Adventure with Old Vic New Voices

Recently, I decided to apply to be a producer for Old Vic New Voices 24 Hours Plays.

When I first applied, it was something I filled in almost on a whim mentality, spent a good hour or so putting some real thought into, but really not expecting to hear anything back.

Surprisingly, I got shortlisted as a candidate. Suddenly, I was excited. I hungrily read the instructions. During the application process, the applicant had been asked to submit an idea for OVNV in their 2013 season – having watched Chris Goode & Company’s Monkey Bars about an hour before I put in my app, I decided that verbatim theatre was an excellent way of giving a voice to those who, otherwise, don’t get much stage time. Once shortlisted, I needed to do a budget, write two different lengths of copy and find a copy image to present to a small panel. I was also required to attend a full day, where a mini-24 Hour Play would transpire (so, a 6 hour play).

The interviews were in London – I live in Edinburgh. Fortunately, I am from Peterborough, and so was able to stay with my parents between Tuesday’s interview and Friday’s trial. Again fortunately, I recently turned 21, and found out about my shortlisting before my birthday, so was able to ask for train fares as a gift. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this is a tactic I can use when actually trying to produce a show

I decided the verbatim theatre piece I proposed would b on those who worked with people with mental health problems or disabilities, though I qualified this by saying if there’s a group you’re interested in – verbatim theatre could happen. I thought for a long time about basing it on students who don’t like university and spent most of Freshers’ Week crying.

I showed up at the office where my interview was to take place one whole hour before it was scheduled. In interviews, I will often talk about how I am really incredibly punctual. What I don’t mention is that a) punctuality is only a feature of ‘professional Rosie’, the casual model will be late every time you want to meet her for pints and b) my punctuality is fuelled entirely by fear – in this case that I would miss my train, or that I’d climb onto the wrong train entirely and end up in Brighton rather than on Bermondsey Street.

I sat in reception, adjusted my nautical themed skirt, and went over my pitch before they called me in.

Now, I am 21 years old and I have only ever produced things with the word ‘University’ attached to them. I have never worked in London and I’m not actually sure I know that much about theatre, anyway. I was struggling to work out how I’d wormed my way on to this shortlist in the first place,  and I was subsequently expecting to be torn apart by the panel I was about to present my ideas to.

I wasn’t. They were lovely. There were so many glaringly obvious holes in my proposal that they gently chatted to me about, always seeming interested and always being supportive. What I am perhaps most appreciative of, though, is not that they entertained my ideas with eagerness for the better part of 40 minutes, but that they were honest with me. The trial for producers as part of Old Vic New Voices involves an interview and a trial day where a mini 24 Hour-Plays takes place. In many ways, my journey ended at the interview. I was quite open about the fact that I do not know many things (my budget included a number of quotes from Amazon.co.uk, as well as just upping numbers because I’d ‘heard London was, like, well expensive’). As such, they were open with me, telling me that, really, I am not experienced enough for the project. However, being the enthusiastic wee thing I am, I should come to the trial day, and I should use it to learn and enjoy the experience.

And so that is what I did. I travelled back into London the following Friday, and, surrounded by a group of absolutely bloody amazing theatre-makers, I watched, I learned and I participated. During speed dating, I learned a lot of people are interested to hear about clowning, and that hearing how other people feel about theatre is the most glorious thing in the world. I got to watch 25 young actors perform 25 mesmerizing monologues as we rattled through each one at a pace a little bit too emotionally frantic for an activity taking place before midday. I read scripts from emerging writers and watched new directors have their way with them. I ran about, pandering to the whims of several groups while trying to seem authoritative but not aggressive, all while helping a group of exceptional young producers manage the day and run a marketing campaign. I had one of the best days of my young career, really.

Old Vic New Voices has confirmed for me that I am not (yet?) a professional producer. However, I can just about keep up with them, albeit as a follower rather than a leader. I know how to use Tweetdeck, and I can find props in a building I don’t know very well at all. In also seems that what I lack in competence I make up for in sheer blind enthusiasm and passion – and, for now, I think that’ll carry me through.

To everyone who made it through to the final show – I hope it goes well. The best of luck and so many congratulations to you all!

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