Interview with Simon Nader

 

simon nader face

So you are a actor/director, when did you realise acting was something you wanted to do? How did you come to direct?

“Well… I was on stage as a little fat kid aged 10 or 11 and hammed the hell out of my role in Rumble wats it name as The King. Thank Christ is was comedy, I learned how much fun it could be hearing other people have fun and that was it! Actor. Job. Done. As for directing, I had trained at drama school in my twenties, done quite a bit of theatre and film work and assisted a few friends before I was offered the chance to direct a play called My Boy Jack by David Haig. As I had studied scenography as part of my degree pre-drama school, I felt it was a good chance to put my skill set  to the test and basically got the gig by being seen on stage as Timon of Athens by the producers. They liked my characterisation so thought “hmm, give him a go as a director!” So I did, and I loved it!


What do you love about theatre?

Well, if you mean creating it, I love the storytelling element, cliched as that maybe! Not necessarily just through the words either as I work quite visually, I am interested in the imagery you can create as a company with movement and the sound and light for me is integral to creating beautiful moments of atmosphere and tension. As an audience member as well as theatre maker, the best bit is always the same though – transporting characters and the audience to other worlds and making them care.


You also work allot in television, what do you like about filming?

Actually, the very thing I hated when I first started – stopping and starting! I love the fact that screen acting has just as much, if not more, technical craft involved to create work that not only is believable, but looks as good as possible on screen at each moment. I’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of big US TV productions and you really learn a lot from American actors and experienced directors as so much dedication goes into the craft to make it look as good as possible. I also love stepping into a huge set and there being just an army of people working together. It’s awesome! Just as in theatre, it’s a collaborative process with a lot of attention to detail involved by a lot of people.

You direct a youth company in peterborough, tell us bit about your role there?

Ok, so I work with The Young Actors Company in Peterborough and Cambridge, we have been going nearly 50 years and I absolutely love it. I treat the students the same way as adult actors, which they not only appreciate, but benefit from. Yes, we have a lot of fun, but we devise work that says “something” and essentially I try and give them a taste of drama school training as we create theatre and practice the various acting techniques to build confidence and hone craft. 

You are currently taking 2 plays to the Edinburgh fringe 2016, a man with many jobs! Can you tell us bit about the plays?

The show I am directing is very exciting – The Monologues of a Tired Nurse, written by an actual nurse who is now also training as a professional actress, will be at The Space. It’s a two hander with very talented actresses playing the nurses and it’s moving and funny, and very raw. We want people to not have a stereotypical view of nursing, but really think about the human condition. The human condition in all its facets – we literally examine it! 
 
I’m also in, and the co-creator of, a ridiculous, spectacular B-Movie homage called (it’s a catchy title): Escape From The Planet of the Day That Time Forgot! Myself, actor/director Katherine Hurst and actor/director Gavin Robertson, both renowned particularly for their physical theatre work, have designed a show that we unashamedly want people to just sit back and enjoy. We are at Assembly Roxy for the whole of the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s our first collaboration since the acclaimed The Other Side in 2009. We’re also touring internationally. Both Katherine and Gavin are award winning creatives so it is always fun and inspiring to work with them.

You have been to Edinburgh numerous times over the years, what advise would you give to people heading there this year?

Save your money in advance, it can get VERY expensive… Also, don’t underestimate the power of marketing and getting the reviewers in early if you can sway people. Be nice to everyone as word of mouth really is hugely important and for God’s sake, don’t take any shows up there you don’t put the appropriate effort into. It can get pretty harsh, pretty quickly and you get out what you put in… don’t just do it to “do the festival.”

What do you like about the roles of actor and director, do you prefer one over the other?

They both have their attractions and in all honesty, it varies job to job. I love the challenge of acting in terms of the characterisation and making people believe what they are seeing and very importantly, to connect with the other actors in a company on stage as if you are really there. It’s beautiful to create emotion and art and I like to play even during a long run, and go with my feelings, instincts and reactions and have that from the others too and see what happens! I love that no two performances or on screen, takes are the same and I love that little choices can alter the fabric of meaning hugely. As a director, I’d say stress levels are much higher, but the payoffs are huge! You get to see other people work up close and to gain inspiration from everyone’s gifts to create great art. I also love seeing someone progress in confidence as we work together and try to tell a story the way we feel it should be done. 

