Finding the positives in these dark times

As our beloved industry continues its fight through these dark times, the strength, resilience and positivity of theatre and our people shine through.

This week in my blog I want to highlight some of the amazing news stories I have read over the past few weeks about our industry. I have seen how local and national theatres, artists just starting out and household names, musicians, dance companies and more; are coming together to share their skills to support their fellow actor, entertain audiences around the world and help the sector that needs it most right now - healthcare.

I’m sure that many of you who are taking advantage of the fantastic productions that are available to us online, will have seen that theatres and theatre companies are asking for a voluntary charity donation. Many, including the National Theatre and Phoebe Waller Bridge for her Fleabag streaming, are choosing to support our amazing NHS and also Acting for Others - a vital charity that supports all theatre workers, financially and emotionally in times of need via 14 member charities. ‘Eugenius the Musical’ has already raised over £13,000 for our industry charity.

Also raising money for this charity will be the new collection ‘Theatre Together’ where over 60 performers and industry artists host an online celebration entitled ‘All the Web’s a Stage’, which will be streamed live on 23rd April - Shakespeare’s birthday! All artists will be performing live individually from their homes. It will be a fascinating watch!

London’s Theatre Café have launched ‘Leave a Light On’. For a small fee you can watch live streamed concerts from a range of West End actors and new talent performed at the café in Leicester Square, 

As well as on stage, Stephen Fry and a host of actors including Sheila Atim and Russell Tovey will take to the air waves to raise money for Theatre Development Trust, Acting for Others and other charities. Their new radio play, ‘The Understudy’, based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls will be aired later this month.

Something a bit different and highly innovative - Nic Connaughton, Head of Theatre at The Pleasance, has set up ‘Theatre Skillshare 2020’, which is a database of theatre makers sharing their experience and skills. Over 200 individuals have offered their help in a variety of areas including dramaturgy, script reading and writing, grant application assistance, coaching classing and mentoring. 

For writers there are a host of opportunities including:

Nick Hern Books has launched The NHB Playgroup - a play script discussion group. Every Wednesday during lockdown a script is released online. NHB invite those who read the script to submit questions for the writer, who will record an online question and answer session. Writers so far announced include James Fritz, Winsome Pinnock and Enda Wals

The Bruntwood Prize website includes writing tips, interviews with writers, mini plays, livestream productions and recorded workshops. On 18th April 6-8pm you can join a livestream workshop with Winsome Pinnock ‘From Intimacy to the Epic’ for free. Don’t miss this.     

Other writing opportunities come from: 

·       BBC Writersroom: Comedy  – deadline: Monday April 20th, 5pm.

·       Directors’ Cut: LockDown OpenUp  – a new initiative which will be ongoing during lockdown. 

·       Live Theatre: 10 Minutes To…  - deadline: Thursday April 30, 10am. 

For our drama school graduates, an online showcase initiative - Showcase 2020  - has been set up to give our next generation of artists a platform to showcase themselves and be introduced to agents, casting directors and other industry professionals.

Local youth theatre schools are sharing fun lessons for not only their students but for everyone to join in with over social media. From physicality sessions to vocal warmups, tongue twisters, dance and movement!

Southwark Playhouse and Luton’s Next Generation Youth Theatre are offering a range of online advice sessions, workshops, play reading clubs and choreography courses.

I’ve also seen the Buglight Theatre have set up the #IsolationMonologues - a challenge on social media  to help us stay ‘connected and creative’. We’ve worked with actors from Buglight Theatre in our One Act Play Festival and then “Entertaining Mr Sloane” where fabulous actor Richard Galloway played Sloane.  I watched a couple of the monologues. Why not get involved and submit a monologue or watch some great ones already uploaded?

Social media is a great way for artists to share their talents. So many are using their skills to teach others through workshops or sharing music and art through live stream.

There are some fantastic things happening within our industry to support each other, but now some are taking their skills and talents to help other sectors. It’s not only actors and performers who are collaborating. 

The costume department behind BBC and HBO series ‘His Dark Materials’ (HDM), have started a new initiative called ‘Helping Dress Medics’ (HDM), where costume designers from TV and stage join forces to create and provide scrubs for our amazing NHS doctors and nurses. A go fund me page is available with further information. - Designers from new ‘Sleepless’ musical have already donated 800m of fabric. 

Star of ‘His Dark Materials’ and more recently lead in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ at The National Theatre, James McAvoy, has been hard at work raising funds for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the NHS. He himself has donated £275,000 to the cause, bringing the current total to just shy of £1.5m.

Our sector has been coming up with ingenious ways to not only support each other, but also stay connected and relevant during this this time. It is so important we continue supporting our industry. 

As the National Theatre has quite rightly said: ‘Theatre and the arts are a positive force for our community in turbulent times’. So, let’s do what we can to get through the next few months and come back even stronger. 

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