Cheque, please!

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I get a kick out of little details in things, which is why I often spend too much time on small prop details that likely won’t be noticed by anyone but myself. Today’s example? The certified cheque prop needed for Bygone Theatre’s upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Really, it’s a pretty simple one, and since we’re seeing the cheque before it’s cashed, I’m not going to the trouble of embossing it, I did however want something from around the right date, and double-sided.

Since this show will be on a real stage, and not something that requires the same accuracy as was needed for shows like Rope, which practically happened in the audience’s lap, I just searched for 1930s or 1940s certified cheques and settled on one from 1933;

walter-winchell-signed-check-issued-to-international-news-photos-1933-16

I found this through a memorabilia site – it works great as it doesn’t have a big distracting logo, its from around the right time, the right place, and has the fun added detail of being signed by a Walter (it comes from our character, Walter Burns). Again, chances are none of these details will be seen on stage, but still fun to note. I did want it double-sided, so that took a very small amount of photoshopping, about 3 minutes worth.

I opened the image in photoshop, and then selected the general colour using the eye dropper tool. Then, I did a new “fill layer” (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour) so that I had a solidly coloured piece the same size as my cheque. The original image had a speckled appearance, so to do that I simply applied a filter (Filter > Filter Gallery > Reticulation).

screenshot-2017-02-08-19-03-20

I chose the “reticulation” filter because, after browsing through a few like “film grain”and trying the “dust and scratches” one, I thought this looked the closest to what the front of the image looked like. So, voila! The back of my cheque.

I’m sure there are other (better?) ways to do this, but as I wanted to print quickly I just dragged both the front & back images into Word to print. I did 3 on a page (these will be for rehearsal, for the show I will of course have one for each performance, plus a couple back-ups), and since they are the same size just placed them in the same spots on 2 sheets.

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Then printed double-sided and there you go! Quick, easy, and I think certainly worth the few extra minutes to get something that isn’t white (and super-fake looking, imo) on one side.

All for now,

-E.

Theatre Audition Tips

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I’ve been getting dozens upon dozens of audition applications for Rope this week, and while a lot of the auditioning process is fun, over time there are some poor choices I see actors making again and again, something that leads to frustration for me, and ultimately missed opportunities for them. So here are a few quick audition tips, for those of you applying for Rope or any other show. Hopefully they help.

Headshots
Your headshot is the first glimpse the director or casting director gets of you, so it’s important to have a good one. Colour photos are the norm these days and they should be clear, close-up (shoulders up) and accurately reflect what you look like. That one’s important, so I’ll say it again; your headshot should look like you; a cleaned up version yes, but not a glamourous or fake one. This is not a modelling shot, so don’t send in a photo of you with beautifully styled hair, perfect makeup and fancy clothes if you’re going to show up to the audition in sweats and a ponytail. It won’t help you get the part; if anything, it’ll make it less likely. Your headshot is meant to be a reminder of who you were so if you don’t look anything like it, you’ll end up forgotten.

Artistic Resume
Along with your headshot you will need to submit an artistic resume that outlines your experiences. The most important thing on your resume is your contact info; list your name, email, and a phone number at which you can easily be contacted, right at the top of the resume. You should also list any union affiliations and agent contact info at the top. Generally you will also want to list your height, weight, hair colour, eye colour and ethnicity. Next, list whatever you have the most experience in; if you are right out of school and have a lot of training, but minimal experience, start with the training. If you have done more film than theatre, list those first. List projects in reverse chronological order, and don’t include dates. Follow this format;

  • Theatre: Title of Show, Role, Theatre Company, Director
  • Film & Television: Title of Show/Film, Category of Role (ie. Principle, Supporting), Producer/Network, Director

Generally you don’t include extra work in your main film/television category, or specific commercials; these can be provided on a separate form if requested. An important note about your theatre listings; be sure to list the theatre company you worked with, not just the venue. Sometimes outside companies rent a space from a major theatre, and listing that space as your company is essentially lying on your resume; directors notice, and we don’t like it.

