COVID Qs: Ally Poole
Sound Designer and Actor
Welcome to the first in an occasional series called Covid Qs, where I will be interviewing, for want of a better description, interesting people doing interesting things in isolation. There has been an overwhelming show of support for artists during this tough time, with projects and funds being set up by the minute. This is an opportunity to find out more about the people behind these initiatives. Today I am featuring Ally Poole, sound designer and actor. I met Ally last year at the Edinburgh Fringe while we were both working on the same show: She Shells Sea Shells, Scandal and Gallows Theatre. She works between the USA and the UK and recently graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with an MFA in Advanced Theatre Practice. Ally is a member of the female-led theatre collective, Hot Cousin. She came to my attention again when I saw her involvement in the new project: The Show Must Go Online. This brings actors together from across the world every Wednesday to read the complete plays of Shakespeare, in order. Ally tells us more about this and other thoughts about arts in the time of a pandemic.
(Photo: Ally Poole Carl Sagan in Hot Cousin’s ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ at VAULT Festival 2020)
How did you get involved with The Show Must Go Online? How does it work?
I got involved with The Show Must Go Online by happy chance. I saw a post from Rob Myles (@robmyles), creator of the project, on Twitter who wanted to put together a group of people each week to read through the entire works of Shakespeare during this time of self-isolation. I filled out an interest form, and was cast in the first ever production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” as Sir Eglamour. The show was performed live using Zoom and streamed to YouTube on 26th March. The amazing thing about this project is that it is a group of people from literally around the world coming together to put on a Shakespeare show in a matter of days. It is wildly innovative and also just a lot of fun. The response has been really incredible, there have been articles written about the project globally and the fans - the Groundlings - have been so incredible by watching live and even creating fan art and gifs! It’s been really amazing to be a part of this and I was able to perform in my second show, Henry VI Part II, on 8 April. You can watch tonight’s performance of Henry VI Part III here.
What is your favourite Shakespeare play?
This is a tricky question because my favourite always changes! I will always hold a special place in my heart for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it was my first Shakespeare play and I played Snout in 8th grade and was very, very proud of it. I’ll say at the moment, my favourite is Macbeth; the supernatural elements, the drama. Lady Macbeth is one of my dream roles and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into her one day.
What other responses to the crisis would you want to be involved in?
I’ve seen some really amazing art happening in response to Covid-19. A lot of passion projects are emerging, and it has been so cool to see our global community of artists come together to support each other. I would love to get involved with something involving musical theatre. I am very much a musical theatre gal and haven’t done a musical in a while, so if someone is doing a live-streamed musical, call me! I’m also going to be involved in another project, The Sonnet Project, which has a global group of performers reading through Shakespeare’s sonnets. Find out more about this here.
As an artist, how are you coping with this situation?
Coping with this situation has not been a straight line. In my first week of self-isolating, in one day, five future jobs were cancelled. Then because I lost that work and because the future was so unknown, I felt like I need to be productive every second of the day. I felt that because I wasn’t working I needed to make sure that when I could work again, I’d be prepared. I was writing several hours a day but I wasn’t liking what I was writing, which became extremely frustrating. I had created a list of things to do: to sharpen my skills, or to fuel my creativity but nothing stuck. I was putting so much pressure on myself to be creative that it became exhausting and I was so upset with myself for not being as productive as I “should’ve been.” But then I had a two-hour chat with my best friend who gave me a much needed “you don’t need to be productive every single day of a pandemic” talk which pulled me out of that funk.
So, I binge-watched Tiger King, and became less concerned with productivity and more concerned with Joe Exotic. How I cope now is by trying not to force creativity on myself. I read, but it’s not theatre-related, I listen to true crime podcasts, I have attempted to start working out again (it took well over a month, this did not happen right away) And when or if I feel a spark of creativity, I embrace it and when it’s gone; I walk away. It’s very much a day by day type of thing but I am definitely in a much better place now that I was a few weeks ago.
How do you think this situation will change the theatre or people’s attitude to it in the long run?
Art has always emerged, and often flourishes, in times of turmoil. That is one thing that I am certain of. I don’t know how this situation will change the theatre as an industry but I do know that theatre will continue to be made. I have hopes. I hope that this situation continues to bring to light issues that have long hindered the arts in regards to funding, programming and access. A lot of important conversations are happening now around these and many other topics, and I hope that we will see the results of them once theatres are re-opened. I believe that these things will happen because they will have to. But most importantly, I know that no matter what happens, our theatre community will continue to support each other and that is a huge comfort.
Do you have any theatre-related tips for staying sane during isolation?
I would reiterate that you don’t have to be productive every day. It’s okay not to be writing. It’s okay not to be creative. Whether that means binge-watching a series, playing Animal Crossing or baking bread; there is no right way to get through a pandemic. Be safe and take care of yourself.
Ally's website: https://www.allypoole.com/