Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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7 Quick Takes Friday about completing exams, dancing swing, and the exciting Pentecost

Join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for the 7 Quick Takes Friday weekly segment.

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

~1~

My academic exams are officially over today for the year! My last was yesterday morning, Developmental Psychology, which…could have gone a whole lot better, if I’m being honest. The essay question(s) were bafflingly broad, and I was unable to include any of the Cognitive Gender Theory I’d researched for revision. Nevertheless, my June will not be absent of things to do. I’ve only just started planning and organising my time and the extra-curriculae are filling up the days already.

~2~

<Unnamed Steampunk Short> is finally coming together as I round the 10K mark. I promise I’ll give it a name once I’ve finished the first draft, but nothing I come up with so far fits in that just right sense. The Title Mistress has lost her spark, I’m afraid. One problem with naming Steampunk fiction is that published stories have already taken a lot of the wittier/appropriate names, such as Windup Hearts. Since my story has a romantic line through it, I was hoping for a name along that vein (no pun intended!), but I shall have to rethink my plan.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

~3~

Tuesday’s swing dancing was fun, if a notch tiring. The music drew away from swing music shortly before I left, and I didn’t get as much dancing in as I would have liked, but little I could’ve done about that. Next time.

WP_20140603_019

~4~

On the downside, my left ankle now bears a stupidly painful from-impact bruise from where I jumped down some stairs last night and landed awkwardly. This is why I don’t call my sporadic moments of energy and wall scaling ‘parkour’!

~5~

I finished Part One of my Catechism challenge, and, whilst I’m not yet halfway through the book, I beam at my achievement every time I think of it. Reading the Catechism has definitely deepened my faith, even if only in that way one gains knowledge and, with it, confidence incrementally.

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~6~

I’ve been praying the nine-day Pentecost Novena, which finishes Sunday 7th. I only learnt of the Novena on Sunday (it started on Friday 30th), but the priest gave out small, instructional cards, which I’ve been following.

Novena_AlexB

~7~

This Sunday is my confirmation! It’s more exciting than words can describe when I finally engage full with the Catholic Church and consume a consecrated host for the first time. My mother is coming down and the chaplaincy is holding a barbeque afterwards for all. And there will be cake (*leaves to buy eggs*).


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Photo of the Week: Summer

Flowers! Everybody likes flowers – well, I do, a lot, so here is another picture I took last week of a yellow rose beside the road. It really is summer now.

 Summer

 

It was my last exam today! Woo! Now I can concentrate on writing!

Got my final jabs today as well for travelling in a couple of weeks, making my arms a little stiff. ;) It’s been a busy day.


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Why Blogging is Awesome (and Useful for School)

i_love_blogging1

There are loads of reasons provided for why writers should have blogs – expanding into the community, meeting new people, really getting a feel for their style, but last week I realised that in the year I have been blogging, something has become better due to my blogging that steps away from writing in the fictional sense.

I’m talking about essays.

For all of my A Level subjects – Latin, Religious Studies and Psychology – I am forced to provide ideas, evidence and conclusions in a time-constraint, for RS in under 45 minutes (but then I have four consecutive essays to write), for the other two, under 30 minutes.

Yes, it’s tight. Yes, it takes a great deal of practise to get those skills honed for

Let's hope this isn't me in an exam!

Let’s hope this isn’t me in an exam!

the stress of an exam. Yes, it hurts one’s hand after a while, after all the scribbling.

But it was so much more difficult last year.

I believe that crafting my opinions and ideas on this blogs, especially to the unusual extent that I have in the last few months, has not only widened my mind to think about the topics I’m interested in more regularly and thoroughly, but I believe that blogging is also helping me in my exams. Exam technique is composed of many different ‘legs’ – one of which is the flow of an essay. You know – that little under-remark saying “marks are awarded for the quality of your writing”. When I was younger, it used to be as obvious as “3 marks for spelling, punctuation, grammar”.

Now we simply have to guess what it is that the examiners want. They call it making the exams tougher, but I think it’s just rewording items so that marks are more difficult to award.

Blogging, for me, is basically talking to a computer screen through my fingers. That is, it is helping me expand on my use of the English language to I know that, before I started blogging, my writing was stuck on the sentence structure of finite verb, participle. And it was a bit bland. Through many of the outlets of blogging, my writing has taken on a bit more of a voice…I hope.

This ‘talking through my fingers’ has been helping me with the way I structure my exams. Whilst there could be the problem of being too colloquial, I think I’m okay on that account. Instead, I’m now taking the idea of talking in structure and applying it to strands of other people’s works.

Take, for example, my Latin Prose mock exam this afternoon: one question, to be answered essay style in half an hour, was along the lines of ‘How does Tacitus make the reactions to Nero’s daughter’s birth and death vivid?’*

I had been talking about Nero’s excess in celebrating his daughter so much that he treated her as a goddess after her birth. Now, the question – albeit implicitly – says that I must talk about both little Augusta’s life and death. Suddenly, I knew how to administer the switch using the theme of goddess that I had detailed upon in the previous two paragraphs. Without putting much effort into it, I switched to talking about Nero’s opinion after her death. Sorted.

bloggingHow do I know that I have blogging to thank for this? Simply because I have been honing the skill of flowing from topic to sporadic topic here – one might even say in this very post! Because my life revolves around so many different things, my mind jumps to another even when I am in the middle of one (this has resulted in many abandoned blog-posts, sorry); in this way, it is necessary for there to be some way of collecting up the pieces.

