‘A singer thinks he has a voice but the voice has the singer!’

Opera – a genre onethousandladders knows so little about. So if we were to begin devising a piece where opera forms a big influence we thought it might be an idea to get a little better acquainted! After receiving the news back in April that Lanza’s Last Word had been chosen for FierceFwd, a new artist development initiative, we immediately booked an Opera workshop with Amy Whittle. A trained Opera singer Amy had studied the art form at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. We had both previously worked with Amy and thought she would be the perfect person to ask to help us! The workshop took place on Tuesday 13th May at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and here are just some thoughts and findings from the day…

Opera: an art form originally created to entertain the elite audiences in Italy. Even today there seems a divide between Opera and it’s audiences – it is reserved for the elite, certainly for the pocket of the more wealthy punter it would seem – tickets out price the budgets of most people I know. Top price tickets to see La Boheme at the Royal Opera House will set you back £195! So it’s seems some traditions still remain?? Though companies such as Birmingham Opera Company, who recently staged Khovanskygate in a giant circus tent in Cannon Hill Park, seem set to bring Opera to the masses which is certainly indicated by the far more reasonable and realistic ticket price of £20-£30!

Is Opera for anyone, regardless of class?

One thing that has interested me from the start of the Lanza idea, was the complete juxtaposition of things – you have the Hollywood glamour and romantic notion that comes along with the association of Mario Lanza, in opposition to the working class Black Country pub. I like the idea that we can incorporate that juxtaposition in live performance through the influences of opera as an art form. The challenge is see how we can create a performance that brings that so beautifully together.

Opera in a pub is the complete juxtaposition of what that very art form was derived from and created for. I like the idea that our audience, our punters are the elite and they should be thought of as such.

Just a few of the notes I made from the workshop…

Amy begins the workshop by talking us through the different styles of Opera, from Baroque to the more contemporary Operas of Britten and Puccini. Baroque is all about showcasing the voice, so a lot of the arias will be decorated with extra trills and frills on the notes. Then you have the more romantic Operas such as Puccini and Verdi, where it becomes more about acting along with the singing rather than just showcasing the voice. The more contemporary Opera, such as Britten, become more atonal and dissonant.

We learn about the different languages that Opera is performed in – Italian is the main, original one and is the singer’s dream! But we also have iconic Operas in many languages including German, French, and English. We learn about the vowels, how in different languages, a different emphasis is placed on them and how this then changes the sound of the Opera – Italian sounds so flowing and romantic, whilst the nature of the German language dictates a very different more definitive sound. We practice speaking through a few lines of songs from different languages and this gives us a sense of how each one feels. We learn about diphthongs (refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable), how they vary depending on the language, in English there are huge diphthongs in comparison to Italian where the vowels flow more easily into each other – which can affect the sound of the song and how the listener may portray the story and words which are being sung. We think back to Lanza’s Last Word – could we play around with the huge diphthongs that occur in the Black Country accent? We see the local accent and dialect as key to this piece, the story of AJW is rooted here in the West Midlands. A region which so rich in it’s culture and heritage.

We learn that in basic terms the structure of an Opera takes the form of recitatives and arias. Recitative (or recitativo in Italian) is often used to get the story moving, it is like speech song it tells the audience what is about to happen and then the aria (sung by a solo singer) is where the singer expresses how they feel about that, it is the emotion behind the action. We listen to an aria from Italian Opera Gianni Schicchi. Here famous soprano Maria Callas sings O Mio Babbino Caro … She is pleading with her father to let her marry her true love or else she’ll throw herself off of the Ponte Vecchio into the river Arno in Florence.

So how might we apply what we’ve learnt? Prior to the workshop we’d not really thought about the possibilities of exploring Opera to devise this piece. We’d thought about Mario Lanza and how we might approach interpreting the songs he sang, but looking at the genre as a whole was something that had so far passed us by. We have started to think about how we might use the structure of an Opera. Could we create our very own recitative and aria structure to frame the piece? Can we experiment with sounds of vowels and the natural dipthongs in the Black Country accent to create a unique interpretation?

