The Future of Performing Arts – Q&A

Hey everyone. I was recently asked to be part of a conference to discuss the future of performing arts, and I thought the questions were brilliant. So I wanted to share them with you as a blog post, to get you thinking! Plus I’ve included the answers I gave in the panel discussion –

1)  How can youth arts and arts education play a role in creating a more diverse and inclusive arts industry?

Great question. Arts education is very important for everyone. Arts can communicate and be a discussion for so many things. It can tell individual stories and explore characters, human rights and climate change. Art can reflect big world issues.

For me telling stories is a way of having a safe space to work things out about the world. Arts can bring people together to do that and it is a very special and valuable experience for everyone to have. Arts education and youth arts play an important role in making sure that every young person can explore themselves creatively. Sadly this is not the case with all youth arts work.

Could you tell us about your route to becoming a professional writer and performer?  How did arts opportunities in school and alongside it support you to develop as an artist and move into professional work? 

Opportunities made my career and they still do today. To get an opportunity you do have to put your hand up. But don’t be afraid of doing so. 

2)  I’d like to discuss able-bodied actors playing disabled characters (and winning awards for doing so). What’s your perspective on this debate?  Should able-bodied actors take on these roles? 

This is a challenging question and a question that I have been thinking about a lot over the last few years. Personally I can see a problem in the disabled narratives in theatre and film. Which stops disabled people getting those disabled roles. For me  I would like to ask what are we aiming for? Do we want disabled actors just get disabled roles. Or do we want to see a disabled James Bond, a disabled Oliver Twist, a disabled person in a Marvel film, which reports are saying we are very close to.

I think there is a problem with the disabled narrative, which stops disabled people getting disabled roles because a large chunk of disabled stories doesn’t enable a disabled people to play the role. I think it goes much deeper than casting. I think it is a narrative issue as well. We need disabled writers, disabled producers as well as disabled actors.

3)  What kinds of support mechanisms have enabled you to work professionally?  What advice would you give to others about starting out and finding their support mechanisms, networks or communities? 

Find a community and love it. See what you can learn. Meet your work colleagues and have creative explorations with them. Community doesn’t have to just be local, there are online communities too, so distance and accessibility can be gotten over.

There are so many people out there ready and willing to connect and support others, you just have to look for them, and that can be as simple as going online and searching for the kind of people you want to find to connect with and work with. Community and support is so important right now, so let’s not lose that because of social distancing.

4)  What does the performance industry of the future look like?  Where do we go from here? 

I think we need to create work on and off line and create the new normal with everyone in the core of the new world. I think adding online performances and workshops would actually make this work more accessible than ever before.

A lot of us are more comfortable staying at home right now, and working from home, so moving this world online makes more sense, and it can be a great new way of starting conversations and building new relationships and connections. Performances can be livestreamed or recorded and shared online which would cover both online and offline audiences.

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