Mercury Theatre Colchester has today announced an extension of three dedicated talent development programmes for promising and innovative Playwrights, Producers and Directors from the East of England to create and develop work with leading theatre-makers.
The extension is part of the organisation’s commitment to supporting theatre practitioners across the region by delivering individual, nine-month programmes from July 2023 to March 2024. The initiative offers successful applicants an extensive opportunity to work alongside industry-leading mentors to gain experience of working professionally in the industry. Each programme has been designed to nurture future talent and is composed of three key dimensions to empower the mentees to discover, develop and nurture talent in their own careers. The previous cohort’s evaluation statistics highlight that PPD beneficiaries have enhanced employability by 60% by engaging with the programme.
The theatre’s Mercury Playwrights Programme will support a group of writers, to guide and mentor them through the process of creating their own full-length play or piece of theatre. This will be led by award-winning writer and BAFTA nominee Kenny Emson and will take participants through a two-draft process with one-to-one dramaturgy support, as well as opportunities to participate in a number of masterclasses by industry renowned writers.
Playwright’s alumni and Olivier-award winner (The P Word) Waleed Akhtar said:
“PPD was invaluable. Kenny is a brilliant teacher and mentor. His wealth of experience and his generosity in sharing his knowledge has helped me immensely in my writing practice. The course was conducted over zoom which made the group even more inclusive and accessible. The monthly sessions were a real beacon for me during the dark time of the pandemic. The Mercury team as a whole has really embraced me as a creative, and I will always be so thankful for their support.”
The theatre’s Mercury Directors Programme will support mentees through the full page to stage directing process, co-ordinated by Mercury’s own Creative Director, Ryan McBryde. Directors will receive monthly workshops, exploring staging techniques and rehearsal processes, developing individual artistic styles and practices. As well as participation in a number of directing masterclasses, led by industry respected directors, alongside mentoring, rehearsal shadowing and pitching opportunities.
Director’s alumni Neetu Singh said:
“Being a part of the Mercury directors programme taught me a lot about not just how to direct but also what kind of theatre is popular, important and current. Ryan was giving, open and meticulous in his sessions, I have a real sense of how to plan for and direct for all kinds of productions – especially bigger ones like pantomimes and musicals.”
The theatre’s Mercury Producers Programme will be led by the Mercury’s own Producer, Dilek Latif; providing an overview of the skills and craft of theatre producing, alongside a series of networking opportunities.
This programme will explore making work at a range of scales; learning the specific skills and knowledge involved in mounting a successful production. The five successful applicants will receive monthly workshops exploring the main elements of producing work independently, including setting up companies, pitching, planning, budgeting, fundraising, audiences, marketing, touring and press. The successful producers’ cohort will also have extensive opportunities to take part in a number of producing masterclasses, led by industry respected producers.
Producer’s alumni Bea Svistunenko said:
“Being on Mercury Producer’s programme has helped gain agency over my career and has been a godsend, demystifying crucial skills such as budgeting, pitching, fundraising and marketing. During this course I submitted my first ever Arts Council Project Grant application and it was a success! This may well be the single most useful thing I have done for my career – I couldn’t recommend this course more to those that want to learn how to produce their own work with confidence.”
Ryan McBryde, Creative Director of the Mercury, said:
“Artist Development is always at the heart of what we do at the Mercury. The success of our PPD scheme has proved to us how vital it is that regional theatre’s support local artists and so we’re extending and reaching out for the applications from playwrights, producers and directors at any stage of their career who have a strong link to Colchester and or the wider Eastern region having originated, studied or lived here.
These creative programmes are an integral part of supporting our freelance regional community and creating work for the future. This means that we can continue to be a source of innovation for audiences and artists across the East.
Many of our PPD alumni, our ‘Mercurials’ currently have work in development with us including Matt Gurr (Cowboy – Coproduction with Harlow Playhouse), recent Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting winner Martha Loader (Bindweed), and Tom Murray (NorthStar) recently accepted onto the RSC 37 plays programme. We also have a ‘Mercurial Take-over’ programmed for July in our Studio where knowledge obtained from the programme can be put into practise by presenting a selection of work- in-progress and fully formed productions.
This year, our PPD offer will be enriched by unlocking additional expert knowledge from guest session leaders from our new Associate Companies: Graeae, English Touring Theatre, Paines Plough and Frantic Assembly. Partnering with these extraordinary, world-renowned theatre companies will allow us to broaden the scope of our work and provide further opportunities to springboard artists across our region.”
Antony Stuart-Hicks, Talent Development Producer for the Mercury, said:
“This is a rich opportunity to expand on knowledge, network and strengthen individual frameworks to enhance careers in our industry. Throughout all three programmes, classes will be supported by some of the best writers, producers and directors in the industry; and as I know first-hand from building my career as a commercial producer prior to joining the Mercury, there is no comparison to learning to shape your talent and your art with such supportive feedback from a broad variety of talented professionals.
We are looking for creatives who are bold, ambitious and theatrically daring. To ensure they tell the most dynamic and varied stories, we are particularly keen to hear from applicants who are underrepresented in this industry – whether this be by class, disability, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.”
The three programmes will offer opportunities for collaboration across the three group areas and the theatre is keen to foster new opportunities and creative collaborations across the region, the sector and with industry professionals too.
This cohort of successful playwrights, Producers and Directors will also be provided with mentoring and support from a range of areas from across the Mercury team. This will include access to rehearsal space at the Mercury rehearsal studio, the chance to share and reflect on work as it is being developed and the opportunity to take part in networking and discussion events while crafting new skills and gaining knowledge from industry experts.
Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 16 June 2023.
For more information or to apply please go to https://www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/taking-part/for-artists/