We are into the sixth week of the Stonecrabs Young Directors’ training programme, and every session I leave inspired, having learnt something new about the industry I love and want to work in. Not only am I surrounded by fellow young directors – who inspire me constantly with their techniques, opinions and dedication – but working with StoneCrabs’s Artistic Directors Kwong Loke and Franko Figueiredo is an incredible opportunity. The programme ends with Playground, a three-night festival in which we present nine scratch performances, each one directed by a young director. To prepare for this, we have all been assigned different roles, such as design and print, press, casting etc. I am on the press team, and we have been working on a press release to go out to the local media about the festival. We have learnt a lot about the language needed and have been able to question what sort of information is necessary.
I have also been working closely with the design and print team, as my friend is a very talented designer and has designed our Playground poster for us (make sure you look out for it soon!). It’s been a valuable experience, as the eight of us have had to work together to come up with feedback and I have then liaised with our designer to make sure he continues to be on the same page as us. Learning to communicate like this is a great skill to gain, and the ongoing work with both teams has allowed me to gain insight on matters I might not have usually gone near.
Sometimes, in our Tuesday sessions, we are visited by an industry professional, and recently we spent an hour with Jenna Omeltschenko, who is the Associate Producer (Youth and Community) of the Albany Theatre. We had an open discussion about the role of the producer, and the differing understandings of this role. As with directors, there are many different variations, some of which aren’t well-known to young theatre-makers. A venue producer is someone who is connected to a specific venue, and will look for new work and then work in collaboration with the site to get the piece on. A freelance producer will be working with individual artists or on many productions at once. And then there are associates, assistants and the whole discussion of creative producers – which, according to Jenna, is a bit of a myth as all producers are creative – so it’s important to know what type of producer you want to work with as a director.
Jenna also took us through her own personal journey and highlighted the fact that it is different for everyone (it always is in theatre!) as well as offering advice on establishing this important director-producer relationship. She gave us her top tips, reminding us that a producer is a ‘team mate’ and it’s important to look for someone who is genuinely interested in the project. As with actors and other creatives it’s always useful checking their background to get an understanding of their previous work and what you can expect of them in your collaboration.
One of the most important things I have learnt from these sessions – both our production Tuesday sessions, and our practical Saturday sessions – is not to be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. There are no ‘stupid’ questions. We’re probably all thinking the same thing. Of course, research what you want to find out, and try to be as prepared as possible, but every day you learn something new and this process is imperative so you can learn and discover the director – or whatever it is – you want to be.
What is great about this opportunity for young directors is the fact that we get to learn about the other side of a director’s role. Of course, there’s the rehearsal room, but what about the marketing, design and copyright elements of putting on a show? With Stonecrabs we get to learn about the inner workings of the theatre from all areas, in order to fully prepare us for working in this industry. And there’s plenty of time to ask questions.