically fit, but it’s not your first priority when you actually book a job.

2. What does a high level of wellbeing and fitness mean to your career?

I think it’s essential for the down time between jobs. Exercise can help boost my self-esteem. I feel better and am more active in getting things done. It can help fill those long empty days with something other than your own thoughts. There is also mental toughness to be gained from pushing yourself to exercise either early morning or after a long day.

3. How do you fuel your body through nutrition?

I try to keep it healthy and clean, but I’m not always successful. Burgers, milkshakes and chilli cheese fries are simply amazing! So it’s definitely a good idea to have a cheat day to prevent insanity. However, in between I try to simply break it up into protein and carbs. I’ll reserve carbs for breakfast and lunchtime. Healthy carbs like oats and brown rice for example, while having a decent measure of protein in all meals. Also, anything green is always a must! Spinach and broccoli are your friends! I also try to have at least 4 to 5 meals a day to help keep the metabolism going. One of those meals could easily be a protein shake too.

4. Do you practise mind fitness and how does that benefit, or hinder, your process?

I suppose if I practise any mind fitness it would be pushing my body to get out of bed early in the morning and not only exercise, but exercise intensely. I hate exercising most of the time. You’re willingly putting your body through pain. That sucks. But I guess nothing worthwhile is ever easy. So you just have to not over-think and just do it. Be kind to yourself, but not lazy with yourself. Realising that no matter what you feel and think, your physicality does not stop you from putting one foot in front of the other! I am certainly no master of this, but I find by constantly committing to such thinking it eventually bleeds into other areas of my life other than exercise.

5. Your body is something you have worked on, what advise would you give to guys wanting to create a strong and functional body?

Get fit in the gym, get ripped in the kitchen. Variety. Change up your workouts every now and then. Instead of a weight session one day, do yoga. And also don’t forget to stretch before and after! STRETCH!

In the vlog below, Marcus takes us through a workout his Shannara trainer put him through called 7.7.7.

Seven exercises.
Seven reps.
Seven rounds.

Sounds like a piece of cake right?!? HA!

This one focuses on cardio and fat burning as we did it outdoors with no equipment. You could move the concept into the gym and add some weight for a strength workout.

It took us approximately 20 minutes to complete and let me tell you, it’s a killer. Every part of my body was on fire, I was as bright as a beetroot and I felt AHMAZING afterwards, I just had to lie in the sand with the water lapping over me for five minutes before I stood up again!

This is a great workout that’s easy, quick and really hits the spot, give it a try folks!

Don’t forget,

breathe.move.react.

Ali xx


Alison McGirr QUT (BA Acting) is a lover of life, Activewear, and orange lipstick. Awarded the prestigious Jennifer Blocksidge Honour and Grant, she staged her first theatre production, The Interview, shortly after. Alison is part of The Heath Ledger Young Artist’s Oral History project being conducted by the National Film and Sound Archive. Having appeared in Home and Away as Molly Brenner, a move to Ireland saw her work on hit TV shows Penny Dreadful and Vikings. Once back in Sydney she trained with the Australian Institute of Fitness uniting her passion for fitness and acting.

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