Improvising with Chris Heimann and the Young Vic Directors Program

Grace Cordell, a director on the Young Vic Directors Program visited the Young Vic in October to take part in an improvisation workshop facilitated by Chris Heimann. Grace’s travel was paid for by our Go See Fund, part of Reach Out, which aims to support directors based outside of London so they can take part in Young Vic activities and projects.
Grace describes her experience of the (pre-planned) improv workshop…

I was excited by the idea of a workshop purely on improvisation. It’s a lesson that I looked forward to every week whilst training, and now from a directors point of view, I was excited to see how Chris would guide us on how to facilitate this within rehearsal.

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On the tube, I read the initial email through properly- ‘wear movement clothes and be prepared to work barefoot’. The workshop was largely movement based and Chris kept coming back to the balance that needs to be present in order to allow organic response. You must be bold enough to lead, whilst also having the humility to follow. Throughout the session he playfully referred to the magic IF; Michael Chekhov; how Russians think that the English misunderstand Stanislavski.

There wasn’t really the generic meet and greet name game that usually accompanies skill workshops. Chris briefly introduced himself and his work, and then asked two others in the room to do the same, and then we began. Chris’ open nature allowed the room the breathe a sigh of comfortability and jump right in. We started with a warm up that involved individually, listening and responding to our bodies through movement, warming up where and how we wanted to. Following this we got into pairs and were thrown into more specific movement, starting simply with creating and responding to shapes made with our bodies and eventually moving on to fluid movement and then finally into spoken word. The main point that we were reminded of was to respond truthfully, that was our aim and all we needed to focus on. We weaved between partner work and the entire group watching one pair and before each exercise- Chris made sure to remind the group that this wasn’t a performance, there was no judgement, no expectation, the point was simply to respond. I found this extremely freeing, but did feel like the group needed the reminder before every example. Perhaps this was because of the unfamiliarity of the group, or the pressure that often accompanies one off workshops, or simply that the thought that often accompanies improvisation is fear or expectation to be funny, or entertaining, or just something interesting when in fact the only expectation here was much more interestingly, simply to respond to a feeling or sensation rather than a thought.

One thing that struck me about the session was how present I felt throughout. One of the directors expressed the thrill she felt at feeling present today and I think this was shared with most of us in the workshop. There was a lot to take in but only one main focus, to respond, which I think aided the groups ability to really be in the moment. The concept was simple, the exercises were simple and it revolved around truthfully responding. It’s about how you facilitate the actor to achieve this. It’s easy to tell the actor what you want to achieve but it has to come from a place of truthful response for the actor so that it doesn’t inhibit them. You have to find a way to let them find it them-self in order for it to really be truthful.

The 2 1/2 hours felt much shorter and I left the session feeling as though we were just on the cusp- I wanted to see what happened next. The start of the day was a bit nervous and excited, and by the end I felt as though the main thing I’d take away from the day was how beneficial to the process it was to be present and free and non judged, and how easily Chris guided us toward this. I think the most important thing to do in an improvisation session, be it separately, or within rehearsal for a show is to make sure that the actors feel comfortable enough to just respond truthfully and ultimately do nothing else at all. The less thought that goes into it leaves way for more honest reaction through feeling.

Directors Program talks Dramaturgy

The Young Vic Directors Program has recently been deep diving into the world of dramaturgy in British theatre. David Lougmair, who’s facilitating the project, has been joined by David Lan and Bryony Kimmings so far and has upcoming talks with Stewart Pringle and Lyndsey Turner.

David Lan in a workshop at the Young Vic

David Lan in a workshop at the Young Vic. © Leon Puplett

Whilst examining the many ways dramaturgy is practiced and used by established artists working in our theatrical ecology, each workshop has explored different elements of the craft including dramaturgy on productions, dramaturgy in venues, dramaturgy in international work, alongside wider conversations surrounding how the craft is evolving and why the visibility of the role is increasing.

We chatted to theatre maker and dramaturg Zoë Svendsen earlier this year for our Off Book podcast to discuss the important role dramaturgy plays in theatre and how she discovered dramaturgy was part of what she wanted to do. Have a listen below and subscribe on iTunes and Soundcloud.

The Young Vic has been running it’s Directors Program for over a decade, offering young directors a unique opportunity to exchange experiences with peers and be part of a network of talented younger directors, producers and designers.

Find out more about the Directors Program and the opportunities offered across the country.

YV Directors Program goes to York

Last month the Young Vic and York Theatre Royal held a workshop for directors and theatre makers who live and work in Yorkshire and the North East, through the Young Vic Directors Program Reach Out scheme. 