Blogging has just helped me tighten up the links between all of my favourite topics and theories!

 

*For more information on the text I am studying, see this external link.


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Agnetha King: Behind the Character

I thought I’d do something fun, since I’m not really in the mood for a great written post today, and as I’ve been (on-off) rewriting Of Jackets and Phones, I thought I’d blather on about my precious MC.

 Aggie

For instance, to expand:

Golden Hair. If I could, I’d lighten the hair altogether (note to self, get Photoshop Pro). Described by Agnetha in OJAP as “honey-golden hair”, Agnetha’s hair is simply wavy. I couldn’t find a picture that really represented that. In the final book, she gets into the habit of straightening it like this, though.

Weapon Fixation. Whilst this does exist in real life, it is as more of a victim’s focus on the weapon of attack. In Agnetha’s context, I have used it to express her interest in weaponry and its application, something which is definitely more prominent in the first book.

Sharp Tongue. Agnetha is probably the ‘snarkiest’ of all my characters, perhaps because she is the narrator and started life as a thirteen-year-old with no manners. Agnetha’s temper certainly gets the better of her, but, by the end of the trilogy, I hope she will have learnt to curb her tongue at times.

There’s quite a few running jokes with Agnetha, such as the ‘likes puzzles, hates cheese’, and her dangerous skill of hitting people over the head with an odd collection of objects. Too, I make sure that each of these traits, physical and meta-physical, change as Agnetha does through the trilogy. Because she has a dear place in my heart, she needs to learn from her mistakes.

In this way, I am hoping that my character will be as realistic in her quirks as any other detective.

 

Announcement:

As I’m going to New York for the next week, and then shall have my mock exams the week after, the blog is going to be quietly off the radar for some time. I apologise, but there’s not much I can do without access to a computer! Just enjoy some of my other posts whilst I’m gone.


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There’s Nothing Like Berkovian

There is nothing like Berkovian Theatre…especially to dull inhibitions. There literally is nothing like a Steven Berkoff piece in its madness and physicality, but my doing of such a piece has also had personal benefits.

The final night of the A-Level Drama (technically ‘Theatre Studies’) Examined Performance was on Thursday, and of course, the run up to it was very pressurized; if we had not practised enough in the first two months after selecting our play, Berkoff’s own adaptation of the Greek tale ‘Agamemnon’, we certainly did in the final two weeks, giving our lunchtimes and after-school free periods to rehearse in the main auditorium where we would later perform our piece, the first fifteen minutes, the Chorus ‘monologue’ of the Berkovian adaptation. Luckily, each moment we put in seems to have paid off! Unluckily (!), that meant I have not been able to post complete blog-posts here, and I have been barely able to read others’. I have written a few halves, but no proper pieces, except this, that I have been able to post online.

And because of its Berkovian nature, that piece is one which involves extensive physical-action work, often on actions which are gruesome or the accompanying words themselves grotesque. Exaggerated voices are key, as are over-the-top facial expressions, reminiscent of Musical Theatre. Therefore, an actor plays a Berkovian character needs to ignore all the instincts within them to be naturalistic or to be shy.

This is found myself improving on over the course of the three months practise. We have, as humans, a barrier that forms due to our normative knowledge of how society should function- this, in particular, includes not standing out too much, keeping facial expressions and gestures small- often the exact opposite of that way in which actors make themselves. As students, that barrier restrained us at the beginning of our rehearsal, and, indeed, right through to the last month, when the urgency of our assignment finally hit and we locked into the correct mindset of pushing away our embarrassment.

There was something, I’ll admit, about even talking about the tale of a father being tricked into eating his own children that made us want to hide away. We decided that, because of the delicate matter at hand, we were not going to invite everyone we knew (for fear of them making us lose our concentration) like was typical for school productions. In the end, however, it didn’t matter. We had nobody trying to fool around in our way- there was one rehearsal where our friends sat in on the practise and sent us giggling with their mimicry of lines- and our minds were set on doing well. So we did perform.

So, I come back to what I mentioned at the beginning of the post: because of the showiness I have gained from performing Berkoff immaculately, I have suddenly become more able to lower that restrictive barrier in ‘real life’. I wouldn’t call it ‘confidence’, exactly, but there is more of a feeling inside me that my opinions should be heard and taken into account…perhaps it is the humility that I have lost!

Typical Berkoff make-up is a white face and dark eyes, with high eyebrows…

And just a little note: I won’t be posting another blog-piece for a while, a month or so, because of my other Advanced Subsidiary exams, those ones written papers for which I have to extensively revise. Wish me luck!


