Tumbleweed

Yes it has been rather quiet round here lately. Kids are off school for the summer holidays, I’ve been doing edits on my novel so my agent can send it out to publishers next month (pinch me!).

I’ve just done my first Facebook Live broadcast which you can find on the Strut and Bellow page on Facebook. Look out for a couple more of those soon.

I’ll be doing a digital detox in August so expect the podcasts to be up and running again in September.

In the meantime, hope you’re enjoying the summer break where you are!

 

Episode 7

I had such fun chatting to my guest Susan Bracken for this episode. We met on a workshop with Annie Ryan’s Corn Exchange Theatre Company and found we had a lot in common. We’re both actresses who started out in London, and who have moved back to Dublin only to find it’s like starting all over again. We’re also both mothers. So we had lots to talk about.

Susan’s Dublin theatre debut was earlier this year in Strindberg’s Creditors playing Tekla at The New Theatre in Temple Bar, directed by last time’s guest Aoife Spillane-Hinks. Michael Moffat in the Irish Mail on Sunday declared her performance as ‘exceptionally nuanced’.

Susan Bracken

We met to chat in a cafe in Temple Bar, in the early evening and, as you will hear towards the end of our conversation, we were given quite audible hints that the proprietor was eager to close up!

Highlights of her career in London include; playing Liz in the London premiere of Mark O’Rowe’s From Both Hips at The Old Red Lion Theatre, TimeOut Critic’s Choice for Allan Swift’s Bodyclock at The White Bear Theatre, Ellen in Richard Brockman’s Informed Consent at the Jermyn Street Theatre and Elena in Chekhov’s The Bear at the King’s Head Theatre.

Other roles include Rosalind in As You Like It and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing in two sell-out Shakespeare seasons (Bard at the Bridewell) at The Bridewell Theatre.

She is a co-founder of C Company, which has produced both new writing (Simon Warne’s One Night Stand, Jo Norland’s Lizzy, Darcy & Jane and Samantha Lawrence’s The Fetch) and staged many classics as theatre company-in-residence at London’s Bridwell Theatre (’08,’09,’10 & ’11). She holds a degree in Politics and Economics from Trinity College Dublin.

She teaches a monthly workshop in Cold Reading & Meisner for professional actors at The Actors Centre, London.

We talked about her journey to the stage via Chicago and London and her passion for working with women. And she shared some of the theatre events that have most inspired her in recent times.

Hope you enjoy listening to our chat. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and now I’ve an instagram account, you can follow me @strutandbellow. And if you know of an inspiring woman you’d like to hear more from, email me at strutandbellow@gmail.com.

Keep struttin’ and bellowing’.

 

 

Yoga summer challenge


Finally summer is here and it’s glorious! I lived for two and a half years on the French Riviera and it spoiled me. I’m back in Ireland 11 years now but I still crave the heat and vivid summer colours of that beautiful part of the world. 

Now that I’m finally getting over this awful, energy zapping cough it’s time build up some strength again.

I got to my regular yoga class the other evening with my fabulous teacher Rachel. It had been a while what with one thing and another. I was reminded how much my body loves to move and how great it feels when I do yoga. 

So I’ve set myself a #yogasummerchallenge to get on the mat every day of June. It’s a busy month and with the end of the school year in sight, everyone’s weary. I’m not promising to do a full 90 minutes every day. There will be some days that I may only manage savasana! But my intention is to feel that gorgeous energy and juicy suppleness returning. 

You can now follow me on Instagram @strutandbellow where I’ll be posting something of yoga summer challenge pictorial journal. 

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts everyone, may your hearts and bodies be warmed!

Namaste. 

Episode 6

Hurrah, we’re back with Episode 6 of the Strut and Bellow Podcast. And today I’m sharing a great, long conversation I had with theatre director Aoife Spillane-Hinks. I didn’t know Aoife very well at all before she kindly agreed to be interviewed but she’s a fascinating woman and when we started talking I quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be a quick chat!

