A Producing Manifesto
When it feels like your industry is in crisis, and you start to question why you work as a theatre producer, its important to go back to basics. If there is one thing I’ve taken away from the Culture Reset programme its understanding your core principles and owning them.
Here I want to outline what my producing manifesto is, now and for the future.
Producing is often seen as a mystical process, when it shouldn’t be. Producing is about getting the best from the artists to ensure the best art is made for its audience. Producing is about supporting and facilitating great art and its process of creation. Transparency has to be part of this process. Whether it comes to budgeting production finances, the commissioning processes or casting, transparency will be given. Now and always.
The big D word. Diversity in all its power and empowerment. Diversity isn’t a tick-box, its a principle. As a producer I sit at the decision table, and too often in the past I have not questioned why diversity isn’t being addressed. Diversity comes in many forms. When I produce work, diversity will encompass every aspect of the work: audiences; disabilities; sexuality; genders; the art; the money. Diversity is empowering.
Producing through kindness and compassion, can you imagine such a thing? I can, and I do. Producing isn’t about having big balls and a wad of cash. Producing is about connecting with people, and the sort of person I want to be is compassionate. The work I produce will be driven by compassion through its making process. There is power in kindness, so let’s use it.
I live with mental health issues. I’m on anti-depressants and been in therapy. Normalising mental health in theatre is crucial to our sector’s survival, that’s why I’m always discussing my own mental health. Leading by example. Making art is tough though, it makes us vulnerable. Rarely do we consider how this impacts our mental health. Through my producing, we’ll work out a mental health support plan for those involved. Right now I don’t know what that looks like, but it will be discussed and actioned. For everyone involved.
Yup. Producing has to be fun. We’ll laugh and smile as the work is made, because we all need that in our day-to-day work. I’ll even throw in my one ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke. It’s awful, but will make us smile.
Producing, in whatever context, is not about a tick-boxing exercise. The work created and the process of this will be meaningful. It will enrich those that make and see it. Without meaningful art, there is no point. Meaning should never be about money, either. Although we have to acknowledge that money often plays its part in producing and setting the parameters of the work.
Manifestos, much like the people behind them, are ever changing. Not to say that the principles behind this will evolve much, but its important to see this as a working manifesto. Equally, I think we need to talk more about our principles as producers. What drives us beyond the work? How do the principles that guide us play out in our work and process? Do you ascribe to any, and if you do, how true are these and would you share them publicly with the artists you work with? Maybe sharing them with colleagues or peers as a starting point.