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Guest Blog: Rubber Rooms & the Old Vic's US Exchange

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In this guest post, both halves of the Old Vic’s transatlantic TS Eliot exchange project reflect on their experiences bringing new play The Rubber Room to London.

The show plays for one night only on 6 July at the Old Vic Rehearsal Room. Tickets are free.

Lucy Oliver Harrison, Producer, UK
The most exciting thing about this project is being able to work with a young American writer with the initial contact made by the the Old Vic. The discovery and premiere of these US writers’ work in the UK has huge potential. The director Simon Evans and I regularly read new writing and are incredibly excited by The Rubber Room.

The challenge was building a dialogue with someone three thousand, four hundred and sixty two miles away. Luckily with the power of technology we were able to have various Skype sessions and bombard Stacy with emails to make sure she was part of any decision-making. I have been surprised at how easy it was to begin a creative (and practical) dialogue with a writer in another country. In an industry where we often work with the same people, it has been refreshing and inspiring to expand my horizons for talent no matter how many miles away they are. So, despite Stacy not having much choice of which director and producer she ended up with (!), we feel we’ve built a great relationship which will hopefully give the play a longer life. It goes to show how easy it can be to look beyond borders and reach out to new writers, finding new perspectives within different time zones, attitudes and continents.

Stacy Davidowitz, Writer, USA
I arrive in London Friday morning in time for the first rehearsal, and already my collaboration with Lucy Oliver-Harrison (Producer) and Simon Evans (Director) has been ideal. Much of our communication has been via email, though we’ve had some delightful Google iChats too. In addition to the convenience of responding to emails and video-chatting from my bed (guilty of wearing pyjamas), our correspondence has been equally as productive and professional as face-to-face meetings in New York. Well, aside from the pyjamas part.

The exchange has already proved an invaluable resource for developing the life of The Rubber Room. Although the play is based upon a historical point in the New York City public school system, I’m excited about exploring the subject from the fresh perspective of comparable criticisms regarding the British education system. Katharine Birbalsingh, a British teacher, blogger, and writer on British education, cites bad teachers who cannot be dismissed and government policy encouraging "soft" subjects. Drawing attention to the corrupt, abusive institutions that infiltrate our lives, The Rubber Room has the potential to make a huge impact, especially in the theatre and education communities.

However comparable the two education systems may be, I still anticipate a challenge showcasing a play so specific to New York in the UK. Especially when characters range from 16 to 57 years old, vary in ethnicity, and each require accents to reflect their origins, heritage, and the effect of living and teaching in particular boroughs of the city. Fortunately, each of the actors has received an impressively thorough research packet and been offered dialect coaching in preparation for rehearsals. In fact, much of the expected stress of having a show put on overseas has been alleviated by the quick and constant communication between me and the creative team, our mutual flexibility regarding script and staging elements, their generous donation of time and advice, and a willingness to ensure I feel situated once I arrive.


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