Battle Cry for the Theatremaker
Updated: May 9
I make theatre using my own resources. I come up with an idea, rehearse it, find a suitable platform and then sell tickets how ever I can. I have no regular team, I've never used a set, sound or costume designer and I generally operate the lights myself. I write, produce, improvise, teach and choreograph. I’m also quite deft at finding cheap props from Amazon and can make trailers, posters and gifs; plus I know how to remove red wine from a costume: use white wine.
I'm not rich and don’t come from money (can you tell?), and I don't possess the urge to climb a career ladder either, nor become a prolific artist and curiously I've never applied for public funding. I just make theatre. In a room. Any room. I theatricalise my idea and put it in front of an audience. For the most part my work manifests on a live platform, others may end up online, or like now as an article.
I’ve staged work in New York, Toronto, London and Edinburgh; and in 2018 I made an online interview series with Digital Theatre that's streamed into schools around the world. I've directed art gallery films, commissioned an American playwright with an independent venue in London, and I've devised a new play with the same team over three years. Oh, and everyone's always been paid.
Sounds professional, eh? Well it is. So who am I? Well, I’m definitely not 'fringe' as this is used as a reductive term these days (be honest) by the misinformed to appropriate actors who must surely be aiming for The Centre. Nor am I commercial. No. I am an independent Theatremaker (sorry David Hare). And you won't have heard of me. Because I don't exist. At least not under the regular terminology of director, producer, actor or writer as they don't really represent my skills set anymore so I rarely use them.
Theatremakers are like the Where's Wally of the arts. We're here, but you have to look really hard. We'll pop up at festivals (a lot), but you’ll rarely see us on the popular stages as our transient nature could be utilising cabaret or dance one week, and then borrowing from the conventions of mime or puppetry the next; and that's hard to mainstream using the regular ways of producing. Maybe we're indefinable?
So, why did we manifest? By the continued slashing of budgets, changes of policies within funded theatres and the ever-persistent commercial sector sucking up the air through the prism of nostalgia and film? It's a theory. How about our extended periods of unemployment as we wait for heavy-penciled jobs to turn into half a day's work? (#actorslife) What about that devious myth that there are too many artists in the industry? Couple that with the cold-hard truth of not enough affordable rehearsal spaces, outlandish financial demands on our already delicate reality, and how long was it really going to be before we finally grabbed hold of the reins? Again.
In the same way the Actor-Manager morphed into the Director, The Theatremaker is actually a concentrated version of the desires of the actor, an aggregation; and this seismic evolution/revolution was born from our exclusion from too parties for when we should be the hosts, we have been appointed as the caterers. But The Theatremaker roams freely, ignoring these (mostly) imaginary firewalls and not only have we found a new voice, we've also discovered that the Theatre itself needed us to change before it too became a pre-packaged circus by self-appointed lion tamers.
Now we no longer spend our days waiting for permission to cross the rubicon to that utopian centre. No. We have walked off down the road and created our own industry; and us Jill and Jack of all trades are fast becoming the majority.
Maybe one day our dirty ways will be studied in schools, paving the way for more like us? God I hope not. How awful a day that would be, to become an educated rebel.
So, let it be known: the theatre has been re-occupied by its original tenant, The Maker of Theatre. And if you're craving some freedom, come join us off the radar and help plough up the stalls, erase an interval or two and tie some knots in the curtains. You'll learn on the job as you tear the tickets, serve the drinks, bring up the lights and then go break everyone’s heart with your self-penned aria.
Yes, it's back to the old ways: make a show, sell a ticket, make money, make new show.
Spread the word: the Theatremaker is now The Centre.
Alex Boxall in 'WARPED' by Martin Malcolm. Photo by Richard Davenport