This workshop certainly gave us a few new ideas to consider playing with. We felt more informed and absolutely inspired. We are in complete awe of the wonderful art of Opera, and of the skill and artistry of Opera singers. I for one am beginning to see Mario Lanza in a whole new light, and have a deepened respect for his work, his skill and his voice! I can certainly see why AJW has so revered this man and his talents for so many years and why he continues to strive to keep the legend of Mario Lanza alive today!

AJW beermat - found in The Starving Rascal, Amblecote

Kayleigh x


Rehearsals and hats and more rehearsals …

When entering the realms of devising, a company know that they are in for a period of time full of endless possibilities and baffling decisions. There will be times of utter revelation and times of utter bewilderment. Week 4 of this process became one of the latter and it became the inevitable, the where are we going with this and what are we doing. I believe this part of the process is as equally as important as a fantastically successful rehearsal. It was productive in a more challenging way, but to break the brick wall down and make new discoveries you first have hit it.  Which is exactly what we did!

So here I give you a very brief break down of the thoughts and happenings in week 4….

Impromptu interviews with people in pubs – Brilliant. Connecting with pubs, talking to them about staging an ‘intervention’, building relationships.

The buying of 3 hats – Yes, yes, yes perfect for the devising space and choreography.

Exploring the different personalities of AJW – Do we want to delve into the personality of AJW or should we be keeping the sense of mystery? Nobody knows what he’s really like and those who do don’t tell, so would we be seemingly giving away too much? Or simply working with what he has already given the public? We know (or we think we know) he’s a baggies fan, he likes women, he loves the music of Mario Lanza, and he is a mystery man. We know they style of writing he uses. How much does this tell us about his personality? And is this what we should be focussing on?

The feeling lost – Inevitable.

Searching for the answer – Perhaps we don’t need to know the answer yet?

Looking for text – A productive step forward when one is unsure of the next step.

Finding a trailer – The trailer for the film ‘ The Student Prince’ in which Mario Lanza did the vocals for. An interesting find. An inspiring use of song, language, font, and style. We can definitely take ideas from this to create something. Perhaps we can create our own ‘trailer’ as documentation and publicity for the project? We could include live video footage of our intervention/performance and work with a film maker to achieve this.  

Creating a stage for our intervention – Using the over head projector to project AJW’s beer mats as a backdrop.

Football  – The idea of use of movement to explore football in pubs.

AJW’s text – We love his style of writing. Do we work with text that is already written by AJW? Or create our own in response to what he writes? Or both?

Percussiveness of the steins – How can we use rhythm to gradually build and transform a pub environment into a musical event?

Still feeling lost – Lots of ideas, too many ideas? Not enough time! Enough rehearsal time to stage an intervention in a pub in 3 weeks time?  We want to perform to our best ability. We want to create something ‘other’ in a pub environment. We don’t want to alienate our audience therefore we most importantly need to be fully rehearsed and prepared. We have very limited time all together as a company and complex harmonies with potential choreography and text to learn. Maybe now is the time for re-scheduling and re-energising in the rehearsal room.

So there it was, a meeting of steps forward, steps sideways, and the realisation that time is limited therefore how do we get the most out of the time we have left. What can we realistically achieve in this time? Time is of the essence, does time get lost in a pub? Time is often counted in pints. Time at the bar is a sudden jerk back into the reality of time for punters.

I digress! So after a meeting of slightly bewildered minds in week 4, week 5 decided to take on a completely different direction. We made the decision to re-schedule our live intervention and carry on exploring the possibilities of this project without being completely focussed on one short performance. We were also extremely aware that when creating site specific theatre, it is of the upmost importance to work with the site you are performing in. The site informs the development of the work allowing the work to fully utilise the space and explore the minute and not necessarily noticeable detail of the site. Therefore, exploring the possibilities of our site has become essential to us, before performing an intervention.