What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t be such a doubter. Don’t try to overcompensate for your lack of self belief by trying to prove yourself. Trying too hard usually results in bad results.

You also coach people on monologues and have sat on drama school panels. What advise do you give those people auditioning for drama school?

Trust that the people there on panels want you to do well. At the end of the day, you have no idea what panels or directors, casting directors for that matter are really looking for from you. If you are worrying about what they are thinking you’re not being yourself and that is your biggest selling point. If you can eliminate that and then work the monologues a little with some outside advice to help make bold choices then you will feel better and have a better chance of doing well. Generally I don’t care how well someone can learn lines. I do care about whether they have connected with the emotion of it and can adapt to direction. You do not need to be PERFECT. It doesn’t exist and you are going to drama school to learn the technical skills as much as anything else. Panels are not looking for a finished article. What would be the point?! I also care about how you come across as a person. Be lovely, just be yourself and make mistakes then recover confidently, don’t be arrogant and defensive.

Who inspires you?

Artists who care about the work, not just the adulation or the money. That goes for people who make great music and other art forms, as well as actors. My students also inspire me. The way young people can be unaware of their instinctual gifts and come up with something that is more honest and clever than the most experienced professional is always an inspiration.

What issues to feel you face most int he industry?

I think it takes time to take your ego out of it for a lot of people. I’ll use myself as an example as for a while, I wanted to be seen a certain way, hard man types and such and such. Sometimes we can be afraid to look weak, even if that is character but of course, that is ridiculous! If that is your type, embrace it. I got hung up on knowing martial arts, being bald so therefore looking a certain way but physically, I’m quite slight and short so I’ll never be in constant work that way! What I have learned to love is playing weakness, weaselly types, even taciturn outcasts or nice guys. So I’d say my challenge was accepting my type!

Do feel the industry is inclusive and diverse? your thoughts?

I do not feel it is as diverse as it should be at all. I have worked in casting and as an agent as well as my work on stage and screen and one thing I’m certain about is that unless roles are specifically detailed as “other” the establishment which is largely white and middle or upper middle class in England see all roles through those eyes unless they are specifically labelled “disabled”, “gay,” “black” or “Arab” etc. I feel that Hollywood does not get off scot-free either because of the very specificity of identity and perception of type. Bad guys are Middle Eastern or Upper Class English! Heroes in blockbusters are all supermodels or body builders. Now this is not necessarily all the fault of the production companies and the industry – there is an element to humanity and we see it reflected in the media all the time, where people want to see the ideal, see what they are not, as that seems to be shiny perfection. So the industry reflects that as much as the industry creates it! So diversity in the industry is an interview in itself…

Do you feel it is important for an actor to do many roles as yourself and be the creator of their own work? 

I think it depends on each person and what they prefer for themselves. Personally, I like creating through devising and writing as much as I like getting work from other sources too, the collaborations are really interesting. But, as I get older I realise that the important things is to enjoy what you do. If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Rosemary Akinola

 

rosemary

South Londoner. Will work for food. Favourite colour red. Loves dogs more than cats. Kinda funny.

I first met Rosemary in the halls of Rada, while we were paying our extortionate fee to stand in front of 2 people for about 10 minutes, we bonded over perspiration and sheer love of our craft and also a determination that drama school wouldn’t stop us doing what we love. I’ve been following her and recently saw her face adorning Tricycle theatre. Here Rosemary answer some questions.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an actor ?


Probably when I was around 7 when I did a school play. But I didn’t really take it seriously until I was around 19. Then I was like OK this is the career I want to pursue.

What inspired you ?

That’s such a big question. Urm lots of different things. I guess the main thing that inspires is the love for what I do. I think people, experiences and stories inspire me. There isn’t just one thing.

What excites you and attracts you to theatre?

The story. The performers. The set. I think I’m always interested to see bits of theatre that have a provocative story or if the direction is innovative.

As an actor what qualities do you think are imperative ?


A Peaceful Mind – because this business of acting can be stressful. Keep Calm.

Courage – because it requires you to WORK, FAIL, LEARN and REPEAT.

Entrepreneurship – because being an actor is being self-employed so know your damn business and know what you are selling!

