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THE PROJECT FOR AWESOME 2012

I have, since 5pm GMT been sat glued to my laptop. I got up to make food, which I then forget was cooking, which then burnt and filled the kitchen with smoke, which is now under control but, as a meal, is pretty inedible.

There is a good chance that you do not know what P4A (The Project For Awesome) is. Well you should. Because it’s incredible.

P4A

It was set up in 2007 by Hank and John Green, two brothers who run a YouTube channel called vlogbrothers and now do so many things and have so many channels that genuinely change lives – either by educating or by entertaining and provoking thought – that I cannot even fathom how they manage it.

This is a link to teach you more about it because there are not enough words for everything I am feeling about how incredible this is.

I am a massive nerd. I follow certain Youtubians religiously but I have always been busy or – to my shame – lazy when it came to P4A over the past years.

This year however, I have followed the livestream, watched the random videos as they appeared in the ‘recent’ section on the P4A website, commented on and liked more videos than I think I ever have done before in my life and been made aware of so many charities and great causes that I never knew existed that I just can’t quite figure out what I’m feeling right now.

It is not yet midnight and over $200,000 has already been raised. Being part of this community of thousands and thousands of people, all commenting and supporting one another, is incomprehensibly amazing to me. If you are not taking part then I do not think you can imagine the feeling.

My internet is lagging because I have the livestream open at the same time as other videos of people talking incredibly passionately about things that mean a lot to them. The feeling of being human has never been so present in my life, I don’t think. And that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but if you were sat as I am now then I like to think you might feel the same.

The most amazing thing to me has been (particularly due to the demographic of people making and watching these videos) the amount of stuff I feel able to accomplish.

P4A is not about giving money. Not necessarily. I have seen videos asking people to give their time; give their support; give toys to hospitals; give the rights to independent music; subscribe to a scheme whereby you generate adsense money every time you open a new tab; answer very simple, vocabulary-broadening questions in order to have rice donated to people who don’t have enough to eat.

And that’s why this is so amazing. Because I can do those things. Me; a student with very little power and even less money. I can do things to change lives and decrease worldsuck just a little bit. Of course I’ve donated $30 to ensure I receive my very own ‘Men of Youtube’ calendar, but beyond that I cannot help financially, so knowing there is still so much for me to do is so important and so empowering and just so obvious that I don’t see why I haven’t been doing it all along.

This shouldn’t sound preachy, but I am not always brilliant with words. Anyone reading this with no idea what the hell I’m talking about should check out P4A where you will get a much better introduction than I am able to give.

http://www.projectforawesome.com/

Mostly I just want to think John and Hank, who are incredible, because they have inspired so much generosity – so much awesome – by being incredibly giving and loving and promoting a sense of community without proximity.

The world is changing tonight because of them. And a good portion of the population has no idea that they could be helping, without spending a penny, by simply turning their computer on and clicking a link.

 

http://www.projectforawesome.com/oldies-club-httpwwwoldiesorguk/project-for-awesome-2012—the-oldies-club

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From Where I’m Standing…

Exactly this time last year I had been dropped off by my parents in university halls and, as I was the first person to arrive in my flat, I decided to bake cakes for when other housemates arrived and also managed to scare and scar a ‘Welcome Weeker’ when he walked into my kitchen (because apparently they have keys to all the flats, who knew?) to find me singing songs from Legally Blonde loudly into a wooden-spoon-turned-microphone and wearing rather skimpy pyjamas because I was under the impression I was going to spend that evening alone.

After he’d slowly backed out of the door and fled my flat I carried on just as before, wondering just what the hell my first year at university was going to be like. I had no idea what to expect, I just knew I was off to a tremendous start.

At the beginning of summer I pledged to myself four things I was determined to do; blog, theatre, job, writing…

BLOG: I do feel this blog is now of more use to me. I don’t use it as a pedestal to vent my Holmsian and feminist frustrations. I plan what I want to say and I try to make it personal to me so other people can take it or leave it as they choose without it being shoved down their throat. This is a space for reflection and discussion and, even though I’m generally my only reader, it helps and it feels worthwhile and that’s what I wanted.

THEATRE: A play is happening! (Hopefully!) My father has written a play called Daniel’s Demons which is a story of a boy and his father and Graham and Trevor, their two demons. I am planning to put it on this year as a charity production for ‘Mind’. I have a lot already set up for it, just finding a venue and techie and a cast still on my to do list…yikes. Anyway, this both needs and deserves its own space so more on that another time. There is a play, it will be happening, and for now that is enough.