Kayleigh and I booked a rehearsal space at the Old Joint Stock pub in Birmingham city centre. A pub with a theatre space upstairs, and next to that space a smaller meeting space, which is the upstairs bar area. A perfect space to rehearse in! Tall stools, high round wooden tables, a bar, and a deep red patterned carpet. A room with a ready made set in it. We focussed on using improvisation in this rehearsal to generate text, create characters, and explore our own experience and knowledge of the project thus far. It’s fascinating what kind of people/characters you come across when beginning with no script at all.

For all of the improvisations we used interviews and stories we had been told as ideas and text to draw from. We found a bar maid working in a black country pub, wiping tables, putting out beer mats, and talking about her work and what it means to her. In one improvisation she knew who AJW was, in another one she didn’t. In one she had never heard of Mario Lanza, in another one, since finding the beer mats over the years, he had also become her hero.

We know we want the show to tell a story. And the improvisations we were playing around with were extremely naturalistic. Therefore one question that was flagged up during this rehearsal was how can we go from naturalistic storytelling text to the stylised work that as a company, is an integral part of what makes us who we are?

We experimented with how the people with the AJW hats on could become the ‘chorus’ and take on different characters throughout the piece. How they could bring the bar maid’s stories and descriptions of events/people/music to life using a more physical/stylised approach. We played around with moving from narrative to song and approaching this in various ways. We wanted to further explore the barmaid’s connection to pub culture, Mario Lanza and AJW, whilst also delving more into her own story. We are eager to carry out more interviews, meet more people and find out more stories relating to AJW and his legendary beer mats.

In this rehearsal we looked at the piece as a whole rather than focussing on a short performance. We responded to the local people we have met along the way. We explored where we might take the piece and what kind of story we will be telling. We also began to generate ideas for how we might create our own trailer for our show and discussed hiring a professional film maker to enable us to bring this idea to life. This rehearsal took another direction, yet still drew from the heart of the original idea and not having the pressure of an imminent performance freed us up to develop and explore more through play. We left feeling like we had made some important decisions for steps forward, and also opened our work up to another world of storytelling.

In order to develop how we might use our voices to explore the genre of Opera, being non Opera singers, the next step in our devising process is attending an Opera workshop to discover and embrace the world of Opera … and hopefully do some singing too! We shall no doubt be letting you know how we get on!

Julia 🙂


‘How do we encourage non-theatre audiences to engage with contemporary performance?’

Hello all, Lisa here.
This is my first blog post for Onethousandladders, and in this post I’m going to focus a little bit on the practice as research element of our time working on the ‘Lanza’s Last Word’ project.

Our key question going into this work is:

‘How do we encourage non-theatre audiences to engage with contemporary performance?’

This question will have many different answers and approaches depending on the style of performance you’re engaging with. Part of creating a research question for your practice is considering the bracket of ‘theatre’ you fall into, and the methodology or strategy you employ as part of your performance practice to help you answer the question. So, for example, a dance company will have a completely different technique to help them answer this question to, say, a puppet company, or a circus act.

Part of the process that will help us work with this question is Fierce Festivals focus on site and non-traditional performance spaces. We are purposely going out of the theatre atmosphere to engage with our new audience in their territory. In this case, the pub. This strategy however, has left us slightly terrified! For part of the question surrounding the engagement of non-theatre audiences also has a parallel effect on the engagement of the artist in a non-traditional performance space. In the safe confines of the theatre, we have an expectation of how an audience will behave. When we prepare work for outside of those confines, we find ourselves in a new and potentially hostile environment, where our anticipated theatre-goer responses no longer exist, and where the boundaries between the world of the performance and the world outside are suddenly blurred and fragmented.

What do we do? Well, part of Onethousandladders strategy going forward into the rehearsal process is to further blur the lines between the work and reality, using history, legend and location to create a very localised performance work. By focusing the content of the work on a local interest story tethered to pub culture, the world of the work and the world outside of it suddenly have direct correlations between each other. The dialogue between work and audience, actor and spectator is suddenly able to flow between the boundaries, allowing devised performance to be accessed by audiences unfamiliar to contemporary theatre through an already existing shared knowledge, either of the narrative, the characters, or simply through the shared location.

