Seems a bit weird doesn't it? But it's true. I am a dyslexic person. (Also dyspraxic but that only comes into play when I'm on stage or screen trying not to bump into the furniture while remembering my lines.) John Hurt famously once said "If you want to utterly ruin a young actor tell him he has a good voice", He'd know I guess. It does seem to be the case though that I have a voice a fair few people enjoy listening to and as such I've gravitated towards voice overs and narration as part of my acting career.
It is something of an irony perhaps that someone with the difficulties Dyslexia brings would be trying to compete in a job that requires impeccable reading and characterisation skills. So much of acting in any form is affected by the ability to pick something up cold and make it live in some way.
Dyslexia can manifest itself in many different ways both subtle and gross. For some people the words seem to jump around on the page, for others non-phonetic spelling is difficult, yet others have problems with sequences of words or letters. I'm not an expert on anything except my own experience and for me the difficulty mainly comes with large blocks of text. I find it hard to keep my place on the page, sometimes my brain will read what it thinks is there rather than what is actually there. Tracey will be able to testify to the number of times I've transposed "a" and "the" in a sentence, or accidentally left out a word, or added one in which isn't there. For me it's like looking at one of those trick drawings that look to some people like a duck and some people like a rabbit. Sometimes I can't see the duck for the rabbit even though it is only ever one or the other. I sometimes have trouble distinguishing spaces and punctuation between the words which is like trying to read a very long hashtag with no capitalisation.
Something like this:
itwasthebestoftimesitwastheworstoftimesitwastheageofwisdomitwastheageoffoolishnessitwastheepochof beliefitwastheepochofincredulityitwastheseasonoflightitwastheseasonofdarknessitwasthespringofhopeit wasthewinterofdespairwehadeverythingbeforeuswehadnothingbeforeuswewereallgoingdirecttoheavenwe wereallgoingdirecttheotherwayinshorttheperiodwassofarlikethepresentperiodthatsomeofitsnoisiest authoritiesinsistedonitsbeingreceivedforgoodorforevilinthesuperlativedegreeofcomparisononly
That was the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities as my brain may perceive it on a bad day. No capital letters, no punctuation, no way of knowing where one word ends and the next begins.
So how do I deal with it? Well there is no easy solution. Practising reading aloud regularly helps. When recording I often highlight a single line or sentence to make it stand out from the rest of the page. Editing is 80% of an audio performance, if I do my job right the listener should never be able to tell that I didn't read everything in the book through perfectly on the first time. The truth is that even the best world class audiobook narrators stumble, stutter and miss things occasionally and every audiobook you've ever heard is a Frankenstein's monster of different takes, cuts, half sentences, inserted pauses, all sorts. Mine are no different and that brings me neatly to the fantastic team/support group I have around me in Circle of Spears.
When I record a chapter of an audiobook. I "First pass" edit it, taking out all the mistakes, pauses, clicks, pops or other extraneous stuff that doesn't need to be there. It is then QCed (Quality Controlled), by Tracey usually, who then sends me back the corrections in a spreadsheet. These often include the lines I have read incorrectly, any times I've missed the meaning of a sentence or put the emphasis on the wrong part of the sentence from what the punctuation would dictate and any other errors. In an ideal situation at this point I would then rerecord all the mistakes and that would be an end to it but often this can take more than one pass in order to get all of them corrected, especially if I am working in isolation as I often am. I have attempted to return the favour for my fellow members of Circle of Spears in the past but after multiple failed attempts it was agreed to focus my efforts elsewhere.
It is disheartening sometimes to feel like the way your brain works renders you inadequate for certain jobs. But difficult though it is not to sometimes, that's the wrong way to think about it. Everyone is different, we all learn in different ways and we all excel at different things. I am in a very fortunate position to be working with a team who understand fully what the difficulties I face are and with whom I have devised a system to overcome them for the most part. If you are reading this then it is quite likely that either Mark or Tracey have proofread it for me before I've hit the post button (it was me - Mark!). It's similar with a lot of the emails or official correspondence I send.
