Exciting Performance Opportunities for Two of Our Students

04 Nov 2020

Two students, Jake Fanstone 13B7 and Shalom DeSouza 12E14, are two of just 24 to be selected for the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company 2021 and will travel to London in July next year to be involved in a comprehensive and exciting ‘package’, based principally at Shakespeare’s Globe London.

NSSP Experience

The day I found out the news for the offer of NSSP, I was ecstatic! I had been dreaming of the moment I would get a call about an acting opportunity since I was a little girl. The week had been carefully devised by the amazing Dawn Sanders and the workshops and tours added to the fun of performing during the week. 

On the first day we all came from various parts from New Zealand, we then met each other through some acting exercises conducted by Katie Boyle and Alexander Sparrow which allowed us as a group immediately bond and initiate the close-knit family we became by the end of the week. We did various acting workshops such as space and body, fencing and ballroom dancing.

On Friday and Saturday we performed, which was one of the highlights, as I love to perform and doing it with the whanau I had gained throughout the week, with like-minded people, made it all so much more special. After both performances we had an enjoyable after party where we all enjoyed our last moments together before our last day of departure.  It was an added bonus to play lead Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ directed by the talented Katie Boyle. 

On the last day the tears, emotions and the hearty hugs were very sad. We had to depart from the NSSP 2020 whanau. Though the beauty within the sadness was that we knew this meant we all had a splendid time together and promised to see each other very soon.

The week provided me with an opportunity to act which is what I LOVE and aim to pursue solely as a career, but it gave me so much more. I learnt so much through the workshops, learnt from my directors, learnt how to learn lines and had a blast with life long lasting friends within it.

Chosen for YSC 2021

A week after the NSSP trip in Dunedin, on Saturday afternoon I came home to see a missed call from SGCNZ. Then it was revealed that I had been offered a position in the YSC 2021. Little did I know at the beginning of my SGCNZ journey from e-regionals, to e-nationals, to NSSP that I would be chosen to be a part of the Young Shakespeare Company that travel to London in 2021 July to perform at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is an absolute dream come true for me. I have always known I wanted to perform since the first movie I was shown as a child  and this opportunity is a step in the right direction for me to make it as my career. I love being able to transform people and submerge them within performing allowing them to forget about their daily lives/worries.

I am so grateful to my school Botany Downs Secondary College for offering the opportunity of Sheilah Winn regionals which has led me to this very point. I am very excited for the trip where I will also tour the Rose and National Theatre where I hope to perform one day. This is all very surreal, and I am still trying to process the news. I am also very honored that I get to do it with Jake as he offered me the role of the Witch in SGCNZ e-regional event, so the fact that I get to do it with a fellow Botany student is very special. 

~ Shalom DeSouza 12E14

If I had to choose one phrase to sum up my experience of SGCNZ NSSP 2020, it would have to be: that was only nine days?! Because, to tell the truth, it felt like a lifetime – in the best way possible. There was never a dull moment, and there are two key reasons for this.

The first reason was the schedule masterfully organised by the CEO of SGCNZ, Dawn Sanders – one of the most intense, action-packed, and enriching experiences I have ever had. Our official designation for the week, ‘Shakey Sponges’, could not have been more appropriate – we were exposed to such a sheer quantity of knowledge and expertise on Shakespeare and performance that you can easily see why we had to be like sponges soaking up water. From history lessons on the origins of Shakespeare, to voice, body, and movement development, crowd interaction, ballroom dancing, and even fencing for stage combat, the variety in the many workshops we partook in was immense. Even so, they all offered something we could immediately apply to enhance our upcoming performances. For me, I found the advice on crowd interaction and awareness of physicality choices especially useful. What we did not put to use in our performances has undoubtedly been stored in the back of our minds to use in future endeavours, as we all recognised their value. Such enriching learning experiences as these were only possible thanks to wonderful tutors, all professionals in their fields who were an absolute privilege to learn from and get to know: Dawn Sanders, Arlie McCormick, Clare Adams, Dr Michael Cop, Katie Boyle, Alexander Sparrow, Dave Barson, Simone Marshall, and Ryan Hartigan.

