Do titles matter? Writer, director, performer, artists, theatremaker.

Anna Farthing, 30 June 2012

Session called by Anna Farthing.

Attended: Bob Harvard, Cara Davies, Jude Merrill, Tom Sherman, Matilda and Riddley.

Summary of discussion:

Tobocco Factory (thankfully) programmes a really diverse range of work, initiated and delivered by all kinds of people, who may identify with a wide range of titles.

Performance art and live art (from Higher Education) have promoted an interdisciplinary approach, rather than specialism.

Amateur companies still tend to use traditional role titles - contemp emerging companies have less defined roles.

Who is responsible? We need a bed... I found a bed...who gets the van to put it in...

Who is responsible for safety? who has the duty of care for the company, for the performers, for the audience?

Where new work is immersive and co-produce with ‘audiences’ and if everyone is a participant - who makes sure it's physically safe. where does that expertise lie?

Issues of possession, hierarchy, salary, treading on toes, collaboration and negotiation. Economics are important to consider.

Are some ACE funded theatres trying to have it both ways. Artistic directors on high salaries... 'emerging' theatre makers being offered ‘space’ rather than wages.

Work in Bristol is often presented unfinished and therefore without the input of specialists in design, lighting, sound, music etc.

Travelling Light often produces devised work. Role holders have ‘ultimate responsibility’ for a specific area (design, text, music, direction, performance) but will also collaborate fully during the devising process. However, this is sometimes difficult to represent for example in the programme.

An actor in training (including in Conservatoire training) should experience all areas of production. Later in life they may take on teaching, directing, writing.

Small scale touring requires everyone to muck in.

In larger companies there is an expectation that new entrants will demonstrate an understanding of professiona roles and responsibilities.

Whatever the scale, clarity of roles and responsibilities is important.

There seems to be developing a lack of respect or understanding of specialist roles.

This may be growing from a culture of presenting unfinished work. Funders fail to recognise specialist skills - the need for a designer, lighting technician etc for R&D.

What may be the most important is self identification. Among the group we were:

An actor (who also teaches)

Undefined - pragmatic - looking towards directing

PhD researcher, performance artist and digital researcher


Director who also produces, writes and occasionally performs.

Some of these self applied labels are affected by stereotypes, either drawn to or reacting against, or are remainders from what people started out as, even if they don't do much of that any more.

Labels should help define roles for the benefit of all, but should not be limiting or exlusive.


director, health and safety, writer, performer, Roles