JOB: I am looking for a job now that I’m back in Exeter to start my second year, but I worked for the Olympics a bit over summer doing stewarding and security work which involved getting on a coach at 2am to start work on the streets of London at 4am to finish work at 8pm and get back on the coach. Tiring. But well paid and I got to be around for the Olympics so, actually, as shitty summer jobs go, it was pretty awesome.

WRITING: Although the little set of stories I’ve been working on is nowhere near finished, it now seems to have a beginning, an ending and some middling parts taking shape. Still a long way to go but I’m happy to have achieved this. 

Overall, this summer has been successful if not exactly fun. I’ve enjoyed being home because I’ve missed Amy and I’ve missed my parents and I’ve missed their well-stocked fridge, but I was very ready to come back and crack-on with even more this year.

This year will be more stressful because everything suddenly counts towards your degree; that piece of paper they will hand me after three years that tells the rest of the world I didn’t fail miserably at life is incredibly important to me, but it is not the be-all and end-all of what I want from university. I would rather come out with a 2:1 having been involved with loads of really great quality theatre than get a first but have no experience, no connections and nothing to be proud of other than the fact I got a first.

I want to do so much with my time here. I have pages full of lists of things I want to do and things I should already have done. Last year I turned up and walked into this place blind, and I did alright for myself. Now I supposedly know what I’m doing and I’d like to have another really great year. A lot has changed in twelve months. Not all of it nice changes but all of it for the better at least. So, with my plans for theatre-world domination, a new house full of people I really care about and who care about me and a lot on my plate I know I am the sort of person who could easily be overwhelmed by all of this, but I also know that this is the right time to keep pushing forward because I only have two years left at this university and I have a hell of a lot yet to prove I can do.

Love the Journey (To Amy)

I am moving out of my parents’ house in just nine days. My parents have put a roof over my head for twenty one and a half years and now I’m flying the nest. It is exciting and scary and makes me feel all like a big proper grown-up which, doing a degree where I play dress-up and pretend to be fictional people, is not something I’m too-used to feeling.

Last year I lived in my university’s halls of residence. It didn’t feel permanent. It felt like a nice break where I got to pretend to be all big and independent. This feels real. My life is changing, everything I have learned and done and loved and known has happened in a life spent at home. Now it’s different. Sure, I’ll visit. But I will never truly live in this house again (not unless I end up with no job, no money, and give up all pride).

I have a little sister. Amy. I say little, she’d only months shy of eighteen and it’s really hit me this summer that the image I have in my head – that of a slightly startled twelve year old girl – is very out of date. I think back three years, to entering my second year at college, just where Amy is now, and I can remember only too-well how scared and fragile I felt.

I was surrounded by people telling me I MUST make decisions, that I HAD to plan for the future, and that FAILURE to do so would result in my life not being as great as it could do so now, three years older and not a lot wiser, I just want to take a second to tell my sister, and her friends, and everybody in that situation (and, when they invent time travel, my seventeen year old self) that it is all absolute and utter undeniable wank.

Do you know what happens to people who don’t know what they want from life at seventeen?

Absolutely fuck-all. That’s what.

People can go through their entire life not knowing exactly what they want or where they want to be and they can have the best time, meet the best people, learn more than anyone, and love stronger than other people.

I use my parents as examples; my mother went to teaching to college, worked as a teacher, then decided it wasn’t for her. She now does something that (I think) makes her happy and it is something that leaves her with just about enough time to devote herself to the Oldies Club; a charity she helped found that gives new homes to older dogs. Whilst it doesn’t always make her happy because sometimes things in the dog-world can be unbearably sad, she is so devoted to what she does and she seems to love it with all her heart.

My dad left home and school in quick succession as a teenager. Bopped from job to job. Learned to play the guitar, worked in a yoghurt factory, became a photographer, worked in a mental health hospital, in a school, wrote several musicals, a nativity and then moved on to work with people with special needs. He seems happy. Often stressed, often over-worked. But he does something that lets him do the things he loves.

If you have a plan, then great. Follow it with all your heart. Do whatever it takes to get to where you think you need to be to be happier. But if you don’t know where it is you want to end up, then just keep going, because the only important thing is that you do something. Doesn’t matter what it is. Try anything and everything, because that’s the only way to decide what you like and what you don’t. Never be idyll and never be bored, but never think that one step forwards is the same as landing you on a path you can’t go back on.

