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MARCH 2017
Alumni & Friends:
Save the dates and join Joint Dean Eunice Roberts & Programs Manager Christina Ibironke for a drink this March while they travel the U.S. for our annual audition tour:
FOCUS ON: Year Long London Theatre Program
Eunice Roberts, Joint Dean of BADA talks to BADA’s newest Shakespeare Teacher, Paul O’Mahony about his career so far, the Advanced Shakespeare class he’s teaching at BADA and the key to devising your own production.

Eunice Roberts: Hi Paul.  We’re delighted to have you teaching Shakespeare for the Advanced London Theatre Program this semester.  In the past, it’s been an eight week course and then the students have gone on to do the productions mixed in together with the new semester long students.  However, this year, we’re having your good self, leading the class for the eight weeks and then guiding them into their own production Inspired by Shakespeare.

You regularly create your own productions with your theatre company Out of ChaosCould you just tell us a little bit about that work, such as Unmythable?
Paul O’Mahony: Absolutely! Our very first show was called Out of Chaos, which we toured to various festivals around Europe.  We have another show called Norsesome, which is a retelling of Viking legend and then a production which tells all the Greek Myths in one hour, called Unmythable. Unmythable has toured to around one hundred different theatres in the UK, around Europe and we’ve also been to New Zealand and Edinburgh where we won the Three Weeks Editor’s Award in 2012.  Our approach to theatre is based on creating a strong ensemble and lots of game playing: in each scene you’re really trying to find the game that is going on and that makes each scene lively and engaging.
That’s really what I want to spend a lot of these eight weeks doing with the students: exploring Shakespeare, exploring the text and being really rigorous with that and at the same time creating an ensemble that will be ready to go when they come back from their mid-term break.  I hope to help them create a strong ensemble that is sensitive to each other’s needs, and can work collaboratively both leading and listening as required, that can then generate its own work.  Having explored different plays, we discover that there are huge themes which are enduringly relevant and I’m interested to find out what the students find most interesting and most engaging.  Whatever they think is most important for them and for the world that they live in will then inform what we do for the production.  Whatever themes or situations excite them, there will be a Shakespeare play that will serve as a wonderful inspiration.
ER: We first met through Actors From The London Stage, a theatre company of five actors, no director, no stage manager, no one except support from an office and a plan of where the show will tour within American colleges and universities.  With only five people it means that in doing a whole play you always portray many characters and so there’s also that aspect to consider when devising your own piece.  Can you tell us a little bit about how you will begin devising this new piece of work with the students?

PO’M: Throughout the eight weeks we’ll gradually be doing bits of devising as well as exploring the text and then for the production period we’re going to be using a Shakespeare play as the inspiration for a whole new play, possibly having a play within a play, like in Hamlet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Some of the devising we’ll be doing as a group will be inspired by the work that I do with Actors From The London Stage, for example, this last week we have been exploring Richard III and I’ve asked them to choose three different characters, ensuring that there is one of each gender and different age ranges between them, etc. and then this week we’ll be exploring switching between these different characters and playing scenes and trying to solve the problems that occur when there aren’t enough of them for all the parts.
ER: So in their production there will be lots of physical changing, but what about use of language?  Could you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on Shakespeare’s language, how it should be used?

PO’M: There are clues within the text and in choosing three characters they will begin to really find how many different clues there are.  I’ve also been asking them to choose lines that jump out as saying something particular about one of their characters.  They then begin exploring why that line is interesting.   What it is within that language, the structure, the vocabulary used that make it interesting, and how we can then use that to inform the character in terms of vocal quality?  This is very useful when playing multiple roles.  We also use it to inform the characters’ physicality, to start creating a silhouette...
ER: That is something I often talk about with new actors joining the company.  I ask them to imagine drawing a heavy pencil line all the way around the character’s body and then when you step out of that you leave an impression of that character behind on the stage, so in stepping in and out of characters they don’t disappear, their silhouette remains.

