Theatre Angel: Aussies take LA! 5 Top Tips for Success with Damian Sommerlad

“There’s something to be said for seeing someone go from working double shifts in hospitality 6 days a week to getting flown first class across the world to do something they love.”

Aussies in LA. For a relatively sparsely numbered, fairly chilled out bunch so far south that the next stop straight down is the South Pole, we certainly hold our own in the Megatropolis of Dreams.

What is the secret to this much touted Australian success in Hollywood? Is it training? Optimism? Opportunity? Work ethic? Is it positive subliminal conditioning from growing up in a society prizing, at least philosophically, ‘a fair go’?  As our second year acting teacher, the indomitable Australian actor and director Mark Constable would cheerfully announce after we gave a particularly horrific performance: “well, you gave it a crack!”  Without delving into a complex socio-cultural analysis, it is probably fair to say that Australian actors aren’t afraid to take risks. And it is certainly paying unmistakeable dividends.

Now there’s a new kid on the LA block and his name is Damian Sommerlad. Fresh outta Syd-city having filmed Australian feature Life of the Party starring Holly Brisely, Damian has worked in London, Australia and now is hitting LA with a vengeance — and he has some great ‘top tips’ for success.

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Solo Show: CNI Theatre Angel’s 5 Top Tips with Flic Wentzel

Felicity Wentzel

Felicity Wentzel

The power of creativity.

“Virginia Woolf when starting out as a young writer described the curse of the phantom woman whose shadow used to watch over her shoulder as she wrote, the phantom insisting that Woolf mustn’t offend, that she shouldn’t let the world know that she had her own mind. Woolf killed that phantom woman with her bare hands. She had to.” – Felicity Wentzel


All artists have their phantom; actors, directors, writers, casting professionals, indeed anyone engaged in the artistic process, must wrestle the voice of fear and doubt in order to create. In such a subjective medium, often tackling life’s heavy-hitting moments, how do we overcome self-doubt to trust inspiration? How can art lend voice to stories that we feel deserve to be told? How can we use humour to heal and unite?

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Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips for Artistic Success with Brian Estwick

Image courtesy of LACE

Image courtesy of LACE

“For me, the role of the artist is to be a rebel.”

This month, it’s over to Los Angeles for an empowering workshop with Brian Estwick. If you’re at all artistically “stuck,” feeling overwhelmed by the current political climate, or finding that despite your best efforts, success continues to evade you, then read on.

With an M.A. in Art History, Brian offers empowering strategies to help artists and actors live according to the “First Principles of their Life and Work” to become a “vibrational colossi of energy and truth.”

Together with his LA based theatre collective, The DIAMOND Theatre Project, upcoming film Desert Eyes, cable series Midvale, and a two-woman play Pressure Cooker, as well as commercial acting work, Brian works across a rich variety of artistic mediums.

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Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips for Working in Costume with Fern McCauley

The Ripper Street Cast onset. Image: BBC America

The Ripper Street Cast onset. Image: BBC America

“It’s not just about the actors, the directors or your own team. Everyone is making this show happen and good working relationships are so important.”

Theatre, film, and TV bring imaginative worlds to life, transporting us through the magic of so many unseen creative hearts and minds. We so often celebrate actors, the ‘front-men/women’ of a production’s colossal galleon that is, in fact, sailed, steered, and charted by so many other (often unsung) talented artists: craftspeople and specialists. The very visual artistic screen and stage mediums owe much to their intricately styled and detailed costuming (evident in the jarring response we so often have to seeing, say, a watch on a Roman solider’s arm, instantly pulling us out of the world’s verisimilitude).

If you are one of these talented people who work so tirelessly behind the scenes to enrich our senses (and make actors’ lives so much easier), then we salute you! Or if, perhaps, you are an actor (or other creative) fascinated by the beautiful, tumbling world of silks, tapestries, scratchy old hessian sacks, gold, beading, and embroidery, then Casting Networks Australia is delighted to bring you these 5 Top Tips for Working in Costume with the gorgeous and talented Fern McCauley, actress and purveyor of costumes to the stars, who has worked on some of the UK’s best screen and stage projects.

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Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips for Kickstarting your London Career

Judi Dench, Luke Treadaway, Lesley Manville and Mark Gatiss come off stage at the Olivier Awards 2016. Image: Official London Theatre

Judi Dench, Luke Treadaway, Lesley Manville and Mark Gatiss come off stage at the Olivier Awards 2016. Image: Official London Theatre

London is undoubtedly theatre-lovers’ heaven—production variety, volume ,and quality are simply unrivaled. Londoners embrace theatre with the same enthusiasm and with as much gusto as Sydneysiders do brunch. Despite long work commutes, sky-high living costs, damp, dark, short days, and the exhausting, overcrowded daily battle, Londoners still find time for theatre. On any given evening, Leicester Square is packed with a throng of theatre-goers and shouting discount ticket sellers, Soho Theatre Bar is bursting at the seams, while away from the West-End, fringe theatres and pub venues spill out onto the footpaths, awash with the young blooded of theatre’s pumping pulse.