Self Awareness – check your wellbeing: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially. Take care of yourself. Your journey and is your own and no one else’s so be kind to you.

You were recently at the Tricycle theatre performing can you tell us more about that? 

Yes so it was an immersive show called Switch. The story is about a post-apocalyptic world where people can no longer thrive on earth so they are choosing to be plugged into a virtual world. I think the development show was somewhat difficult at the beginning because it was a devised as well as immersive with a cast of about 22 people. The process literally was something like: Devise it. Write it. Create it. Play with it. Rehearse. Cut. Edit. Rehearse. Rehearse with audience. Cut. Change. Rehearse.  Create. Rehearse. Rehearse. (Panic – that was me). Perform!

The ending changed every night because it was based on the decision of the audience. It was an incredible experience because the audience where so engaged in what was going on and the feedback was brilliant. We learnt a lot during those audience runs. We were so happy that our audience felt encouraged to participate. It sold out so fast so we’re putting it on again in the summer!


As a black actor what challenges do you face? 


I feel that Black women are constantly in a fight to be seen for roles where the colour of the character is unspecified but don’t get the chance to audition, or go up for those roles because the default race to any unspecified character is always white. I probably don’t get as many opportunities for jobs and auditions as my white counterparts. I think Colorism is another issue I guess. Sometimes they would cast a mixed or lighter skinned black actress who has more European features because they fit the “beauty ideal”. Also having to play stereotypes that are perpetuate a negative image of black women grinds my gears – like I don’t mind playing a bad character but the story has to be there. I don’t want caricatures.

What are your views on drama school training? It is a expensive and competitive avenue, what is your advise and opinion for those who don’t get in? 

I did a year course at Rose Bruford but I haven’t done a three year degree and I was only able to go on a full bursary. I think it is expensive and it is competitive but I wouldn’t rule it out. I think make sure you know why you’re going, what you plan to attain, and understand that it is work like anything else. It’s a good way to learn and grow as a professional but it’s not the only way. There are so many places to train that have courses that are part time, full time and seasonal. There are masterclasses, workshops, seminars, talks, events. I mean there are opportunities to development outside of “drama school” if you look for them. There are teachers at drama schools who work freelance so they are probably teaching in other places as well. I think once you’ve done your research and spoken to a lot of people you will find that there are a ton of resources out there especially in a city like London.

More and more actors are writing and producing their own work, do you think this is the way forward?

I think that’s the way it going – creating your own content. It’s the way to be heard, seen and not bored to death. As an actor you don’t really get that much creative control and a lot of it is waiting around but when you write or produce, well, then you get to tell your own story which is very empowering as a performer and keeps you proactive. Yeah, do it! Make it!


What work would you love to create? Or projects your have at the moment ? 


Possibly a one woman show at some point. I wanted to make a short film about a piece of bacon and an egg on the run from being eaten, but then I realised I was hungry and hadn’t had breakfast!! but wouldn’t that be an awesome debut?!

Actor awareness is about Diversity, with the media and our ethos empathising ‘not enough working class representation’ what are your thoughts?

I think the initiative is great. Acting, like any art, is not about class. It’s for everyone.

Tom’s the Word

tom

Another busy and exciting month for Actor Awareness. Starting off with the incredible success of Women’s Night where 7 shows written and directed by an array of fantastic female talent. The night was a completely sold out, the audience was filled with agents, producers and directors. 1 show is off to Edinburgh fringe and 2 others received strong interest to be funded, expanded and taken into various venues. All 7 shows went down a treat, because of the talent on display all the shows are being expanded, will be taken on by The Canal Cafe – to be in the Actor Awareness season where they will do a full run of each show. On the same note preparations for the LGBT night are in full swing and the 6 incredible shows will be ready for the 15th of March in The Bread and Roses Theatre. Tickets are now on sale so please come and support http://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/actor-awareness.html

 Also this month I got interviewed by The Observer newspaper about the rise of Actor Awareness which should be published this month, which is very exciting and keeps giving more publicity to the ever growing campaign. We also very excited to have acquired a new member to the team in the form of Adam Morley, who is our new executive producer. He will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the campaign.  The documentary with Inside Film is heading into a string of exciting interviews, we interviewed John Challis earlier in the month and he gave an incredible, in-depth insight to his success with Only Fool and Horses. He also gave a very interesting look into the history of TV and theatre, also how much it his changed from when he started out. In March we are holding a very exciting interview with Sir Peter Bazalgette, Arts Council chairman and now new ITV chairman. All in all a very exciting busy month ahead with the campaign.

