Theatre Green Book
Made from years of thinking, research & advocacy by many a pioneering organisation, theatre, theatre company & individual; a theatre green book.
I am a producer, theatre maker and performer
And I suppose that
Since I can’t do any of the theatre making and the performing
I have ‘just’ been a producer
Nothing to produce
I am a producer, theatre maker and performer
What do I think
The hardest thing about unproducing
At the moment
And for the last 10 months of it
Is the thought of it
The dread of it
- so much that -
After the first load of it
I just stopped
doing the proper producing so I wouldn’t have to do the proper unproducing
In a sense anyway…
I’m almost past the planning for things to maybe probably not happen and am just not planning much
I know that sounds super down and
But I mean it in a way of
Taking a bit of control maybe
What are the things I can do
Is a bit of planning, sure
Is a lot of hoping, yes
But it’s not a lot of producing
Because, I just googled produce, and other than being “agricultural and other natural products collectively” it is to “cause (a particular result or situation) to happen or exist”
And I’m not sure how much we have control to
So I am sat here
A few projects
To produce them
And dreaming up new ones
That need funding
And aren’t getting any
I am ‘just' sat here
It’s not that I am not doing it
I am still producing
I am doing secret planning
I can’t see it
And neither can you
(Sorry about that)
I am a producer doing the producing
But feel like I am not
Doing the producing bit
Of all the unproducing
Before I’ve even really started the producing
Am I making any sense?
I am a producer, theatre maker and performer
My work as a producer has been filled with wraparound programmes outreach programmes not so many digital programmes and preparing all the things we used to need for
I have been a fundraiser.
I don’t want to count how many applications I have done in the last 10 months
(is it 10 months?)
It’s triple digits for sure
And I can count the successful ones on one hand
So I am sitting
On the projects
That were for now
And aren’t now
I am a producer, theatre maker and performer
To be patient
And ready for
Ready to produce for
A collectively imagined future that we don’t fully understand
Off & On & lines.
After 13 months and a few weeks since being ‘in the room’ working on The Family Sex Show, and 8 months of not being in a rehearsal room at all, at the start of November 2020, we were back.
I walked to Shoreditch Town Hall, not with my bags full of props and costumes, but with face masks and anti bac and gloves and tape and, oh, and a thermometer. The whole thing felt bizarre af to be honest.
Even so, I was also obviously giddy. BACK. TO. SCHOOL.
The way The Family Sex Show (and most of ThisEgg’s other shows) is being made is a week or two’s development here and there over a number of years. That’s just the way we (usually) make things.
For context, as with a lot of other people, what we were supposed to have been doing in 2020, was finishing the show, opening it in the Autumn, and then touring it across the UK for 9 weeks in 2021. Which, after 3 years of development felt like the right next step. lol.
This isn’t a splurge about our cancelled tour though. It’s a splurge about there being a pandemic (soz), no one to lead you and being forced to value what you do. Again.
So, 1 week of development this November IRL. Wicked.
Because, for the record, I didn’t think it would actually happen, and refused to let myself believe it would in the run up. Did the risk assessments and planning and buying the face masks and anti bac and gloves and tape and, oh, and a thermometer like it was, but deep down… nah.
Anyway, none of this is important.
Halfway through our weeks development IRL, the UK went back into lockdown.
There is a pandemic.
Shoreditch Town Hall will have to shut.
There is a pandemic.
We will go home.
We will be safe.
We will try zoom.*
We will be safe.
Venues could stay open for rehearsals. Because (OBVIOUSLY) that’s not a job you can do from home.
There is a pandemic.
As a company of human people in different situations and circumstances how do we move forward?
Together? Always together.
For the first time ever, that didn’t feel possible.
And that made me angry and then sad and then angry again.
The thing is, is that…
There is a pandemic.
No one is supposed to know how to be, or, how to lead.
But someone has to.
And the thing is that if our government doesn’t, they are just
you (in this situation, me).
Nothing I am saying here is new.
None of this is what is important.
But I just want to acknowledge, once more,
The lack of clarity
The lack of thought
The lack of understanding
We need to go to work to pay rent.
And, I do think theatre is essential.
But only when we can access it safely.
This show isn’t going to have any output right now.
So I don’t feel like what I am doing right now is essential for right now.
But our ‘process’ has always been this dipping in and out thing, because, I think it means the show will be ‘better’ as a result.
