It has been a CRAZY time over the past 19 months. Despite my home town of Melbourne spending over 260 days in lockdown, which just ended, I somehow managed to be in more productions as an actor than I had been in the 2 years previous to 2020, performing exclusively Shakespeare in six productions – five of them based in the UK.
And, because I can’t sit still, as I’ve written about before on this blog, I also created a new season of my web series, Shakespeare Republic – filming with 23 other actors (I was the 24th) based in seven different cities on three different continents – all working virtually via the internet during rehearsals and filming.
Sometimes it’s useful being neurodiverse, sometimes I really need to have a kind of shock button I can hit that makes me stop before plunging into the next mad idea and just take a moment to consider all the angles. But I don’t have that device yet, and so the unplanned Season Three of the series came to be during 2020, amidst global lockdowns and all the other challenges last year brought.
And I loved it. And I hated it. And I loved it some more. It was all at once life-affirming and life-draining, intensely engaging and intensely stressful. Beautifully creative and overwhelmingly exhausting. But it brought me together with a group of people who were all brilliant in their own way and so supportive. I still have the bottle of personalised gin my cast sent me after passing the virtual hat around during post-production, when I was barely remembering what sleep was (I also edited the entire series) and the soft toy they sent me to be a companion in the final days before release still gets hugged when I walk into my home office.
I will confess that I didn’t know what to expect when the new season released. We had pulled it together on less than a shoestring and only a little more than a wing and a prayer. I hoped it would go well, but I also had no idea if people would connect to, or even want to watch a pandemic-related piece featuring Shakespeare.
Luckily, mainly due to my amazing cast, people did connect. Nearly 100,000 views and several accolades later we passed the one year anniversary of the first episode release (which was in August), which doesn’t seem real, to be honest. How could a year have passed since then? Time has been meaningless, predominately due to the Groundhog Day nature of lockdown, but yes, next month will mark the year’s anniversary of the final episode release (which was mine – and I still don’t know how I had the energy to put that one together, but with help from my fabulous co-producer and life partner, Billy, I somehow did).
Since release, the season has been discussed at several academic conferences, including a fascinating paper presentation by Benjamin Broadribb at the BritGrad Conference (held by the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon in conjunction with the RSC) and will also feature in an upcoming academic collection to be published by Arden Shakespeare in 2022. I somehow got the tag of “metamodernist” due to my choice to make the season black and white (I love that tag, even if I had no idea that’s what I was doing with that choice!) and the work has spawned another series, which I’m filming in exactly the same way at the moment – but more about that in a later post.
And the season has also done spectacularly well on the international film festival and webfest circuit, which was not expected, but is so very much welcomed. Over the weekend, I was humbled, gobsmacked and honoured to win the Creator Amets Award at Seriesland in Spain for the work – announced at their Gala Awards evening at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao! Sadly, due to lockdown and international travel from Australia being pretty much impossible during the pandemic, I couldn’t be there in person to accept the award, but the wonderful Caris Vujcec (who played “Lady Macbeth” in the latest season) attended (her series “The Pepper Project” was also nominated several times) and accepted the amazing wolf-shaped trophy on my behalf.
The Creator Amets Award honours the Best Independent Creator/Showrunner in the festival and it was a really strong field of nominees that I was honoured to be listed alongside. I didn’t expect to win (mainly due to that amazing aforementioned group of creators/showrunners I was nominated with), and to get the message from Caris and then see the tweet from the festival was surreal, incredible and, yes, a little overwhelming. This award marked the 22nd award for the current season and it looks like it will be the most successful season for the series to date.
Who’d a’ thunk it?
It’s also been my most successful festival circuit personally as an actor and director to date. Winning this showrunner award was amazing, as was winning Best Director at Seoul WebFest in Korea last month. Being nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the New Jersey WebFest for performing all the newsreader voiceovers for every episode in a multitude of accents felt like a win without winning the final award. Just the acknowledgement of the work made me feel seen in a period of time where most of us have had to shelter at home and many, including me, have felt very unseen. It’s all been a blur, and a really wild ride.
And it’s been bittersweet. Mainly because I’ve experienced it all through a computer screen. All of it. From pre-production to production to release to the festival run. I am not complaining – not at ALL! It’s been a dream run and I am so grateful. But it also feels surreal, as I haven’t attended any of the festivals in person or even really been on set, in the normal way. So a part of me isn’t sure how to process it all just yet.
But I’m looking forward to holding this wonderful wolf shaped award in my hands, which will be happening, as the festival will be sending it over. That will make it feel real. And I think I might even cry. About the realness of it finally sinking in. And about the loss of nearly two years. About all of it really. But they’ll be mostly happy tears. And grateful tears. And maybe a little sad tears. But mainly joy and gratitude. For the wonderful people I’ve had in my world during this awful time, the fact that I’m blessed and privileged to have been safe enough to create during this awful time and the knowledge that the work has gone out into the world and connected with others who might be feeling the same way.
The slogan used in Melbourne during lockdowns has been “Together, apart”. I look forward when we can all just be together.
Love to all,