PO’M: Over the weekend I’ve asked them to look at parts of the Richard and Anne Scene from early on in Richard III, and what we’ll be exploring with that is the dynamic of a scene and how Richard and Anne are picking up on each other’s language.  Last week we looked briefly at the line endings in that scene and how they are twisted echoes of each other’s words which they use to jab back at the other character.  This must then inform the playing of that scene and the playing of these characters.  These characters who are sparring incredibly effectively, who are listening incredibly intently because they’re picking up precisely on what the other is saying before then throwing it straight back at them, demonstrating they are intellectually a match for one another.  All of this is there within the language and I’m a firm believer that this then informs us about the rhythm of the action, how we create that rhythm and then when we choose to break that rhythm.  There’s no set way in which everything should be done otherwise we wouldn’t keep exploring.
ER: No, and it goes through the individual, so naturally the individuality of the rhythm of that individual actor comes out.

PO’M:  That’s it.  It’s giving the students the tools and awareness of that rhythm, so that they can then make the choices as to when they break it and then make those moments which an audience will pick up on imperceptibly.
ER: So at this stage you’re waiting to see what the class brings as well to inform what the final production will be.

PO’M: Yes, ultimately I am hoping it will be led by the students and I facilitate that happening, so that they create the show that they want to create. I'm there to help guide them through the process of making their own work.
ER: I think before we finish up we should mention that we worked together, about six years ago at the Orange Tree Theatre, in Richmond in a play called Mary Broome in which you were my son.

PO’M:  That is absolutely true! It was just after I came back from my first ever Actors From The London Stage tour, so we met just before Mary Broome.  I was exceedingly honored to be your son.  I’ve done quite a few shows in the Orange Tree Theatre.   The space is in the round and you're extremely close to the audience so there’s this lovely sense of everyone being part of something together, which I really enjoy.  I’m constantly saying to my students here at BADA that there will always be another character/performer in the room with you -  the audience and that’s who you have to keep playing with.
Thank you Paul.  We look forward to seeing the wonderful production the Advanced Shakespeare Class produces with you later this term.
BADA also has a new Acting for Film & TV course for the Year Long London Theatre Program students. There will be an interview about the course with faculty member Mabel Aitken in the next newsletter but we wanted to share some photos from their recent film shoot.
Fall of 2016 BADA implemented a new marketing plan aimed at rethinking how the organization describes and promotes its programmes. The first step was to work with a branding agency to create a bold brand identity that will serve as the bedrock for new marketing, development and outreach efforts. After meeting with several top UK branding agencies in September, BADA hired hat-trick design.

After months of work, the new brand launched in early January. We spoke with Gareth Howat, Director at hat-trick, about their work and the new brand identity.

Tell us a bit about hat-trick design?

hat-trick design logoHat-trick design was formed in January 2001.  We have always been a multi-disciplinary design company but our main work is in creating Brand Identities, but we have been lucky enough to work with lots of different types of clients and projects over the years.  We like to think we bring fresh and objective creative thinking to all projects, and not formulaic answers. 

You’ve worked with some major UK companies and institutions such as the Natural History Museum, Wimbledon, Royal Albert, Hall, Oxford Brookes University; what drew you to BADA’s project?

Although we have done a lot of work in the cultural and educational sectors we haven't done very much theatre work. We are always looking for a new challenge and as soon as I met the team at BADA their enthusiasm and ambition really rubbed off on us and we knew it would be a great project to tackle. Ultimately we want to work for people who are passionate about what they do.

How do you approach a project like BADA’s brand? Were there any unexpected surprises or challenges?

Every project is different and you really have to keep an open mind and listen to what the issues are in order to create something relevant and unique.

So the first step was to meet a cross-section of the staff and students to interview them and get their take on where BADA is now and where it wants to be in the future.

It's often through these informal discussions that you pick up on the core themes that need to be communicated in the branding. 

What surprised us in a way was how aligned everyone was from the point of view of where the organisation was and where it was going, as to be honest its not very often we find such internal consensus.

You’ve developed a striking new logo for us; can explain the concept behind it?
The idea came from the interviews mentioned earlier, where several themes emerged: the first was that the students go through a real personal development and transformation as the training is truly life changing. Another was of one of enlightenment, so we wondered if we could create a typography based route where the letters “emerged” into the light - which we also thought reflected the idea of  Theatrical lighting.