This is show is going to be put on (she says).
So it needs to be what it can be when it is.
But because the output isn’t now.
It feels less justified.
Is any of this important?
I’ll remind myself
There is a pandemic.
And it’s got me
It’s got me
What I do
Why I do it
If it is worth it
I still need to
About how we move forward…
In this PANDEMIC
There is a pandemic
We’ve been more aware our our individual impacts on other people than ever. We’ve also been more aware than ever that everyone will do what they need to do.
Everyone in the room for The Family Sex Show needs to do differently. Everyone in the world needs to do differently.
That’s kind of what the whole show is about.
But the reasons for that have never been a pandemic.
Taking the choice to the group means everyone can make up their own minds.
But is that fair?
Is it fair if I make the call?
If I don’t make a call, am I just another ‘bad’ leader?
None of this is important.
I think this is me just having a bit of a tantrum. I feel like stamping my feet and shouting “it’s not fair! MUM?! IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!”
I don’t think a pandemic was ever going to be fair.
We’re all human.
And, I’m not letting anyone off the hook here Boris Johnson.
What I mean is, it was never going to be easy.
It could have been easier.
A bit more on the leading thing... I think that maybe it caught me off guard. I think that maybe, it was the first time I felt like I was supposed to be a leader. I try to make sure 'the room' works in as democratic a way as possible, as much without heirarchy as it can. I work hard to make sure I have clear producer / maker boundaries.
And this moment broke those.
The lines were unclear.
In that moment
With that choice
I took the decision to the group
And, well, I ended up crying
And, I was really disappointed in myself for that.
Again angry and again sad that something (those lines) I work hard to create and to define was forced into a situation
Beyond my control
I felt, all of 'those' things, of being 'young', of being a 'woman', of not being 'good' enough
And the line was more of a scribble (yeah)
And then I also remembered that I was also a human... needing to make my own choice in that moment, and I, personally, also didn't know what to do...
In a bizarre
A bit messed up way
It was a reminder that
We have autonomy
And even if leaders don't act the way we want them to, we can act the way we want to.
*A bit more on zoom, and more on trying
We worked on zoom.
We tried on zoom.
We worked on zoom.
We would not settle for zoom.
In rehearsals we will often do a checking in and checking out. Checking in at the beginning of the day will work in a variety of ways, but is mostly there as a moment for everyone to say/be how they are and what they need. Checking out is similar.
It felt super important to do this the week we worked together in November (during the pandemic, you remember).
When we moved onto zoom, I added a check in post lunch break too.
It felt like everyone was so far away.
And I wanted to make sure everyone was ok.
That there was no way to read the room(s),
unless the room(s) was(were) said out loud.
And, as we are all experiencing I’m sure, moods are all the more all over the place all of the time, so, yeah, good to know where people are at.
Work / rehearsals has to be / should have the option to be a place outside of your home
Away from the pandemic
And the world
And our worries
And they are bleeding in
And they always do
But on zoom
They can’t not
Checking in usually helps us air it out
Checking in we soak it up
And we start reflecting on reflecting, naturally…
Where is the line between caring and thinking and looking inside and being reflective
And being the dirty word
I n d u l g e n t
How much space to give and when to give it
The show is so about the people and being held by a group of people but at the same time we are all there to make that show
Was the thinking and talking about wellbeing not helpful to our wellbeing?
Making on zoom and wellbeing is even weirder still
Because when we make we are trying to make people feel things - that’s what theatre is about
In theatre you’re in a space together with other people
Either in rehearsals or in an audience
When you make on and for zoom
I wonder if
The knowing that that someone might be sat on their own in isolation feeling all kinds of things beyond our control already
We limit ourselves
Because our care for someone takes over
Because we know we cannot do anything afterwards
We cannot practically act on the check in
We cannot literally hold someone in a space
If it reminded me of one thing though, this show, The Family Sex Show, cannot be digital.
It must be live, offline and human.
These are difficult conversations.
And you shouldn’t have to do them alone.
We cannot work from home.
But we need to work.
People come before a project.
Their health, their safety.
We are just trying to do well at being.
But money is part of that.
So my question is genuinely, where do we go from here?
And how can we all go there at the same time?
This is not a protest. Because it is too late.
We’re making a new ‘thing’.
We’re calling it an installation, socially distanced pop up performance and film project.
