Japan 2017

March 27, 2017 by

Artistic Director Katie Day will be heading over to Japan for a two week visit this April.
Supported by an Artist International Development Fund Grant from Arts Council England and the British Council, she will be making new contacts and researching contemporary and traditional elements of Japanese Culture.

As part of the visit Katie has been invited by Akiko Takeshita at YCAM to give a talk about her practice and to feed into the team’s planning for community and education projects currently in development.

Katie will take in temples in Kyoto, Buddhist monasteries and cemeteries in hilltop Koya San, and immerse herself in the high tech contemporary buzz of busy Tokyo.
The focus of her research is to explore Japanese ideas and traditions around memory, retreat, death, afterlife, community and ritual. This research will inform the development of the Afterlife project, which will go into production in 2019.

She’s hoping to catch the end of Japan’s famous cherry blossom season. Do keep an eye on the Blossom Forecast to make sure you’re up to date with all things petal-related.

If you have any suggestions of places to visit or people to meet for Katie whilst in Japan, do get in touch via email or Twitter.

She will be publishing a blog here, and you can also follow her on twitter and instagram.

Prototype performances at First Bite 2017

March 15, 2017 by

We will be presenting the 60 minute prototype version of A Moment of Madness as part of the First Bite Festival at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester.

This may be the last chance to see the prototype before the project goes into its final stage of development in preparation for the premiere of the full version in 2018

Saturday 25th March 2017
Attenborough Arts Centre
University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 7HA

Performances:
2:30pm
4pm
5:30pm
9:15pm

There are only 8 places available per show

Booking info here

International Women’s Day – the women who help and inspire me

March 8, 2017 by

With so many talented, inspiring, excellent women in the world (we are half the population after all) its a rather daunting task to make some kind of shortlist. But in honour of International Women’s Day I’m going to give it a go, focusing on those women who help and inspire me personally in the course of my work.

The Other Way Works is and always has been female led (by me – Katie Day, and also at the start with the wonderful Jane Packman as well). Starting out as a didactic feminist outfit, we continue to create work collaboratively and often focus on telling the stories of marginalised female characters (see the overly sheltered daughter ‘Debs’ in Avon Calling, and the Polish hotel chambermaid ‘Lena’ in Black Tonic).

So, here are the excellent women …

Janice, Jess & Rachel from Women & Theatre
Generous in every way, these brilliant women are always on hand around the office with advice ranging from budgets to company governance to childcare tips. W&T has been working at the coal face of theatre in community settings for over 30 years, with energy, positivity and a good helping of humour. I’m very grateful to them for taking me under their wing.

Alison Gagen
Alison Gagen has been working in the theatre team at Arts Council England West Midlands’ office for as long as I’ve been working professionally, which is extraordinary in this sector where people move roles every five minutes. She’s a committed, hard working, strategic advocate for the region’s theatre sector, and I’ve greatly benefited from the knowledge and experience she’s amassed over the years. As The Other Way Works’ primary funder since its inception, my relationship with Arts Council England is key. In today’s stripped-back Arts Council I feel so lucky to be able to meet up and chat face to face with Alison, someone who knows me and my work, and whose opinion I always trust.

Karen Newman
As Director of BOM (Birmingham Open Media) Karen is a relative newcomer to my network. My respect for her attitude to artists and her facilitative approach led me to apply for a BOM fellowship, which I was recently awarded. This means that I am currently a 2017 BOM Fellow, able to participate in the BOM community of practicing makers across arts, science and technology. It should be an interesting year!

Delia Garratt
Delia is Director of Cultural Engagement at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and has been Chair of The Other Way Works’ Board of Directors since 2012. Joining just at the time that I went off on maternity leave, she has seen the Company through many phases, including our recent move to become a registered charity. I hugely value her time, encouragement, willingness to listen to yet another one of my crazy ideas, and her commitment to keeping the Company moving forwards. I wish her all the best in her own upcoming maternity leave, and look forward to her re-joining us at board meetings later this year.