13077371_10102790604438131_2104589337_nWe were chatting in a hallway in her office building, which means there’s a little background noise now and again but nothing too intrusive and I hope it won’t affect your enjoyment of our conversation.

Aoife originally comes from the United States and she talks in the podcast about how she came to be here in Ireland. Shetrained as a director on the Rough Magic SEEDS programme. She holds a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University and an MA in Drama and Theatre Studies from NUI Galway. She has taught directing in NUI Galway’s MA programme, and works as a private acting coach.

Her American credits include Sharon’s Grave, Waiting for Godot, and Our Class (PICT Classic Theatre, Pittsburgh). Irish credits include Creditors (C Company), Pilgrim (Edinburgh Fringe/Tiger Dublin Fringe); The Motherf***er with the Hat (ORion Productions – European Premiere); Run / Don’t Run (Bigger Picture Projects/National Tour); The Yellow Wallpaper (Then This Theatre/Dublin Fringe); Plaza Suite (Rough Magic/Gaiety Theatre); Hamlet (Second Age); Boston Marriage (Gate Theatre/Dublin Theatre Festival); Broken Promise Land (RTE Radio Drama on One & national tour); True Enough! (Making Strange/Dublin Fringe); Serious Money (Rough Magic SEEDS).

She is the co-founder of Then This Theatre and an associate artist with PICT Classic Theatre.

Towards the end of our chat, she gave a list of podcasts she enjoys and I’m including links to the ones she mentioned as well as some that I think are just great too. I can’t wait to listen to some of the ones I’m not familiar with. You can also follow Aoife on Instagram where she goes under the moniker @fiercejoyful and yes, she really is!

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Another Round

The Savage Lovecast

Dear Sugar

Longform

Insights at the Edge – Sounds True

The Robcast – Rob Bell

On the media

Ask me another

Wait,wait don’t tell me

 

22 days

It wasn’t intentional to have a 22 day hiatus on the blog but the children had a half term break, I got sick right at the beginning with a horrible cough and here we are weeks later and I’m only just beginning to get back into the groove. But hey, last night I was in bed asleep by 9:30 so I’m still not quite ready to celebrate full wellness yet!

The weather has been lovely the last few days though, there’s that awesome golden light in the evenings and the school term is just a few weeks from finishing. I saw a funny post someone put up on Facebook recently announcing to the children of school going age that effectively their teachers and parents were done at this time of year and if they could just get themselves to the end of June, that’d be great. We’re all getting a little weary of the timetable and the homework and the school lunches in our house.

Summer of course, isn’t exactly stress free but in our house anyway, it’s a time to not have to worry about scrambling to get out of the house and there’s a gorgeous ease to our days which I’m looking forward to immensely. This will mean of course, that there is less time for Mama’s work. At the moment, my creative life is squeezed into the hour that the toddler naps and anything I have energy left for in the evenings. Summer means even less time and I’m not the best when I don’t at least have some space to work. So, the next few weeks I’ll be trying to figure out how to block some time out for myself to keep the creative fires burning.

I’ve a long list of women I’d like to interview for the podcast and a lot of them are also mothers, so just to warn you, there may be interviews over the summer with the sound of children running around a back garden, or slurping smoothies on the front step. But that’s the reality of many women’s creative lives so we may as well hear what it sounds like, right?

Next up on the podcast, I’ve a terrific conversation with director Aoife Spillane-Hinks and following that will be the actress Susan Bracken. Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with some awesome artists as the summer continues.

In the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’.

Episode 5

 

Heather McKayIt was my great pleasure to talk to Heather McKay for Episode 5 of the podcast. Heather has been my good friend for a long, long time. She was charged with looking after me at the after show party of a notorious school musical back in the day and we’ve been firm friends ever since. I’ve seen her flourish as an artist, grow a sustainable business as an illustrator while living out her spiritual path with authenticity and integrity.

