5 Things I Learned About The London Theater Scene At My Social.
Now that was fun.
So, I’ll admit. I’ve done about a dozen of my “socials” around the world over the past 10 years and five minutes before the start of each and every one, I panic. And I think two things:
- “I know we have a ton of people on the RSVP list, but what if no one comes?”
- “What if everyone DOES come and no one has any fun?”
You’d think I’d have learned by now this simple truth . . . when you put a bunch of passionate theater people in a room, you can’t NOT have fun.
That’s why our London social this past Tuesday was a blast, as you can see in these photos. Old friends were reunited. New friends were made.
I even gave three people March 15th deadlines for their projects and told them they had to email me to let me know they’ve accomplished their goals by then or I’d publicly shame them right here on this blog. (You know who you are. I haven’t forgotten. Tick tock, mates.)
And most importantly, I know several folks that scheduled follow-up coffee dates to talk about how they can work together.
That’s the coolest. In fact, someone asked me what my goal was for throwing the social . . . and I said, “That a lot of people get together for coffee afterward.”
But I lied.
That wasn’t my only goal. The truth is, one of the reasons that I bribed all these smart, talented, and driven Brits with free drinks is because I wanted to learn about the emerging London theater scene!
And learn I did. So here, in no particular order, are five things I learned about the scene . . .
1. THEY’VE GOT MORE $ FOR SHOWS.
More than one emerging producer came up to me and said they loved working in London because it was easy to get $10-$15k grants to do small shows. It just sounded so simple. And it sounded like that kind of cash could produce our equivalent of an Equity Showcase here in the states. We’ve all heard about how the big behemoth theater companies like The National get great governmental support, but it sounds like it trickles down to all levels. It’s like the government knows that supporting emerging producers is smart because Producers who produce hire hundreds and hundreds of people (if not more) over the course of their career. Investing in them actually helps stimulate the economy and the arts.
2. THEY’VE GOT LOTS OF AMERICANS THERE.
I was shocked to hear as many American accents amidst all the small talk. It seems that several of them (most who crossed the pond for undergrad and graduate degrees) knew something we don’t (See #1). They’re probably going to curse my name for revealing the big secret (sorry, guys), but they all seemed to LOVE living and working in London town. One of my favorite answers to my query of why they enjoyed being there so much was, “The theatrical history in this town. It’d just such a part of the culture.”
3. THEIR CHALLENGES ARE THE SAME AS OURS.
While sure, there may be more grants, but raising money was a big concern. They were talking about finding agents, finding directors, getting Producers to read their scripts . . . or for the Producers in the room, finding writers with great scripts! (We hooked a few people up for sure.) So for all of your Theater Makers, wherever you are, I’ve never felt more confident in saying this . . . You are not alone. And I promise that we’ll keep doing these kinds of things in order to unite this tribe of Dream Makers.
4. THEY LOVE BROADWAY.
Even though the UK is the home of Shakespeare and some of their theaters were built before we even had a country, they’ve got tremendous respect for what we do here in the US and on Broadway. They follow it closely, which was impressive considering how far away we are and that several of them had never been. But one of ’em knew more of what was going on than I did. (Special thanks to the internet for making it feel like you can cross an ocean with a click of a keyboard.)
5. THEY COME FROM AWAY.
I met Theater Makers from Korea, Paris, Germany, Ireland, and all over the continent. I always forget how close these other countries and cultures are when I’m in the heart of London. The city feels like Grand Central Station but for theater, which makes for a richer and more diverse output of stories and points of view. The pitches I heard had more variety than any other place I’ve been.
Oh, and there’s one more thing I learned . . . theater people . . . no matter where you go . . . are just plain terrific people. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? To work in the theater, you must be collaborative. Your job (which you love or you wouldn’t do it) depends on your ability to talk to other people, work with other people, challenge other people, and take a big ol’ bow with other people. So of course when you put theater people in a room good things happen.
And I’m so glad that all of these terrific London people came to the social. And I hope many coffees are had.
We’ll be doing more of these socials in 2019. Because I like them. And because I learn from them. And I hope you do too.
And let me know if you’ve got a lot of theater folks in your town that could use a reason to get together. Maybe I’ll come to socialize with you! Just email me here.