So you—stage-loving actor—land ready to tackle this wonderful world. You are British agentless, but with your hard-yakka Australian work ethic are confident that you can apply the same nouse to make it happen on the London stage.

Where to start?

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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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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

Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips with Playwright Sarah Kosar

Hot Dog by Sarah Kosar

“Be delusional and feel unstoppable. Take to the stage without fear.”

This month, Sarah Kosar, Anglo-American playwright and Artist in Residence at London’s Archivist’s Gallery, shares her Top Tips for Success. Not only is Sarah a highly successful published playwright and female ambassador for the arts, but she is also a glorious example of what can be achieved with vision, intelligence, creativity and graft.

This is an absolute must read, not just for writers, women or even actors… but for anyone pursuing their dreams!

(… and because Sarah is a wordsmith, this month we bring you double the number of Top Tips.)


1. Congratulations Sarah on your recent production Mumburger! As artist in residence at London’s Archivist’s Gallery, what have been some of your key achievements to date?

For a long time, I believed in “waiting” until you’re crowned “talented,” and that’s when opportunities will come. However, I’m pretty impatient so I quickly realised that if I was to do that as a writer it would be like waiting for a bus that would either never come or would inch its way to each bus stop and never tell you how far it would go and where the route terminates.

So after waiting in the cold and riding the occasional bus, I reached out to The Archivist’s Gallery as a fan of what they were doing and sent a pitch to their general email on how we could potentially work together. I didn’t think I would hear back, but then I did. I really believe in playing with odds – it doesn’t hurt to reach out to lots of different places (as long as they are open to general enquiries and pitches and you are generally interested, thoughtful and considered about it rather than a blanket email!). We had lunch, talked about our interests, hatched a plan and here I am – wearing a self-made crown as “Artist in Residence.”

 

“I really believe in playing with odds – it doesn’t hurt to reach out to lots of different places”

 

In my residency so far, I’ve produced a live recording of my podcast Kin, a three week production of my play Mumburger and chaired a conversation with author, activist, photographer and all around inspiring human, iO Tillett Wright (which will also be available on Kin very soon!).

 

“The biggest achievement of my residency has been that it’s all actually happened.”

 

It’s also been a personal achievement for me to feel free enough to not only think of myself as a writer, but as more of an overall artist. For this reason, I’m expanding into more audio work as well as playwriting and investigating how to best merge them together for a theatrical and audio experience. Also another real win with this residency was being able to work with actress Rosie Wyatt who I’ve had on my “Dream people to work with” google doc. She nailed the role and as I begin writing new plays, I often picture her playing the lead characters as she masters my stylised approach.

2. From published plays, to radio, short films and playwriting masterclasses, you’ve already had a prolific output of work – What set you on the path to becoming a writer?

I’m pretty delusional in the sense that when I come up with something that I want to do, I’m naive and think “I’ll give it a go!” If it doesn’t go horribly wrong, I’ll probably keep doing it until someone (not just a bad comment!) I really trust tells me this just might not be my jam or my best use of time and talent.

When I was a child, I started off wanting to be a popstar, then a singer, a dancer, a musician, an actress and after coming to terms that those weren’t my mediums, I focused more on writing. However, looking back it was always clear that I was a writer as I always created my own songs, choreography, personas, etc.

Fast forward to when I was studying at Penn State University — I asked my professor if there were contemporary plays for me to read as there seemed to be a real lack of current real world examples of playwrights working (Arthur Miller was contemporary). I wanted something about our world now, I wanted it to feel like TV on stage, I wanted stories that were not safe. My professor slid me a copy of Blasted by Sarah Kane across the table and I ran home and devoured it. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer. I read that The Royal Court and Methuen Drama (who published the play) were based in London, and immediately started on a spreadsheet of research to figure out how I could get to London as part of my degree.

After many calls, emails and sweat (I sweat a lot), I came to London in 2009 to study theatre abroad and the first thing I did was see a play at the Court and right beforehand I said a prayer to Sarah Kane in the Royal Court toilets. After two months in London and seeing 20+ plays, I knew I had to stay if I wanted to write plays. I applied and got into a Masters programme and moved here permanently the year after. Now seven years later, I’m still praying to playwrights in the toilets when I get stuck on a rewrite.