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Having graduated from Newpark Comprehensive School in 1991, she attended Stillorgan College of Further Education where she completed a one year Art Foundation course. She went on to study Graphic Design at Dún Laoghaire College of Art & Design (now DLIADT) between 1992 and 1995. She spent a year in Australia before returning to complete her HDip at NCAD in 1997. Heather was asked to return to Stillorgan College of Further Education, where she has been teaching Design ever since. You can find our more about Heather and her work at Head in the Clouds Ireland and on Facebook.

In our conversation, we talked about the tricky business of finding a balance between art and business, how motherhood can enhance creativity and expressing spirituality in art.

Jesus' Death(Heather’s painting, which she talks about in the podcast, for an Easter exhibition of the Stations of the Cross.)ß

Don’t forget, you can follow Strut and Bellow on Facebook and Twitter and we’d love to hear your feedback at strutandbellow@gmail.com. If you liked the podcast, why not consider writing a review in iTunes? Feel free to share the love far and wide.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more inspiring conversations with women makers but in the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’.

Zwischen Time

P1070984.JPGWhen I was pregnant with my third child, my yoga teacher talked a lot about those agonising last few weeks as you near your due date. You’re heavily pregnant, you’re sick of being heavily pregnant, you can’t wait to meet your baby but you’re also aware that life’s going to get crazy when your baby finally comes. She called it the ‘zwischen time’, from the German word for ‘in between’. She counselled me  to try and enjoy it, when I still only had two children, to be present to all the emotions that were surfacing and to get as much rest as I could. I wish I could say I listened. Instead, I anxiously counted down the days, analysing every ache and pain, thinking I was going into labour. I drove myself crazy and exhausted myself and cried hot tears of frustration when I passed the 40 week mark and Baby was in no hurry to make an appearance. Even when I finally did go into labour, Third Child was not going to be persuaded by a pushy midwife and took his own merry time to be born.

And of course, miraculously now he’s two years old. Where did the time go?

I feel myself in another ‘zwischen time’, a waiting time, an in between time, in my creative life. My first novel is currently being read by a literary agent, I’ve just auditioned for a lovely theatre role and I’m waiting for news. It’s tempting to check the email every five minutes and thankfully, I know better than to call up and ask for an update. It’s kind of nail biting, but I’m learning, slowly, to breathe into the discomfort. Sometimes I fall into old patterns of behaviour that are not helpful, old addictions and habits that only make the agony worse. But there are moments when I manage to stay present and wait patiently

I’m reading Mary Oliver’s poetry a lot these days. Her recent collection, Felicity, is like a prayerbook of sorts. She speaks Soul fluently and when I find myself climbing the walls, her grounded beautiful words are a real balm.

Here’s one that I keep returning to. I hope you might find it comforting, if you find yourself in a zwischen time and need a little perspective.

“Things take the time they take.
Don’t worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”

Mary Oliver

 

Episode Four

Today I’m very excited to share my conversation with a truly inspiring woman, Lian BellLian Bell. Photo credit Roise Goan.jpg

Lian is a set designer, arts manager and the instigator of the Waking the Feminists movement. It was Lian who publicly voiced her anger and frustration at the Abbey Theatre’s lack of gender diversity in their programme for 2016, and who became the leader of a team of women who have challenged the Irish arts scene to reflect the fact that women make up half the population and need to have their voices heard and experiences shared. Lian was recently honoured by the Irish theatre community with a Judges’ special award, for leading the Waking the Feminists movement with courage and conviction, highlighting the inequalities in Irish theatre and advocating sustainable change.

We met up in Project Arts Centre a few weeks ago and discussed the clarion call that got so many women on board as well as her own work in the theatre scene in Dublin.

You can find out more about the Waking the Feminists movement and how to support their goal to achieve gender parity in the theatre five years at their website. Lian has her own site as well which details her collaborations over the years.

Hope you enjoy the podcast. Don’t forget to follow on Facebook and Twitter @strutandbellow and please do share the love.

