We talk to Darlo Drama alumni Emma Dalton and Mel Day who started ‘Crying Chair Theatre’ with their first production of ‘The Savages of Warrimi’ showing recently at The Actors Pulse. Emma and Mel tell us of their experience as first time producers and how Darlo Drama prepared them to go out on their own!
Where does the name Crying Chair theatre come from?
We were working on a lovely little play together, “Bloom”, that had some emotional scenes for our characters. During an emotional scene for Emma’s character there was a table she had to lean on which affectionately became known as “The Sad Spot”.
One night Mel accidentally stood in the “Sad Spot” & Emma gave her a look on stage to say “move out of my spot!”. We had a laugh about this afterwards & it became on ongoing joke. One night the Stage Manager forgot to set Mel’s garden chair, which she had to throw herself into and cry. At the end of the play a joke was made about “how can I cry without my crying chair!”, and so it was known from that night on as the Crying Chair".
When discussing potential names for our theatre company, we wanted it to be something meaningful to both of us at the time we decided to form it, which was whilst we were working on “Bloom”. 7 or 8 schooners later the serious conversation turned into reminiscing about "Bloom" and the funny things that had happened during the performances. While laughing about the sad spot and crying chair, we both had an epiphany and thought either of those could be a great name. So it was down to “The Sad Spot Theatre” or "Crying Chair Theatre" and thankfully we went with the latter. Sad spot just doesn’t have the same ring to it!
How did Darlo Drama prepare you to go out and produce your own work?
There is such an incredible network of people at Darlo that are more than happy to help in any way they can to help get your play up and running. From recommending people for cast and crew to sharing stories of experience. We were never short of a person to call on for advice or to help spread the word and get bums on seats. Also the work during the courses, in particular the ensemble, gives you an insight into how a play is produced, from start to end and provides an amazing foundation to take something from page to stage. You not only get to work on your acting craft, but you also get to see how the lighting, set, costumes and staging all comes together because of the close working relationship you form with your Director. The tutors/Directors treat you like a professional and make the experience extremely rewarding.
What was the best thing about starting your own theatre company? What was the hardest thing you experienced?
The whole process has been such an incredible journey. We are in agreement that the best thing is being able to produce work that we find challenging, exciting and that connects with us in some way right from the first read. Working with one of your best mates is also a huge bonus!!
The hardest thing? I don’t think there was anything that felt too hard because of how dedicated we were to what we wanted to achieve. We both had each other’s back and learnt really fast what one of us was lacking in the production side the other was all over! If we had to pick a hardest thing – it would probably be knowing when to draw the line between producer and actor and not to take too much on so that it becomes overwhelming.
Another thing that was a little hard for the first production was knowing how big to aim for the first shot at a show. Whether you ever know the answer – who knows?
But you need to know you are making the right decisions at the time and stick by them.
Why did you choose the Savages and how did you find the play?
Crying Chair wants to tell Australian stories written by Australians, particularly women. We read many plays between us but kept coming back to the Savages Of Wirramai. Written by a woman, an amazingly touching Australian story and with 4 incredible female roles – it fit all of our criteria.
Coincidentally there was a student production of the play around the time we were looking, so we went along and saw it and that was our minds made up.
What’s next for Crying Chair?
The lovely writer of the Savages Of Wirrami, Sandra Fairthone, has asked us to workshop her next play. Hopefully this will be ready for the 2019 season.
We also have a table read of another great Aussie play this week which may see the stage later this year. We even had another Victorian based writer contact us to see if we would be interested in producing her new play – maybe a world premiere for Crying Chair Theatre!
But first – we’re both off on European holidays!
What advice would you give anyone interested in joining Darlo Drama for any of our courses?
Do it, do it, do it! There are so many reasons get into acting and one of the beautiful things about it is you get to meet people from all walks of life that you perhaps wouldn’t cross paths with in your day to day life. For what ever reason you want to do it, you should!
You never know where it will take you. The courses are a great grounding into acting, the tutors are amazing and supporting, and the Darlo Drama community always seem to be there for each other with support, no matter how big or small the performance may be.
Some incredible friendships and professional relationships have been formed through Darlo – and that isn’t something you can put a price on.