We approach the pub as a non-traditional performance space, but in reality pub culture long ago had a tradition of performance. Storytellers would perform in inns and taverns as they travelled, telling their tales, spreading news and gossip from other towns and villages and collecting new stories and news for the journey. Mummers Plays have existed since Medieval times, and would traditionally involve a hero and his enemy fighting to the death with the result that the slain man would be resurrected by a doctor. Most of these plays are done in mask, though during Henry VIII’s rule this practice was banned as several Mumming companies were actually criminals in disguise, and could not be identified behind the mask! Today when we think of pubs as venues for performance we might think of gigs and live music, but what other performance is hiding behind the walls of the public house? Football on the big screens? Karaoke? These events unite audiences, have a certain amount of audience participation, or vested interest. Can we learn from events like these to help us attract punters into the world of our work?

There is still a way to go before ‘Lanza’s Last Word’ can be performed in a pub location. Devising performance for a site-specific location with a ‘home’ audience is daunting, and must be done carefully in order to succeed.  But Onethousandladders are determined to score an away win with this performance, and maybe poach a few of the home sides supporters while we’re at it!


Into the rehearsal room…

Wednesday 9th April – Our first full rehearsal as a company of 3, saw us take to a local community hall for 4 hours of creative exploration. Armed with beer barrels, beer mats, Mario Lanza music and bucket load of ‘ladders spirit and enthusiasm we begin to playfully explore our material…

As we’re working currently without a director, it’s decided each company member will lead an hour of the devising process. This we found was a great way to work, each of us has interests and expertise in different areas of performance so it’s really interesting to be able to bring something unique that for instance, another company member wouldn’t have initially thought of doing. Definitely a way of working for further devising sessions, it was great for maintaining focus in the rehearsal room.

Below are a list of the tasks we set ourselves within this devising session. We are writing them out to not only document our process, but also give you an insight into how we begin to develop work.

We decided to use the AJW beermats we had acquired from Steve at the Starving Rascal as the main stimuli for this rehearsal.

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Task one: Placing the beermats faced down on the table we select two at random and in an individual exercise we use them as inspiration to create something. This could be a piece of writing, a physical movement, a song, a picture etc… Anything! Time limit for this activity is 5 minutes. 

What stood out from this exercise was a physical movement that came about from ….. This then inspired our next task, which involved exploration of movement and interaction.

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Task Two: An exercise inspired from a Frantic Assembly workshop. Using a recorded music track – something lively and energised! We each choose 3 moves to the theme of ‘getting ready to go out’. We face a mirror. We don’t want the other person participating in this task to use the mirror as we want full use of it. We don’t have to do the moves in any particular order. 

We developed this to match our theme and the second time we tried this we were trying to watch the football on a TV screen rather than looking in a mirror. This then developed into an extension of task two…

We are drunk punters sitting behind a bar. We have 3 moves but one of them has to be grabbing the pint glass off the table/other person and moving it to somewhere else on the table. (Most likely out of the other person’s reach!) This time there is a scale of drunkenness. 1 is sober, 10 is legless. The facilitator calls out the numbers. ‘Pub’ music track.

We found some humorous and interesting physical frozen moments during this task. Perhaps we could develop this further and include it in the drink drink drink song? Or try adding some text as well? We could have 3 lines to go with each physical movement? This is definitely one to explore further!

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We are Opera Singers. We begin sitting on the beer barrels at either end of a long table. We choose 3 moves inspired by our Opera Singing careers and the fact that we both want to be the centre of attention and we don’t want the other person to get any attention. There is a scale of 1 – 10, which the facilitator calls out. 1 is utter devotion and passionate love towards each other. 10 is pure hatred and repulsion. This task is to a Mario Lanza track – Be My Love. 2014-04-09 13.51.46

This was the exercise we enjoyed the most. Why? Because we were excited by the possibilities and relationship between the characters. It was also interesting to play around with use of space: Distance offering different perspectives. What does it look like when a couple are far apart but utterly in love? What happens when this turns to hatred? What happens when a couple are extremely close together but can’t stand the sight of each other? Perhaps we can use this exercise to further develop our love story and find out more about the two characters and their relationship. We could also add text to this and see what happens.

