This time last year Wonderbox didn’t exist. We’ve done so much and achieved a great deal in our first eight months or so. I thought it would be useful to tell you a bit about our journey so far, how Wonderbox has come to be and what the first year of your journey may have in store for you.
The Wonderbox girls and I met through the National Youth Theatre (NYT). We were all part of NYT’s first all-female cohort on its Epic Stages course. We spent an intense four weeks together, sharing stories, making theatre and developing our creativity. When it was over, we didn’t want to stop making art and had a burning desire to keep our creativity simmering. So a couple of months later we met up and decided we were going to put on a scratch night. We didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but that’s okay, the girls had the same drive, enthusiasm and energy as me to just get on and get stuff done and I knew that I had found my tribe.
Here’s our tips on starting out…
1. Just do it
Find a group of people you like working with and just start making work. Devise, write things down and chat about ideas until you have the basic shape of your work. Once you have your script or idea, start meeting regularly and keep working on it.
Finding rehearsal space has been and remains one of the biggest challenges we face as a young, unfunded theatre company but you don’t have to spend any money on rehearsal rooms – use gardens, living rooms, empty classrooms at your university or the colleges you’ve been to, community halls, ask theatres for support and use your network of actors on social media groups. We once did a voice warm-up on Clapham common.
Social media is also a great alternative to a website in the first instance and will help to build your online presence while funding is scarce.
2. Keep saying yes
We were given our first opportunity to get our play up on its feet in front of a paying audience because we responded to a post in the ‘Bossy’ group on Facebook. Our week-long run of A Womb of One’s Own this August came about because we saw a call out for applications on Twitter. Spot opportunities and apply for everything, if you don’t get them at least someone else will have heard of your company and will probably want to help you in other ways. Many smaller theatres run writing festivals where you could show your play without investing loads of money and look for scratch nights to put on a bit of your play and build interest. It may not seem like it, but theatres are searching for new interesting work all the time.
3. Don’t be afraid of hard work
You’re going to work hard, very hard. Around 90% of the work we put into the company and the show is not in the rehearsal room. You need to be prepared to turn your hand to other things and use the skills and knowledge of your members effectively and efficiently. While being creative is of course the reason you have or want to set up a theatre company in the first place, without the hard work you need to put into running the company you won’t get very far. If you just want to be an actor or director, then maybe running a theatre company isn’t for you. We all have to take on some of the admin roles and share the responsibility for driving the company forward.
4. Ask for help
As the saying goes, no man is an island – and neither is any young theatre company, or any other type of young company for that matter. Everyone needs a little help to get them off the ground or a little motivation when times get tough. There is so much you can learn from others who have been there and done that who are often very happy to share advice and help you through a sticky situation. We were once having a meeting at the National Theatre and our conversation was overheard by the producer of another more established theatre company who wanted to help us and invited us to a workshop they were running for young theatre companies like us.
A Womb of One’s Own is on at The Space Theatre from 15-19August.