So we set the BADA name and created an alphabet so that the typography could be extended across the branding to give a flexible system to make the communications distinctive.

The overall project also includes very specific guidelines around photography and the types of images that BADA should be using; can you describe how those fit together with the logo?

Imagery is such a key part of any brand these days and it's one of the key elements that can set you apart. We also wanted to get into the mindset of the audience and what they would want to know.

There are several themes of imagery that we observed that run through BADA's activities: we wanted to make sure that we got across the energy and commitment in the day-to-day training, so we had the idea of showing a fly on the wall / behind the scenes view as reportage-style photography to show the classes and students.

Obviously their performances were also a key asset, and finally the images of the locations we felt were important to attract the potential students, as the central London location next to the Park is such a great place to learn. The idea was to use a combination of these to show the what life is like at BADA. All of these images could be overlaid with the “light” typography to make them ownable and distinctly BADA.

Thank you, Gareth! 
Once work had begun on the new brand, BADA staff began the process of finding an agency to lead the redesign and redevelopment of the whole website. The team met with potential partners from a number of different agencies and decided to hire Squadron Software

The new site was designed and developed rapidly so that the first phase would launch with the new brand in January. We spoke with Chris Bond, Proprietor of Squadron Software, about the design and build of the new website.

Tell us a bit about Squadron Software and your approach to website development?

I set up Squadron to develop great software and to deliver the type of service that I myself would like to receive when working with a technology company.  Our approach always begins with the end in mind, being conscious never to develop overly complex systems but to focus instead on the user experience and making sure it does what it is designed to do.  Not rocket science, but it's surprising how many software companies seem to often forget those key things.

The new BADA homepageThe new BADA Alumni page
How did our new brand identity influence the design process for this project?

The brand is really at the heart of any design process, and it was a pleasure to work alongside hat-trick as they formulated a striking new identity for BADA.  I think the brand really captures what BADA stands for, and I was keen that we carried that forward to the site design.  Using features such as the red highlight and the angles within the logo, we managed to create a clear and simple structure for the site, that is still exciting and accessible.

One of the big challenges seems to be that sites now have to be creating sites that are as engaging on small mobile screens as on larger screens; how do you keep things engaging regardless of device size?

It's absolutely right to say that the mobile experience can no longer be seen as a poor relation of the desktop computer experience, so often now we all have our first interactions with many organisations through the mobile versions of their websites, often from links we find on Twitter, Facebook etc.  The way we've found to tackle this is to develop many of the mobile elements alongside, if not before, the desktop version.  The small screen layouts present many additional challenges, so tackling them early is often a good idea.

One of the goals of the overhaul was to make the website more dynamic and engaging, how did you approach this issue?

We approached this by aiming for a subtle but clear level of movement and interaction across the site.  Small touches such as the layout and animation on the menus, the scrolling elements of the pages and the flipping of the staff and faculty biographies all add to the impression that the site is moving and responding to BADA's audience, without distracting from the great content.

You’ve developed lots of custom elements and modules for the site; is there one that you are particularly proud of?

One of my favourites os probably the simplest: using the fantastic quality photography that BADA commissioned, and creating a way that the images are placed across the site and change every time you view a page - it really gives the impression that the site is alive, and it showcases the fantastic student experience at BADA.

Thanks, Chris!
Two Midsummer in Oxford alums were nominated for Academy Awards: Tarell Alvin McCraney (MIO '05) won for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight, which was based on his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; Ruth Negga (MIO '01) was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in Loving Ngozi Anyanwu (MIO '03) is making her professional playwriting debut with, and starring in, Good Grief at the Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles ♦ Taylor Dearden (LTP '14) is one of the stars of MTV's Sweet/Vicious ♦ Joel Perez (LTP '06) appeared in the New Group's Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity  ♦  Francois Battiste (MIO '05) was one of the stars of the Donmar Warehouse's production of One Night in Miami... in London.
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