Eight young directors who have been making socially responsive theatre met with York Theatre Royal Associate Artist John R. Wilkinson, Sue Emmas, Associate Artistic Director of the Young Vic, and Imogen Brodie, Director of Taking Part at the Young Vic. The session delved into the work of the Young Vic’s Taking Part department and how the theatre engages with schools, colleges, young people and local residents of Lambeth and Southwark. In particular it looked at the past production of Men in Blue, a community response to Blue/Orange which worked with men who had suffered more than one episode of psychosis.

The day started with some classic exercises to get to know the names of everyone in the room, including ball games used in the original Men in Blue workshopsThe morning session largely focused on the work the Taking Part does within it’s communities and what it achieves with it’s community productions. Imogen talked about the process behind developing several Taking Part projects such as Men in Blue and See Me Now.

Also discussed were the ethics of participatory theatre, what we hope to achieve through it, and who it ultimately helps. The directors then completed some of the exercises used within the development of the Men in Blue project. These included writing exercises starting with the sentences ‘A man is’, ‘Today is’ and ‘I am scared of’. The results of the exercises done during the Men in Blue process actually made it in to the script. The group shared both their responses and the responses of the Men in Blue, and interesting example of how much content you can create through a simple exercise.

The afternoon session focused particularly on Men in Blue and the processes, road bumps and troubleshooting that arose within that particular project. Afterwards the directors paired up and came up with their own ideas for participatory theatre that could have been made in response to Blue/Orange. These ideas, or individual ideas that the directors were currently working on, were pitched to Sue and Imogen. They gave advice on the holes and highs within the concepts before the pitches were discussed and dissected by the whole group. This was an invaluable exercise for the participants in developing an idea into a tangible option.

Imogen Brodie’s top tips to working in Participatory Theatre:

• Make friends with partner organisations
• Make a project as flexible as possible to work with the needs of the participants
• Individualise schedules for participants
• Feed people
• Contact people on mobiles
• Be prepared to do a lot of pastoral work
• Be prepared to give a lot of yourself
• Be open to whatever people bring, no matter how odd or off beam it seems
• Get a brilliant creative team who are interested in other people
• Only do this work if you really like people
• Go to them
• Have the same standards and creative ambitions for the work as you would for professional work
• Have a sense of humour
• Remember this is not their job
• Be mindful of language and people’s frame of reference
• Be super organised
• Know what you want people to get out of it and make sure that happens
• Don’t be a dick

Reach Out is a Young Vic Directors Program initiative that runs a range of activities for directors across England who live and work outside London. Some take place at the Young Vic and others are run in association with theatres we are either touring work to or have ongoing relationships with.

Keen to attend a future Reach Out event or interested in joining our Genesis Directors Network? Read all about the Directors Program and the opportunities it offer.

About the Genesis Foundation

The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.

Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.

The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.

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Director / Writer ‘speed-dating’ with Theatre 503 ❤️️

This month the YV Directors Program ran a ‘speed-dating’ event in collaboration with our friends at Theatre 503Directors who had directed one to two shows were encouraged to apply and were paired up for short conversations with writers from Theatre 503’s development programme.

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Director / Writer speed-dating with Theatre 503. Photo by Beanie Ridler.

The idea behind the event was to give writers and directors an opportunity to find new collaborators and partnerships for the future. Each pair met for a five minutes chat, before moving on to the next partner at the ding of a bell. At the end of the session there was a longer chance to talk to everyone more informally.

Ben Mills, who facilitated the workshop had the idea after attending a similar workshop for director / designer relationships:

I’d previously attended one of the Director/Designer speed-dating sessions organised through the network. It was a brilliant way of getting a snapshot of people you might want to work with – and who were clearly also interested in meeting new collaborators. So when I was considering what I might want to organise, doing something similar, writers was the first thing that jumped to mind.

As a director who works mostly in new plays, I’ve learnt that the best collaborations come out of strong relationships between writers and directors. Finding writers whose plays you like is obviously the first thing you look for, but having a shared ethic and attitude – basically, a more personal connection – is just as important. But it can be a slow process meeting writers in the early stages of their careers – particularly ones from outside London.

The response from people on the night was fantastic. Blitzing through 22 quick-fire chats is intense, but there was a lovely energy in the room. And I’ve heard from many attendees that those brief conversations have continued since the event, some turning into collaborations already!

Keen to attend a future event or join our Genesis Directors Network? Read all about the Directors Program and the opportunities it offer. 

About the Genesis Foundation

The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.

Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.

The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.

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The Genesis Future Directors Award 2018 is now open for applications!

Applications are now open for the Genesis Future Directors Award 2018, and this year we are specifically looking to strengthen our commitment to diversity by calling for applications from D/deaf or disabled emerging directors, and emerging directors who want to work with a cast that includes D/deaf or disabled actors. If you’re interested in applying please read on for guidelines and a step by step overview of the application process! 