I can absolutely understand why someone with these sorts for difficulties would think twice before exposing themselves to an environment where they would have to compete with other people who don't have them but there are in fact plenty of dyslexic actors out there, damn talented ones too. Google them. One of the reasons I wanted to get into audiobooks was that I am a voracious consumer of them myself. Storytelling in one form or another is sort of our business as actors and while I may never rise to the heights of Stephen Fry or Simon Callow, Scott Brick, Roy Dotrice, Jonathan Davis or so many others I am glad I had the courage and the support enough to do it.
Are you dyslexic, or do you know someone who is? (I bet you do) Leave a comment. I'd be really interested to know if there are others in a similar situation to me.
Yesterday, dodging twix showers and personal schedules we managed to shoot some promo images for our new play Outside of the Box, shortly to be going into rehearsal.
The play is another original piece. (Saves all that faffing about with rights and royalties) This time though it's a contemporary comedy. Outside of the Box follows Xandra, Yates and Zebb, three characters who think they have the measure of each other but over the course of the play have their preconceptions challenged and in some cases shattered. Hopefully to hilarious effect. It's a madcap comedy which flirts with farce and pokes fun at sensationalism, stereotyping and cynicism.
That's all I can really say at this moment without venturing into spoiler country but stay tuned here and perhaps sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with how the play is coming along.
We are delighted to be returning to Devon Libraries once again in 2018 to put live theatrical events among the books. Today we have confirmed two bookings for Totnes Library later in the year. So what will we be doing this time around? Read on for details....
In the Summer we will be supporting the Summer Reading Challenge for children by once again staging our fantasy themed escape room puzzle activity, which we have already performed in Crediton and Tiverton Libraries in 2017. Aamena the Library Elf (pictured) is trapped by the mischievous wizard Aldous Powder and only the ingenuity of the children can find the spell to free her.
We will also be developing a new live multimedia literature evening which will be performed in November. More details to follow on this, but it will be a mix of poetry reading, dramatic story renderings and full theatrical scenes set to music or with other effects. A multimedia celebration of literature.
We hope to be able to secure more events in other Libraries during the year. Subscribe to the blog for more details, or click here to follow our Facebook page, or here for Twitter.
Currently "on mic" in our studio is the audiobook version of The Dark Well of Glastonbury by Phillipa Bowers, which is being narrated by Tracey. The first six chapters have been recorded for editing this past week. Tracey says, "beautifully written and observed, the book is a joy to narrate."
Look out for more information to come on this title over the coming weeks in our newsletter. To sign up to receive these for free, please click here
Author of the book, Phillipa Bowers, has this to say about the title on her website:
The Dark Well tells the story of Louisa an impoverished young widow who hopes to survive in Edwardian England as a companion to gentlewomen. She goes to Glastonbury in 1903 to care for her aunt and while there she experiences the stories of the keepers of a sacred well that has been unrecognised for many centuries.
This well was once one of three sacred wells on the sacred island of Avalon and while the others, the red and the white, are known to this day, this black one, used for scrying or seeing into the future, has lain unrecognised for centuries.
Each chapter tells the tale of a guardian, or keeper of the well, dating from long ago in the late Neolithic time, through early Bronze Age, the Roman occupation, the Romans departure, the time of the Druids and the arrival of the Christian church, the building of the great abbey church, the Black Death, dissolution of the monasteries and the contamination of the well.
Interweaving through the tales is the story of Louisa, who has known great tragedy and assumes there will be no more love or happiness in her life, but eventually realises this will be possible.