What would happen if we did each exercise again but to a completely different style of music? Perhaps a style that contradicts the task we are completing.

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Task Three: Thinking about women in pubs in the 1950’s. One woman, one man. Woman is man’s secretary. She must follow the man around with a notebook and pen and scribe what he is saying. Every time the man looks at the woman, she must appear sexy. 

This was a playful way to create/note down text, but we didn’t have time to further develop the exercise. It was a positive thing to begin using spoken word, but we feel we need to do more research into women in the 1950’s before we can further explore this thread.

 Task Four: Repetition of task 1 but this time choose 1 beer mat and the title ‘Lanza’s Last Word’ to generate something. Time limit is 10 minutes. 

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This time, we generated mainly text and thoughts on our project. We were predominantly interested in numbers, legacy, and relationship.

Here is some of the text we created during this task…


0 – No more singing  7 – Wonders of the world  9 – Lives have all run out  7 – Ways to court a girl  6 – Is the devil waiting?

7 – Mask for  7 – Days  6 – Sick inside the mind  4 – Tune hasn’t gone my way  3 – Thirty eight brings shadow 6 – Feet under


Will my voice still be heard when I am gone?


I’ve been searching for some time now.

It’s like finding the other bit,

The bit that makes the rest of me.

And it’s hard to find that.

There’s a lot of people round here.

Pubs mostly.

I always look in pubs.

But you don’t seem to be there.

I have a drink, wait around.

See if you’re hiding behind the girl at the three chickens,

Or if the barmaid at the Queen’s head knows who you are.

No, they haven’t seen you.

Left your calling card though.

gave you a ring, just to answerphone.

No luck.

Laying on someone else’s bed probably.

I’ll look again tonight.

See if you’re in another place.

There’s a lot of pubs round here.

And if I do find you.

Find you at last.

I’ll probably come up to you,

Chance you a glance. 

Then probably reel off a quote or two.

Poetic right?


Task Five: Explore what sounds we can make with the barrels by closing our eyes, beginning in silence, building up sounds, then ending in silence. 

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We found the noise made by the beer barrels to be an uncomfortable sound. We couldn’t connect to the noises that were created. They were haunting and deathly, with no audible link to the music of Mario Lanza or the world of pubs. Who knows if we will use this aspect of the barrels! This kind of musical exercise is good for bringing a company together within an improvisation, working together and listening to each other. Tuning in to each other without visual aid.

Perhaps though, the sound of barrels could be evocative for other aspects of pub life, such as the inner working of a public house; beer delivery or barrel preparation for instance.

Task Six: Choosing one line from the text from Task Four, and playing around with it. Other 2 participants creating ‘background soundscape/music’ with barrels. The text can be split up, individual words used, mixed around etc… 

It was interesting to see how text can be said/interpreted in so many different ways. Barrels as a backing wouldn’t work as a performative element but one thing that did stand out was speaking text very loudly over loudly played barrels. It reminded us of the muffled/often uncomfortable noise of a loud pub/place.

We then developed this to create a dialogue between 2 people…

Use lines already used and 1 more line that stands out (decide together). Choose 2 lines each. Choose a hat to wear. Find a starting position and begin a dialogue. See where it takes you! (Third person watching and creating soundscape with barrel) 

From each of us having a turn at this, 3 different scenarios came about…

  • Unrequited love. Man – oblivious. Woman – timid yet persistent
  • Frustrated couple. Had lost the ability listen to each other. Perhaps been in a relationship for a long time.
  • Misogynistic men at a seedy club.

This dialogue improvisation is definitely something we could further develop. We need to explore various scenarios and find a short narrative for our intervention performance. Use of simple/playful text may be the right way to go for this as we have such limited time to create a performance.

Task Seven: Choreograph movement to Mario Lanza’s song ‘drink drink drink’. 