But that’s quite a mouthful so we’re giving it a name; DISMANTLE.
Google says ‘dismantle’ means, “to take (a machine or structure) to pieces.”
That seems about right.
In the literal sense it’s about buildings and spaces.
Buildings are being dismantled all around us all the time.
We are pretty used to it. Mostly because they are replaced with other, often bigger, buildings.
In the even bigger, more slippery and messy sense, it’s about systems.
We can’t ‘see’ systems, so *maybe* they are harder to notice, but, some of us still try to dismantle them because they often feel harder to just get used to. When we don’t like systems… well, we want to take them to pieces.
How is much less clear.
Some of the things we’re talking about whilst making DISMANTLE:
The here and now. Covid-19. Yep. (How could we not.)
The Arts. The growing threat of the arts industry, particularly theatre, especially new theatre, and even more so devised/experimental/‘risky’ theatre.
The arts is always precarious. I think you can tell a lot from a country in the way it treats it’s artists. I don’t have any facts to back that up (soz), but I think it’s true. It’s about the importance it places on culture, connection and community. Its architecture, and how welcome it makes you feel.
The Artists. The people that make up the arts.
Especially freelancers. How we can continue to collaborate, to stay creative. To do what we do. And be paid for it too.
The Koppel Project. How they have just lost a building that gave over 70 artists studio space in Soho. How that building is going to be torn down to make space for yet another luxury hotel. (Hotels versus individuality slash identity). How Koppel are often the people to fill buildings with artists temporarily, while other people decide what’s going to happen to the building long term (because it can’t possibly just be an artists studio for more than a couple of months or years).
So, I guess we’re also talking about buildings & permanence.
Redundancies. People being pushed out of buildings.
People. Where they go now.
How (and if) we are valued.
Weeds. Growth. Belonging.
Space. Who owns space. Who decides who is allowed in (and who isn’t).
When space is given (or taken away).
How spaces can be repurposed. When that’s positive (and when it isn’t).
What happens to a space when it gets turned into something else.
The feeling of a space - its vibe.
The history that is somehow held within four walls and how we try to erase it by knocking it down.
The spaces we love. The buildings that are used to being full of people and aren’t.
The empty spaces. The shops that aren’t shops anymore, the cafe’s that aren’t cafe’s anymore.
The spaces that need to be filled with life.
For a group working in touring theatre who usually/used to move about the country and it’s various spaces almost daily but was made to stay still, in one space, I’m not surprised we’re wondering about it really.
Geography. What the landscape of the country will look like - who will have ‘lost’ and who will have ‘won’.
Who gets to be part of the conversation, and how.
I’ll stop throwing words around now.
We are being given space to collaborate, create something visual, and make as much noise as we want to. This is filling us with hope and maybe it will you too.
Buildings might be disposable, but artists are not.
Let’s begin to DISMANTLE.
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter.
I will stand with you better.
I haven’t done enough.
I won’t give up.
I will give and grow love.
I will listen, make space (and mistakes).
I will out and be outed.
I will stand with you, rooted.
I am taking some time to reflect on ThisEgg’s values, and to figure out how best to action ThisEgg’s support for BLM in a concrete way.
For now, some (of many many) books for reading / podcasts for listening / stuff for watching / artists, activists & organisations for adoring & supporting:
Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge
Natives - Akala
White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo
The Heart - Race Traitor Series
About Race - another Reni Eddo-Lodge
13th directed by Ava DuVernay
Killer Mike's documentary series, Trigger Warning
I May Destroy You created, written, co-directed, and executive produced by Michaela Coel
Isra Hirsi who co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, the American arm of a global youth climate change movement. In 2019, she won a Brower Youth Award. That same year, Hirsi received the Voice of the Future Award. In 2020, Isra was placed on BET's "Future 40" list.
If, like me, words words words can be difficult sometimes, follow Mona Chalabi who puts all the stats n facts into illustrations.
MAKING & UNMAKING
I am in self isolation. In quarantine. Like most of you too.
And, like most of you too, I am thinking. A lot.
There is a lot of time to think.
And think again.
About the thinking.
And the overthinking.
Here are a few things I have been thinking about…
(That you have also probably thought yourself already)
((But maybe it’s nice to know someone is thinking the same thing))
I’m wondering how to best spend my time.
But mostly when it comes to ThisEgg.
What to write.
Which project to make what move on.