John Byrne

john

You are a performer, agent, coach and writer, that is a lot of hats, what do you love doing the most?

I think for anybody working in the arts, having to juggle a number of jobs has always been an issue-although, due to both technology the current economy it has now become something people in all walks of life have to do. For me the common factor in all the things I do is using my communication skills to help people to break through the barriers that might be holding their own artistic development back, whether that’s a kid in one of my shows who thinks he can’t draw, or an actor at one of my workshops who thinks they can’t plan their business.

When you were growing up what influenced you towards the arts?
I was always keen on books, comics, stage and screen, but I think the book which really ‘flipped the switch’ for was a book I read when I was about 13 on the making of the original Star Trek TV series. It had interviews with actors, writers, set designers…all very commonplace in books these days but a revelation back then….and I suddenly realised that a) real people made these productions and b) I could be one of those people. I’ve been involved in many and various radio, TV and stage productions since then but I sometimes still feel like that 13 year old who is in wonderment that he is now behind the scenes like the people I used to read about.

What excites you about theatre?
Even with all the advantages of new technology, there are still a lot of practical hoops to jump through to get work on screen, whereas not only is there something very collaborative and ‘instant’ about theatre-even when it has been in rehearsals for weeks!-but it has the magic that it is different every time you do it.

What do you feel is a real and current issue within the industry right now? You have been supporting Actor awareness, firstly thank you and secondly what do you feel about Actor Awareness as a campaign?

For me, inclusivity is the biggest issue in the industry right now… but to be honest I think it has always been an issue, it is just that the internet and new media has given it a voice. As Lucille Ball (who most people remember as a comedian but who was also the first woman to ever head up a major American production company) said ‘Ability without Opportunity doesn’t amount to much.’ I don’t think it is an ‘anti-posh’ or ‘anti-men’ or ‘anti-white’ issue I can think of many ‘posh white male’ actors who are deservedly successful because they are undeniably talented, who work hard and who give back, and fair play to them-the problem is more that the initial opportunities to get going in the industry aren’t as easily available to some as to others, and I think this is the area where we all need to work towards a positive expansion. For me one of the most encouraging developments of the Actors Awareness campaign are initiatives like the scratch nights, so that as well as raising the issue of opportunity, the campaign is actively creating opportunity.

When you coach actors what’s your top tip?
Every actor is different but one of the really important steps for all of us is to work out what in our careers is inside our control and what is outside and making the commitment to work consistently on the stuff we have control over, while forming positive alliances and relationships to help get some leverage on the rest.

What do you feel about drama schools, the inequality (in some peoples opinion) in uni trained and drama school trained students? Drama school fees? Drama school showcases? The fact more and more drama school want to drop out of the accredited system, meaning finance will be available to less?
I always say that while training of any sort never guarantees success in this business, and there have always been successful ‘self taught’ actors, it’s a hard enough business at the best of times that proper training is big advantage-so not having access to training is by implication a disadvantage. Talent is obviously an accident of birth, which actors don’t have control over, as indeed is the social and financial situation they are born into. Hard work is something they do have control over, and in the movies that should be enough in itself to achieve their goals, but in real life , we still need to work towards a more level playing field to enable every actor to have an equal chance of benefitting from their hard work in both the training and career situations.

Thank you John for you time, here John has given us lots of words of wisdom and food for thought.

TOM’s the Word

scratch night

So it has been another fantastic busy month for Actor Awareness.

We had the meeting on the 7th which had a fantastic turn out. The meeting was full of potential ideas and projects which will add to this incredible, ever-growing campaign. [If you would like a copy of the minutes to the meeting, please just ask]

The release of our campaign film “The Industry” was released this month. This is the first film of new company, Type40Films.