We listened to the track, decided to all 3 of us start facing audience, behind the bar (table) and use hats. (perhaps this is a point where we need 3 of the same hats to continue the use of our style of working) We worked on how we could swap hats in 4 beats to the ‘drink drink drink’ chorus! This task felt extremely productive and is something that we would definitely like to develop.

We are aiming to create our own onethousandladders version of the song ‘drink drink drink’ with lots of harmonies and experimenting with how we can create Hollywood string parts with our voices. This is the next step in our process… Julia will be getting the headphones out and singing her heart out until she is satisfied with the outcome!

We are all agreed that we most definitely need more research into Mario Lanza, and the 1950’s before we can generate more work related to these topics in the rehearsal room.We are all interested in the darker side of Lanza. We need to explore pub culture and what is conjured up in the imagination when we think of pubs.

Overall, a very productive and exciting rehearsal! We are currently thinking about a short performance AND the bigger picture. Hmmmm, a LOT to think about!

Julia and Kayleigh


Oh, just one more thing! Beer mats are incredibly difficult for us to peel quickly! We need most definitely need a lesson in this art form!2014-04-09 13.50.44




Beer mats and barrels…


Tuesday 8th April – I visited the Starving Rascal public house in Amblecote, West Midlands. After sending Steve Robinson, the Landlord, a message asking for some help he very kindly loaned out a couple of beer barrels to play with in rehearsal and to our complete surprise and delight – his 7 year collection of AJW beermats! It wasn’t until I contacted Steve, that I found out AJW had frequented that pub quite a lot over the years (he certainly travels some miles across the borough it seems!) Steve also said “I could actually pick him out if I saw him walk in. Not that I would… Its all part of the mystery!” I love how everyone has brought into the mystery and are co-conspirators in keeping up with the tradition. A mystery that no-one actually wants to solve! 

It was great to be able to flick through a whole collection of the beermats and fascinating all the same. Some of them have Lanza related quotes, referring to the iconic movies he appeared in and some are cheeky little rhymes that have now become so synonymous with AJW’s style. Some even leak a little inkling into AJW’s character, we discover he’s an avid Baggies fan and quite a fan of the ladies too! 

“What is said in the pub stays in the pub – I might share it with a couple of the lads later for a laugh, but it stays within these walls.” 

Talking to Steve, it made me think about how we might record people’s stories. I think simply recording them on a dictaphone isn’t going to work as such, the natural tone of conversation becomes staged or muted even. We’re going to have to interview incognito somehow I think – how do we do this?! 

He said he liked our idea of a guerrilla performance/event happening and performing in the pub itself, to non traditional theatre audiences.  I then spoke with Steve about the juxtaposition of the Hollywood glamour of the 50’s that Lanza’s legend and star evokes and the working class Black Country folk in a Black Country pub. 

It was great to talk to Steve about the project. Each time I speak to someone new about our ideas and the inspirations, it excites me all over again. I can’t wait to start exploring further. It makes it all seem possible, like this is really happening. After first getting the idea to make a theatre piece and tell this story all those years ago, I really had no idea where it could lead, and still don’t as a matter of fact but knowing that people are interested and on board with the idea, that for me, that excites me and drives me on…

Kayleigh x



Lanza’s Last Word – The very beginnings

Mario Lanza, major Hollywood opera singer and screen star has since 1959, the year of his death, been remembered by one man in the heart of the Black Country, England.

AJW has been leaving beer mats with the iconic sketch of the late great tenor hand drawn on, in public houses throughout the region for the last half a century.

In keeping the legend alive, the mysterious AJW has himself become quite the legend.

onethousandladders are exploring how they can stage an intervention into keeping both the l e g e n d of Mario Lanza and AJW alive.

They are exploring how they can use their own style and idea of performance to r e s p o n d to the work of AJW and Mario Lanza.

They will be reawakening the voice of Mario Lanza and journeying alongside AJW.

