Jacobean tragedy goes West



John Ford's Jacobean Tragedy 'Tis Pity She's a Whore leaps up at me out of the course syllabus I am teaching at UCD. What language! What gore! What melodrama!

A spring day, strolling through Herbert Park

Katy Hayes mentions that Angela Carter sketched out a plan to do it in the style of a John Ford Western in American Ghost Stories and Old World Wonders. Order the book immediately.

1999: A rainy day, outside Dublin's Screen cinema

Introduced to the lively Neasa Hardiman after Todd Sodolnz's Happiness.

March 2000

Ms Hardiman springs to mind the day shesawhore comes knocking again. I ring her at Fair City, which she is directing at the time.

April 14th, The Front Lounge

Neasa turns up to meet me with her own hard-back copy of American Ghost Stories and Old World Wonders. Impressive! Quickly decide to co-write, codirect, and co-produce.

May: Watch John Ford westerns

Ogle Henry Fonda. Draw up a list of images and John Ford movie excerpts we need to tell our story. Decide to use front instead of back projection. First draft of script ready! Time to think about casting.

August 14th

Apply for Arts Council Mise en Scene Award.

November 21st

We get the award!!! (P.S. Though the £4,000 seemed like a lot at the time, it ended up amounting to about one sixth of the total budget. Bless our ignorance.)

December 5th

Meet Kathy McArdle [director of Project Arts Centre]. Chat about experimental nature of Shesawhore as a cine-theatre event to run alongside Dublin Film Festival. Project's Cube may be available in April. We register shesawhore at company registrations office, and open our shesawhore bank account.

From January 17th, 2001

Casting. Call Ann Sheehy to play Minister's Wife, and Louis Lovett (the one and only White Headed Boy!) for the Minister's Son. Point them to shesawhore.net for the script.

Feb 2nd

Dreaming about Ardmore Sound doing cinema surround sound for us. Write to Paul Moore of this by hand.

Feb 5th

Meet lighting designer Aedin Cosgrove & sound designer, Jim Eadie. We like them, but they scare us by wanting half our budget.

Feb 8th

Auditions all day @ Project. Jack Walsh knocks us sideways with a reading from the Old Testament. We cast him as the Minister (otherwise we'll clearly burn in Hell). We also get him a wife, in Ann; a son, in Louis; and a reprobate outsider in Paschal Friel. No Annie Belle.

Feb 12th

Meet set designer Moggie Douglas who also confesses her desire to do costumes. Cool.

Feb 13th

A friend suggests Una Kavanagh for Annie Belle. Off I jaunt, to see her show in Tallaght's Civic Theatre. She's great.

Valentine's Day

Una reads for Annie Belle. Still great. She accepts - yahoo!

Feb 15th

Meeting with Isabel Smith of Dublin Film Festival - they have moved dates forward, and luckily so can we.

Feb 17th

Discuss sound with Jim Eadie. A private sponsor will cover his fee. Hooray. There is hope. Brainstorming for sponsors.

Feb 23rd

Shoot Jacobean excerpts in Airfield House, a stately farm in the middle of Dundrum. Hear the story of its former owners, Laetitia and Naomi Overend.

Feb 26th-March 1st

On Monday morning Neasa is @ The Yard, starting our edit while I finish remainder of Jacobean shoot. I join her in the afternoon logging all John Ford material with Maeve.

We edit the "riproaring romps, bodice ripping, doublet unlacing" with Liz. Like, what were we thinking when we wrote that? Those bodices are impossible to undo! Louis is a dead ringer for Rudolph Valentino. Nico Vermeulen's exploding green bottles FX are wonderful.

March 5th: Surround Sound here we come!

Ardmore Sound are interested in getting creatively involved. Paul Moore is eager to set up a schedule and push it along, so that it doesn't get lost. Amazing!

March 6th: Online Edit @ The Yard

Tony transforms Jacobean stuff: sepia-ing it up, and adding a bit of (visual) crackle and pop with "Iris-technique" and a tape of scratches from Australia. He extracts frames, to make the picture jump. "The opposite of what I usually do."

March 7th

RTE will sponsor us pending clearing all John Ford rights. Clear the rights?

March 8th

Rehearsal space reaches crisis point as Samuel Beckett Centre calls to say that Dublin's premium penthouse rehearsal space will be available. As NYU students are taking holidays we get a deal for nine days. There is a God. Then we'll be in the Cube from Wednesday April 4th to 11th for Research & Development finally followed by moonlighting it with Conor Lovett's Malone Dies in Andrews Lane Studio. Sorted!

Neasa is on a hotline to LA, for My Darling Clementine. They charge $100 to inquire for a non-negotiable answer.

March 15th

Meet Alan, Anthony, and Jimmy in Ardmore canteen. Discuss 5.1 formats, schedules and how long it takes to transfer Hi-8 tape to DVD. Sound-spot the script with Jimmy. For his system design he is going to put subwoofers under the audience, and speakers all around and behind them.

We plump for simplicity in set design. A bed instead of a table. We revert to the idea of actors holding a sheet up for a screen.

March 20th: The Penny Drops @ Project

We agree to split estimated box office takings. So we can make a grand total of £480! Project staff are referring to the show, simply, as Hoor. Ha!

March 21st Project-ions Day @ Cube

Put the moveable screen projector on a table in the centre aisle. A "techno-island" from where a techie person can move around the projector to hit the points we want on stage - in full view of the audience, like the "dressers" in traditional Japanese theatre.

Neasa is doing a worst-case scenario script without any John Ford extracts (!) in case we don't get the rights. Unthinkable.

Saturday March 24th-April 1st: Rehearsals in Beckett Dance Studio

By Tuesday we have the whole thing up and running, clocking in at 50 minutes.

Can't believe how well the sheet as screen idea, and bed as dinner table, are working. The cast choreograph the wedding dance and the fight themselves in a jiffy. After the first blocking of the play, we ditch our illustrative approach completely. Isn't this ensemble approach great. Then we watch screen stuff. Our philosophy is that the story and the actors come first - the screens are only enablers and must justify their own necessity.

Re-jig and re-work in great detail. We have some delicious conversations about character and background. See www.shesawhore.net (courtesy of Language) for more details.

On Thursday Neasa talks about pulling the show before going into R & D week. I say think of how much we have raised already - equivalent to about £25,000 in kind, We are short what? £3,000? Of course we'll get that. (Famous last words!)

April 4th-11th: R & D Week in Project Cube

Getting into the space makes the actors giddy. Jimmy & Aedin watch stagger-throughs for sound and lights. Tech stuff - screens, sound, lighting cues, and timing take ages to work out. By the time we get out of there we're on top of it - sorta.

The whole piece develops beautifully with the addition of the screens. It's going naturally in the direction we were hoping.

I get mesmerised by Johnny/Paschal roaming in Lib- erty Valence. He is swallowed up by the projections, yet still visible. What an interplay of faces between himself and Victor Mature, and Giovanni on the Jacobean screen. I guess it's working.

Meanwhile: On Sunday Doug, Alan, Anthony and Jimmy worked in Ardmore Sound from 12-6 on our sound mix. We are the happiest girls in Ireland.

The Yard do final transfer to DVD.

Neasa clears the rights for Stagecoach for $50. Hooray! We get one stereo DVD player from Temple Bar Galleries. An angel provides the second with six analogue outs for surround sound.

This week we focus on character and story tech-free. Oh yes, and that final three grand.

Shesawhore opens tomorrow night at Project Cube in Dublin. Booking at: 1850 260027.