Clare Reddington
It was a privilege to work with and learn from Clare when I took up a one year placement in 2009 to work in her (then) small team at Watershed Bristol to produce the UK wide Theatre Sandbox development scheme.
Openness, passion, a sense of fun, curiosity, and good old fashioned hard work has seen Clare promoted to Creative Director at Watershed and expand her teams and projects in new and always exciting areas. She’s very inspirational to me in the way that she leads, and the role she plays in the male-dominated tech sector.

Katherine Maxwell Rose and Louise Platt
Katherine and Lou are founder members of The Other Way Works, and much of the Company’s work has been made in collaboration with one or other of these wonderful pair. There have been so many valuable and creative times working on projects but two favourite moments are: Travelling across land and sea over 3 days to Greece with Katherine to work on design and shoot the film content for Black Tonic in early 2008; and re-creating Lou’s most treasured memory for her as a 30 second immersive physical and audio experience during our R&D retreat for the Afterlife project in 2014. They both have their own successful creative practices these days as editor/budding novelist and dramatherapist, but I always cherish the times when we can get together to create.

My Mum
Working as a university lecturer all her working life showed me that, as a woman and a mother, it’s not just possible, but normal to do a job that you love and that keeps challenging you.
I’m also hugely grateful for her incredible childcare support in recent years, without which many of my work commitments would not have been possible.

And lastly it feels important to credit those from the ‘invisible’ female workforce that facilitate my own ability to work: Virginia my daughter’s childminder; and Simone who cleans our house every fortnight.

Do follow International Women’s Day’s hashtag #BeBoldForChange today and lets all stand together for equality for women here in the UK, and across the world.

Black Tonic 2015 Pledge

March 26, 2015 by

If you missed the chance to pledge to our Black Tonic 2015 Kickstarter, you can still get involved.

You can buy our £10 reward below, and receive the same benefits as our Kickstarter backers:

£10
LAUNDRY CUPBOARD –
We’ll send you a neat little thank-you video + We will credit you on our website in our list of project backers.

Play your cards: time for the tech

March 19, 2015 by

With the basic game mechanic selected for the re-worked scene, we were able to move onto how to technically realise this.

The task is to build a system that will sense the placement of a playing card onto the table at one of the points of the clock face, and trigger the playing of an appropriate sound file.
To tie in with the game mechanic, we only want the sounds to play when the numbered playing cards are placed in their correct position on the clock face (so a 3 of diamonds at 3 o’clock, for example), rather than just anywhere.

For the playback part of the system we are using QLab, a piece of commercial software used widely by theatre lighting designers for programming and running lighting cues for conventional theatre productions. David Haylock has found this to be a reliable off-the-shelf solution when he’s used it on other projects.

David is writing a bespoke programme to process the inputs from the sensing system and communicate them to QLab.

We haven’t yet finalised what kind of technology we will build the sensing part of the system with, but here are the two options we have explored so far.

From some preliminary research David suggested using RFID tags and readers to build the system. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is commonly used in the retail sector for theft prevention, and so the components are cheap and easily available. You’ll also be familiar with RFID if you use an Oyster Card on London’s transport system. Our plan is to put tags inside the playing cards, and mount small readers under the surface of our card table.

techblog1

We bought a few tags and readers, and David built a small test system. In its favour, RFID is quite stable and reliable. This is an important consideration if you’re relying on it to work, because it would spoil the immersive fiction if a technician had to come and help fix something during the scene. There is one major drawback though, in terms of it working with card games. Most card games (including our collaborative solitaire) involve stacking or creating piles of playing cards as part of the game play. RFID can’t really understand stacking (there are some complex workarounds, but basically stacking is out for our purposes). The RFID reader can only read the tag that is placed immediately on top of it. All tags piled on top of the first tag are blocked from being read, and so have no effect.
We think that this is a deal-breaker, so have looked around for other solutions.

