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What is the point of theatres?

Issue: WHAT IS THE POINT OF THEATRE?

Convener(s): Kate CHAPMAN

Participants: MARTIN SUTHERLAND, NATHAN MILLER, CHRIS NEIL, KEVIN FEGAN, MICHAELA BUTTER, MARTIN BERRY, HANNAH STONE, JULIAN HANBY, TERRY SQUIB,

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
– when Scotland and Wales have national theatres without buildings, is it more dynamic and economically viable to support comapnies which present work in a variety of different kinds of spaces? Do buildings simply soak up funding on maintenance and staying open?
– We need the infrastructure of theatre buildings as the sources and supporters of expertise in technical aspects of theatre, design, making, building etc. Without these bespoke spaces, we will lose the essential artistry and magic of certain kinds of theatre.
– Theatres can be porous and can make greater effort to engage with the theatre making community and with audiences. e.g Royal and Derngate increasingly working outside their building as well as within their building. Audiences do not necessarily cross over. R and D conscious of the need to stop the theatre building from being a fortress.
– Can audiences be more involved in programming and commissioning decisions in a similar way to touring circuits like Black COuntry Touring.
– Shouldn’t the Arts Council break down their theatre investment so that 50% goes to theatre buildings and 50% to companies and independent artists? This would acknowledge the significance of the independent sector and the dependence of theatre venues on it. We should knock down some of the huge theatre spaces and invest in auditoria which are appropriate for our times.
– There has been a shift in the approach of theatre buildings to  their relationships with artists which has given rise to venues taking companies on board eg York Theatre Royal and Pilot or WYP and Unlimited. There is now more pressure from the Arts Council for theatres to connect to companies and practitioners.
– There is now a greater range of venues wanting to engage with artists and companies – not just producing theatres but also receiving houses and arts centres. Sometimes artists overlook these kinds of venues because they don’t perceive them as having status.
– Theatre artists and companies need to be aware of where they are in their careers and also which organisations its appropriate to have a connection with. Is it the Y theatre rather than Nottingham PLayhouse? Challenge you own aspirations. Be realistic.
– Education and outreach department are just as important as the artistic directors to make a connection with. They may commission more work.
– Examples of theatres providing an umbrella for site specific work in their area and providing marketing and other support to give it a higher profile eg NEAT 11
– How can theatres be places for young people to engage with? They are not getting access to the most dynamic and exciting work.
– Arcola Theatre is an example of a building really engaging with young audiences through technology etc and bringing them in to see traditional work.
– Theatres not only need to ensure that their artistic vision is shared by all staff they also need to evaluate and develop it alongside audiences by casting the net wider and engaging with independent artists as well. Strategies to share the artistic vision.
– Relationship with amateur sector is a missed opportunity. More new work could be made and produced as community theatre or commissioned by amateur companies.

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