John and Simon are both actors sharing a flat in London; but they come from very different backgrounds. John comes from a single parent family in Manchester, where as Simon comes from an affluent family in greater London.
John struggles to find the time to chase the dream that brought him to the Capital, and he finds himself ever more frustrated by the ease of which Simon seems to get by. Tensions rise and the divide between these two friends becomes more pronounced until eventually, John can take no more. A huge thank you to all the cast and crew involved and especially the writer, actor and director of the film, Marcus Armstrong, all of which we couldn’t do without him.  https://vimeo.com/145694444

On the 4th of December there’s a writing workshop that Actor Awareness has set up in The Actors Temple . It is being run by BAFTA winner and writer of “Starred Up” Jonathan Asser. The writers bring something they want to discuss and get feedback on, So please email ASAP on tanheartssteph@gmail.com if you want to be part of it. The workshop is £10! We want to cultivate stories through these meetings, maybe it will lead to some of the writing being shown at a scratch night.

The First Actor Awareness scratch night is this month on the 14th, 6 shows 1 night! The first Actor Awareness scratch entails a range of different shows under the theme of working class. What is working class? Interpretation of the theme is down to you and an interesting subject to explore, under the current social and economical climate.

Please come support some incredible new writing and acting talent

BOOK TICKETS HERE
http://www.canalcafetheatre.com/EventPage.php?EventId=44307

Question time

This section is for any questions that you guys might have a burning desire to ask…

Charlie and I will endeavour to get them answered for you or help you to find out what you want/need to know…

John Byrne is a performing careers advisor, for the last 20 years he has coached over 1000 performers in varied fields from musical theatre, acting to comedy. He is offering you discount on one to one sessions. Sessions normally cost £50, in person or via Sypke, if you quote Actor Awareness he is offering a session for £20. http://ow.ly/NRxOH

Finally I thought I’d leave you with a quote that really inspires me…

‘To see the world in a grand of sand, and to see heaven in a flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in a hour,’

This particular quote always reminds me that as an artist, or an actor, that one has to see THAT something that others don’t and try to transform it into something beautiful, entertaining and inspiring; allowing you to transform  the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Arts Funding

art-cuts-logo


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Everyone appreciates art, whether it be: theatre, film, television, exhibitions, music, poetry, graphics, digital media or other arts. Regardless, it engages and inspires us as people. The arts can be a force of stimulation for people of all ages and from all walks of life.

“Arts washes away from the soul, everyday life…”

Equity have compiled 10 points on how the arts are important for social, economical and psychological growth.

The government keeps making cuts and taking away investment, please go onto Equity’s website and sign the petition for Save the BBC.

Go to Equity’s link here for Stop Arts cuts, 10 facts:

http://www.equity.org.uk/documents/stop-arts-cuts-ten-facts
Arts cuts mean there are more set backs and barriers to getting work. There are so many incredible stories and ideas out there, stories of the working class that are not being told. On top of this, working class actors are unable to get work and represent. Actors such as Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and Julie Walters have all voiced their concerns that the industry is becoming very ‘middle class’ without a wide spectrum of different backgrounds; stifling the arts and not reflecting a true society. Arts should emulate societal issues, which is becoming increasingly difficult with grants being taken away, maintenance loans being reduced and insufficient funding for people, that come from underprivileged backgrounds, to get through drama school .
Many of you may have gone to a school where drama involved preventing the boy with ADHD from lighting your hair on fire and waiting for the teacher to finish smoking a fag. Before I pursued acting I was a nurse in a private school and was amazed by the level of opportunity that was made available for them due to their upbringing; the class divide was really quite glaring. Kids played several instruments, had singing lessons and  performed plays in a massive theatre; even taking some to the Edinburgh fringe.

The quality and quantity of resources made available to these students was something I had never realised even existed.

Here at Actor Awareness we what to highlight this unfair discrepancy of disadvantage and make plans to restore the imbalance.

Monthly meetings are being held for anyone who wishes to attend. We’re particularly looking for anyone with community or regional ideas. We would love to hear from both companies and individuals.
There will be regular scratch nights for new writing, which provides a platform for actors to work with fresh writers and budding directors.
There are also secret film nights for people wanting to present their films. Films made using your smartphone, DSLR camera,  or any device you can get your hands on.
Hopefully a writers event will be set up for people to collectively get together and give/receive advise and tips on their material.
Myself and Charlie will be working continuously to source out theatre companies and individuals that show interest in community and regional projects.

If you are a theatre company looking to collaborate please feel free to email actorawareness@gmail.com