If I want to.
Where to start.
How to see an end.
There’s been a lot of chat about un-producing. When all this Rona stuff started, I felt very grateful not to have any immediate upcoming rehearsals &/or shows. That was a first! I run ThisEgg on my own and was lucky not to be needing to lead or look out for anyone else work wise.
As time goes on (somehow it keeps moving despite everything else being still) it does also get closer to what I did have lined up.
And so I started thinking some more…
I have two shows in development; The Family Sex Show & motherEarth. They aren’t finished and so are very changeable things that are open to responding to the world and the things happening in/on it.
I am wondering where we will be after all this, what people will be wanting, what we will need.
So here I am... thinking, wondering and worrying:
That the shows I have spent years working on, are no longer the ones that need making next the most.
How I decide what I think needs making most next.
What that even means.
How they need to change to respond to the context they will (hopefully one day) be presented in.
If they need to change at all.
Whether my unproducing actually also means unmaking.
Can you unmake a project?
Is it just something new. Starting again.
What happens to the old thing?
Does it disappear into nothing?
Why doesn't that feel so good?
Can I finish and tour them how I’d planned to?
Where will they still be able to tour to?
How many more partners will have to pull out?
Will any theatres still want them?
Be able to host them?
Host any shows?
What if all theatre goes back to being really safe?
Will it be full of one person on stage?
What will I do with my two shows that are being devised collaboratively that have 9 people on stage and also lots of people off stage?
When was that ever a good idea Josie?
Was theatre even ever ‘not safe’?
How many more plays written by dead white men will we be faced with now?
Will that make more people come to the theatre quicker? Really?
For real though…
Who was going to the theatre before?
Who will go to the theatre after?
When will they feel safe?
What experience will they want?
Who was making before?
Who will be making after?
How was it being made before?
How can it be made after?
Is that enough questions now?
If we go back to ‘normal’ I think we will have really wasted an opportunity. This might be the only chance we ever get to reset a balance, to put into practice a once imagined systemic change. On a global level. It’s wild, and it could actually be pretty incredible.
There is a lot of us. And we seem to be working as a creative collective now, more than we ever have.
Yes, it is hard to look ahead into the unknown. But we are used to this. We’ve always had to plan with flexibility, to find ways of staying inspired and keep going. To make what we imagine somehow real.
That said, if you just want to lay down and do nothing. Do that.
This is the perfect moment to stop
before we start again.
What we are living through is pretty epic. It can’t really be ignored. Even if we try very very hard. (And I have.)
We won’t forget it. Probably. Even if we try very very hard.
(And we will).
So it’s no wonder we don’t all want to be making work about what we are all already experiencing.
Or do we…
Making work in response to Covid-19 and/or self isolation. Another thing that, after thinking about, I don’t know what I think about…
I’ll tell you what I thought though.
First I thought, no.
Then I thought, maybe.
Then I thought, I do need money.
Then I thought, but do I want to.
Then I thought, no.
Then I thought, it is quite incredible that the whole world has stopped though.
This is quite incredible.
Then I thought, how is this time going to be recorded.
Then I FELT (almost) a sense of responsibility, or, duty, to make something that was a creative response to this time.
I thought, I want people to see paintings, read poems, listen to songs about the human journey of THE RONA. Not just statistics in a history book.
Then I thought, none of those things are theatre though.
So I thought, maybe it’s not just up to you.
Then I poured a glass of wine.
And wrote this.
ThisEgg is part of a group of independent producers supporting and advocating each others' work at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. As independents we work both in the UK and internationally; our work spans multiple genres, but we share a collective desire to push the boundaries of live performance and support artists who experiment with the audience experience.
We are doing what we can in a theatre/fringe/world where there are more and more big organisations being big with their big brands. We are celebrating what we already spend all of our time doing - lifting each other up in an industry that often relies on friendships. We want to open a conversation about how independent artists can reclaim the space and somehow formalise the networks that are near invisible and not fully funded.
Check here for more information.
At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year ThisEgg are taking part in an initiative called #PayIfYouCan;
Dear organisations visiting and seeing shows at the Fringe,
We really want you to come and see our shows. Whatever the cost. So something small companies and individuals have not been upfront about before now is our very limited allocation at the Fringe. When we get you a ticket to see our shows this is, more often than not, coming out of our personal pocket.