David’s current avenue of investigation is image recognition, using a camera. David has recent experience of developing this kind of system from his work on the Playable City winning project ‘Shadowing’. He proposes using a PlayStation3 camera, which we will need to mount above the table looking down (with a birds-eye view of the card table). This part is relatively easy, we will just need to design our bespoke card table with a suitable structure above it to hold the camera. It is the recognition and processing of the images where the real work comes in.

A google search turned up several Open Source projects exploring this area, but after some investigation David has begun to write his own recognition programme. The recognition is a 2-stage process: 1 – the computer needs to recognise that it is seeing a playing card (markerless object detection); 2 – once it knows its a playing card, it needs to work out what number and suit the card is, by comparing the image it can see with the ones it has in its library and finding a match (Template Matching).

BlackTonicCameraTest

BlackTonicv2Camera

The potential down-sides of image recognition is that the system is very sensitive to differing light levels, but we propose to create a reliable lighting state by mounting a downward pointing lamp next to the camera above the card table to eliminate this issue.
The positives for our purposes are that the camera and system together behave more like the human eye – the camera sees the card on the top of the pile, and will be programmed to respond to that by triggering a sound. We will also be able to use a standard cheap card deck, rather than having to make or have manufactured a special card deck with RFID tags inserted.

There’s a lot more still to discover and test before we build the final system. Then there will be lots more testing! We’ll then build all of this into a specially constructed card table, which will conceal all the technology hardware, keeping the interface as close to the experience of a ‘normal’ card game as possible.

Play your cards: Developing the game at the heart of the re-worked scene

March 18, 2015 by

Some discussions with the show’s writer Clare Duffy helped to clarify our intentions for this re-worked scene: how we want the characters to be read; how we want the audience to feel; where the scene needs to get us to by the end.

Now we needed to find or create a suitable game mechanic to shape the audience’s interaction with the soundscape. I called on the services of games designer, and general genius, Holly Gramazio, to help us work out an elegant solution.

I was keen, if we could achieve it, that the interaction was actually the playing of a game, rather than an interaction that was essentially like pressing some buttons in a pre-defined or random sequence, which would likely be less satisfying.

Holly, David Haylock and myself spent an intense day of card-game-playing at the Pervasive Media Studio (its a tough job, but someone’s go to do it), trying out multiple types of existing and newly made-up card games. Holly’s inventive powers were put to good effect, and we came out of the day with the rough outlines of three possible options for games – each with a very different game mechanic. All three games were themed around the shape of a clock face (to tie in with our body clock theme), the first: a type of snap, the second: a simple betting game, and the third: a collaborative solitaire.

After some play-testing with friends and colleagues to test how enjoyable and easy to play each game was, and discussions with Clare the writer about which game type would fit best with the scene’s dramaturgy, I chose the collaborative solitaire.

It wasn’t the most enjoyable of the games, but game-play got easier as the game went on allowing players more ‘brain-space’ to listen to the soundscape that playing the game will trigger. It was also collaborative, rather than competitive, which seemed right as the two pairs who have been experiencing the show separately until this point, and may be strangers to each other, will join up in this scene and remain together until the end of the show. So building something together seemed preferable than potentially introducing friction that wasn’t helpful in terms of watching the rest of the show. It also fitted dramaturgically, as the players would be piecing together a picture of a clock face, card by card, whilst listening to sounds and snippets of overheard conversation that will piece together and illuminate previously concealed elements of the narrative.

Play your cards: Why re-make a perfectly good scene?

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I’ve been working towards bringing Black Tonic back almost since we finished the first run of shows back in 2009. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited that we’ve finally made that happen in 2015.

As the years ticked by, and I gained some critical distance from the original production, something became clear to me. In our haste to get the show ready during the initial devising and rehearsal period, coupled with a lack of technical knowledge and very limited resources, we had failed to do justice to our original concept for the pivotal scene in the show – known to us as ‘Jo’s Room’.

