FlairBox and The Actors Centre are teaming up for a Castathon on the 5th November 2020. We sat down with Jamie Tuohy ahead of the Castathon to find out a little bit more about how The Centre has been coping during Covid-19, and how you can get involved with the Castathon!
Tell us a little bit about The Actors Centre.
The Actors Centre is the UK’s leading professional development organisation, supporting actors and creative talent throughout their careers. We offer workshops and masterclasses on everything from acting and writing to voicework and movement, and our flagship venue, the Tristan Bates Theatre presents a year-round theatre programme.
How have you had to adapt during Covid?
When our building closed in March because of the pandemic, we responded by moving our creative programmes online and since then, we have presented hundreds of digital workshops as well as streamed theatre productions and hosted an online interview series with leading stars of stage and screen called The Actors Centre Meets.
The last number of months have been inexorably challenging for the cultural sector, especially for actors and freelancers. We've worked hard during this period to ensure that as well as offering a creative outlet for actors, our programmes have also included free one-to-one sessions on mental wellbeing and tax advice, as well as pay-what-you-can workshops on empowerment, yoga and mindfulness.
Sunnymead Court was a socially-distanced play you put on recently. Tell us about it, and anymore productions you may have coming up soon?
Written by the wonderful Gemma Lawrence and presented by Defibrillator in association with The Actors Centre, Sunnymead Court marked the first new live theatre production back in the West End in over six months. It is a beautiful and uplifting queer romance starring Gemma alongside Remmie Milner. It is a story of isolation and connection, of hope and possibility.
When our Theatre Programme Manager Mitchell Reeve pitched the idea of a socially distanced theatre production to Defibrillator, it was certainly a leap of faith for all involved. The ever-changing guidelines and the general air of uncertainty meant that we didn’t just need a Plan B, we needed a C and D as well.
We knew Gemma and Defibrillator had created something special, we believed in the work, and after months of meticulous planning, we were thrilled that the production received such an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and audience members. The safety of our audiences was always a paramount priority throughout, so it really meant a lot that we were able to give people a much-needed night out at the theatre, while implementing careful social distancing measures throughout our venue.
In terms of what’s next: as everyone knows, a socially distanced theatre model is not sustainable, therefore for the remainder of 2020, our programmes will continue online. We have just announced the Graduate Festival, presented by The Actors Centre and curated by Ameena Hamid Productions. The festival will run on-demand on our website from 2 – 8 November and will feature work from 100 graduates who didn’t get to perform their final showcase due to Covid-19. As with a traditional showcase, we will be inviting industry to view the digital festival and members of the public will also be able to stream the festival from 2 November. In the coming weeks, we will also be making some more announcements about digital theatre, so be sure to stay tuned!
What can actors be doing during this downtime to stay fresh and stay creative?
Actors, writers, directors, producers, dancers, musicians and just about everyone working in the creative industry has had their careers debated and questioned over the last number of months. The question of ‘viability’ is both insulting and exhausting and this matched with the uncertainty of when and how our sector may re-emerge from the pandemic can be an overwhelming and daunting prospect. The incessant pressure to constantly train can lead to burnout.
At The Actors Centre, we know it is crucial to our members that we offer a consistent workshop programme, which has been hugely popular throughout lockdown, because being able to tap into a creative outlet once a week, or even once a month, provides that normality and consistency that has been so noticeably absent in recent months.
However, it is equally important to take some time for yourself, away from social media, away from the uncertainty, and just recharge. That is why we have also been offering free and pay-what-you-can mental wellbeing, mindfulness and yoga sessions as they are a vital opportunity to recalibrate amidst this chaos.
The Actors Centre has just been awarded ACE funding, as part of the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, how will this impact you and the actors you support?
The Actors Centre is an unsubsidised charity, so when our building closed in March, it was a hugely worrying time. We have been running a donation campaign throughout the pandemic and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated so far. The funding from the Culture Recovery Fund is certainly a much-needed urgent lifeline.
The Actors Centre was set to run out of money by December 2020 and while this funding certainly does not mean that we are out of the woods, it will enable our small team to lay the foundations towards building a sustainable future. It means that we can continue to operate, to support artists through our workshop and theatre programmes; continuing to provide an opportunity for creative talent to develop and flourish. The Actors Centre has been in existence for 42 years and our fundraising campaign will remain live as we continue to work hard to ensure The Actors Centre can survive for another 42!
The Actors Centre & FlairBox are joining forces on a Castathon on the 5th November, tell us all about it and what people can expect?
Castathon is an annual fundraising event at The Actors Centre, whereby actors get the opportunity to get direct and honest feedback from a leading casting director. We are delighted to partner with FlairBox, whose mission of connecting actors and casting directors aligns so perfectly with the ethos of Castathon. The beauty of this event is that it provides a unique opportunity to get tailored and bespoke feedback from an expert in their field.
How do people donate and stand the chance of winning a 1-1 slot with a Casting Director?
Due to the pandemic, this year’s event will be hosted via Zoom on 5 November, running all day from 10am – 6pm. Participants will be able to book a 15-minute session with a casting director (or book multiple sessions with various casting directors). Tickets will go on sale at 11am on 22 October, and early booking is advised and this event always sells out quite quickly!