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Naturalistic Goes Physical Theatre

I love acting. Before ‘Scream For Charity’, before I changed it to state that I was a writer, my Twitter profile said that I am a singer first, a writer and author second. In a way that is still true; my biggest passion still lies in ars musicae, I just seem to be more successful at the writing side of things- this occurrence, I believe is from the connections I have had in the writing field!

However, as much as I play down my acting desires, they are there, just as clear as my literary wishes. The first thing that makes this clear is that it was not English Literature (English Language is not offered as an A-Level at my Sixth Form) or Music that I chose to take as my creative-outlet subject- though we have a complete free-choice, most take three ‘serious’ subjects, and one ‘creative’ that they will drop in A2, the next year- but Drama, or Theatre Studies as it is known here. Yes, it is not fully performance-focused, but I find that little change useful, as I am able still to fuel the literary side of my attentions.

There are only three students (myself included there) who have chosen to take this subject from our relatively small Sixth Form. This point makes choosing the right play to put on for our performance mark- worth 50% of the first-year half of the course- difficult; we needed a play that we could get the most marks on, with three characters, equal amounts of lines for each actor. And, to make matters more complicated, it has to be a fifteen minute extract, five minutes per student, as the scheme goes. (So, if we had gathered more students, the time would have been more anyway!)

We originally chose to focus our ideas on Naturalism, the kind of performances that one sees in TV-programmes and films, or on stage in plays such as ‘An Inspector Calls’ (JB Priestley), ‘The Mousetrap’ (Agatha Christie), and ‘The Cherry Orchard’ (Chekhov). The downside of choosing a Naturalistic play, despite the fact that Naturalism is all we have ever experienced in our lower-school performances, is that, unlike lower, GCSE exams, the props are taking into account and marked too. So, if we had chosen ‘Top Girls’ (Caryl Churchill), we would have needed to recreate scenes such as an 80s kitchen and an 80s employment agency.

In the end, the beginning, we came to the conclusion that it would be too difficult to get the top grades doing a Naturalistic production; we needed to select a style of theatre that was completely different, abstract: Physical Theatre.

Hence the title of my post- I, a traditional, Stanislavski-based actress, having performed in such local productions as ‘Bugsy Malone’ (Knuckles), ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (Susan), ‘Great Expectations’ (Magwitch), would need to change my entire acting style, experiencing theatre as I had never experienced it before.

Steven Berkoff, practitioner of Physical Theatre

Steven Berkoff, famed practitioner, actor, writer, of the Physical Theatre genre was our chosen influence. His style involves: a use of the actor’s body as props and voice as sound-effects, with everything exaggerated. Costume is often limited to black or white, with lighting being the same constant. Actors move together and are often robotic or fluid, since Berkoff was influenced by the French Mime artist, Jacques le Coq.

From those specifics, we chose to perform his adaptation of the tale of ‘Agamemnon’, a king returning from troubled war into a more troubled homeland. Strife blooms, Queen Clytemnestra (pronounced C-lie-tem-ness-trah) gets restless, and the curse of the House of Atreus- cast when a former king, Thyestes, who was tricked, by his brother, into eating his own children- comes down to ruin Agamemnon.

Berkoff’s adaption includes a chorus, multi-rolling (not having a sole character for a sole actor) at the beginning of the play, their words harsh, ‘gritty’. This adaption of Berkoff is meant to make the audience feel uncomfortable, mentioning cannibalism, vomit and various other physical features that fit the theme of children as food. This…uncomfortable-ness is probably what I find the hardest to overcome. The idea is morally grotesque; I am not too pleased with the idea that I will be shocking my audience with controversy. Oh, well; I should begin to get used to this novel style of theatre!

Though we are all finding it a big change from traditional theatre performances, having to push past our ‘emotional barrier’, putting on a piece of Berkoff is very rewarding I just have to remember to keep my eyes wide, my expression loud as well as my voice.

For more information on Steven Berkoff, I would recommend the dissertation that my class-mates and I used to begin our research into Berkoff, by Craig Rosen and found on Iain Fisher’s website: http://www.iainfisher.com/berkoff.html


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Just a note (so not really a post, to be honest) about the little tidbits I’m working on at the moment. Most of them are beginnings of ideas that I don’t mind abandoning for my exams.

Well, for one thing, there’s my physics revision notes, written in fiction-form (Goodness help me!). It may sound mad, but I think that revising this way will help improve the triggers of my memory. However, it’s still only a few sentences long, due to my other revision getting in the way. Oh dear!

The next is the beginnings of a ‘just-for-fun’ story that can be found on Protagonize.com called ‘Ceilidhs’. Inspired by the true story of my first Ceilidh dance session, it tells of school-children uncovering the secret to the spirit world through the medium of dance. Not that that actually happened to me… *shifty eyes*

The last is the revival of my Latin story on Protagonize, entitled ‘Parva Fabula Romae’- literally ‘A Little Story of Rome’- about Roman life for Selena when she meets the son of a famous poet who promises to help Selena out of a pickle. So…if you’re into Classics…

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