USA TOUR 2015

During the Autumn half term, the Drama and Dance departments joined to take our production of Romeo and Juliet on international tour. Having first been presented here in school in June 2015, the production then had a short tour of Scottish Prep Schools (Craigclowen, Cargilfield, Ardvreck) at the beginning of the Autumn Term before leaving for the USA on Thursday 15th October.

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The United States Tour was in two parts, with a total of four performances over ten days. The first port of call was Boston MA where we performed at Boston Latin School. Boston Latin is the oldest school in the United States, amongst its many famous alumni are five signatories of the Declaration of Independence including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock. We performed in their Black Box Theatre to a group of over 150 students. Whilst in Boston we enjoyed exploring the city, visiting Faneuil Hall Market Place and the Boston Tea Party Museum and walking part off the ‘Freedom Trail’ to learn something of the history of the city and its important role in the Independence of the United States.

 

We travelled by ferry from Boston to the historic town of Salem where we visited the Salem Witch Museum and learned about the events that led to the famous Salem Witch Trials, immortalised so brilliantly in Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’. Whilst in Salem we took a break from performing to watch (and sing along with) a fun production of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, part of the Haunted Happenings Festival that was going on whilst we were there.

Leaving Boston on Sunday 18th, we travelled down to Brooklyn where we were to spend the next few days staying with host families from Middle School 51. Brooklyn was fantastic, with a lovely relaxed atmosphere and all of the host families made the staff and students feel really at home. Our first Brooklyn performance was at Edward Murrow High School on Monday 19th October. This very large school (4000 students) has a strong focus on Performing Arts and we enjoyed meeting some of their Drama students during a workshop led by teachers from both schools. The cast adapted exceptionally well to a new space here, with the audience seated on two sides of the stage. Following the show, the cast gave an excellent Question and Answer session to the audience culminating in an impromptu Robert Burns recitation by Craig F. to the thrilled audience!

On Tuesday, we travelled into Manhattan where we had a lovely bike ride around Central Park and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then it was off to New York University (NYU) to perform to our most mature audience of the tour, a group of PHD education students studying ‘Theatre for Young Audiences’. Again the cast adapted brilliantly to a new space and performed a wonderful and quite intimate show in a small acting studio with no theatre lighting. The cast once again received Questions from the audience and responded with exceptionally intelligent and well informed responses.

Wednesday began with a restful exploration of Brooklyn. We all enjoyed having a bit of down time to look for gifts, search through vintage shops, generally wander through the lovely leafy streets and relax in Prospect Park. On Wednesday evening we held our final performance of Romeo and Juliet in the very large theatre at MS51. It was great to be able to perform for so many of the people who we had all become friends with whilst in Brooklyn and even better to receive a standing ovation for our final show.

Leaving Brooklyn on Thursday felt quite sad, but we headed to Manhattan, knowing that we still had exciting things ahead of us… We celebrated the end of Romeo and Juliet with a meal at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where the waiting staff performed Broadway hits as we ate! We had a cruise on Hudson Bay with excellent views of the Statue of Liberty from the water… We had an amazing stage fighting workshop with a Broadway choreographer and saw the latest Broadway smash, ‘Something Rotten’. Following the show we went backstage and saw the theatre from the stage, with more than a few of the cast imagining themselves up there in front of an audience in the future!  We ended the tour with a midnight trip up the Empire State Building on Friday night were we looked out across the city of New York lit up at night and stretching out as far as we could see.

Throughout the tour the students were fantastic and proved themselves as outstanding ambassadors for the school. They showed their maturity and courageous spirit, not only through their wonderful performances but also everywhere we went and with everyone they spoke to.

I’d like to say an especially huge thank you to the Drama Department at MS51 and to all those who hosted us in their homes whilst we were in Brooklyn. We received such a warm welcome and we’ll remember our time with you all forever.

Goodbye Mr Wills!

If you have ever received an email from Director of Drama, Nigel Williams, you will notice that there is a little picture at the bottom of the page, of a man in a fez, accompanied by the phrase “as if by magic”. In the World of Williams a lot happens “as if by magic” but those of us who work with him

would like everyone to know – just before he leaves us – that it isn’t magic at all… simply the product of someone who doesn’t know how to stop working. Nigel is leaving us this summer, after an incredible 16 years, to go to Chadwick School in Los Angeles – where we wish him all the best of everything.
But what has he done for us since he came to Gordonstoun in August 1996? With no
apologies for the long list, he has:
• Delivered excellent Drama lessons, of course, and
been a dedicated Duffus House tutor.
• Produced, directed and supported a million
curricular and extra-curricular productions in
school, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and on tour
around the UK and America.
• Taken students to see professional theatre locally
and further afield to London, so they can get
the best experience of large-scale professional
performance.
• Re-produced MasterMind in Chapel every two years
with staff and student contestants.
• Scared us witless in his Sixth Form lectures on the
Supernatural.
• Produced Staff Shows for everyone’s delight and
entertainment – and absolutely no embarrassment
at all!
• Brought YouTube into learning every week on a
Saturday morning.
• Been an avid supporter of the Eurovision Song
Contest!!

