labels – a useful tool for portfolio practitioners?

Convener(s): Katherine Warman

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

With the shift towards portfolio careers where the work a person does may vary from day to day, month to month in order to survive, how do we define what we do in order to make ourselves attractive collaborators/ employees to other theatre practioners and producers? 

We pretend to be one thing for a while to rub along nicely with others. Some theatre makers don’t know what to label themselves to meet those who might be making theatre..

Flexibility in a label; flexibility in your career.

How do I make my ‘Creative Core’ visible i.e definable when it can manifest itself in three different ways as actor, director, devisor sometimes?

Are the Paradims shitfting? (When there is a known framework that then shifts and then there is chaos before a new framework is formed). The group felt that in certain sectors of the industry the way we work as collaborators is changing and therefore how we define ‘roles’ becomes looser so our labels as practitioners may change.

It is okay if you make your own work to say you are many things, but when you are freelance you must be aware the industry is a market place where your skill set needs marketing. Suggestion – have 3 different CV’s. Not so useful though when referring others to your website and you have three different areas within which you work. Their perception as employers might be to think your skills are ‘watered down’.

We are all happy to see each other in a variety of ways i.e to have many different ‘labels’ but companies that are hiring freelances a lot of the time need those working for them to take on defined roles which must be labeled. This is the point where the discussion turned towards the difference between ‘label’ and ‘role’.

A label is something that sticks to you, and which others can put upon you. A role can be a hat that you take on and off and can transfer to other members of a team. Sometimes the label gets to the point where it can’t have another stuck over it. ‘I never found a label I feel comfortable enough to wear’.

We talked about the collaborative process when making a piece of theatre and decided that the shift we had talked about earlier was certainly happening with smaller, newer companies whereby the collaborators’ role’s perhaps shifted to take on different responsibilities throughout the process. This could only happen effectively if a discussion had been had at the start of the process whereby those involved were comfortable with this approach. We talked about experiences where this had and hadn’t worked. This method of collaboration tended to happen where the collaborators knew each other fairly well. In more traditional theatre making environments we discussed the need to be professional and stick to your role, so that ego’s were not stepped upon and a clear structure was adhered to. This works well for some companies but not all. Companies who already had either structures/ method of working and associated roles in place seemed to be able to make theatre successfully.

With reference to the way some theatre is made i.e more collaboratively, some people in our discussion wondered how to define yourself in a neat and professional way, when labels and the responsibilities of those labels seemed to be changing somewhat.

‘We could call ourselves theatre practitioners’.

‘But that seems a bit vague’.

Having a label works in your favour to progress along certain career pathways such as directing. Some directors in our discussion were worried about acting in case they this detracted from their perceived skills or commitment to being a director.

Roles vs. titles/labels. I am everything – the sum of all roles!