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  • Writer's pictureChloe Ashley

Making Theatre Happen: My Journey As a Producer

Anyone that knows me knows that I am absolutely obsessed with theatre. For my 16th birthday, I saw Les Mis for the first time on the West End and literally cried the whole way through because I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience. In 2018, I was lucky enough to go to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time and I discovered the magic of fringe theatre and what it is like to be surrounded by passionate artists for a month. There is no better feeling than witnessing the audiences’ reactions to a show that you have helped to create and I loved having immediate access to thousands of performances, both good and bad. The fringe opened my eyes to a world of theatre beyond the West End and it made me realise that theatre was the only career path that I wanted to pursue. For me, working as a producer balances my skill-set, allowing me to work creatively and logistically simultaneously. I also love excel spreadsheets which is kind of a necessity for a producer so it seemed like the job for me!

Chloe during the launch of the On The Rocks Festival 2018, which she directed (and a slice of Gab's face on the left)

Unsurprisingly, working as a theatre producer over the past six months has been tough at times. Sometimes it really seems as if I am trying to make the impossible happen. There are so many aspects to producing a show that I had never even considered and I find myself learning something new every day which is both amazing and exhausting. At points, it seems as if every one step forward is followed by two steps back, and the imposter syndrome that most young working professionals face is made even worse by the fact that I am negotiating contracts with agents from my childhood bedroom. As a producer, there is a responsibility to keep all aspects of the production running smoothly and to take care of the team, which can sometimes lead to prioritising yourself last.

I have been able to reflect on my own producing practice and the type of work that I wish to create in the future.

Feeling like I needed a bit more guidance and support in my work, I enrolled onto Chris Grady’s Diploma for Creative Producing and it has been the best decision that I could have made for my career. The course has a large faculty of international theatre practitioners who share with us their huge range of knowledge and experience producing theatre all across the world. Through the course, I have been able to reflect on my own producing practice and the type of work that I wish to create in the future. It has been so inspiring to meet like-minded theatre-makers and establish relationships with producers at all stages in their career. Through the course and other networking organisations such as Producers’ Pool, I have been able to create a support network of live-art practitioners who can help when I feel out of my depth or need advice as to what to include in a programming application. Despite the arts being a notoriously competitive industry, I have found the generosity of theatre professionals overwhelming these past few months and the amount of workshops and mentoring available online is incredibly useful to early-career artists. People are so willing to give up an hour of their time to have a coffee and a chat about your work, and being in a position where I have no senior manager to look to for support, this willingness to help emerging artists has been invaluable to my development as a producer.

But then there are other days, the days that make all of the stress and worry worth it.

There are days, particularly when I find myself writing Arts Council funding applications during shifts at my part-time Covid testing job, that I think to myself, ‘Maybe I could have learnt to love an 9-5 job in a bank’. But then there are other days, the days that make all of the stress and worry worth it. The days when artistic directors express excitement about your show. The call-back days when talented actors bring the words to life. The days when you get an email that your funding application has been successful. I am so proud of everything that Gab and I have achieved over the past few months and I can’t wait to get back into the rehearsal room for Selected Recordings of Us this summer and finally show the world what Undone Theatre is capable of!

Selected Recordings of Us is debuting at The Space from 7th-11th September 2021. Tickets are available now.

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