Most importantly, however, he was involved in the design and building of the new Ogstoun Theatre.
This is quite an important detail. Opened officially by The Princess Royal in Autumn 2005, Nigel
was central to literally putting the theatre on the Gordonstoun map, and “on the map” metaphorically too. Ogstoun Theatre provides an amazing, adaptable space for teaching the myriad classes that are
driven (by Nigel) daily, and transforms into a well-equipped specialist space, much admired by the numerous touring theatre groups. Gordonstoun has become well known for its excellence in the Performing Arts, and it is important that it is known how much Nigel has dedicated his time and effort to creating outstanding theatre. Sarah DaBell, Head of Dance, has been at Gordonstoun just a wee bit longer than Nigel, and so remembers the impact of “the early years”. One production that has great resonance is “Asleep Under the Dark Earth” – it was performed not only in the Services Centre (pre-Ogstoun Theatre days), but was Nigel’s first Gordonstoun production to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was also selected to play at the National Theatre, in London, as part of the BT
Connections festival.

“As if by magic”? No. By Nigel Williams

As You Wish June 2012

A word from the Director…

As You Wish is intended to be a loving homage to one of my all time favourite films from the 1980s – The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner and based on the 1973 book by William Goldman. There was something endearing and self-aware yet witty and very poignant about it that made it appealing to both adults and children in a style that was later copied by films likeShrek and Stardust.

The story begins - Grandpa (Ben A) reads a story to his sick granddaughter (Nicola R) Off to the Kingdom of Florin

The young lovers Westley (Sam) and Buttercup (Ella) Westley is taken by the Real Dread Pirate Robert (Bethany F) and his gang

I thought that it would make a great adventure romp as a piece of theatre and a lovely way to finish my sixteen years here at Gordonstoun. I also thought that its spectacle and epic events would be a wonderful story to use to return to the Round Square and tell as an outdoor piece. If I could somehow work a way to include songs from favourite band, Take That, what a combination that would be!

Introducing Prince Humperdinck (Jolley) The King (Harry) and Queen (Ellie) announce Buttercup's engagement to Prince Humperdinck Buttercup is kidnapped by the giant Fezzik (Harry) and Inigo Montoya (Calum) the swordsman

So here we are… The weather has conspired against us throughout our two weeks of rehearsal and I quickly remembered why I have not directed a big outdoor show since 2003. However we have had enormous fun as a cast and company despite time pressure and weather and we have all laughed a lot: at each other, at our performances, at our accents, at our dancing, at our costumes, at Jolley’s legs. It is the laughter that I will long remember and take with me. What better way to finish my time and remember the amazing students and staff of Gordonstoun than with laughter and a smile? Well, sunshine would have helped!

Thank you for the magic memories, the laugher and the sunshine you have placed inside me for ever.

As you wish!
Mr W

The Man in Black makes an appearance The audience becomes embroiled in the sword fight

The story…

When a sick young girl (Nicola R) receives a visit from her doting grandfather (Ben A) who intends to read to her from his favorite book, she’s not exactly pleased to be extracted from her world of music and her beloved Take That. However, her mood quickly changes as she, along with the audoence, is transported to a place out of time… to Florin, a kingdom in the ultimate imaginary land, complete with dashing heroes, cowardly princes, grumpy giants, shrieking eels, rodents of unusual size, fancy swordfights, and yes…even some kissing.

Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen the Nasty (Ahmed Khalil) come together to plot The story continues

The Man in Black is unveiled by the Real Dread Pirate Robert Ratzo King of the Rat (Gabriella)

The lovely Buttercup (Ella W) learns that “As you Wish” really means “I Love You” when she falls for her charming farmhand, Westley (Sam R). While trying to seek his fortune, however, Westley disappears at sea, an apparent victim of the Real Dread Pirate Robert (Bethany F), who takes no prisoners.

A few years later, Buttercup, engaged to the oily Prince Humperdinck (Jolley G), is kidnapped by an oddball trio of rogues… brains, the wizard Vizzini (Hermione DM); brawn, the giant Fezzik (Harry H); and skill, the swordsman Inigo Montoya (Calum A). As they sail away toward the Cliffs of Insanity, they notice the pursuit of a man in black…and the adventure begins…

Prince Humperdinck surrounded by sycophantic beauties The Mariachi Band (Tom and Ian) sing Take That The Man in Black is delivered into the hands of the torturers, Ratchet (Georgie) and Crank (Gabriella)

As You Wish was the final production directed by Nigel Williams and ably supported and assisted by Laura Parker and Kim Barton, Baroque and Disco choreography by Sarah Dabell. The entire production was supported and helped by Hannah Capstick, all things technical created and worked by Rob Parker with musical support from Simon Burbury.

The story comes to a Happy Ending Prince Humperdinck gets his come-uppance

Everyone at Gordonstoun wishes Nigel and his family all the very best as they re-locate to Los Angeles where Nigel will shortly be taking up the post of Director of Drama at Chadwick School.