We look forward to bringing you this title soon. ~ Mark
HAPPY NEW YEAR! While everyone else is trying to shed the crimbo pounds and stick to their new year's resolutions we here at Circle of Spears have decided to revive our somewhat fallow News/Blog section. As you might have noticed we went through the entirety of 2017 without any new posts. 2017 was not without many great releases and milestones for Circle of Spears however. We celebrated our 2nd year trading; We took WITCH on tour, including performances at Credfest in Crediton and Fringe Theatrefest in Barnstaple, reaching our 50th performance back in September whilst performing at the Alma Theatre in Bristol; went to Credfest in Crediton and Fringe Theatrefest in Barnstaple; we premiered a new show Ghost Stories, featuring Dr Emerson Kennedy and Miss Eliza King (deceased); performed our murder mystery evening Body in the Library at Totnes Library; attended numerous sales events around the southwest; released 8 new audio titles and had enough on our to do pile that we had to close our books for submissions in early March; Were featured on Tiverton Community Radio, Phonic FM, Coast FM and BBC Radio Bristol; Designed and road tested an escape/puzzle solving room for kids and began collaborating on various animated projects with Yellow Mouse Studios with whom we hopefully have a few more surprises in store for 2018.
Phew...I'm knackered just writing out that list. Hopefully though it goes some way to explaining just why we were scant on posts for 2017. 2018 however will be different. Each of us will be keeping you up to date with all that's new at Circle of Spears, some behind the scenes exclusives and sneak peeks of things to come.
We hope you'll join us in making 2018 our best year yet.
The quality control process continues apace as we move ever closer to the release of our next fiction title on September 1st - Richard Dee's cracking steampunk adventure "The Rocks of Aserol". More about Aserol later in the week.
Circle of Spears takes particular pride in the high quality of our audio products. We have a stringent 3-tier quality control process, beginning with a 'first pass' edit to eliminate obvious mistakes. This is usually done by the reader, then passed to a colleague, who listens to the recording whilst following the book, noting any further errors.
Finally, the master disks are produced and listened to by another colleague to ensure that the disks themselves have recorded correctly. All of this is done in-house, keeping our overall production costs down.
The first two performances of "Witch" took place on Wednesday 27th July in the Library of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, kicking off our summer season with the play. Initial audience responses have been fantastic with feedback including "intense", "very powerful" and "I would give it five stars".
Some tickets are pre-booked into August already, and with this being an intimate piece with just 20 audience members in each show these people are wise to secure their seats now. If you are intending to come, please do the same by contacting the Museum directly. The contact details are on the Witch poster on the previous blog post.
These performances also saw the official launch of the "Witch" audio CD - the full show as an audio play with added sound effects. This CD is available exclusively to show audiences for the duration of the run at the Museum, but will be made available for pre-order on the web store in October in time for a general November release. The cover art is shown in this image.
We look forward to bringing you more news from Witch over the summer.
Where better to perform a play about witch trials than in the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic?”. The museum’s managers were extremely enthusiastic about the proposed project, providing a number of original transcripts for the basis of Tracey’s research, as well as advice on the draft script.
“The museum’s input has been invaluable,” Tracey said. “I selected details from a number of sources, drawing heavily on the transcripts they shared with me, then wove the information into the story of a suspected witch, her accuser and the magistrate interrogating them. This allowed me to include a lot of Tudor/Elizabethan social history whilst still focussing on the human aspects of such emotive cases.”
The company gave a test performance to the museum staff and an invited audience, which was very well received. Staff member Joyce Froome described it as having “remarkable immediacy and impact…with characters who have real depth and complexity.” Author Alex Langstone said, “I was very lucky to be invited to a preview performance of this play…and I can thoroughly recommend it.”
“Witch” is due to be performed in the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle, Cornwall, throughout the remainder of the season on Wednesdays and Sundays at 5pm and 8pm. The first performances are on 27th July. Tickets cost £10 and are available from the Museum. For further information, including performance dates, please contact the Museum on 01840 250111.
More information about Circle of Spears Productions can be found at www.circleofspears.com and you can follow them on Facebook (Circle of Spears Productions) and Twitter (@circleofspears).