It sounds obvious, even clichéd, but it something we could all do with reminding ourselves of every now and then because people can get so hung-up on the final destination that they miss all of the amazing stuff that happens to them on the way there.

So, Amy, whilst you are being told you HAVE to make a decision regarding your future, maybe try asking the people telling you this what they wanted to do at seventeen. Because the answer probably won’t be “I wanted to tell young adults that their lives depend upon the decisions they make today”.

Happy Esther Day…

Esther Day always reminds me to look with distance in order to see with perspective.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Esther Day, or Esthertines, is a celebration of the Birthday of a little girl called Esther Grace Earl. Today she would have been 18 years old. ‘A real adult’, as John Green said. She died. It was very sad. It was a while ago but it is still very sad and I think that it’s only human that we are still very angry about it both within and without the little internet-dwelling community of which she was a part.

But Esther did something to counteract this anger; the bitterness her death caused with the simple unfairness of it all. When given the opportunity by Hank and John, the Vlogbrothers, to have her birthday celebrated for as long as they were making videos she could have made Nerdfighters around the world spend this day wearing trousers on their heads or pretending to be trees or whatever. She chose something which, even at sixteen, I think shows her wisdom. She chose to make this a day when everyone had to vocalise their love. I think that maybe she knew it would be easier to dwell on the negative feelings evoked by her death and forget to do this sometimes, but then I could be very wrong and I don’t presume to talk for her.

So…

To mum and dad and my little sister Amy…

To the people who have come into my life this year…

To the people who have left it…

To the people who have been there my whole life…

To the Nerdfighter community…

To Esther, her family, and her memory…

To the people who follow me on twitter…

To the people I forgot to smile at this week…

To the fandoms I have found a place in…

To the people on the internet who use it for support and not trolling…

To the people who don’t understand the power of the internet…

To the people I have hurt…

To the people who have hurt me…

To the people who will think this post is lame and a waste of time…

I love you.

 

And sometimes I am crap at saying it or, worse, sometimes I forget to show it. Sometimes I am cranky and angry or sad and self-involved and I completely forget how small I am.

This year has been quite hard for me. I’ve had to make a lot of new friends (not something I’m very good at) and say goodbye to someone who, until very recently, meant the whole world to me, which was painful and upsetting and still feels like a fresh wound. It has been a difficult year of difficult adjustments. It has taught me a lot, and some of those things were hard to learn and all of this worry and angst has wrapped me up in my own head quite a lot and I have failed to take into account the people who are still around, the people who love me and who deserve to be acknowledged as having such a huge place in my heart.

Esther Day reminds me that being small does not make you insignificant. It should just make you grateful that you are important enough to have people in your life who love you, whom you can love in return.

 

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Support the This Star Won’t Go Out foundation by buying Esther bracelets [here] or find out a little more about who she was and what she meant [here].

THE GAME (and other exploits)

Arriving at university at the end of September last year feels both a million years ago and only just yesterday. Within two weeks of settling into my course I had a successful audition for a play called Raging Quiet. As well as feeling as though I had thrown myself in the deep end and fearing that the writer (the wonderful Emily Holyoake) and the director (the fabulous Abbi Davey) would decide, about halfway through the process that I cannot act and should be sent home, I found some of my closest university friends through this play as well as a boatload of confidence and am ever thankful for.

Since then, I say rather smugly, that I have not spent any time in my first year where I wasn’t involved in a production. There was my cameo in RL (written and directed by the aforementioned dynamic duo) where I got to play a space alien in a fake television drama and had the coolest outfit/make-up I think I will ever have; then Dracula which I was the A.D. for, I absolutely loved my role in this rehearsal process and am so proud to have worked on this show with such a truly lovely bunch of people; Mary Stuart, directed by Kathrin Rosenberger, a project that took six months, had a lot of bumps in the road and was, eventually, pulled-off wonderfully by a really tight and beautiful cast; then there was THE GAME.

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THE GAME (which you just lost and I always feel the need to capitalise) was Exeter Theatre Collective’s (etc.) debut performance as a fresh theatre company/collective run by graduates in Exeter and I couldn’t have hoped to go out this year with more of a bang.

THE GAME was an interactive murder mystery event in which the audience were able to interrogate suspects, look for clues at the crime scene and, eventually, have their say in who they think dunnit. I played Jay Check, forensic intern and for those of you who failed to attend: It was me.

