SMOCK ALLEY: GENERATOR PROGRAMME

Being a GENERATOR.

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Smock Alley’s Creative Producers training programme, or GENERATOR Programme as it is also know, was launched in September 2016. We had just come back from producing Tomatoes at the Edinburgh Fringe and I knew that producing was an area that really interested me and that I wanted to learn more about so I applied, interviewed and was accepted in October.

The programme was co-created and is coordinated by Clíona Dukes and Caoimhe Connolly, who also curate and produce Smock Alley’s festival of new work Scene + Heard.

Following the Scene + Heard festival in 2016, Clíona and Caoimhe noticed a dearth of producers working with the companies that were bringing new work to the festival. As is common with so many emerging companies, the responsibilities of producer are often assumed by the director, writer, one of the actors, or an uncoordinated hodgepodge of all of the above, often with similarly uncoordinated results!

The reasons for the role of producer being omitted or overlooked are varied. Often, it is a budgetary consideration, but in my experience, the most common explanation is that many artists and theatre makers are not entirely sure what a producer does. Or perhaps they know what they do but they don’t think it’s necessary to have a person on the team solely dedicated to these tasks, in which case, they don’t really know what they do!

The GENERATOR programme consisted of six training days spread out over the five months leading up to the Scene + Heard festival, by which time we had been matched up with companies in need of a director and were helping them with their preparations for the festival.

Our training days were full on. We had an array of highly experienced industry professionals join us in the banquet hall in Smock Alley, twenty four in all, from  producers and directors, to graphic designers, dramaturgs, programmers and production managers. Essentially anyone that you are likely to come into contact with as a producer and develop a working relationship with, we had an opportunity to meet. We were given master classes in effective communication, dramaturgy and audience engagement. We had workshops, discussions, Q&As and presentations, all of which gave us new information and a different perspective on the role of the creative producer.

In early November we were each paired with two, three or possibly even four projects which had been programmed in Scene + Heard. We had all expressed interest in a few shows each (of the seventy-odd that applied without producers) based on their short pitches, and then through some exceedingly complicated Tetris exercise, Caoimhe managed to match us up with the most suitable options. I was working on three shows with three different companies; By All Accounts Two Normal Girls by Stiff & Kitsch, At Odds by Kepler Theatre Co. and Play on Words by Tiger’s Eye Theatre Co.

The process was very different with each company. It was an unusual set up, given the small scale of the productions and the fact that we were joining companies at a certain stage in their process, rather than being involved in a project from its conception. Some projects required a more hands on approach than others but I was lucky in that each project needed something different of me and provided a different learning experience, whether it was drafting contracts, creating marketing content for social media, leading production meetings or keeping track of budgets. I also got the opportunity to work on some really exciting new projects and create relationships with some fantastic theatre makers.

It’s impossible to encapsulate everything that I learned from the GENERATOR programme. The experience was educational, insightful, overwhelming, exhausting and empowering, to list but a few. One of the key things that I took away regarding my own approach to projects is the idea of the producer as a facilitator. I do believe that the producer can have creative input on a project but I think that their main responsibility is to facilitate the process for everyone involved. That doesn’t necessarily mean letting the artist have their way all the time (in fact it almost never means that!), often facilitation can be the implementation of clear boundaries or the ability to distinguish between what the project needs and what the artist needs.

Another idea which came up again and again with so many of the professionals who came in to talk to us was the importance of mentorship. So many of us as ‘emerging’ producers are feeling our way as we go and taking manys a wrong turn before we eventually end up back on track. Having a more experienced mentor whose brain we can pick can be invaluable to kickstart our careers.

And finally, the support network, one of the greatest things to come out of the programme. I’m fairly certain that very few of us would have made it through Scene + Heard with our sanity intact if it hadn’t been for the fact that we had sixteen other people in similar situations with whom we could share our griefs and frustrations. Having a group of peers that you can chat through new ideas with or even just meet for a glass of wine and a rant about scatterbrained artists that are making your life more complicated than it should be, can be a life-saver!

– Sadhbh Barrett Coakley, 2017.

GARE ST. LAZARE MENTORSHIP 2016/17

We are delighted and grateful to have been selected to participate on a year long mentorship with Judy Hegarty Lovett & Conor Lovett of Gare St. Lazare Ireland as part of their residency in the Everyman Theatre, Cork.

