Friday, April 24, 2015

Working in the Theatre - unpaid/low paid.




There's an article doing the rounds via The Stage and now the BBC about the actor/director Samuel West where he talks about how the theatre industry is a little but unsustainable because of all the unpaid/low paid work creatives (in his case, actors) are required to work on. On top of recent arguments about how "Fringe" is a defunct term and how the 1% pay rise for playwrights at the RSC/National/Royal Court isn't enough there are some interesting discussions going on at the moment in the industry about not just why we make theatre but how it is made.

Last year I received my first proper fully paid, writer/dramaturg commission Beauty and the Beast - two years after graduating. It came as a result of an internship with the Norwich Puppet Theatre and sort of demonstrates the process about how working for nothing should work. The internship was intense and incredible and I learned so much, found what I wanted to do with my life and then it didn't just end - it went somewhere.

Theatre gives back a lot to the people that make it. It offers a platform, it offers exposure (two excuses often used to justify no money) but it also lets us connect with each other, make great work and share. I consider myself a professional writer regardless of if I am paid and whatever the level of 'platform' or 'exposure.' I also increasingly am looking for way more than just that as a reason to write and not be paid for the time and energy it takes to make work. The creative challenge of a genre piece for example, or collaborating with an artist, or working with a director to make work in a different way. All of these things need to keep you growing and grafting as an artist, even if you are not being financially rewarded.

Perhaps the point not picked out and highlighted in the Samuel West argument is the sustainability argument - how many people is theatre going to lose to 'real jobs' that pay the rent. Bread-lining is absolutely exhausting and I've lost count of how many people I know have been forced into that position. It takes massive guts and love to stick it out.

The picture in this post is of my files of the plays and projects I have written over the last year and a bit. The financial income? Not very much. The professional, artistic and personal development? Priceless.

Be sure to check out my website for details on the love and guts. x

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