At the beginning of 2017, I was asked by Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society if I would like the opportunity to direct a staged reading for their drama programme – an invitation to which I replied to with, “Yes, please!”
When asked what I might like to direct, I proposed the idea of adapting one of my screenplays, Destination: Hollywood for stage – that way I would have the opportunity to see some of my own work come to life in full, which, of course, is every writer’s dream!
The drama committee were a little reluctant to the idea at first, especially as the screenplay has numerous car chases and action sequences – including a chase scene on horseback through Monument Valley... Okay, okay, so that does sound a little too ambitious, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge!
With a little persuasion, the committee agreed to trust that I could pull this off and take a chance on me. I decided that the performance should build on the traditional format of a screenplay reading, with actors reading from scripts but, instead of just sitting at a table, the cast would act out all of the action using minimal set and props. Anything that was ‘too big’ for the budget or stage would then be read aloud by a narrator who would set every scene and fill in the stage directions that couldn’t be handled by the actors.
I’d directed a few friends in a film piece I made back at University, but this was my first time directing anything of this kind of scale... and I quickly found out that as long as I knew what I wanted and kept on top of everything, directing can be really fun and rewarding!
I always knew that this would be one busy two hour show. It didn’t take me long to find my cast of seventeen actors – Mark Barnikel took the lead role of Clyde, with Michael Taylor playing his best friend Brendon, and Sophie Manarin as kick-ass girly ‘sidekick’ Annie. The three did me SO proud, leading the show with so much energy, vigour and originality. I couldn’t have asked for better performers to take the lead roles. We managed to pull the whole show together in just ten rehearsals, which was an amazing feat, especially as some of the chase scenes were quite complex in their staging. I am extremely thankful to the cast for their commitment, enthusiasm and hard work to make sure that everything was in place for opening night.
Performances took place in the Bentley House Studio Theatre on Friday 16th June and Saturday 17th June, to two (very nearly) sold out audiences. A heat wave that week saw temperatures rise in the theatre to around 35 degrees but that didn’t stop the cast performing with everything they had.
I wasn’t sure how people would react to the show, especially as the format would be so different to anything they’d ever seen before, but I couldn’t have asked for a more positive audience response. It seemed that the general consensus was that it was so great to see a new piece of theatre that felt modern, fresh and relevant. Others said that they really enjoyed the staged reading approach to a screenplay and felt it was something I could market to other theatre companies and theatre colleges. I was also thrilled to have some industry guests in the audience, who all said that they thoroughly enjoyed the show and that we’d talk further regarding my career – which is always a wonderful outcome!
I’ve been working in theatre for over twenty years now, but putting Destination: Hollywood on stage has by far been one of my favourite experiences. I’d thoroughly encourage other writers to do the same, not only for the opportunity to have their work performed and produced, but also for the experience as a director. I am so thankful to Hertford Dramatic and Operatic Society – especially to drama committee chairwoman, Cheryl Nicholson – for taking a chance on me, and for being a forerunner in helping young creatives to get experience and exposure in the arts.
In : In Production
Tags: "destination: hollywood" "hdos" "hertford dramatic & operatic society" "staged reading" "comedy" "theatre" "director" "mark barnikel" "michael taylor" "sophie manarin" "cheryl nicholson"