The mentorship has been fantastic for us as a young company. It has provided us with a framework to explore who we are as a company and where we would like to see ourselves in the future. We have received invaluable artistic and producing advice from Gare St. Lazare and from their producer Maura O’Keefe.

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Conor Lovett & Judy Hegarty Lovett – Gare St. Lazare Ireland

We have also been given the opportunity to observe them as they create their new work How It Is by Samuel Beckett in collaboration with renowned composer Mel Mercier. This is Gare St Lazare Ireland’s next project which is being developed as part of the company’s residency at Everyman Theatre Cork supported by The Arts Council of Ireland, Cork City Council and University College Cork.

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L-R: Graham McLaren (Abbey Theatre), Al Dalton & Sadhbh Barrett Coakley (ALSA), Conor Lovett & Judy Hegarty Lovett (Gare St. Lazare) & Neil Murray (Abbey Theatre)

Gare St Lazare Players Ireland is an Irish theatre company with a repertory of 17 Beckett titles, as well as a solo adaptation of Moby Dick and new plays by Michael Harding and Will Eno. The company’s production, in association with Signature Theatre New York, of Title and Deed by Will Eno, was listed at no. 4 by both The New York Times and The New Yorker Magazine in their top ten best shows of 2012. In 2014 Title and Deed toured to Edinburgh where it won The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. Also in 2014 First Love by Samuel Beckett toured to London where it received nominations for Best Director (Judy Hegarty Lovett) and Best Male Performance (Conor Lovett).

MOMENTUM.

HERE IS A RE-SHARED BLOG BY AL WHO IS PARTICIPATING ON THE BELLTABLE:CONNECT – FISHAMBLE DIRECTING MENTORSHIP WITH JIM CULLETON.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival Rehearsals 2016 | Writer & Performer Eimear Sheehy

“No director is perfect. However talented or technically brilliant a director might be, there is always some hidden flaw. But then again no director, however limited his gifts, will be entirely without some hidden virtue” (John Caird, Theatre Craft)

All in all, it has been a super busy last few months since I graduated from the CIT Cork School of Music honours degree in Theatre and Drama Studies. I wasn’t totally sure about what route I was going to follow after my training. To keep going down the performance route or to follow my gut into Directing.

When I look back now to how anxious I was finishing college. All the usual “out in the big world” graduate questions bopping around my head; “What am I going to do next? Where am I going to find work? Will I go to London? Will I end up working in theatre? Will I be an actor? Am I an actor? Will I end up working in a café? Will I do a masters in Directing? Will I do a masters and end up working in a café?”.

No, I didn’t move to London and start a masters (that story is for another day).

I did end up getting the part time job in the café.

Instead of falling into this hole of anxiety and dread, that can easily happen to all of us, I decided to look at things a bit more positively and take things each step at a time. Quite quickly things began to fall into place. I feel like I’ve been riding this massive wave of forward momentum since the Summer. This wave has already brought about so many great things for me; was assistant director on Corcadorca’s Cork Midsummer Festival production, I set up a production company ALSA Productions with my girlfriend and fellow graduate Sadhbh Barrett Coakley, we self-produced a show and brought it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we devised and presented a brand new piece of theatre as part of TDC SHOW 2017, was hired to direct a new piece of writing by Strive Theatre which will tour Waterford and Cork and I am also back in college production managing their final year show.

Not only all that, in among all that madness, I was also accepted onto this wonderful Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentorship Programme.

We are now at the half way point of the programme and the time has just flown. Each session more invaluable than the last. Before I started, I was not comfortable calling myself a “director”. I wasn’t sure what to call myself and I was afraid to call myself a director in case anyone would ask me, god forbid, about being a director. Through our monthly discussions, facilitated with such ease by Jim Culleton and listening to the experience from my fellow mentees, I’ve realised that I am and we are, most definitely all directors! It has been such a privilege to be able to sit among the group and listen to opinions, thoughts, problems, concerns and most importantly advice. Every session I have left with another door that I thought was closed shut, now open and available to walk through. I think I am most blown away by the amount of respect in the room for one another. It is truly a haven. I refer to the sessions as a “self-help group” for directors, and have continued this “therapy” back in Cork with fellow mentee Mike Ryan over the last few months as we tackle individual projects of our own.

We all can create our momentum and when we do anything is possible.

Al Dalton

Belltable:Connect