Since being in London, I’ve worked full-time alongside writing and podcasting in talent for both agencies and businesses. I am now the Senior Talent Manager at ROLI, a music-tech company in Dalston London. Although I work full-time, I feel it really fuels my writing and writing enables me to be a better in my role. It’s useful to have something to take your mind off your creative pursuits and especially as I’m interviewing people most days, I learn so much about human behaviour, wants, and needs.

4. What are the some of the benefits you have found of belonging to a writing group? What advice would you offer other writers about how to become involved? Tell us about the Playwright Club ‘Playdate’ that you founded.

As a playwright starting out, there are a plethora of excellent opportunities to do writing programmes such as Royal Court Young Writers, Soho Writers Lab, Lyric Young Writers, etc.

 

“If you want to write, the most helpful thing is to be around other writers and reading their work.”

 

These programmes are tremendous because you learn how to speak about your work, read other people’s work, offer feedback, take feedback and meet like minded people. It’s so intoxicating to have a place to go each week where you feel supported and liberated in your field. However, after those end, you’re back in your bedroom and only occasionally bumping into other writers at plays across London.

Lonesome and lost in a draft, I decided to make my own post-writing group writing group in 2014, called Playdate. The seven people I invited to be in the group were incredibly talented, giving, and just all around good people that I’d met on various programmes. In the past two years since starting the group, these Playdaters have supported, and overall kept me going in the toughest times. We meet up at least once a month to discuss what we’re working on, ask questions about things we are unsure about either in our work, industry, or rehearsals. We read each other’s work, offer feedback and see work together.  It’s been amazing how much Playdate means to all of us and it really encourages us all to keep pushing forward with our work. I think I speak for all of us when I say that when we see each other doing well, it makes us all feel great. I’m so lucky the six of them agreed to do it, having all been strangers before our first meeting. Playdate is made up of Vinay Patel, David Ralf, Isley Lynn, Stephen Laughton, Poppy Corbett, Chris Adams and myself. There is also news to come from us as whole in future too!

6. Women in the Arts- as a professional speaker on the topic of feminism, why is this close to your heart? How can we, as an industry, work towards greater equality and boost the passions, morale and opportunities for emerging (and established for that matter) female artists?

The more stories we see with women at the centre, the less we will think the default for every story is a man as a protagonist. This is true not only for men, but everyone. Even as a woman, it’s easy to start writing something and think the main character is a man because that’s what we’ve predominantly seen. I think it’s also important to consider this in conjunction with other underrepresented groups and ensure that feminism is the beginning of the conversation and to also consider ideas of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

 

“As a feminist, writer, artist and overall human,  it’s integral we question the status quo with work and ensure we make the best decisions for our production team and casts to enable everyone has a chance, voice and representation across our work.

 

This is close to my heart because I don’t want anyone to ever feel that they can’t do something because of the discriminatory structures in place within our culture.

Just this week I was looking for a halloween costume and heard H&M was doing a pizza costume. I searched everywhere on the site for a good twenty minutes and finally I found it under men. Why is a pizza costume gendered? I’ll keep talking and writing about feminism until every food costume for halloween is available and listed for everyone, no matter how they identify. Equality for pizza!

Mumburger

Scene from Mumburger, The Archivist’s Gallery, London

7. Who or what have been some of your greatest inspirations and influences in your career to date?

As an artist, my goal is to be a concoction of my biggest influences:

  • The heightened performative allure of Lana Del Rey

  • The daring, unapologetic humour and honesty of Lena Dunham

  • The intelligent, provocative and thoughtful observations of Miranda July

9. Can you share with us some of your most surprising career moments?

My most surprising career moment was when I was studying for my acting degree and I didn’t pass into the final year level because of my poor ability at accents and Shakespeare. I was broken and I didn’t know what to do because I had always thought up until that point I would be an actor. Then my advisor suggested I take a playwriting class to help with credits for a general BA Theatre degree and I did. I loved it and realised maybe this was my jam. My favourite and surprising advice from my professor who still mentors me was “Sarah, you can only have one blow job in the play. Pick one, but only one.”

 

“I’ve learned now, you can only have one big moment like that. No repeats – every action is for a reason.”

 

10. How would you describe your work thematically in five words?

Exposing the absurdity of humans

11. What advice can you offer burgeoning writers?

Write. No one can stop you from telling a story. Write the thing you care about and don’t stop. Don’t be hard on yourself. Find other like-minded people. Be friends with people that make you want to be better. By surrounding yourself with people that challenge you, you can only get better.

Be delusional and feel unstoppable. As writing is a very solitary act (until you get in the rehearsal room), be kind to yourself. You’ll need it. I often tell myself I’m the Britney Spears of playwriting when I start something new just to give myself a healthy dose of confidence. I know that my first draft won’t be an “Oops I Did It Again,” but it might become that one day.

