Outstanding Performance by a Creative Entrepreneurship MA Student

Image of child standing in front of a wall that has "Believe in Yourself" written on it.
🕒 2 minutes read

Well, this afternoon was a surprise and a half. I pick up my mail from the doorstep… it’s late… again… and I find an odd letter. Odd because it’s handwritten. I don’t usually get handwritten envelopes, outside of birthdays and Christmas.

It’s from the University of East Anglia. I have a brief, wobbly panic because I owe them money, and I haven’t had much of that for over a decade. As I begin to read, I have the feeling that I really need to pinch myself, just to make absolutely certain that I’m not asleep.

I am fairly convinced that the words on the single page of A4 are claiming that I have won an award…. Another one?

I read it again. And a third time, just to be certain that I haven’t completely lost my marbles…

“I am pleased to be able to inform you that you have been awarded the Prize for Outstanding Performance by a Creative Entrepreneurship MA Student… The members of the Board of Examiners congratulate you on this achievement…. The Prize will also be announced at the Graduation ceremony in July… ”

Prize for Outstanding Performance. It made me giggle. Uncomfortable. Unbelieving. Awkward. It reminds me of one of my most favourite jokes in the world that goes something along the lines of….

I met a farmer once. He was out standing in his field.

It’s definitely my name. Definitely my address. And signed by the Head of the Interdisciplinary Institute of the Humanities.

A bit of discombobulation follows. Emotional. But I don’t cry. It’s just the shock I think… Overwhelming. I do what I always do when I doubt my introverted reality. I confer with the wisdom of social media.

Everyone is full of congrats. I haven’t popped up in an equally bizarre scenario… I am not trapped in an unfamiliar place, running late, only to find that I end up where I began….  I am sitting all by myself and I am still wearing all of my clothes, so I am fairly certain that this isn’t a dream.

I pop to the corner shop and buy a bottle of wine, some cheese and a massive bar of 70% chocolate to celebrate. It’s not Paleo, but what the hell? I figure that if I am dreaming, I may as well make the most of it.

Back to Acting…

Photo of Marie Cooper's script for Handbagged
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Playing Mags

I know I’m always going on about serendipity, but Monday at 3pm was the deadline for my final MA coursework. At 3:05pm, I got an email asking if I would like to step in to help Sewell Barn Theatre. They’d lost one of their cast members because they were unwell. This left them needing someone to step in to play Margaret Thatcher. Back to acting within 5 minutes of my course ending.

I’m slightly concerned that there’s not long to learn lines, but there was no way I could turn it down. I knew I would regret it. It was like the universe had thrown it in my lap and said, ‘There! You wanted this so badly. Your course is done. Well, there you are! Go work your ass off. You got this!’. Then I was straight into rehearsals that evening.

Along for the ride

So, with barely time to skid to a halt after my Master’s, I’ve hit the acting ground running this week. I spent the most amazing couple of hours on the Mid-Norfolk Railway for a promotional photo shoot.  Working alongside a lovely bunch of actors, I bumped into a few familiar faces, and met some actors who were totally new to me.  I haven’t seen the resulting photographs and don’t like my photo-face at the best of times, let alone pulling those faces.  No one but the crew and fellow actors, knows what I was up to that day, yet. so it will be interesting to see if anyone notices if/when the photographs go public 😀


I’ve also been pencilled in for some potential commercial work next week, but I’m still waiting to hear back about that. It was the first time I’ve ever been asked to supply a photograph of my hands. When the email arrived, I was alone in the house. Being the owner of just two hands, I quickly realised that it was going to be tricky to photograph both of them at once.  I was very nervous having my phone, clamped onto my tripod, face down, knowing it could smash if it dropped out.  I can’t say that it’s the greatest photo I have ever taken, but it’s enough to show that my hands are enantiomorphic and have the correct number of digits.

Sorry, not sorry

It would be too easy now to worry about how little money I have at the moment, coming out of my degree, and how much of a struggle it’s going to be to claw myself back to some semblance of normality in my finances. But I don’t see how sitting about feeling sorry for myself would help in any way.  So I won’t. As always, I choose to focus on the positives. I’ve completed my Master’s now, achieving what I set out to do, in spite of the challenges. I am working with some amazing and talented performers on multiple projects coming up, both this year and into the next.  I am grateful for how incredibly lucky I am doing work that I love, for the opportunities I have, the talented and caring people I am meeting along the journey and that I am learning something new almost every day.

Acting at Playwriting MA Creative Project

Photo of notes representing my MA Creative Project
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MA Creative Project: Stopping and Starting Again…

Writing is difficult and amorphous. It has been feeling as if I am trying to stick a pin in a river to stop ideas flowing away. I have had coursework looming over me whilst I tried to simultaneously juggle little projects. My mind struggled to control all the brain squirrels skittering about inside it.

