Make Stuff Happen & Solve a Crisis

The first question on my one-day course with the Hope Street Theatre in Liverpool was “What do Producers’ Do?”.  This was followed by an Agenda list created by 15 SPAs (self producing artists), festival and venue programmers, writers, and creative company producers and artistic directors. Within that Agenda of questions and challenges were all the key things which a Producer has to worry about.

I was guests of Nick Rogers and Sam Donovan, the founding directors of this theatre and the MAD programme of training for adult creatives. 

Our aim in developing this one day Creative Producing course was to reach out to those who might be wanting to make work in Liverpool, develop their craft, and stay in the City to be the Creative Producers and new theatre companies of the future.  This is the first of a series of initiatives which we have been talking about.

So what does a producer do ?   My answer is usually, inspired by a comment from then student producer Ellie Claughton, “make stuff happen”.  She like the other 50+ folk who have gone through my time creating/running the MA at Mountview and DipCP on line, have most definitely made a load of stuff happen.  

I think now I will extend that also to Solving a Crisis.  One of the exercises Sam and Nick came up with was crisis-scenario planning.  What happens when a leading actor gets stuck in the lift at 6pm ?.  What happens when you are drawn into a production at 11th hour with only 50 tickets sold for the 5 night run opening this week ?  and What happens if the leading celebrity actor and the director have a massive bust up in the 2nd week of rehearsal – and the actor walks out ?  

Hopefully these kind of problems will never happen to you, but by chance I had been recommended “Chewing the Scenery” by Davina Elliott about the making of a production of Blithe Spirit for the West End…in which one of these scenarios most definitely happens and many many more. I had been reading it on the train. It could be a useful set text for Drama Schools and all Creative Producing courses.

As our workshop continued the richness of discussion was great. There was massive shared wisdom about the Liverpool/Merseyside theatrical scene.  There was a passion for the City and for creation of work which spoke to, and inspired, local audiences.  People brought a lifetime of other-job-wisdom to their planned creative practice, whilst others were in, or just out of, their undergrad theatre and performance training.  Each learned, I hope, how much they already knew and how much they would acquire and explore as they got stuck into making stuff happen.

We agreed that multiple plate spinning was a great skill to have in this world, and an ability to build teams and work with the widest array of people. Choosing collaborators wisely was another theme, and finding people who are better than you on aspects of the whole production process. You don’t need to be the life and soul of the party. It is hard work. And at times you have to wing it. Being honest, decent, and passionate for the work and your audience is also really important.

If it is readable I offer above the scrawled Agenda we created.  It is all the kind of aspects which I will enjoy covering in the new Essential Creative Producing course which I am starting with CGO Institute in November.  Rather than a day in Liverpool, we will have a month including 5 full days of classroom/zoom time to explore all the themes in a bit more depth.

Courses offer a chance for strangers to become lifelong friends and collaborators through the shared experience of being in a class together.  I begin interviews next week for the first applicants to the EssentialCP course, and already I’m very happy with the array of people who have asked for application information and are considering applying.

In the meantime on Tuesday I hop over to the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr to explore some of these areas with the theatremakers of the future who are in their BA years.  And then it is down to see a new work in Newcastle produced by a DipCP alum.  Proud Dad, although I’d better talk to her about her billing.

(Added bonus yesterday evening seeing the wonderful Jodie McNee in a play at the Everyman from the Royal Court. I last saw her with my son playing the leads in Venice Preserved at the RSC)

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