I got to play the merry murderess or, at least, that was my initial thought. Even the cast weren’t told until about halfway through the rehearsal process who the killer was. This was to make sure (presumably) that all of the actors created well-rounded characters and figured out their relationships with one another with no preconceived notion of who would finally be singled out at the end. It was imperative to have fully-formed characters as the audience were able to ask you anything at any time during the three hour long game.

This was the most intensive rehearsal processes I have ever undergone. I am someone who walks into a space, plays the character, and leaves the space. Hearing actors talk about being stuck in character has always seemed to me to be a bit farfetched and over-the-top.

However, over the three week rehearsal process I actually spent more of the hours I was awake being Jay than I did being myself. I created a life, a childhood, a relationship with a father (who wasn’t actually my father either in the play or in real life), in-jokes about dad’s cooking, a cat I have and will never own and, finally, got to play out the murder scene in the most harrowing improvisation I have ever done (actually, I had to do it twice, but I am not getting into that).

For someone who turned up to the audition feeling as though I am useless unless handed a script, I managed to improvise successfully in character for twelve hours of performance over two days. And it was one of the best experiences in theatre that I have ever had and I have to say a huge thank you to the absolutely astounding cast and to the directors, Abbi Davy and Matt Williams, for whom I cannot find the words to really say enough.

So thank you everyone who made this year so full of wonderful theatre. I look back over this year and feel I have come a long way in a very short space of time but can’t imagine how far I’ve still got to go over the next two years. I find myself backing away and, at the same time, thinking ‘Bring it on!’. The most exciting prospect for me will be discovering the new and amazing people I have yet to work with.

And on that slightly sappy note…

A Beginning and An End…

I hung around after the end of term, having officially finished my first year of study at Exeter University, in order to participate in a fantastic production called THE GAME (more coming on that at a later date). It has felt as though I have been studying at Exeter to my whole life and, at the same time, haven’t been there five minutes yet.

This year has been incredible for me. Within a fortnight of arriving at university I had successfully gone through my first audition and landed a lead role in a play that helped make some of my closest friends in Exeter, and since then I haven’t had a break from being involved in various productions. It hasn’t all been sunshine and puppies by any means, this year has brought a lot of very difficult adjustments in my personal life but, looking forward, I’m hoping they were all for the best.

 

I have just finished cleaning my room in my parents’ house to within an inch of its life all ready to unpack my unnecessary number of belongings for the eight or so weeks which I will be home for. Putting my feet up triumphantly, with a cup of coffee perched beside me to cool, I look towards the coming weeks with a slight sense of dread. How am I going to fill two months of my life with worthwhile endeavours whilst in a small town with a) no theatrical prospects, b) none of my close university friends and c) no job as of yet?

So I am making a few mid-year resolutions and setting some goals to make the most of this summer. I don’t want to turn up back in Exeter to realise I’ve wasted time as this first year has flown by so quickly, I can’t imagine how fast the rest of my time is going to go.

Firstly, this blog. This has been a platform for some rather unproductive and often ill-informed ramblings which often turned in to mud-slinging wars although the posts were only ever designed as a way for me to vent. However, I would like to turn it into a well-kept blog. I am annoyed with myself for not keeping a better record of the journey I have gone through this year and making notes throughout the rehearsal processes for the various plays I have done, so I’m going to make a promise to myself to keep a more thorough account of things over the next two years.

Secondly; THEATRE! I worked as an assistant director on a production of Dracula last term, but haven’t felt prepared to go it alone since year 11 when I wrote Sketch with my father. This summer, however, I want to put myself in a good position to start creating theatre that is all my own. Already dad and I have a play in the works which I am very excited about but don’t want to go into detail about just yet, and I am writing something myself although God knows if that will ever come to anything. But, at this rate, I shall have a minimum of one original play to direct next year.

Getting a job is a priority only in so much as I won’t be able to survive without one, so sadly a lot of time which could be used for writing or procrastinating is actually going into looking at potential places of employment.

As well as writing a play for next year, I am absolutely determined to start collating the notes I’ve been making over the past three years for a sort of story/set of short stories I have been trying to write. I have two crates full of lose pages of notes for this bloody thing and it’s time I put them to use and got them in some sort of order before I lose the plot and go completely insane.

 

In other news, as well as making far-fetched plans of fame and fortune through my humble scribbling, I am absolutely delighted to announce that I am now an official member of the Exeter Theatre Collective.

Again, more information on this at another time as right now my coffee is getting cold and I really need to figure out which box I packed my underwear in to come home before the situation becomes desperate…