George Ikediashi, Kamari Romeo & Rebecca Root in The Bear The Proposal at the Young Vic © Ellie Kurttz (2)

2017 Genesis Future Directors Award winner Lucy J Skilbeck’s The Bear/The Proposal at the Young Vic. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

The Genesis Future Directors Award at the Young Vic 2018

The close relationship between the Genesis Foundation and the Young Vic dates back over more than 10 years. The generous support we have received has been crucial to establishing and maintaining our work with directors which is at the heart of everything we do.

The Genesis Future Directors Award enables us to identify, support and nurture a director to explore their craft and stage a production in the Clare Theatre. The Award is aimed at young and / or emerging directors who have demonstrated a talent for, and commitment to, directing but have had limited opportunity to make work.

THE AWARD

The Young Vic has a deep commitment to diversity. This is seen in the shows we create and present, as well as in the people we work with. We know that UK theatres have a long way to go to engage with and speak to the full range of experience of the people living in this country. We want to do what we can to change that.

To help us be as inclusive as possible, our programming aims to embrace diversity, difference, ambition and excellence. In 2018, the Genesis Future Directors Award will be an opportunity for the Young Vic to meet and work with D/deaf and disabled directors, designer and / or actors.

We would like to receive proposals from:

  • D/deaf or disabled emerging directors
  • Emerging directors who want to work with a cast that includes D/deaf or disabled actors

Non-disabled directors should be able to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and access in their previous work, even if they have not yet directed a piece of fully integrated theatre.

The selected director will have the opportunity to rehearse for four weeks on a play for the Clare Theatre. The production will be part of the Young Vic’s programme and will be fully supported by the Young Vic’s creative, administrative and production teams. The director will receive a fee and the actors will be paid a Young Vic company wage. The award will conclude with 12 performances to a paying audience in spring 2018.

The director will be supported by a full creative team including producer, designer, lighting designer, sound designer and stage management team, as well as a casting director. They will also be mentored through the full preparation and rehearsal process by the core creative team at the Young Vic, as well as an external mentor.

Where appropriate, directors should consider creative approaches to making the show accessible.

The emerging director (whether D/deaf, disabled or non-disabled) should:

  • Have already demonstrated a talent for and a commitment to directing
  • Have directed at least one professional production but are at an early stage of their development as a director
  • Demonstrated a commitment to originality and a desire to expand their understanding of theatre practice
  • Be fascinated by the actor’s process and the director’s role in it
  • Be resident in the UK
  • Be available to direct the production in spring 2018

You do not have to be a member of the Young Vic Genesis Directors Network to apply but we encourage you to join.  You can find more information on the Directors Program at the Young Vic here.

HOW TO APPLY

STAGE ONE

Please choose a play and provide a single A4 page that covers the following:

  • Your initial ideas for a production of the play
  • Your ideas for your creative team and how they would help deliver your vision

The play should be an existing text with a production history. It should not be a new play, an adaptation or a play that needs dramaturgical work. You will need to achieve your production with a maximum of three actors. The production should not require supernumeraries, a community chorus or equivalent.

We are most interested in your initial ideas for the production – please feel free to express your ideas in notes, bullet points, diagrams, stream of consciousness etc. We encourage you to use whichever form best suits your ideas and approach.

Please also send CV (see below for format).

The deadline for applications is noon on Monday 12 June 2017.

If you have any availability issues please let us know at this stage and we can do our best to accommodate your needs.

Please send your application addressed to Sue Emmas at directorsprogram@youngvic.org with THE GENESIS FUTURE DIRECTORS AWARD in the subject box.

STAGE TWO

Directors are invited to present a Lightning Talk; this is a presentation that gives each director 10 powerpoint slides for 15 seconds each with accompanying commentary.

The Lightning Talk should give a flavour of:

  • Your past work
  • Your response to, and initial ideas for, your chosen play

If you are D/deaf or disabled and a Lightning Talk is not a format that will best communicate your ideas please let us know and we will discuss with you the most effective way for us to find out about your proposed play.

Also let us know if there are adjustments we should consider making. This might include: hearing loop, BSL interpreter, quiet environment, longer presentation time, for example.

We will confirm time slots for Lightning Talks on Wednesday 14 June.

The Lightning Talks will take place between 10am and 5pm on Friday 7 July. If you have specific availability issues please let us know in your Stage One application.

You will need to submit your Lightning Talk by midday on Monday 3 July. This should be sent to Kirsten Adam at directorsprogram@youngvic.org.

You will also need to send an electronic copy of the script and ideally, you should know that the rights for the play are available in principle.

STAGE THREE

Following the Lightning Talks a small group of directors will then be invited to meet with David Lan, Sue Emmas and other members of the Young Vic team on afternoon of Thursday 20 July.