12. Given the opportunity to re-live your career to date, would you make any changes or do anything differently?

Something I always struggle with is feeling like I’m not far enough, that I could be doing more, that I could be more “successful.” Although I wouldn’t change anything or do things differently within my career, I would change the little voice in my head. I’d work harder to mute it and feel secure in wherever I’m at. When I have conversations with other creatives in a similar place in their careers, they often feel the same. It’s hard to understand where we should be aiming or things we should be doing whilst we are trying to make work. There is a lot of focus on “what’s next!”  I’d like to change that pressure into acceptance of wherever we are at is where we need to be right now.

Scene from Mumburger, The Archivist’s Gallery, London

13. Future directions: tell us about some of your upcoming work and what we can look forward to.

I’m super excited about the new season of my podcast Kin. This season we have some really exciting episodes including one with two Trump supporters trying to convince me to vote for them, male sexuality discussed between a straight man and a gay man, and an interview with author of the memoir Darling Days, iO Tillett Wright and much more.

I’m also working on a new play called Malvina that will be coming out in 2017. It’s about health, healing and blue hair. There are also a few other productions in the pipeline that I can’t share as of yet but keep your eye on my website sarahkosar.net.

14. And finally… What are your 10 Top Tips to Becoming a Playwright?

  1. Channel your inner popstar and take the page like a stage without fear

  2. Write what you want to see on stage

  3. Don’t get it right, get it written

  4. Ask people you trust to read what you write and give feedback

  5. Be flexible and kind to yourself when taking on feedback

  6. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite based on your own feedback, the feedback of others you trust and be open to the magic of the unexpected

  7. Do something that’s not writing to take your mind off the play and see it more objectively before doing further rewrites

  8. Figure out a way to get your play on (by yourself, with friends, collaborators, or anyone who is up for a challenge) and learn from how an audience responds to your work

  9. Call yourself a playwright in your Twitter bio

SARAH KOSAR

Sarah Kosar

Sarah Kosar is an American playwright living in London. She has been a part of The Royal Court Young Writers Programme, Studio Invitation Group and Summer Group, as well as The Soho Young Writers Lab, Lyric Young Writers Programme, and an Associate Writer with the Hampstead Theatre. Her play Hot Dog is part of the Pennsylvania State University’s syllabus for Advanced Playwriting and Women in Theatre courses. Sarah has a BA in Theatre, a BA in Film from Pennsylvania State University and a MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Sarah has recently been granted an Exceptional Promise in Playwriting visa in the UK. Sarah is the Inaugural Writer In Residence at The Archivist’s Gallery, Haggerston, where her play MUMBURGER ran 9th – 24th July 2016. Sarah is also the producer and host of the iTunes New and Noteworthy podcast, Kin.


Alys Daroy (AADA (Acting), BARTS (Hons 1 English Literature/Classical Theatre) BARTS (Journalism) is an Australian actress specialising in classical theatre. Ian Charleson Award Commendation for Outstanding Performance in a Classical Production by The National Theatre, England and The Sunday Times (Yelena, Chekhov’s The Wood Demon). Recent stage roles in the UK include the title roles in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and The Master and Margarita; Ophelia, Hamlet; Kate, The Taming of the Shrew; Helen of Troy, The Complete Voyages of Falstaff;and most recently in Australia, Brutus, Coriolanus. Screen credits include Fleur Simpson in Home and Away,  Marianne,Sense and Sensibility and Alexis in BBC miniseries The Kangaroo Gang: Thieves by Appointment.

Represented by BGM Agency Australia and Mia Thomson Associates London.

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Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips to an International Career with Aussie Actress Natasha Dewhurst

Natasha Dewhurst

Natasha Dewhurst

“For me, the key to transitioning from Melbourne to the US and the UK has been to surround myself with artists whose work I respect and admire.” – Natasha Dewhurst

This month, Casting Networks’ Theatre Angel speaks to Australian actress Natasha Dewhurst who gives her 5 Top Tips for an International Career. Fresh out of LA and in London, Tashi explains how her Australian theatrical training together with her international experience has helped her embark on an exciting global adventure.


Theatre Angel: Natasha, huge congratulations on your amazing success with Loserville, April Flowers, Full Circle, and The Vapour Boys! As a Melbournian by birth, how did you make the transition from local to international projects?

Natasha Dewhurst: I received the majority of my training in New York. By doing so, I established a wonderful network of friends and artists who consisted of fellow actors, writers, directors, and musicians. These are various opportunities and projects that came out of these friendships, which lead me to my fantastic representation. It creates a ripple affect leading to meetings/auditions/roles, which continues to ripple out.

In London, I am so fortunate that one of my oldest and dearest friends is a brilliant actor. We both help one another with self tapes, and offer our advice to each other with roles and work. So for me the key to transitioning from Melbourne to the US and the UK has been to surround myself with artists whose work I respect and admire.

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