How can we make training and personal development for theatre practitioners / managers as exciting as the work they have the potential to make

Convener(s): Jennifer Gunstone

Participants: Gillian Hamberton, Zoe Pickering and Lianne Howard-Dace

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

Initially discussion centered on best practice / current schemes and programs.

Examples included:

Paid training in Northumbria run by Interact, where 7 people per year participate in a program designed to bridge the gap between education and non-professional experience with professional practise. The Interact program aims to train and retain people who will stay in the region, it takes performers, designers, stage managers and directors. It’s open to people who have studied or who live in the region that are 18+. It’s a one-year scheme and focuses on practical training with master classes. This was a paid year for the participants, therefore making it pretty unique. 

In Manchester / north west the performing arts development agency (PANDA) runs Show Starter, a program of free master classes, seminars and drop in advice sessions, a mentoring scheme and a new producer school.

Lego Play, which uses play to connect with emotions and talk through metaphorical problems / situations. Was positive and successful as it used creativity and self-expression as a starting point for training, and was very hands on.

An example was given of a Board away day when the Board were taken out of comfort zone and had to use objects like fabric and paper and props to visually describe the company, it was thought to be successful as the participants remembered it as it was not something they would normally do.

Within theatre companies we discussed different ways in which training and development was addressed, we drew out skills audits, yearly anonymous colleague training recommendations (delivered and arranged by the Board) and company supported training and development for staff as examples of good practise within the sector.

Recent graduates training and development

We looked at the problem of unpaid work experience, where recent graduates will often spend up to six months or more assisting and working for free. We thought that this was a huge problem, it prevents so many people being able to follow there dreams due to economical reasons, and does not encourage anyone to value people and the skills that they have to offer.

We thought that this was particularly rife in London where there is so much competition, and was even more serious as living costs were so high.

We also noted that though recent graduates were doing work experiencing and inevitably learning from this there was no support given to them in identifying there learning, and evaluating there experiences to practically develop for future.

Key Skills

We discussed key skills training within theatre, specifically for creators rather than managers or administrators. Using the example of a director working on a large scale show we observed that in any other industry a leader with a huge budget at there disposal, a large staff team and considerable responsibility would be expected to be trained in key skills like motivating and getting the best out of people, conflict resolution and aspects of project management. Why is it that we train our managers and administrators in these skills in theatre but shy away from bringing non-creative aspects of management into the role of the creative visionary? Further more how would training of this nature be specifically designed and delivered for a creative audience?

How training is currently delivered / devised

We discussed that training within the sector can be very dry and static, we recognised that a training session was often only as good as the trainer delivering it, and that often trainers simply weren’t engaging. We felt that practical hands on training worked best with theatre professionals, though acknowledged that sometimes there is simply a lot of information that needs to be delivered and this can be difficult to make really interesting.

It was observed that the corporate world is increasingly using companies who use drama and theatre techniques to do there training, but that the theatre sector doesn’t exploit what it does best to make training more interesting, engaging and digestible.

Ideas for future / next steps / concluding observations

National audit of professional development opportunities  / training within the theatre sector

How are trainers trained and how to draw out what training methodologies work best for theatre professionals and practitioners?

Is there a London problem? Within the regions is there less exploitation of young practitioners due to less competition?

Do creative practitioners shy away from formal training, as they don’t like to be bound by structure? If so how can we develop a model of training that is responsive to their development needs?