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Corporate Roleplay - another role to play?

on Tue, 04/22/2014 - 21:39


Corporate Roleplay is an area of work for actors which has emerged in the last 20 years. By ‘corporate’ I don’t mean ‘suits’ though it can include suits. ‘Corporate roleplay’ is the term used to refer workplace roleplay which also includes workplace roleplay for public sector employers. The context can be as varied as workplaces - accounting firms, law firms, schools, hospitals. One day you could be playing a social worker discussing a problematic case, the next a lawyer in a negotiation. It is a great opportunity for exposure to a wide range of industries and workplaces and to practise communication skills which, again, all feeds into the body of experiences on which we can draw creating characters. Though it takes time to build up contacts and a body of work, corporate roleplay can be a challenging, intellectually stimulating and rewarding facet of our ‘work portfolio’. It’s paid improvisation and can be a part or the whole of a sustainable acting career.

Also, I observe that actors take some skills for granted and underrate their value. We are experienced in building social rapport. There is a significant commercial ‘value’ to teaching networking skills. Networking at seminars is a very important aspect of the careers of accountants and lawyers yet many find networking intimidating. This and other communication situations is where actors can provide a valuable service.

Starting out

So, how to you get into corporate roleplay? Start by googling corporate / roleplay / training or any combination of these and find the most active companies. Roleplay companies can be a ‘moveable feast’ with a number being more/less active depending on their clients and contracts. However, the most established will come up on google. Look at their clients.

Yes And...

on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 10:44


I have been reflecting on my life and where saying yes got me, and how  it has been really useful to say yes (saying no, also useful at times too, but the yes’s have taken me on and through wonderful paths that have led on ,on ,on…… )

These are some of my big yes moments (often not knowing what would happen. I think they were “Yes And  “ moments )

In 1988 my yes led me to start composing for fringe theatre with Cracked Mirror.

In 1990  my “yes let’s have a baby “ gave me three children and a 20 year marriage with many happy memories.

In 1997 my “yes I’ll play for your ballet classes” led me to learn about improvising for movement.. which led to…..

…. when Lawrence set up a Silent film society in 2003  and asked me to be the silent film accompanist my “yes, I’ll have a go” led me to, in September of that year , having only seen Chaplin films before on the television ….sitting before a 3 hour film (Intolerance DW Griffiths) and playing for it. I played weekly that season and I’ve accompanied 50 different silent films since which led to…

……..2008 ” yes, wise parents who know me so well, yes universe,  I’ll become a student of Dalcroze Eurhythmics “ which has led me to  the most delightful rich career in teaching , connecting my love of music and movement that has enhanced every aspect of my creative life…..

…..In 2010 I said “yes” to Stella Duffy’s session “who wants to work with me” which led to making  the Chaosbaby Project and glorious friends, community, learning, sharing, theatre making…

…..which led to me being invited to work with Shaky Isles and…..I am now a  member of this company whose values I hold dear and with whom I’ve grown so much as an actor and a person.

A Plot of Land

on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 15:17

My Grandad and I were born fifty seven years apart.

My Grandad grew up in war-time Hammersmith.  I grew up in Knowle, a small C of E village divided from Birmingham by the M42.

My Grandad escaped London to find a quieter suburban life.  I ran back in, ready for my life to begin.

Despite this, and even though he passed away last August, I still see connections always and everywhere;  I still hear his words and now, more than ever, I find his life and his stories colliding with mine.


Recently I attended Birdhouse.  A brilliant initiative set up by Alex Murdoch of Cartoon De Salvo for female artists to come together and share experiences of working in the arts and to explore ways in which we can become better at what we do.  There was a focus on the business side of arts: networking, how to operate as a business and generally how to succeed as a freelance artist.  One thing became apparent among us: we all work ridiculously hard.  Those that had, had greater success in their careers (not that we can measure success, but perhaps those that were managing to spend more time working in the arts on their own projects, than out.) seemed to work non-stop. And I left feeling frightened, what if I simply don’t have the stamina or courage to pursue this life?  This career?  Or what if I work even harder than I aready do and never really get anywhere?


At my grandparents’ house there were only six kids books.   And we used to read those six books over and over again.  Until we got bored, and asked for a story.  A real story.  A good one.

My Grandad’s stories were mostly made up.  The time he shot a German.  The time a German shot him (tried to convince us his belly button was a gunshot wound.)  The time a bomb landed on his house and he survived the explosion.