This year we are launching an initiative which we would love to invite everyone to be a part of - #PayIfYouCan. If you are an organisation that has an allocation for tickets, we encourage you to buy tickets to see shows.
We completely understand this isn't possible for everyone, and not every organisation has money for fringe tickets. So #PayIfYouCan is about openness and honesty - if you can pay, do. If you can't pay, please ask for a comp and know that we completely understand, and we would love to get you a ticket. You can still support us by spreading the word about #PayIfYouCan to your friends and colleagues that work for organisations that can afford to pay.
Here's to supporting each other to make the fringe more sustainable and affordable for all!
It’s time for change. As part of the wider #CreativeClimate and #GreenArts movement, Staging Change is working to create a green future for theatre - an industry tat has a small footprint but a big impact.
It is a network of performers and makers work together to discuss how the industry can overcome the challenges it faces in becoming more environmentally sustainable. Whether you're a green theatre machine or new to the sustainability game, everyone is welcome to join the discussion.
As storytellers, we have a unique capacity to explore key issues with audiences both on and off the stage. In a warming world, this means taking leadership in communicating the importance of environmental action, whether that be through the content of our projects or the sharing of our practice.
Visit the website for more on this!
Thoughts on care
I’ve been thinking about care.
About how much to care, when to care and who to care for.
I’ve been going back and forth.
As a general rule, I think we (as makers and audiences, and as humans) need to care for ourselves.
Sometimes we need to be cared for.
We (as makers and audiences, and as humans) need to understand our own boundaries.
In the theatre that’s not always easy.
Sometimes these boundaries are broken. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it is really not. Sometimes that can be difficult, and sometimes that can be dangerous.
How can we avoid that bad stuff? And whose problem is it to navigate?
I wonder a lot about what responsibility we hold (as makers), putting certain bits of work out to the public (the audience). I wonder about who is responsible for the audience - the makers, the venues, or the audience for themselves - they have brought themselves into the building to see the show after all (unless they haven’t, which is also possible, but for now lets imagine they have).
As audiences, we don’t usually know the show before we’ve seen the show. We might have read some copy, but it might not be so accurate… The copy writer might want us to think we are going to see one thing when really we are seeing another, maybe they are trying to write something that ‘sells’ better than describing the real show, or, they might just have had to write the copy before they’d finished making the show they were writing it for.
Is it about an informed decision?
Do we want to be informed before we go to see something?
Why am I writing this? Who am I writing this for? What difference will it make? Does a difference need to be made?
Is this something that has always been a concern, and never addressed, or, is this becoming a concern with the ever increasing concerns of this concern led life we seem to be living in this concerned world? One more time: Concern. I am concerned.
I am concerned about care, and also expectation. How much are audiences expecting to be cared for. Is it a part of the experience, is it a need, or is it a bonus?
audience care & dressed.
After opening the show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, lots of audience members said they wished they had come to see the show with someone. That they wanted someone to talk to, someone to hold, to be held, or just to sit with. So, to launch the tour we had a competition for 241 tickets. Unfortunately we can’t offer everyone 241 tickets to the show as standard, but we have started a #bringyourbestie (still waiting for that to start trending ;) ) to try to encourage audiences to share the show with someone they care about.
We opened dressed. at Battersea Arts Centre. They were the first to suggest an audience decompression room — somewhere people could sit after the show before moving into the bar, or heading home. It was a small gesture. I reckon the signage meant that it was easier to relax into the show, knowing they had somewhere they could be afterwards.
How far does the audience care affect the way audiences are watching shows?
By having the opportunity to provide our audience with a post show safe space felt like we could extend what happens on the stage outside of the theatre in a way that took care.
dressed. is based a real life event. We have had a quite a few discussions around the trigger warning for the show.
Is it useful?
Is it scary?
Does it set the show up in the right way?
How do we phrase it?
Can we make it less formal?
Is it triggering?
We've come to a simple conclusion so far -- trigger warnings are massively important. They are also important to get right.
So far we have changed ours from "This show explores themes of rape and sexual assault which some audience members may find distressing." to "This show explores themes of sexual assault.” I’m sharing the beginnings of these thoughts. Perhaps you have some to add...
dressed. is a show I have made with my three best friends. We have an inbuilt support network. Nonetheless, we are taking extra care and working with Lou Platt, an artist wellbeing practitioner to help look after ourselves too. She's great. Check her out here.