When I started my placement at Actors Touring Company last September, I was a little reticent about taking it on. To give you some context, I had just finished my Masters in Playwriting at Goldsmiths College and I was feeling lost and muddled about what I wanted to do next. I was certain I didn’t want to write another play for at least a year so I set about finding theatre opportunities that would develop me in different ways. I had done administrative work before, as well as my fair share of customer service jobs (I’m currently a Front of House Manager), but let’s face it, this is London and most people are incredibly talented and overqualified. Any theatre experience at this early stage of my career is good and I’m grateful to take on any challenge, paid or unpaid.
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The team at Actors Touring Company are welcoming, passionate and committed. They are all proud to work in their office in Central London and never forget what they’re all working towards: producing the best contemporary theatre that can tour the UK and internationally. This opportunity was great as I could find out what it was like to be involved in the day-to-day running of an international touring company. It’s not the flash or the premieres or the red carpets, it’s the nitty-gritty, on-the-road administrative producing which requires creativity, persistence and goddamn hard work. It’s all well and good having a brilliant idea for a piece of theatre, but who is going to make it happen? Luckily, Ramin, Nick, Ania, Tiru, Jess and Polina are some of the best brains in the business.
They were incredibly generous in giving up their time to help me with some new skills and reinforce some old ones. I’ve been building my own theatre company for a few years now and I wanted to learn how to “upgrade” my small unincorporated company into the professional theatre world. I’ve also been working as a playwright and a theatre-maker on my own, and sometimes you need a new trajectory to discover what sort of work you would like to be involved with.
There’s so much that I feel like I’ve taken from the experience that I’m struggling to highlight some key moments, but here goes:
On a very practical level, writing copy and learning HTML coding for the ATC newsletter flexed my writing and marketing muscles once more. I assisted Tiru with research on different income streams for the organisation, while being actively involved in ATC’s social media – composing 140 characters into the latest news of the company’s work takes longer than you might think!
I booked travel and accommodation for part of The Events tour, ordered stationary, managed lists and audition schedules, sought out new choirs and redesigned the company logo for the Christmas newsletter. I crunched data, organised folders, built online maps and, of course, had several run-ins with the building’s photocopier!
It was a mixed and diverse programme of tasks that kept me busy and, neatly, reflects the company’s activities in a wider sense. This is a company that is always pushing forward with their ideas in varied directions and collaborating at every juncture and at every level. They are not afraid to make connections and undertake bold decisions. It was wonderful to be a part of that for several months and support and contribute to the organisation. I always love being part of great theatre making, even if that means managing a spreadsheet or sitting outside an audition room. I enjoy supporting artists, directors, producers and stage managers when they are making work that is innovative and bold. I’m happy to be there.
I felt inspired by Ramin’s rehearsal with the actors from the Norwegian version of The Events and was excited about supporting the auditions for a new project Seventeen. And I loved assisting with the fundraising gala where Simon Stephens said that he wrote every single day and you’re the only one who’s going to make that happen, so don’t give up. No one else is going to do that for you. Those two incidents reminded me I always want to be banging on that creative door and be in rehearsal rooms and at writing desks. It’s such a privilege to spend time in those rooms and have the opportunity to create and imagine new perspectives. It’s something I’ll never tire of and doing this placement reinforced my creative motivations.
One of the main lessons I’ve taken forward from the experience is the value of ‘picking up the phone and speaking to someone’. This is so much more efficient than an email and much harder to ignore. It’s easy to think about things and dream in your head about how great your idea is, but its more effective to approach people to see how they can support you or, realistically, if they want to. Just get on with it! You’ve got very little to lose. The worst they can say is no and then at least you’ll know.
And after this placement that what I’ve been doing: getting on with it.
I’ve started writing again. I’ve started making a one-woman show for myself to perform in. I’ve been in touch with people who can help me make it happen. I did a Scratch at Battersea Arts Centre and I’ve start sharing my work and ringing people. I’ve reengaged with Twitter and taken up blogging a short play everyday to generate new ideas and force myself to write. I’m also going to direct a new writing workshop in the next few months and I’ve set up a writing group with some playwright friends to support our development and work on our ideas.
Actors Touring Company gave me the most surprising and unexpected gift: time. Doing a placement afforded me some space in which to think about what it is I want to achieve. I do want to write and make theatre. I want to have a go and make it happen with my small theatre company and write a good play that might be performed somewhere big in the next ten years. In the mean time, and long afterwards, I never want to stop supporting great theatre and artists in whatever way I can, in the hope that we can inspire each other and ignite the imagination of the audiences and communities we serve.
Thanks ATC! Thanks for the time!
Former ATC Intern and soon-to-be playwrighting voice of her generation