Be part of StageFaves
This week I was expecting certain things to crop up on social media:
1) People vilifying Germaine Greer.
2) Personal trainers advertising programmes designed to pre-buffer you against the effects of the Festive season.
3) Photos of people overdoing the halloween costumes.
And just to put in my tuppence-worth concerning the above:
1) There are myriad hues of gender to be brought into the discussion.
2) Overeat midway through December - it's our biological imperative, saluting the sun's return or no.
3) If you have quite that much time on your hands, perhaps you might do as Judge Judy suggests and replace the central heating in your home with a coke boiler? Then you'll be forced to use your time more usefully shovelling coal.
What I wasn't expecting to crop up is something that has given me the strongest feeling of hope since my mother cruelly told me that Nellie the Elephant had agreed to come back to the circus and unpack her trunk.
It's StageFaves, the brainchild of Terri Paddock, co-founder with Mark Shenton of the My Theatre Mates online resource. The MyTheatresMates site
StageFaves is what I call "lovingly of use". Like Bach's Preludes and Fugues; the wonderful old crustypots' Penguin Guide to Recordings; or Delia Smith helpfully pointing us in the direction of The Flour Advisory Bureau.
'Brilliant of Terri Padock creating this!' I said aloud, studying the StageFaves website and reading up on the ethos behind it.
Terri says, 'As a self-confessed Twitter addict myself, I am a very firm believer that Twitter - and other social media outlets - go a long way to levelling the playing field, certainly so as a marketing and fan-engagement tool for performers.'
Yes, she told a performer in no uncertain terms that if she needed to get on Twitter, then...er...she should get on it; but I do love her for satisfying the real need for a StageFaves.
Not least because I see a definite correlation between performers being social-media savvy and mediocre on stage.
The one thing that possibly concerns me about StageFaves is the general public being let loose on the site. They will need vetting. But I'm bound to think so, as I once worked front of house at the Royal Opera House and was exposed to the tragi-horror-comedy of ballet regulars. (Blog to follow on this subject, please? Ed!)
But for the performers themselves, StageFaves can only be a force for good.
God, though, these days they don't know they're born, performers! Guildhall, eighties, it never occurred to poor little me, as it did to some, to wheedle my way around the Student Union and Outside Engagements officers; the sole portals through which paid work came into the college. Back then potential bookers from outside would have had little or no access to performers' profiles. It was a case of they got what they were given, unless they were specifically wanting Bryn Terfel. And for we mere mortals at college everything to do with getting work was bewilderment and impossibility.
But now there's StageFaves.
If StageFaves had been around just two years ago, the Dame Trot's Dancer who decided to stay at Musical Theatre College to graduate in July rather than take the long-running contract offered in June, might have tweeted through the site: Thoughts, peeps? and received a deserved barrage of replies along the lines of Are you out of your tiny, bun-headed mind to be even considering staying on at college? It is not a meritocracy out there last time we looked, babe. Go get the paid job.
When I taught singing at the Guildford School of Acting, Gillian Ramsden, head of voice, sent Kate to me for, as she put it, 'the sake of the Iestyn.' Kate was one of an exceptional year of girls and I was as yet unaware of her. The other girls were dressy and feisty; Kate was comfy and scurrying. Two of them had talked their way into agent interest; Kate couldn't make herself heard at the counter of the college cafe. And there was that one - yes, her! - who had smarmed her way into quite enough leading roles by that stage of the second year; Kate wasn't permanently at the back of the chorus simply because she was short.
At her first lesson she sang "The Colours of my Life" (Barnum) and I had a Marchesi/Melba "At last, I've found a star!" moment. Actually, I had another pupil with an equally stunning voice in that year, Nik Foster; but Nik could look after himself. And too often did. I had often to bundle him out of the lunch queue when he was about to kick off again at Dan 'Gobby' Murton. Or ask him not, as an experiment, to come to singing lessons coked-up. And perhaps, when the visiting degree examiner voiced the opinion that his "Stars" was vocally gorgeous but a little operatic, he might have refrained from replying, 'Well, you can suck my left testicle.'
(Jammy bugger still got a First.)
My point is that Kate needed someone there at GSA to level the playing field for her, in terms of getting her out there, seen, heard and considered for roles. 'I don't get roles, Iestyn,' I remember her uncharacteristically wailing. 'They don't seem to know I'm even here. I'm going into my third year and so far it's been a waste of time here!'
'Hope springs eternal, Kate,' I said. 'There's a new regime starting in September.'
If the StageFaves site had existed back then I would have gone there first to research the newly arriving Head of Musical Theatre, Gerry Tebbutt. As it was, it was a matter of sheer luck that I just happened to be sharing a house in Guildford with Angus Hamilton, who just happened to have been member of Gerry Tebbutt's youth troupe at the Wolsey Theatre. Angus was able to tell me that Gerry was obsessed with Judy Garland, Ivor Novello and pantomime. Today, I would root that out of StageFaves.
Whichever, armed with the knowledge of Gerry's obsessions, I adjusted Kate's hair, clothes and repertoire accordingly.
'Bangs? Iestyn, I haven't had a fringe since I was six. My pink duffle coat is warm. And Guildford, with all the water all over the place, especially passing the mill, is damp. You said we were doing Fantine this week, not whatever this nonsense is "My Old Woman's an Awful Boozer!".'
'Okay, Kate, how about we have another remedial lesson of you trumpeting "Many a New Day" through a Waitrose drinking straw instead?'
Gerry cast Kate as Velma in Chicago, Alice in Dick Whittington and in the Ivor Novello revue The Darling of the Gods.
Sadly, Kate tweets little these days besides photographs of firemen, kittens and accidents with custard.
I'm sending her StageFave's way!
#terripaddock #StageFaves #MyTheatreMates