Last night NY based producer Megan Schadler and I were guest panelists on the New York based Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU), founded and led by Bob Ost. 40 experienced Broadway, off Broadway and West Coast theatre producers and creatives joined us to explore the industry in the UK and the best ways to connect our two developmental worlds.
This was the start of an October where three things come together and, if they buzz off each other, will be most definitely exciting: Musical Theatre, USA/UK Connections, and Zoom ‘in the flesh’. I hope you will be part of it in some way, or as a quiet Blog reader please take a moment to think who might also want to read about this and be a part of it. Thank you for any active engagement you can offer to feed the energy.
No1: On Thur 7th Musical Theatre Network, the UK Musical Theatre producer and directing network, and Producers’ Pool (Scotland) gather at Dundee Rep and on Zoom to look at future opportunities for Scottish musical and commercial theatre. The conversation will explore West End and Broadway and Korea and beyond, because Musical Theatre and commercial producing is about global connection. Hosted by Andrew Panton, Artistic Director and Joint CEO of the Rep , we will explore ACTION and energy for the sector.
No2: On Wed 27th Megan will be in New York, I will be in London, and we will be connecting through Zoom to have on-the-ground & in-the-cloud meetings between US and UK based producers. Under the banner of Producers’ Pool (NY and Beyond) we will help aspiring and established producers make connections, especially outwith the Broadway/WestEnd SOLT/LORT world. How does a producer with an amazing piece about immigration from Scotland to the USA connect with the right collaborative partners to nurture a piece ? How could a UK early career producer connect into the West Coast new work development scene and forge creative partnerships ? TRU have been having these conversations within the USA for 30 years. The networks I have had the pleasure to run have been having them in the UK – now let’s see whether Producers’ Pool can be part of the transatlantic conversation.
And No3: Zoom ‘in the flesh’ – this week we tried a technical experiment with Zoom and we believe we may have found a way to harness the power of distance connection, with the desire for getting back in a room for close contact with colleagues. No-one else has invited me to a meeting like this, or told me of it happening anywhere. Maybe we are pioneers – who knows. On Wed 29th Sept at 5pm we all did what we have done every month since lockdown started. We logged onto Zoom and started introducing ourselves. Some of us are old friends who have never seen each other’s feet/legs (the joy of zoom and lockdown). Some of us had never been to a Producers’ Pool meeting before. We had producers from New York, festival creators from Edinburgh, commercial immersive theatre producers from the Netherlands, specialists in Musical Theatre and political theatre. We all gathered on Zoom and began to explore theatre futures.
But around half of us were in the same room when this happened. Half of us had gathered in Clapham Omnibus, welcomed by Director Marie McCarthy, to have our first in-the-flesh meeting since February 2020. We all had our laptops and headsets. We logged in, and we shared our worlds with those colleagues in Edinburgh and New York who were in their offices or homes. When someone in our Omnibus gathering was speaking we could look over and see the whole human form, released from the boundaries of the celebrity squares we have used for so long. It was powerful and it worked.
When we went into ‘break out rooms’, those in the cloud met together in the normal way facilitated by Caron Jane Lyon who has been a rock throughout this pandemic for so many of us working technically, And those on the ground met together in the old-normal way. We got stuck into conversation around a table, maybe interrupting and getting over excited in a way which Zoom helps to control. But it felt so human and right.
And then we went back into the Zoom and reported our findings and actions. We made connections in the chat. We did all the things which Zoom is great at. And at the end, those on zoom went back to work, to eat or feed the cat, and those in Omnibus had a drink and met each other with a sense of joy to being back together.
For me there was an added charge. 6 of the 9 first cohort for the Diploma in Creative Producing where in the bar at Omnibus meeting each other in-the-flesh for the first time. To me they have been work colleagues, confidentes and inspiring beings – and now they had feet and legs. I must admit we had a few drinks.
So bringing these three things together there is immense potential to wake up. We can meet up in a flesh-space with people who live near and feel comfortable and able to access the meeting room. And we can continue to meet up in the cloud with those across continents and those who are less able to make the trip to a central location.
In Dundee on Thursday this week we will work with a few more resources than was possible for our first meet. They are rigging some extra cameras and screens, monitors and even catering. We will try and create an equitable space for all participants – whether they are at home, in their offices, or in the rehearsal room in Dundee.
For New York on Wed 27th we will try with two ground based gatherings – London and New York, and connecting with those across time zones and many miles. It is all exploration, but at its heart it is communication and connection which will be how our industry heals and re-vitalises itself with new work and new ideas.
Thank you for being part of this exploration, just by reading this Blog. If you are a producer or programmer of other people’s work and you want to join us on Thur 7th and/or Wed 27th, then you are most most welcome. If you are a connector, then please share this Blog and help me reach our widest possible community of collaborators in this wake up.
Thanks so much to Bob, and Megan and Caron and Marie and all those who will help make this month multi-platformed wakeup.