But now, I have eight out of ten pieces of uni written work submitted. I have just one paper to go before I can finally put all of my focus on my creative project. If I can concentrate without worrying about how I am going to keep my roof over my head and eat, in the last few months of my degree, that is. Currently I’m at least two months short of financially making it to the end of the course in September. But I can’t worry about that, because if I worry about that, I can’t think and I can’t write. ‘Rent’ donations gratefully received via PayPal… joking (not joking).

About Turn!

My ambitious initial project plan was to write, perform and record a one person show by September. However, after courses, workshops, discussions, ideas, and too much thinking later and I have changed my mind. Initially, I thought, I can’t include more actors because I can’t afford to pay them.  I’m restricted by my MA September deadline and by lack of resources (of the financial kind). I can’t… I can’t… I can’t… And then I decided that this was a little pathetic. This is my life. My course. My future. Like hell I can’t! If James Graham can have 19 parliamentary members of 1970’s House of Commons dancing on stage, I can do whatever I want.

From one Person Show to Stage Play

I am going to research and write a full stage play for my MA creative project. It will have as many characters as the story wants. If I don’t know something I will find out. I am just going to write it. It will take as long as it takes. If I don’t finish it on time, I don’t finish it in time. I will hand in what I have written, at the time the coursework is due. I can’t put a deadline on my creativity. I will have, what I have, on the date that I have to submit it. And that is that!

I can continue writing, refining and editing after the deadline. Constraints be damned!
I will write it. Let creativity run amok. Then, I will start prodding and poking it and trying to figure out how it will work on stage and whether I can get the appropriate funding and/or sponsorship to make it happen.

Exiting times, but scary times. Off to the library later to grab some books to start the initial stage of my research…


bbfn Acting Like I’m Not Really Here

Image saying bye
🕒 1 minute read

From 3pm today (January 17th) I will be vanishing for a month or two. I don’t want to, but I don’t have a choice. This website, once I submit the url to the university, will become off limits to me. It enters the ‘coursework’ zone’ as part of my MA and I won’t be permitted to make any changes to it until it has been marked. Am I breaking the fourth wall of coursework?

On the plus side, I guess I will have lots to waffle about when I get back. On the 30th we will hit the stage with two short plays by Noel Coward at The Assembly House in Norwich. Once I get my coursework in, I have a voice-over for a short story to do for a local writer, CAST said they would be contacting me about some training this year. I’m also off to do a couple of workshops and potentially starting the research and writing of a new script.

I’m not totally falling off the planet though so, in the meantime, if you want to get in touch, give my contact page a click and my form will squirrel me over an email.

Or give that subscribe button a click and I’m guaranteed to get incredibly excited about having a new follower  pop back for a sneak peak to see what’s going on.

See you on the other side…..

Image of running chipmunks

Postgraduate Pains

Image of torn material
🕒 2 minutes read

I should have left classes this afternoon. There was no point in my being there. I was having trouble breathing and on the verge of tears and I really could not concentrate on anything. I just wanted to get out of there.

Three months of lectures, travelling to London, working two jobs, living on vegetable soup and accruing a student loan debt and for what? I have four large papers to write by January because I’ve been too busy working around my lecture days. Both my jobs have just ended, just in time for Christmas. I have three days of stuffing envelopes for the university and then I am officially income-less into the new year, until I can find further work and my next student loan payment – which will mostly be consumed by my student fees

Walking the hour and a bit walk home, and I was glad that no one can see or hear the mess I was in. I knew studying for a postgraduate degree and working at the same time wasn’t going to be easy. The pressures of trying to manage a Masters course, on top of sixteen hours work, the time of getting from A to B, the travelling to London, whilst still trying to do rehearsals, theatre performances, learn lines and find time to see family has been immense.

I have been awake late into a Sunday night/Monday morning knowing that I am totally unprepared to take my seminar of students the next morning, but I also had a job to be at before my teaching class started. Before two of my classes my anxiety levels were so far off the scale I panicked and ran out of work, to my class, thinking I was late, only to find I was an hour too early.

I hoped I could find further work to see me through to the end of the course. I’d hoped I could fit it all in. But there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.  I’m missing a class that is important for our coursework tomorrow because I was offered work, filling envelopes on campus, and I couldn’t turn it down because I need the money. I guess I made it a third of the way through the course, so it’s better than nothing, but at the moment I am feeling very sceptical about the whole ‘work hard and it will pay off’ thing.

If I had not returned to study, the national and local government would have given me ‘benefits’ but because I am working hard to build a self-sustainable career for myself and investing my time and money into my self development, the system would rather watch me struggle alone.

It’s heartbreaking but I won’t give in easily. I will hang on until the very last penny is gone before I give up. I think I have enough money to make it through until February/March if I continue to be frugal and I can keep looking for further work in the meantime. I have come too far and this year has already given me enough pain and taken too much away from me.

I know that I am going to be in a much better position than those who seem to think the world owes them, who think they don’t have to work at all to get anywhere, because they will break at the first hurdle, when the going gets tough. But I am a fighter and I will fight until there is no fight left.