And if there’s an inspiring woman maker you’d like to hear interviewed, why not drop me an email at strutandbellow@gmail.com

Next time, I’ll be sharing my conversation with illustrator and artist Heather McKay.

In the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’

 

 

Oops….

flighttolondon

So I was supposed to post another podcast this week, apologies if you were anxiously waiting for the next instalment of inspiration and encouragement. I was however called away to an audition in London so, as a maker myself, I had to give my focus and attention to getting prepared.

I’ll be honest, the auditions haven’t exactly been coming in thick and fast in recent years, so when you get the call there’s a tendency for the head to take the staggers. So there was a concerted effort on my part to keep calm and stay focussed and do the work to prepare. As my agent kindly reminded me, ‘Be excited, but don’t take the excitement in to the room with you.’

So I was super zen and chilled on the flight going over early yesterday morning, and then as we disembarked, I slipped on some water and went down hard. Nothing like taking a tumble to bring you slap bang into the present moment. After I’d sobbed down the phone to my husband and limped to the train into London, I had to start the emotional preparation for the meeting all over again.

It’s easy as an actor to let the stakes get so high. That’s what drama is after all, characters in situation where transformation happens because of high stakes. But it’s always best to keep the drama on the stage. The bump and tumble gave me the jolt I need to remind me that no matter the outcome of my meeting, nothing actually changes. I am the same person, and I am enough. It would be wonderful to get the gig, of course it would, but it won’t change anything fundamental about who I am. And with every bump and tumble, you just get up, take some arnica, brush yourself off and carry on.

So I did my meeting and enjoyed every minute and then treated myself to a nice class of Malbec before catching the flight home.

All that to say, sorry I haven’t uploaded my latest illuminating conversation with another incredible woman maker. However, I’m sharing a link to a great podcast I listened to while I was away with Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen. Rob Bell is someone I listen to a lot and he’s interviewing people at the moment who have taken risks and overcome obstacles to see their dreams come to fruition. You can listen to his chat with Patricia here.

I’ll have the latest episode of Strut and Bellow up next Tuesday. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you have anyone you’d like to hear interviewed, why not drop me an email at strutandbellow@gmail.com.

Keep struttin’ and bellowin’

Melanie

 

 

 

Episode Three

Episode Three is a conversation between myself and Charlotte Darbyshire and I. Charlotte is also my sister in law, so I feel quite lucky to see the life of a dance artist close up.

charlotte headshots.jpgCharlotte is a British independent dance artist.

She works as a choreographer and director of live performance and dance for camera. She is also an experienced performer, educator, facilitator and movement therapist.
Charlotte was a founder member of CandoCo Dance Company, performing and teaching internationally with them for 10 years. This inspired her on-going practice and research into inclusive and creative approaches to dance practice for disabled and non-disabled people, trained and untrained dancers. Independently, Charlotte has led integrated projects in UK, Colombia, Croatia, Bangladesh, Sweden and France.

She now lives in Northern France where she co-runs La Traversee an initiative for interdisciplinary arts practice, research and performance, with composer Jules Maxwell, painter Pippa Darbyshire, actor and film maker Tony Wadham and choreographer Henrietta Hale (co-director of Dog Kennel Hill Project). Together they run regular performance events, artist residencies and movement workshops. Charlotte also runs a private practice involving Integrated Bodywork and Movement Therapy.

About her films: Her first short film ‘Taut’ was commissioned by Channel 4 and won the New Filmmaker Award at The Place in 2001.

‘the lily the rose’ is Charlotte’s most recent film, shot in France this year by Tony Wadham, with sound score by Jules Maxwell. It is a poetic portrait of dance artists Kate Marsh and Welly O’Brien – a world of sisterhood, show business and song, inspired by the friendship and work of the artists themselves but also by Violet and Daisy Hilton, Baroque performers and conjoined twins from the 1930’s. The film captures their performance, shared stories, anatomy and their fascinatingly frank attitudes to disability.

Enjoy the podcast and don’t forget to share the love on Facebook and Twitter.