Chicks Productions: Creative Sessions
Today we are talking to Composer and Sound Designer Victoria Hofflin on her experience writing Chicks Dig It and her recent move to London.
Chicks Productions: Hi Victoria, how are you?
Victoria: I am so great, thank you! I'm just settling into my new life in London at the moment, so life is kind of crazy!
C.P: It is crazy that you are in another country! How difficult was it moving countries in the middle of a pandemic?
V: Look, I wouldn't do it again. It was overly complex, and I was working between Sydney and Melbourne, which meant of course I was trying to avoid having to quarantine while also worrying about being as safe as possible. But I was incredibly lucky, as I had all the time in the world to do it, as I haven't been working since March, when everything got shut down.
C.P: You worked for the Marriner Group correct?
V: Yes! I worked in the role of Staffing Coordinator and Hospitality Rider Manager. So basically, I was in charge of our 140 casual food and beverage staff and also the artist management and hospitality when they played at our venue. It kept me relatively busy, and I do miss it, but I am so excited to be here in London!
C.P: What is London like at the moment?
V: To be honest, it all feels very normal. I've been to the pub, been to dinner. Things that people at home in Melbourne haven't been able to do at all. I almost feel selfish taking so much enjoyment in it.
C.P: And you've moved to London to undertake a Masters?
V: Yes! I am so excited! I am about to start a Masters in Collaborative Theatre Production and Design at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. It has been something I have been dreaming about for a while now, ever since Chicks really. The school is insane in its own right, with an incredible list of alumni but also a faculty of staff that all seem incredibly talented.
C.P: Have you had the chance to meet any of your cohort yet?
V: Yes! We have had a couple of sessions online - the new world and all - but there are only six of us in total so it's been pretty easy to get past that initial getting to know each other phase!
C.P: Wow! Six people that's not very many! What are you actually doing in the course?
V: Yeah, it is a small cohort. Basically we all have our disciplines. So mine is obviously music composition and sound design. But everyone has a specific thing, for example Stage Management, Scenography, Directing, Production Management or Choreography. The idea is that we make up a production team and create and put on shows as our projects. It is pretty intense, but it is a great way to learn and immerse yourself in a more professional environment where you often don't have months to create a show, you have weeks. So I'm so excited to get started and be in that environment. It's what I've dreamed of doing for so long now.
C.P: That's really cool, congratulations on getting in and actually giving it a go. Now Chicks Dig It - tell us about your role in that!
V: Chicks Dig It was my first shot and chance to prove to myself that I could work and write in this industry. Coco and I were incredibly lucky that we found each other and that we found a groove so early on. I worked incredibly closely with Coco on the story and wrote all the music for the show.
C.P: It amassed to something like twenty-five musical numbers didn't it?
V: Twenty-eight bits of musical writing, which is insane when I think about it now. It didn't feel like a lot at the time though. Because of course there were main numbers, but also preludes, interludes, underscores etc. There was so much music for the band to play, they barely had any time to sit and watch.
C.P: How many instruments did you write for in the end?
V: Twelve instruments in the end. I was so happy with the make up of the band and I really was incredibly lucky that I was working with such talented and respectful musicians.
C.P: Can you elaborate on what you mean by respectful?
V: Respectful in the sense that I was a first time musical composer and they respected that and me. I am by no means an expert in writing musical scores, so naturally I was going to be making mistakes. It is the reason I wanted to M.D (Musical Direct) the show as well. I was super conscious that I wouldn't get to create and foster the bond with my musicians if I wasn't there in the room with them conducting and directing them. We created an environment that was incredibly supportive and kind. I was able to make mistakes and fix them without feeling like I was being judged. They also listened and received feedback incredibly well. They would take any and every note and just do it. And don't even get me started on their actual musical talent. I could place a number in front of them, that I had had to write last minute and they could pull it off perfectly within one or two runs. I was so lucky and am still incredibly grateful to them.
C.P: What was your relationship with the cast like, what was it like working and directing them?
V: It was an incredibly similar experience, however I was more on show there. There was less room for error, as not everyone in the cast was as well seasoned as my band were. It meant that I had to have a really clear idea of what I wanted. And don't get me wrong, they are all incredibly talented individuals, who were working on a new script, creating these characters and making them their own, which is not easy, but it meant that I had to be really on top of it when running all of my rehearsals.
C.P: Tell me about the experience of writing the character Jet and working with Nabs Adnan.
V: It was an unforgettable experience. Coco and I had no experience writing a trans character and so when we cast and auditioned we needed an actor who could not only play the character, but also help us write him. Jet's character who was played and written by Nabs Adnan carried the show and its story. Coco and I spoke to Nabs really early on and basically said, we want you to help us write this character and his songs. We had one incredibly special day in the writing room, where we were writing the lyrics to his ballad in Act 1. I played Nabs what I had written musically and together the three of us had a conversation about his own experience growing up trans and the things he had faced and overcome. We then wrote these lyrics and we created an incredibly special song that will forever be really close to my heart. It was a really special experience and Nabs essentially created the spirit and essence of the show and story with us.
C.P: That sounds incredible.
V: It really was. We were also really lucky to be working with an incredibly patient and talented production team who listened and were the backbone of the show.
C.P: Can you tell us more about how you chose your production team?
V: We did a social media call out and interviewed for each role. We needed a Stage Manager, Production Manager, Marketing Manager, Assistant Musical Director, Choreographer, Costume / Hair & MakeUp Designer and Set Manager. We found an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in them and it actually ended up being a 90% female identifying production team. So suddenly, we were writing a show about women, created by women and then produced by people predominantly identifying as female. It was pretty exciting. And they supported and complimented Coco and I perfectly. When we were unable to step away and get some perspective, which happens when it is your baby, they were able to provide us with perspective in a really respectful and considerate way. It was an incredibly supportive environment, that we felt comfortable making mistakes in.
C.P: So what now? You're in London, but are you working on anything at the moment?
V: I am! I have just started writing a new musical, which I am hoping will be a uniquely Australian story, but one that audiences world wide will be able to relate to! Other than that, I am just plodding away here in London! I am just excited to be here and studying while our industry in Australia is on pause. I am really hoping though that this pause will give our industry a chance to reset and take into consideration things that need to change moving forward. I am also really excited to see this new wave of talented writers, actors, directors and designers that are demanding to be a part of the conversation. It is a really exciting time to be in our industry, and I am so ready to get back to making theatre!
C.P: Thank you for your time Victoria, it was such a pleasure to chat!
V: Thank you! Stay safe there in Melbourne!