Then, of course, there were the rehearsals. And this is where I really scratch my head when I look back and realise we only spent about five half-days doing them, because the performances at the end of the week felt so cohesive and enjoyable that I could not imagine having spent such a short amount of time putting them together. The three plays, The Merchant of Venice, King John, and Much Ado About Nothing, were incomparable, as each were fantastic in their own respect thanks to the unique approaches taken by the directors Katie Boyle, Alexander Sparrow, and Clare Adams, respectively. I was part of the Much Ado About Nothing cast, and could not have asked for a better experience. The beach theme posed by our director was an interesting take on the story and a tonne of fun to flesh out. Speaking of our director, not only was her vibrant personality a joy to work with, she was a constant stream of insightful advice and suggestions from which I benefitted immensely. But I cannot forget the rehearsals every morning at 8.30am after breakfast, where all the students got together to learn and practice a musical number and a Maori waiata and haka, all three of which we would showcase at the performances. This was a great time to bond with the cohort as we were all together and without adult supervision, but more than that, it was a very gratifying experience to be able to learn from each other as we worked to figure out harmonies and choreography, and also to integrate the Maori culture into our performances in a meaningful way.

But it was not all workshops and rehearsals – Dawn had lined up a slew of events that gave us a break from the intense preparation processes and yet still enriched us in many ways. The What You Will talent showcase on the second night was one of the most enjoyable three hours I have ever had, watching as almost everyone in the group of 49 took the stage one by one to share their amazing talents from all facets of performance: singing, rapping, dancing, skits, monologues, poetry, circus, you name it! (I will never forget the roaring applause after my performance of Shia LaBeouf Live to close the night.) There was also a fun and competitive Quiz Night, a visit to the University of Otago to learn about what it has to offer and watch a student dance performance, and an evening talk by four SGCNZ alumni sharing their experiences and answering questions about life after high school.

A major highlight, though, was a mystery tour around Dunedin. Rod, our fantastic bus driver, taught us about the city and its history as he took us to the Royal Albatross Centre, the famous Baldwin Street, Larnach Castle for dinner and entertainment, and finally to a fantastic local performance of The Raft at the Globe Theatre.

The second reason NSSP felt like such a long yet full experience was the incredibly strong bonds we formed with each other. One of our directors, Katie Boyle, said in our emotional farewell poroporoaki that passionate people must always find passionate others, and nothing could have summed up our collective experience better than that. Through our love for theatre and performance, everyone was able to relate to and become friends with each other almost instantly – just being together was fun. We found joy in the strangest things, like the sheer amount of bread supplied to us by Countdown or speaking in Russian accents, and sang songs at the top of our lungs whenever the impulse arose – even at dinner! Even though we were split into three groups for the plays, because the schedule allowed us to spend so much time together, it was impossible not to form a bond with everyone to some degree. For this reason alone NSSP would have been worth it, and the fact we had such amazing experiences on top of this gives me confidence to say, on behalf of everyone, that this will be one of the great highlights of our lives. There were many tears at the end of it all, and for good reason – not only was it because of how strongly we felt for each other, but because the environment we had created was so welcoming and accepting that we were not afraid to lay our emotions bare.

I will never forget SGCNZ NSSP 2020 nor the people I met. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to SGCNZ, the CEO Dawn Sanders, her assistant Amy Clewes, the directors, the tutors, the volunteers, and everyone else who had a part in it. 2020 has been, frankly, a terrible year for performers, with shows and events being cancelled left, right and centre. But despite being such a rough year, the fact that NSSP was able to take place made it all worth it. I was told it would be a life-changing experience, and, if anything, that was an understatement.

But even after all that, there is still more to come! Out of the 49 amazingly talented actors at NSSP, 24 of us – including myself – have been given the absolute privilege to form the 2021 Young Shakespeare Company, who will travel to London in July next year (if COVID-19 behaves!) to perform at none other than Shakespeare’s Globe. I remember being pretty dumbstruck when I got the call for NSSP, so you can imagine how excited I was when I got the call for YSC. I have never seen myself as being any better at acting than my peers, and that still hasn’t changed. However, I have certainly come to realise how lucky we all are to have such amazing opportunities as these, and how important it is to grab at these opportunities whenever they come your way. I am grateful that I took this leap and landed somewhere so fruitful, but my gratitude is the more for organisations as wonderful as SGCNZ for making these places a reality.

~ Jake Fanstone 13B7

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