By Matthew Scadden | Posted: Wednesday November 13, 2013
The Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival was an amazing experience.
In 2013 I had the pleasure of taking part in the SGCNZ Otago University Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival. I joined with a group of 5 others; Damon, Macaela, Anika, Nicole and Abby to put on a 15 minute excerpt from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had an awesome few weeks of rehearsal and gave a great performance alongside 20 other groups from the Otago Region, in an incredible couple of nights of entertainment. We came off the stage buzzing. I was then deeply honoured to win the Best Performer Award, which gave me direct entry to the National Shakespeare Schools Production in Wellignton. NSSP put me amongst 47 other such students, split into three groups to each rehearse and perform a 50 minute Shakespeare play under the direction of theatre greats. My group performed Cymbeline under the direction of living legend, Stuart Devenie.
SGCNZ NSSP 2013 was without a doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I am hugely grateful to the amazing group of people that made it happen, both regionally and nationally.
What actually stood out most for me was the sense of Whanau that came out of the week. I was really nervous going into it that everyone was going to be really competitive – because only 24 people would be selected to go to London afterwards, and I would have to wear a mask for the whole week. 5 minutes in I was part of one of the many jam sessions that would happen throughout the week and I was able to relax. I don’t think after the first day anyone even thought about London, and we bonded extremely quickly. Everyone was immensely caring right from the start, and if anyone had any problems during the week there was always a group of people there supporting them. There was a great feeling of equality, and we all delighted in getting to know one another and appreciating the enormous amount of talent that was present. I felt humbled to be surrounded by such an incredible group of people, and even if it is a little cheesy, the week taught me a lot about myself.
The week was really full on. Rehearsals were an absolute pleasure, with everyone so dedicated to a fantastic end-result. When Stuart suggested that we cast ourselves we were terrified but it took only a very painless ten minutes or so, as everyone wanted to make the most of the week in whatever form. Rehearsals went very smoothly, and line-learning was a pleasure with so many people around to help each other. Stuart was awesome to work with, from the perpetual stream of gold that he spoke, teaching us about Shakespearean performance, to the dances that he taught us to help us with the Iambic pentameter.
Throughout the week we had the honour of working with any number of big names all who taught us a most phenomenal amount. The workshops from the directors did in fact completely revolutionise my entire approach to acting, and I now look at acting and direction in the Theatre from a totally different point of view, which I am so thankful for. The week advanced me as an actor just as much as it taught me as a person. This was supported by the Mystery tour where among other things we went backstage at WOW which was for many of us a fantastic recompense and more, for not having been able to see the show itself. We were graced by performances from My Fair Verona – a 50 minute piece of IMPROVISED Shakespeare which completely blew us all away and the Circa Theatre’s Midsummer which was likewise fantastic from NSSP alumni.
At the end of it, I was again greatly honoured to be amongst the twenty four people who now make up the 2014 NZ Young Shakespeare Company. We will be travelling to the Globe Theatre in London next year where we will be directed by Globe Directors and receive workshops from some of the greatest teachers in the world. It will culminate in our very own performance at the Globe Theatre. This is a fantastic opportunity that I am grabbing with both hands, and I look forward to spending another few weeks with that amazing group of people, and being a sponge for all of the teaching that we will be receiving.
Thanks very much to everyone who helped me get this far, namely Sarah Spicer, and my awesome regional group; you guys are fantastic.