If you have any questions or queries please contact Kirsten Adam on directorsprogram@youngvic.org or Textphone 020 7922 2805. 

We are very happy to talk through the process and if you would like to discuss the format or the timeframe of the application process please get in touch. 

If you would like the guidelines in a different format please let us know.

Clare Dunne and Solomon Israel in Dutchman at the Young Vic. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.jpg

2016 Genesis Future Directors Award winner Ola Ince’s Dutchman at the Young Vic. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.


About the Genesis Foundation

The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.

Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.

The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.

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About the Young Vic

The Young Vic based in Waterloo in London produces classics, new plays, forgotten works, musicals and opera, and tours widely in the UK and internationally. It has deep roots in its neighbourhood and extensive co-producing relationships with leading theatres all over the world. The Young Vic’s Directors Program provides support for professional directors at the early stages of their career.  It offers free skills workshops and peer-led projects, paid assistant directing roles through the Jerwood Assistant Director Program and Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director Program on Young Vic productions, and our online network, the Genesis Directors Network.

 

Springboard – a week in the YV Directors Program

This past week the Young Vic’s Directors Program held Springboard, a week long series of workshops led by Genesis Fellow Gbolahan Obisesan for emerging directors from across the country.  

During the week participants took part in a series of practical workshops led by experienced directors. These asked participants to consider the balance between their creative ambition on the one hand and the skills and responsibilities of a director on the other.

” The week was curated to allow access to established theatre makers with the broadest approach toward making theatre, allowing the directors to cultivate an eclectic practical knowledge of how different artists utilise their unique artistic and technical talents to make great theatre.”
        – Gbolahan Obisesan

Workshops were led by Ramin Gray, Nadia Fall, Kirsty Housley, Sacha Wares and Richard Twyman, with topics ranging from the director/designer relationship, devising, verbatim theatre and more. The directors visited Bijan Sheiban’s rehearsal room at the National Theatre and observed rehearsals for Barber Shop Chronicles. They also attended Life of Galileo at the Young Vic and Salomé at the National Theatre.

“As the years roll by, connecting with young directors coming innocently at the problem of how to make theatre fresh and powerful is a healthy corrective. It’s a springboard not only for them but also, I found, for myself as I walked back up The Cut, invigorated.”
        – Ramin Gray on the Directors Program

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David Lan in session at Springboard. Photo by Leon Puplett

The week finished with a workshop led by our artistic director David Lan who led a conversation about what it means to be an artistic director, what he looks for in his programming and whether the term ‘director’s theatre’ actually means anything.

“I want the voices heard here to need us. If they can be heard at other theatres, let them be heard at other theatres. I want to do the things that if we don’t do them here, they won’t be done.”
         – David Lan on programming for the Young Vic.

The Young Vic has been running it’s Directors Program for over a decade, offering young directors a unique opportunity to exchange experiences with peers and be part of a network of talented younger directors, producers and designers.

Find out more about the Directors Program and the opportunities offered across the country.

Gbolahan Obisesan is generously supported by the Genesis Foundation.
About the Genesis Foundation
The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.
Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.
The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.
genesisfoundation.org.uk

Young Vic Directors Program

The Young Vic Directors Program has been running for over ten years, offering emerging directors a unique opportunity to exchange experiences with peers and be part of a network of talented directors, theatre-makers and designers working and living in the UK.

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Intro to Directing session. Photo by Helen Murray.

As the only scheme of its kind, the Directors Program provides proactive support for professional directors at the early stages of their career, offering a range of opportunities to help directors develop their craft. These opportunities and activities include skills workshops and projects, including paid assistant directing roles through the Jerwood Assistant Director Program and Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director Program on Young Vic productions, and our online network, the Genesis Directors Network.

There are also two opportunities, supported by the Genesis Foundation, aimed at developing directors at different points of their careers. The Genesis Future Directors Award enables us to identify, support and nurture a director to explore their craft and stage a production in the Young Vic’s Clare Theatre. The Genesis Fellow is a two year role at the Young Vic where they work alongside YV artistic director, David Lan.

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The Young Vic’s Genesis Fellow, Gbolahan Obisesan, leading Intro to Directing.

In the last two years the Directors Program has expanded its activities with Reach Out, to ensure directors based outside of London across England and Wales have the chance to access the same opportunities.

Past directors who have been part of the Directors Program include; Rufus Norris, Carrie Cracknell, Natalie Abrahami, Joe Hill-Gibbins, Matthew Xia, Gbolahan Obisesan and Tinuke Craig. Current directors include Ola Ince and Bryony Shanahan.

You can hear more about some of these directors’ experience and how the Directors Program has developed their careers on our Off Book podcast, available on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Directors and Designers can join the Genesis Directors Network by signing up online.