by Cheryl Prince
Cheryl and her Temple co-actors (Penny Bosworth, Elena Harding, Tom Sawyer, Craig Simons and Mark Wakeling) have been improvising for Awaken via Create since January 2017. At the beginning of this year Cheryl launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo which The Actors Temple match-funded as part of our aim to support a number of projects in celebration of our 15 Year Anniversary. This has meant that the creative team and cast could be paid for a 3 day Research & Development period, a reading of the First Draft in June and a rehearsed reading in July in front of an industry invited audience.
After a successful rehearsed reading at The Pleasance in July 2018 where Awaken by Cheryl Prince was extremely well received by audiences, Cheryl and her Create mentors and dramaturgs Law Ballard and Ellie Zeegen applied to Script Accelerator at Park Theatre. Shortly afterwards we received the brilliant news that Awaken had been granted Runner Up status and had meetings with Melli Marie Associate Artistic Director at the Park to crystallise what we would be focussing on creating in our time with them. This January 2019 was spent preparing for two days in Park200 improvising, researching and playing to try out a new idea for the modern part of the play, when the action moves from 1653 into 2020.
The two days involved thorough preparation and dedication from several actors from The Actors Temple and expert professionals in both medical and legal fields who we interviewed. A huge thank you to Nurse, Sarah Bryan for dedicating her time and efforts. Our discoveries fed into and gave Awaken a life, meaning and vitality it never had before. The actors involved at this juncture were: Lawrence Carmichael, Stephen Christos Simon Desborough, Simon Furness, Elena Harding, Stephen Mitchell, Cheryl Prince and Tom Sawyer.
Script Accelerator culminated in a sharing in Park200. As a team we collectively gained a immense deal from our visit to the Park and are excited to see what the universe has in store for Awaken next.
Finally we would like to take this opportunity to thank the following actors who were integral in the journey of the script from the outset:
Penny Bosworth, Oliver Hewett, Sam Landon, Craig Simons, Mark Wakeling,
'It’s not a very well known fact that hundreds of thousands of people, many of them women, were tried, tortured, burned alive and hanged for being so called ‘witches’. In my training at The Actors Temple I was told to create from things that moved me, and as a modern day healer, actor and writer this was a cause very close to my heart. Coupled with the fact that women weren’t allowed on stage in 1653, when my play begins, I figured what better time in history for me to get on stage and tell this story.'
Following the extraordinary R&D period (18-20th April) Cheryl is now armed with a fresh wealth of material from which she is structuring and writing a final draft of the play.
A maidservant in 1653 hears whisperings which are forbidden. A coven of witches gather beyond place or time. A rehearsal in present-day London forces an actress to face a history she’d buried deep within her consciousness.
Awaken is an epic story of a woman caught in three strikingly different worlds and times, crafted with mystery, magic and secrets. Through delving into the 'Canting' language, spoken by the thieves and beggars in 1653, alongside the esoteric world of witches, the story is brought vibrantly alive in the contemporary setting of present day London.
Shedding light on the mass persecution of women as ‘Witches’, Awaken delves deeply into the effect one life has upon another and the power of redemption.
"Awaken" is Cheryl Prince's masterful exploration of witches, told through the framework of three different historical times. Magical, frightening, passionate and always surprising, this play pulses with a compelling and irresistible heartbeat.
Laura Lundy, Founder & Lead Producer, Blue Panther Producers
Pictured left: the cast of Awaken by Cheryl Prince. L-R: Penny Bosworth, Elena Harding, Cheryl Prince, Mark Wakeling, Craig Simons and Tom Sawyer.
Testimonial from Cheryl Prince on the recent R&D period at The Actors Temple
‘I spent years as a Casting director before becoming an actor, so when it came to doing my training I wanted to explore somewhere that had an ethos – who stood for something - and I found that in The Actors Temple. Much in line with the Temple’s philosophy of revealing human truths, the pain and the joy, the Create project has given me a platform to find my own voice and to tell a story very dear to my heart.
The three day intensive work on script development in April was a culmination of over a year and half’s work in the studio at AT with a cast of skilled actors who include; Mark Wakeling, Tom Sawyer, Penny Bosworth, Elena Harding, Craig Simons and myself, as actor and writer. From the start Artistic Director, Law Ballard had a keen eye for the story I was trying to tell and has guided me gracefully towards getting at it. The icing on the cake came in the form of Ellie Zeegen, who stepped on board to help produce ‘Awaken’, and enabled the play to drive forward to another level.
As a theatre maker I’ve changed immensely through developing this play at the Actors Temple and I’m very grateful that the Create Platform exists; after all what good is a story that’s hidden in your bedroom? All those involved at AT have been helping me get a piece from the page to the stage, but beyond that I’ve also grappled to understand a big part of myself that had long laid dormant. I’ve always had a love of theatre as it made me understand what it is to be human, seeing my piece beautifully realised by all of the dedicated people involved only magnified that understanding. I guess you could say I’ve had my own ‘Awakening’.
At the end of the R&D I came away with plenty of material from detailed improvisations to complete the final act of my script. My dream has always been to tell stories that matter with people that matter. As I was walking away from the intensive period of work in the studio, I realised I’d done just that. Much love and thanks goes out to all those involved on the journey so far.’
Pictured right: Tom Sawyer and Cheryl Prince in R&D for Awaken at The Actors Temple. April 2018. Photograph: Law Ballard