Monday, 12 September 2011

Alison Farina

Alison Farina is originally from Poughkeepsie, NY and currently resides in Bath.  She is a director, writer, producer and actor.  She has spent the last 14 years living and working in the UK, spanning the country from London to the Isle of Man.  Her current production of Love Letters by A.R. Gurney will be playing at the Rondo Theatre in Bath, on Thurs September 15th and Friday September 16th.

Tickets for Love Letters, please visit the Rondo Theatre website.

For more info on Alison

Twitter accounts
@btterflypsyche - only Butterfly Psyche stuff
@alisonfarina - Me being me, follow at your peril/boredom/annoyance/offence/etc...

Alison Farina
Thursday Sept 9th 2011 12PM
Sam’s Kitchen, Bath UK

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a few things.  Currently I am producing and appearing in Love Letters by A. R. Gurney with my theatre company, Butterfly Psyche Theatre. Love Letters tells the story of Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III through their letters to each other. From 1937 to the late 1980s, they discuss the hopes, ambitions, dreams, disappointments, victories and defeats that have passed between them throughout their separated lives. It’s a funny and very touching piece and we are lucky enough to have Derek Fowlds (Yes, Minister, Yes Prime Minister, Affairs of the Heart, Heartbeat and Basil Brush!) on board as Director.

I am also in the process of writing something for summer 2012 called Fertility Objects, and it’s about fertility and how it defines or doesn’t define women.  How it affects relationships and what things represent fertility objects in modern times.  Instead of Phallic symbols, gods and goddesses, we now have ovulation thermometers, pregnancy kits and reflexologists! The story will follow 3 couples who have broken down on the road to parenthood and how they move forward.  Also on the back burner are a historical drama about Henry Edmund Goodridge (builder of Beckford’s Tower) and a site-specific community project based on a German folktale.

What is your earliest theatrical memory?

I was an only child so I had to entertain myself, and making up stories is what I did. I used myself, friends and stuffed animals to play the parts. My mom always said she could  hear me chatting away to myself and the stuffed crew as I would make up stories until I fell asleep.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by stories, mythology and relationships.  A lot of my work is based on mythology, folktales, traditions and histories. As far as people that inspire me… I'm a little bit all over the place, I like doing everything, so I really admire people who are disciplined and can stick to one thing to perfect it.  As for general theatre inspiration, I have huge respect for people like Augusto Boal, Keith Johnstone and Michael Chekov and theatre companies like Miracle Theatre, Kneehigh and Improbable.

What are the challenges of running your own company for new writing in 2011?

Money and time! ButterflyPsyche only started in September 2010, so we are just about 1 year old. This (Love Letters) will be our third production.  As a company our main focus is on new writing, which is really exciting, but it takes a lot of work to promote an unknown show and writer. A new writing audience is very different to that of the ‘average’ theatre-going audience, and it can be hard to get those people to see things they are unfamiliar with. Although this is a challenge it is also the best thing about new writing. There is nothing that has come before that will influence opinion or the production, so everything is created without outside influence (consciously or unconsciously). Also with new writing there is a real sense of ‘ownership’ for everyone involved, whereas established or better known work can creatively hold you back without even realizing it.

The biggest challenge is funding. There are so many established companies doing really wonderful stuff and the ‘pot’ is only so big.  The challenge is finding other ways of getting money and making sure that what you do, gives the people who are doing it, even if its profit share, something out of it.  That is something really important to me.  With most profit-share productions, once all the expenses are paid, actors and the team are very lucky to make any money at all.  I try to use the show as a ‘networking’ event for everyone involved. That way, industry people get to see a great show and the team have the opportunity to show off their work and speak to industry people. But, fingers crossed, the Arts Council Funding applications will work out!

What is your directing style?

I am not sure I have one.  Winging it…probably!? I suppose I like to see where people go with things, make observations and tweaks and then go from there, really. 

What differences, if any, have you found working in the American theatre vs. the British theatre?

Well, it’s been a long time since I worked in the US, but I do think there is a difference in attitude and approach. This is a huge generalization by the way, but Americans tend be more like ‘Yup, whatever no problem’ without really questioning very much.

Gung ho?

Yes, I think ‘gung ho’ is an intrinsic, American characteristic, which can be drawback as well as an asset. But at the same time, Americans can tend to be a bit more delicate. I think that is an artist’s tendency anyway. We are all asked to’ put ourselves out there’ so that opens you up for criticism. It is natural to need reassurance. We wouldn’t be artists if we didn’t have that vulnerability. Yet British actors, again, a TOTAL generalization, don’t have that ‘gung ho’ thing. Actors here seem to consider things and tend to question choices more. Performance is taught very differently in the UK to the US, the US being very film/TV oriented, so this may have something to do with it. I don’t know…

Dream projects?

My Dream Project would be Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Metamorphoses is an epic poem that tells the history of the world from Creation to Julius Caesar and focuses on transformation tales. For me, life is one big transformation tale and The Metamorphoses combines archetypal mythology, relationships and love. The things that inspire me most!  I would love to work on such an epic, and maybe include a ‘research’ trip to the Mediterranean? I mean, if you’re going to dream…!

Final question.  Is the director dead?

No, although the director who dictates should be, and pretty much is, aside from the few I have encountered. I feel that directing is like teaching a kid how to ride a bike. Once you take those training wheels off, your job is to follow them and make sure they don’t fall off.  At least that’s what I hope to do.

Thanks Alison for sharing your thoughts!

" A good director's not sure when he gets on the set what he's going to do."
Elia Kazan

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