Graduate Production Ensemble – Lucy’s Blog

Auditions and recalls – It’s been a busy couple of months…..

So the graduate ensemble project is moving on apace, and following the script development workshop sessions with director Mark Thomson, the colleges and universities in SDTN’s Network were invited to nominate HND2 and final year degree students for the Graduate Production Ensemble auditions.

The first round of auditions provided each student with an individual 20 minute meeting with Mark to showcase their skills. Students were asked to prepare in advance a contemporary piece of their choice and to sing and play an instrument if they were comfortable with doing so. They were also sent script extracts in advance, to read at their audition.

The students came from every college and institution in the Network and overall created a very positive impression of the high standard of actor training. The vast majority of students were extremely professional, well prepared, punctual and displayed great enthusiasm for the project.

We asked the students to tell us on their application forms why they would like to be part of the new Graduate Ensemble and these are some of the responses:

‘This is an opportunity not to be missed! I love the support SDTN gives to young actors leaving training and branching into industry.’

‘I feel it is an amazing opportunity to gain experience working in a professional environment. To work with people who will see me as a creative equal and not a student.’

‘It’s fantastic that there’s an opportunity like this out there for students in Scotland… I feel I would learn a huge amount from the people involved and the experience, and use what I’ve been learning for the past three years to really make the most of the opportunity.’

As this is a new initiative and this year is a pilot project, it is very heartening to have received this feedback from students and to hear directly from them how positively they view this new graduate pathway.

After meeting and auditioning 80 students over four intensive days, we were then faced with the enormously difficult task of deciding who to recall for round two. In every step of this project, we are seeking to replicate the reality of the theatre industry and for those who were not recalled, while we understand this is disappointing, we hope they can learn from this process and use the experience to help build resilience for auditions in future.

For the selection of the eight cast members, Mark needed to consider not only the talent available but the range of skills and ‘flavour’ of ensemble he requires to make the work. Having initially said he would only recall 16, we actually invited 22 students from the first round to join us again, as it was so hard to decide on final numbers!

The second round of auditions were group workshops held in Edinburgh on 7 April and Mark and I were joined this time by Ed McGurn, who will be the Ensemble’s Assistant Director for 2017. Mark led the workshop which gave the students the opportunity to work together and individually, using some script extracts as well as devising. Again, all the participants were extremely professional, generous with each other and creative in their thinking and responses to direction. We were faced with another very difficult task at the end of the day!

After several days of deliberation, and no doubt some nail biting by the students, Mark made his casting decision and we have now invited eight students to join The Network Ensemble in the summer of 2017, when they leave college.

The Network cast are:

Harvey Reid, Edinburgh College

Heather Horseman, Dundee and Angus College

Jatinder Randhawa, New College Lanarkshire

Michael Johnson, Fife College

Mirren Wilson, Edinburgh College

Shyvonne Ahmmad, Edinburgh College

Rachel Dunlay, Fife College

Russell Dudley, North East Scotland College

Creative production arts and technical graduates will also be part of The Network’s creative team and these roles are being finalised and the participants will be announced over the next couple of weeks.

The Network will produce Snowflake, a new play written and directed by Mark Thomson, at the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh. 5 – 28 August at 1pm. You can buy your tickets here.

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