This is a weekly installment in a series of blog posts submitted by a team of Centre College students studying away or abroad throughout the spring semester. Learn more about Centre’s nation-leading study abroad program, a guarantee of the Centre Commitment.
A sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee, Olivia Wilkinson’s passion for the performing arts has led her “across the pond” for a semester abroad at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, an international drama school in the south London suburb of Sidcup. She says she chose to study abroad at Rose Bruford in order to further her education within the field of dramatic arts and “experience the many opportunities the school has to offer.” On Centre’s campus, Wilkinson has been involved in many activities related to the arts, including a number of Drama Centre productions. She also serves as a supervisor for the Norton Center for the Arts Scene Shop, secretary for Centre Players (fall term) and the vocal percussionist of the College’s acapella group: Common Time. After Centre, Wilkinson plans to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts in directing and eventually aspires to teach dramatic arts at the collegiate level.
“This production will be two to three hours long. We have four weeks to rehearse and perform this piece. That being said, I would like you to have your lines memorized by the end of next week.”
What? A 90-page script, memorized in two weeks?
This was a statement made by our wonderful director, Steve Dykes, during one of our first cast readings of what is referred to as the “house show,” which is, in a way, a version of promenade theatre. This form of theatre is when the audience moves about from place to place throughout the play. The production is also a piece of site-specific theatre, which is a performance in a uniquely, adapted space that is not a stage.
The space, when being designed and built, was never intended to have a theatrical production take place in it. For our production, the site is the Sidcup Manor House. The building was constructed in the 18th Century and was originally a country home. It currently holds the offices and work spaces of two charities.
The production we are doing is an adaption of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. In this performance, our Lillian Hellman is named Marion Crawford. She takes the audience around and retells this story from her childhood. The interesting thing about our production is that it is extremely intimate. The max amount of people allowed in per performance is sixty, and that group will then be divided into three groups of twenty. This is due to the fact that the production will be performed by three different casts at the same time. So, there are two other women who are cast as the same role as me.
The process for this production is entirely different than the process at Centre. In comparison, at Centre, we audition, receive a cast list, accept our roles and have an initial fitting in order to receive our scripts. We then go into a rehearsal period and normally have about a month to learn our lines. At Bruford, we never auditioned. Steve just got to know us through our Post-War Theatre module. The only thing we could even possibly consider an audition were the short scenes we were given to perform over the next few classes. Our only prompt for those scenes was to not read the play our scene was from or research anything about it. We were to only read the scene given and interpret it as we saw fit.
For casting, we were simply asked to arrive at Sidcup Manor for our first read-through. We all sat down in a poorly air-conditioned room in this house (one of two that can hold our entire company) and waited to receive our scripts. Our director then entered the room, picked nine people (including myself), brought us into a separate room, sat us down, and gave each of us our roles. We were then told to keep it to ourselves until the rest of the cast had received their roles.
I am excited to say that I am one of the three women playing Marion Crawford. This role seems particularly daunting to me. She is based off of a playwright whose writing was so intriguing that Arthur Miller took inspiration from this play to write The Crucible. Another intimidating thing about this process is that I am to be on call for any rehearsals for 12 hours a day, six days a week. However, this is the reality of a career in theatre. The average rehearsal period before a production is three to four weeks. Bruford does an incredible job of ensuring that their students, including me, will be acclimated to the time constraints that they will face daily during their career as a theatre maker.
by Olivia Wilkinson ’21
March 29, 2019