Action Learning – a better way to collaborate and communicate together…

on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 18:08


by Mark Trezona

I had lunch this week with a wonderful friend and colleague who I first met nearly twenty years ago when we were completing our MAs in Management Leadership & Learning. This was when I first discovered Action Learning, the framework that has changed my practice forever, as much, I confidently dare to believe, as it has transformed the lives and accomplishments of many of the people who have participated in its process.

In Shaky Isles we use Action Learning as our framework for coming together to grow and sustain the company, and now, more and more, inside the performance making process as well, to support and nourish our creative learning alongside our show creation.

I am also currently facilitating Action Learning with a group of Rajni Shah Project artists to support their co-creation activities, and here, too, the discipline and framework of Action Learning is weaving across and into Board meetings, producing some really exciting new conversations and ways of working together.

And in one more application, Nicki Maher is starting to use Action Learning as a way to develop and grow Opaz, the Turkish music ensemble she leads.

A Practitioner’s Guide to Action Learning

Reg Revans invented Action Learning to provide a 'clean space' in an overly noisy and overly directed world, to give people enough freedom and enough solid framework to be able to uncover and discover their own best thoughts and insights to become freshly inspired to act, fuelled by their own creative expectations and sustained by their continually expanding capabilities.

In any attempt to describe Action Learning, it is essential to say that Revans rightly advises us that the only way to really know what it is, is to do it.

The Urban Beehive

on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 14:49

by MartynDuffy


I was thinking about bees the other day.  Someone mentioned the fact that there were many more urban bees now than ever before, collecting their nectar from our city gardens with all their rich diversity of plants and flowers.  Countryside bees increasingly have to cope with huge swathes of industrialised farmed monoculture crops and these bees are dying for lack of diversity and through the massive use of pesticides that these single crops demand.  How do you cross-pollinate when everything is the same?

We use the bee as one of our symbols in Open Space. The bee is the person who flits from group to group and cross-pollinates with news of similarity and difference. The bee explores the possibilities of how the group might be enhanced through collaboration and sharing ideas. Our Open Space bee is a news bringer and a matchmaker. She thrives on diversity in the landscape.

I don’t usually go in for extended metaphors, but I just note with pride that the beehive generates, grows and renews itself through the extraordinary efforts of its workers and it nourishes itself and provides nourishment for a world outside the hive that the bee itself has no knowledge of.  A bee is a tiny creature making tiny incremental inputs towards the growth of the whole hive.  And at the centre is the queen from whom the whole population takes inspiration and leadership.  It was no accident that the priestess of the Oracle at Delphi was given the title “Delphic Bee” and it is the strong women in our company, bringing their insights and wisdom, that are at the centre of the work we make.

In our cross-cultural mini-hives we urban bees are constantly seeking out the rich resources our modern society has on offer to bring back and enrich us.

Flying in the Helicopter

on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 17:55


11am 4th March

This blog will be in two parts. I have a vague idea of how it starts. I don’t know how it will end. There is the morning part – this one. There will be an afternoon part – later today.

Last Tuesday I began my placement with MakeBelieve Arts at a Nursery in Essex to learn more and engage with the Helicopter Technique. Inspired by Vivian Gussin Paley’s work it is a technique in the classroom of storywriting and storyacting. The storytellers (the children) I am Helicopter-ing with are 3 and 4 years old. Here is an example of one of the stories from last week;

“Once upon a time there was a dragon and a little boy called Jack. And he played football. And then he lost the ball. And a scary witch camed. And she put it in the trap. And a boy came along. And he rescued the princess and got her out.”

Needless to say an essential part of this technique is writing the story EXACTLY as the child tells it. Verbatim. Then it is acted out within a square or rectangular masking taped shape on the floor which is their stage. It is acted out in turns. There is no obligation for any child to enter the stage if they do not wish to. The storyteller is offered first dibs of which character they would like to be in their story. Again, there is no obligation to be in one’s own story, but usually the offer is taken up. The young boy from the above story chose to be the boy JACK. The child saw his story so clearly, and all the children wanted to be in his story! During the storyacting he made an edit with in the playing;

“Once upon a time there was a dragon and a little boy called Jack. And he played football. And then he lost the ball in the bush….”

He saw his story so clearly that the added detail was very important in the acting.

