Mrs. Ballyshannon’s School for Orphaned and Afflicted Girls Presents Jane Eyre closed on Saturday, and it was a really fun project to be a part of. I haven’t had a lot of time to reflect on the process, as I’ve still been busy with rehearsals for Through the Looking Glass at Original Kids, Macbeth with The Voices Collective, sorority commitments and life in general (laundry, anyone?), but I’ve got my chance now!
As far as I am aware, all the actors in Ballyshannon were invited to join the process. It’s really an honour to be invited to join a show without having to audition. I suppose it means that I’m building a good reputation in the London theatre community!
Because we were working directly with the playwright, Jason Rip, we were able to have some say in the process, to ask questions and really work together to create the final product. Of course, the final decisions were Jason’s, but it was nice to be able to contribute.
It was lovely working with the cast members. Jason assembled a really fantastic group! All of the actors who were involved in this show are supremely talented and just plain nice people. It’s always great working with people you get along with. I enjoyed working with Jessica, Margot and Aimee again, as well as meeting actors new to me and getting to know them better (Marina, Helen, Clara, Kara, and our token male, Josh). Our stage manager, Tia, was amazing — kind and extremely hard-working! I’ve been fortunate to work with Tia on past projects, and it was great to have her on the team again here.
The biggest challenge for me on this production was Vilette’s stutter. I liken it to learning an accent — you have to find the balance between achieving an authentic sounding stutter and still having your lines heard properly; and at the same time not going overboard and speaking unintelligibly or even potentially offending anyone who might actually have a stutter in real life. I thought about watching The King’s Speech to get an idea of what I might want to try, but in the end I just worked it out for myself. I chose a couple of sounds — m’s and hard c’s and k’s — to focus on, and the stutter developed from there.
A second challenge I discovered was being involved in the pre-show, which involved me approaching patrons entering the theatre and giving them name cards, in character as Vilette. All the cards had girl’s names that were popular in the 1850s, and the intent was to create the atmosphere of the patrons being part of Mrs. Ballyshannon’s School and watching the final dress rehearsal. I never had any trouble with patrons refusing to take a name card or trying to be funny and mess with me. Some patrons seemed confused by the name tags though — occasionally they would dig through the box, trying to find their own name (not realizing the names were all made up). I also overheard one patron saying to a friend, “I hope this isn’t an audience participation show.” (Hmmm… I smell a potential future blog post…) I was mostly worried about breaking character, especially if I encountered a friend or family member. Luckily, I didn’t break! (I mostly just avoided eye contact.)
After the closing show and strike, we celebrated and danced the night away at Hideaway Records & Bar on Richmond Street. Lots of fun! We had a small private seating area just for us, and the staff were all really nice!
I have to give huge thanks to everyone involved in Mrs. Ballyshannon for an incredible experience — to the cast, crew, and design team for being amazing people, to Jason for giving me the opportunity to be one of the poor afflicted girls, and to the audiences (especially my friends and family!) who came out to Procunier Hall to check out the madness!