Working in a theatre company is just as exciting as everyone imagines it to be. Working with a group of like-minded people creating a performance, all striving for the goal of making something that could change someone’s life for the better. But, whether it happens or not often comes down to funding.
There’s lots of hard work – forming the idea is the easy bit. It must be carefully crafted to make sure the audience will feel totally engaged. The right team needs to be brought on board: dramaturg, performers, stage and costume designers, technicians, musician/composer, director, choreographer et al. Rehearsal space needs to be found. Venues to perform in must be contacted, and contracts arranged. People, props, sets and costumes need to be transported. Insurances paid, publicity made, notices displayed. And the list goes on.
We carefully plan our projects – budgets, staffing, resources, skills. We spend weeks drafting funding applications and then hold our nerve to await the outcome. Will we be successful? Will we get all the money we applied for? Or some of it? None of it? Those plans might have to be changed – Plan B. What if the decision gets delayed? Plan C and then D and so on. It impacts so much. It determines whether we can pay the next month’s office and storage rent, and staff.
It’s rare at Justice in Motion that only one project is taking place at a time (we like to be ambitious). So imagine the above being repeated for another show in development and a further show re-touring, at the same time as running an education programme, dance classes, residencies and workshops… It can get full-on sometimes.
We get lots of amazing feedback from our shows, workshops and residencies, you can see examples all over the website. This is important to us. We need to know that our work is, well, working. These comments are one of the ways we show funders that we are worth it.
Because none of this would happen if it weren’t for funding. In the UK, most performing arts companies apply to local councils, grant aiding trusts and foundations, and the Arts Council of their region for the money to make, present and tour a show. They will also be appealing for sponsorship and donations and we are very grateful for the sponsorships and donations we have received over the years, which we couldn’t manage without.
So, being a theatre company is great but it’s a very hand-to-mouth operation. We have brilliant ideas, we are inspired to make shows, know how and where to present them, but are completely reliant on funding before we can start anything.
Being a theatre maker is a vocation you are drawn to by an innate passion. There are lots of people and companies who have given up their theatre career in the last couple of years because the sheer struggle of trying to survive has been too tough. Perhaps more will go that way in the future, but we still have a lot of stories we want to tell and (funding in place) we’re ready to perform them.