For example, say Bygone Theatre produced a show and we rented out Factory Theatre, the format should look like this;

Rope, Brandon, Bygone Theatre, Emily Dix

NOT like this;

Rope, Brandon, Factory Theatre, Emily Dix

The second example would imply it was produced by Factory Theatre, which is incorrect.

Cover Letter
Unless requested, you don’t need to include a cover letter, but if you do, make sure it’s well written. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors look unprofessional and can get you tossed out before you even have a chance to audition. As well, be sure that your cover letter is specific and tailored to the role; it is easy to tell when something is copied and pasted, and things like referring to a play as a “film” can also see you rejected. Take the time to show you are interested and committed to the project if you want the director to take the time to see you in an audition.

In the Audition
Make sure you arrive on time for your audition; often they are scheduled back-to-back and being even a couple minutes late can throw things off and lose you your spot. Be dressed appropriately; this means wearing something that looks good on you and suits the style of the show. Unless you are auditioning for a character that would do so, don’t show up in sweats. Make sure you are cleaned up and that you look like your headshot.

If you need to warm-up before your audition, do that outside. Th director shouldn’t see you doing this; don’t waste time inside the audition room. When you come in, be cheery and polite; don’t complain about your day or make excuses for being late or ill-prepared (sounds obvious but I’ve seen this a LOT). Be friendly but not too chatty, you’re there to audition, not make friends. Try to avoid asking too many questions. Come in having done your homework and be ready to start immediately.

Choosing a Monologue
If a monologue isn’t provided, choose one that suits the style of the piece you are auditioning for. Think about  whether it is a comedy or a drama, what the period is, and what type of character you are auditioning for. Avoid monologues that have a lot of sexuality or profanity; this rarely comes across as shocking or interesting and is more likely to make the whole room feel uncomfortable (fun story – when casting for Doubt I had several women auditioning to be nuns do monologues that involved excessive amounts of swearing; needless to say, they didn’t receive callbacks) . Try to show some emotional range but don’t feel like you need to choose something that involves screaming or crying; play to your strengths.

Remember, as awful as this may sound, when you are auditioning for something you are putting yourself out there to be judged; put your best foot forward and do what you can to impress your audience. Talent is important but being polite and professional matters just as much. An actor who isn’t right for the role but impresses a director with their preparedness and manners is much more likely to be asked back to audition for another piece than one who is talented but rude and unprepared.

If you find you have trouble at auditions, the best way to improve is to do as many of them as you can. Each time you will be more relaxed and will pick up new tips. To those of you out there auditioning, break a leg!

-E.

How To Draft a Custom Hat Pattern

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On Monday I started my week long millinery course at Stratford Off The Wall; after only one day we’d already done a ton.

After going over some basics we had a chance to tour the costume warehouse at Stratford, including the upper level not usually open to tours. There we saw some amazing costumes, like this beauty;

Hat in the Stratford Warehouse

Hat in the Stratford Warehouse

There was so much to see we could have easily spent a day there, but our main focus was the hats. Even limiting it to that section, we spent a good hour browsing the aisles, each of us allowed to pick out one to take back to the studio and model our own hat after. I chose this cute little topper that had been worn in Guys And Dolls a few seasons back;

Hat from Guys and Dolls

Hat from Guys and Dolls

While my own hat has since been altered greatly from this version, it was great to see a professionally made one up close and personal.

There’s a lot of work that goes into making a hat, and being a novice I certainly have more to learn than teach. But in the interest of sharing knowledge and fun I’m going to break my lessons down into several blog posts, starting with this one. So part 1 in my hat how-to tutorial begins with….

How To Draft A Custom Hat Pattern From Scratch

Step 1. Prepping Your Hat Form

Step 1. Prep your hat form

Step 1. Prep your hat form

If you don’t have the luxury of using a wooden hat block, the first thing you need to do is prep your hat form – here I used a Styrofoam head. I covered the entire thing in plastic wrap and masking tape, making it stronger and protecting it for future use.