The ‘Jo’s Room’ scene is where we take the audience to the dark (literally) heart of the show. We introduce them to ‘Jo’, a blind, card-playing criminal. In the original production ‘Jo’ was ably personified by an older male actor, and the scene was engaging, weird, and atmospheric. But I felt that we’d lost the metaphysical aspect of the character by having him physically there. He is our ‘Wizard of Oz’, and pulling back the curtain to reveal him there in his human size felt like a bit of an anticlimax.

You see, for us, ‘Jo’ is a blind-seer (in the manner of Tiresias from Greek myth), he ‘sees’ everything that happens in the hotel. He is profoundly blind and perceives no light, and therefore suffers from a genuine medical condition known as ‘free-running’ where his body clock drifts out of sync with the 24 hour clock by a few minutes every day until midday feels like midnight, and continues like this in an eternal loop. He also represents for us the ‘anti-hotel’: chaos, disorder, timelessness. Where the hotel is ordered, timetabled, obsessive-compulsive.

For the remount of Black Tonic in 2015 I wanted to re-design this scene to better communicate our character ‘Jo’. The way we’ve chosen to do this is to remove the live actor from the scene, and to invite our audience to inhabit Jo’s room in a way that allows them to almost ‘become’ Jo for the duration of the scene.

We are inviting the four audience members to play a game of cards together on a magic card table, where the laying down of a card allows us to listen in on a bedroom in the hotel and what is currently happening in there. As the game unfolds the audience members build a (sound) picture of the hotel, putting them in Jo’s shoes, so to speak.

We are lucky enough to be collaborating with Watershed in Bristol on the re-development of this scene, and are working with their Creative Technologist David Haylock to make this idea a reality.

Play your cards like midday is midnight – a new blog series charting the re-mounting of Black Tonic in 2015

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Ahead of our 2015 re-tour of Black Tonic, we are taking the opportunity to polish, improve, and even completely re-make parts of the show to make it the best it can be for this new tour.

This blog series will chart the creative development process, and hopefully provide an insight into how a show like this gets made.

You can find all the blogs in this series here: Play Your Cards

Illustrations – Development Blog – Katie Day

March 14, 2013 by

We have commissioned a local illustrator Luke Thrush to create the visual look for the smartphone App that will deliver the audio stories.

He’s drawn some beautiful illustrations for us, creating a real story-book feel to the App. We wanted something that would appeal to our audience in terms of the App interface, nothing to high-tech and whizzy. Something with an artistic quality that felt like a treat to use, rather than a series of buttons to get through.

I think he’s done an amazing job. Calvium who are making the App for us have put his drawings into the prototype App and they instantly transform it. We’ve got more work to do still on the App design, and we need Luke to draw us a few extra buttons and icons, but we’re getting there.

The image above is one of his drawings, and is part of the ‘splash screen’ image for the App. I don’t want to give too much away yet, as it would spoil the surprise when the App is published.

Recording Session – Development Blog – Katie Day

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For the first time we actually recorded our voices at a recording studio, rather than a bedroom or outdoors. We have 6 different voices on the Lightwoods Park track, which seemed too many to record outdoors.

We recorded at the Blue Whale Studio in the Custard Factory, Birmingham, and had a good and productive day last Friday. I’m back there tomorrow to record the final two voices: Gareth, a long-standing collaborator; and Catrin, a 9 year old girl.

The photo features Tom Naylor (aka Mr Naylor MC), who came in last Friday to record his own pieces of text that he has written for the Lightwoods Park story. Obviously used to doing his stuff in front of a mike! In fact everyone was a real pro on Friday (apart from me – I’m reading the instructions!)

Once the final two voices are recorded, we’ll be sending the files to Mark the Composer/Sound Designer to get to work on pulling them together into a soundscape. We’re hoping for jazz music, wintry sounds, and the sounds of skateboards on a ramp, to compliment the voices and the story.

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