It is being organised by Nick Hennegan who set up the Birmingham-based Maverick Theatre Company in 1994 (their production of Hancock’s Finest Hour comes to Bury St Edmunds as part of a national tour at the end of April). The course is a successor to one held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane last year, which proved extremely popular.
Hennegan eplains: “Many arts funders and organisations are now encouraging artists to 'have a go' at mounting their own work, in effect to become their own producers. Over the last few years a new job title has come about – the creative producer. But what is really involved? This seminar will look at everything needed to put on a show or start a production or theatre company, from the local pub, to a national tour, to the West End of London.
“Where do you start? What is the difference between a creative producer and a 'normal' producer? What about finance, the law, the choice of plays or of musicals? Then there's employing actors, working with other creative personnel, commissioning new works, copyright, contracts, fundraising, investing in theatre, parties and pitfalls!
“It’s for anyone who has ever felt a desire to create events. This introduction looks at the pros and cons of commercial production, setting up a small-scale theatre company and both local and national touring. It covers legal issues, contracts, working with creatives and securing rights. It will also be useful to anyone who has considered investing in theatre or is just curious about what a creative producer does! No previous knowledge is assumed".
And why has this initiative comes about?
“The workshop is a result of me not being able to find help about how to produce theatre. I write and direct, but having set up Maverick I fell into producing and quite liked the job of bringing a good creative team together. But there was nowhere to find out more. If you want to train to be an actor, designer, director or technician, there's plenty of help and education. But there’s nothing for producers. The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) run an excellent course on producing for the West End, but it’s expensive and doesn't include other aspects of making theatre, including touring and fringe. The University of London’s Birkbeck College offers an MA in creative producing for the theatre; it’s an excellent course, but expensive and time-consuming. I am occasionally asked by individuals about investing in theatre productions...so this course is the answer!
“It assumes no prior knowledge and aims to give an overview of the industry, from the smallest fringe show to the largest musical. It also points to further information. Last year’s course seemed to satisfy all the participants and attracted a wide church, from experienced TV and theatre producers keen to find out about another sector, to foreign students wishing to know about the UK theatre structure, through Arts Council employees to potential theatre investors –angels. The feed-back was very positive.
“I'm running it more to help the theatre sector than make money – class sizes are limited and at £120 for the day including all the documentation it only just about breaks even.”
There are full details of this workshop on Maverick Theatre’s own website (www.mavericktheatre.co.uk). Hennegan is also running another course tomorrow (Saturday 20 February), also at RADA, on event marketing and effective public relations when you’ve only a limited budget.