If you were looking to do a more fitted hat that comes down more on your head, like a cloche or a fedora, you’d need a form that is the right size for your head. Since I was doing a topper, it didn’t need to be as precise, so this method worked well.

Step 2. Make sure the form is protected

Make sure the form is protected

Step 2. Get Your Measurements
Measure the head you are building the hat for, and transfer those measurements to your form. You need to have your centre front, centre back, and size measurements, as well as your circumference. For detailed instructions on how to take proper measurements, consult the millinery book, From The Neck Up: Illustrated Hatmaking.

Step 3. Get your measurements

Get your measurements and oval pattern

Step 3. Make Your Initial Pattern
Once you have all your measurements, as well as an idea of the type of hat you’d like to make, you can start to construct your pattern. We used butcher’s paper; any study but light-weight paper will do. This is where some basic math is required.

Start off with the circumference of your head, or the size of your “head opening” spot of your hat. In my case, since it was a topper, it was smaller (higher on my head = smaller opening than the true circumference of my head). In my case, it was 19.5″. We were lucky enough to have use of our teacher’s patterns, so I had a ready-made oval that was 19.5″ in circumference. Without that, you’d need to make one yourself. Trace this onto your paper.

Mark the Front-Centre (FC) of your pattern, and then divide the number by 2, so you can find where your Back-Centre (BC) should be; 19.5/2=9 ¾ BC

Following the same idea, continue to measure and mark your Left-Side (LS), Right-Side (RS), and the halfway mark in-between those as well. You should have something that looks like this:

Step 4. Make your pattern

Step 3. Make your initial pattern

Add a 1 ¼” seam allowance to the inside of your head opening, and then you’re ready to cut our your pattern. Make a slit up the BC of the pattern and cut out the inside of the head opening (leaving the seam allowance).

Step 4. Notches
Take your scissors and make notches to the seam allowance, going in as far as your actual head opening; this is so you can attach the brim to the crown. They should be about 3/8″ wide all around the head opening. Now you are ready to begin shaping your brim.

Step 5. Make notches and fit that pattern to your form

Step 4. Make notches and fit that pattern to your form

Step 5. Shaping Your Brim
Pin your crown to your form using the notches. Tape up the CB seam. Now is the fun part! You can fiddle with the brim, deciding on how wide you want it, and if you want to alter it by using darts.

Step 6. Begin shaping your hat

Step 5. Begin shaping your hat

Step 6. Slicing and Layering
If you want to create a brim with some shape, do so by slicing and layering. This is an experimentation process; don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You can easily tape it up and go back to your initial shape.

Step 7. Shape your hat by slicing and layering

Step 7. Shape your hat by slicing and layering

Step 7. Complete Your Initial Pattern
Play with the slicing and layering until you are happy with your brim shape; I was going for a 1940’s look, so I created an exaggerated brim, but you can do whatever you want. Once you’re happy with it, be sure to mark the size of your darts and then un-tape the pattern and flatten it out. Remove the tabs.

Step 9. Complete the initial pattern of your hat

Step 7. Complete the initial pattern of your hat

Step 8. Creating a Master Pattern
To be sure to get an accurate master pattern, you want your paper to be as flat as possible; use steam if necessary. I then pinned it over my strong cardboard (for the master pattern) and into a piece of foam to make sure it wouldn’t slide. Trace the pattern remembering to mark where you will be placing darts. If you have large notches like I did, do not cut them out, just trace them. They will be layered.

Step 10. Flatten initial pattern and trace a simplified version on cardstock

Step 8. Flatten initial pattern and trace a simplified version on cardstock

Step 9. Checking Your master Pattern
When you are done tracing, once again add a 1¼ seam allowance and create your tabs. Then, cut out the pattern and pin it to your form, making sure it still looks right.

Step 11. Make final adjustments to your master pattern, fitting it onto form

Step 9. Make final adjustments to your master pattern, fitting it onto form

Congratulations! You have now created your master brim pattern.

More to come.

-E.

 Like this post? Check out my company blog, Bygone Theatre for related posts on a brief history of women’s hats and how to convey character through hats.