Grounded Feather

on Tue, 02/25/2014 - 08:14

By Connie T.B Girvan


Dear Feather,

Tie a string or you shall blow away.


The Ground


Dear Ground, 

I like to fly! Besides the world is round so the farther I go that way the closer I’ll be this way! You don’t move at all, always in the same place. 


The Feather


Dear Feather,

From rock to sand, from clay to mud, I always move. Not to mention my dust. Perhaps you don’t need a string. I don’t seem to have one.


The Ground


Dear Wind,

Blow us where you will. It will probably be fine. Or it might not be.


The Ground and The Feather

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 17:19

Mary Price-O’Connor

Just over a year ago I found 10 rules for students and teachers. Devised by Sister Corita Kent, with some input by John Cage. Merce Cunningham kept a copy in his studio until his death.

I have them typed up and stuck to my piano. They’re in my notebook. I remember them when I’ve done a long day of teaching (giving, Giving,) and know, because I trust these rules, that I won’t regret going to a contemporary dance class with a teacher I’ve followed for about four and a half years now (long enough to feel a difference in my technique, someone who is exactly the right person for me to learn from at the moment) No matter how tired I am I never regret the choice to go. I have found a studio space weekly to make/create/explore. I take them with me there.

They are rules for life as well.

So, just incase you haven’t yet come across them , here they are….

Engagement At Work - a reflection of being in and out of flow

on Wed, 02/05/2014 - 02:09

by Mark Trezona

photo by Sue Ridge

sunlight on a grape

I am just coming out of three months of making my first eLearning training programme.  It has been huge, intense, wonderful, knackering, all-consuming, richly rewarding and quite definitely the hardest work I have done in one concentrated quarter of a year for a very long time.

At the end of each video I invite participants - still my preferred identity for the people who come to learn with me - to reflect back over what they most remember and want to take and use from their experience.  And I decided it might be useful and of some interest, too, I hope, to step myself through these questions.

And I cannot even begin to want to do this to and for myself alone, and so I am using this post as a platform to come sit for a moment to reflect back out loud over what has been a huge three months of learning, making, experimenting, producing, crafting, failing, repeating, reworking, labouring and finessing this nearly-finished-now programme of learning videos.

Just like making a show in a multitude of ways, and completely different and unfamiliar for me in one ineluctable aspect:  making a show is entirely collaborative and this experience has been entirely solo.

Question 1:  What happened?  What do I most remember from this experience?  What stands out as significant or especially memorable?

I remember having to keep learning something new, every day, then every week.  And every time I thought I'd learned everything I needed to produce this work, discovering something else I hadn't realised I didn't know that I needed to learn or figure out or muddle my way through or solve or fix or experiment with until I found a way to make it work.

A Pianist without a Piano

on Wed, 01/29/2014 - 00:31

By Connie T.B Girvan

Most afternoons for around 12 years I would be found tickling the ivories and ebonies. I would climb spiral staircases with Mozart. We opened trunks in the attic and watched ominous shadows passing outside the door. Fortunately the clucking ladies with fans would chatter the suspense away but the shadows returned in the last movement and corkscrewed into smoke. That was Fantasy No. 4 in C minor, K. 475 . I swam with Chopin and a rainbow trout through a boulder speckled creek. We were running from a cloud. We came to a bit where braver trout sin and co-sin leaped around us out of stream. They left us for other wonders and we were alone after the waterfall. That was Opus 28 No. 3 in G major. 

I then went to drama school. There were pianos. But I only found the sound proof cupboards in my second year. And even then people could hear me. Sometimes someone would knock, why are you playing with the lights off, you can’t see! And the singers sang scales strongly, loudly. It scared the trout away.

Musos at uni had birdnested hair and vacuum sealed jeans. I was an actor. Not a muso. I was actor and pianist without a piano.

I chose not to go into music because I do not perform music. I perform theatre. Piano is my soul’s flight. I wasn’t about to culture that magic vulnerability merely because a lecturer asked me too, or because someone paid to watch me. Somebody might poke my clam belly mid-movement. And then I would snap and spit like clams do. Has a clam every spat in your eye? It’s odd. And salty. I know some mudflats where you could try it out.

I saw a show recently that I assumed was a fringe show. It was at a fringe theatre. I hadn’t been to that theatre before so was happy to go see my friend’s show that he had directed.