They will be t r a n s l a t i n g their explorations into a live performance event…


Our project has begun and we are now on the path to … well … who knows where we’ll end up. We will be creating a piece of theatre from a seedling of an idea. This idea has been around for a long time, but now is the time to see where it leads us. For those of you unfamiliar with this way of working, following our blogs and journeying with us to see how our piece develops may (or may not!) give you an insight into devised theatre. For those of you who have had personal experience of the organic process of devising, you will know the challenges, frustrations, but most of all the sense of creativity and achievement that lies ahead. But then again, because of the personal nature of devising, our process will work in a completely different way to any other company so perhaps all you will learn is how we work, on this project!

Note to reader: If you don’t have the time or energy to read my ramblings and notes please proceed to the end of the blog to see a very short summary of what excites us!

So, where to start. Is exactly what we said when we had our first meeting to discuss where we could go with Lanza’s Last word. When one is unsure of a starting point I feel the most productive thing to do is to ask a question. Ask millions of questions. Challenge your idea and then your idea will come up with more ideas. Then ask those ideas questions, and so on, and so forth!

How can we raise interest in live performance with non traditional theatre audiences?

Well to do this we need to explore exactly WHAT live performance can be. We also need an audience (perhaps an unsuspecting audience?) to experiment on. I’m making this sound like a scientific experiment! Well perhaps it is?! No, let’s call it an intervention. How can we stage an intervention in a pub and what might this intervention be? Will a story with a sense of familiarity help us to connect with and engage non theatre audiences?

How can we keep the legend of Mario Lanza alive? How can we capture the essence of Mario Lanza’s stardom and performances and translate it into a pub environment?

The first point of discussion with these questions are, are we working alongside AJW to keep the legend alive? Who’s story are we telling? We all seem to be intrigued by how we can use our approach to theatre to attempt this task! Although AJW has over 50 years experience on us and his methods have reached worldwide audiences. I am very aware that if we are to live up to AJW’s methods of keeping legend alive, we are giving ourselves a difficult task. But then again, perhaps we are just experimenting and exploring and our piece is an extension of what AJW is doing, rather than completely taking on the task ourselves. AJW is renowned for wearing a hat. Now there’s a simple costume we could use as a starting point!

One step we need to take is somehow encapsulating Hollywood glamour in our live performance. Well, being three ladies who enjoy dressing up the first thing we think of is red lipstick and high heels! We then toy with the idea of an old school OHP. Can we capture the essence of vintage film with shadow play? This is a visual tool we love to play around with. So we will get hold of an OHP and we shall soon find out!

Music. Music is what people loved about Mario Lanza. He touched heart strings and the strength of connection he had with his followers could be heard in his passionate, powerful, stunning voice. String sections. Beautiful string sections ebbing and flowing and telling their own stories. Do I use my violin and do we recruit a string ensemble to explore this genre and live interventions? Or, do we create Hollywood string sections with our voices? How would we begin to achieve this?! Yet again, we shall find out soon! also, how might we use our voices to explore the genre of Opera, being non Opera singers? Mario Lanza’s music has such romantic connotations. Does this mean our story is a love story? This leads me to question what else our story might be. We know that very often heroes and legends become victims of excess and die young. We know that Mario Lanza’s story is tragic. Do we tap into this darker side to our legend? How could we possibly avoid it when it is such a large part of his own story?

Questions over, now let’s look at fact…

There are certain things we now know about this point of the project. We know that we are working with the legend of Mario Lanza and the work of the mysterious AJW. We know that we want to hone in on the pub industry and the demise of pub culture and trade. We know that we want to explore the art of storytelling and the use of narrative. We know that will we be using music, in particular live voice as a tool to devise and tell our story. Due to the nature of Mario Lanza’s music, we know that there is a need for us to explore the genre of opera.

So in a nutshell…

We are excited by pub culture, red lipstick, beer barrels, beer mats, music, spoken language, story telling, red, black and white (the colours of AJW’s sketches) and using an OHP to create live shadow film.

We plan to participate in an Opera singing workshop as soon as possible.

We plan to stage a live intervention/performance in a public house very soon.

But most importantly the next step is to find a space, bring some objects, bring some improvisation exercises, and play, play, play!

Julia x







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