Why StoneCrabs’ Training for Young Directors is Important and how YOU can Help!

There’s no straight road to becoming a theatre director. The route is winding, improvised, long, hard, unpaid and often without promise. It’s lonely – and most of the time completely terrifying – attempting, as a training director, to guide an entire team of artists without any guidance of your own.

Training itself is additionally exceptionally difficult to access. Opportunities are few and far between and entry almost always benefits a certain kind of candidate. This is what makes training with StoneCrabs Theatre Company, in association with the Albany, so precious.

StoneCrabs Theatre Company and charity carefully selects its young directors based entirely on their passion to develop. Entry asks that candidates attend a directing workshop, as well as making presentations on their personal CVs, one-year plans and a play of their choosing. This process ensures organisers are able to select entrants they think will benefit most from the training, and that they provide equal opportunities to all.

Wonderfully, this process also amounts to a brilliantly diverse group of training directors, from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities, ages, genders and varying degrees of previous experience: A very different picture to the usual graduates theatres tend to intake. Candidates are also chosen whose own codes of living match the company’s values, which include: respect, excellence, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration and equality, making for a very friendly and supportive group of artists and collaborators.

Exceptionally, the scheme also runs as an exchange of services, essentially allowing young directors to train free of charge in exchange for their work, making training a possibility for anyone who is passionate enough! This means that StoneCrabs’ organisers and visitors offer their time and expertise from a raw passion to develop young directors and revolt classist systems: an example, truly, for the future of the theatrical universe, which strides to become more equal and accessible by the day.

This year, I am delighted to announce our team of training directors! We are Emily Marshall, Edwina Strobl, Fernanda Mandagará, Chris Davis, Sam Luffman, Bethany Kapila, Alex Prescot, Francine Morgan, Luke Howarth! And I certainly speak for the group when I say that the training StoneCrabs has provided us so far will be invaluable to us for the rest of our lives. We have received the expert training of StoneCrabs organisers Franko Figueiredo, Kwong Loke and Teresa Araujo, as well as the that of visiting artists such as Almiro Andrade, Mariana Pereira and Daniel Goldman to name but a few.

As well as developing our directorial skills, we are also working towards a theatre festival that will take place at the Albany Theatre in March 2017! In doing so we are learning through practice how to organise a professional theatre festival, and are becoming confident in all of the different elements that must go on for theatre to take place! So far we have named and branded the festival, applied for arts council funding, and have been working on methods of marketing and funding the project.

In order for our work to continue however, and for us to create a festival as fully accessible and equal as our training has been, we will be asking the public for pledges and donations. With this money we will be able to pay each and every person involved in the process of making the festival (actors and technicians alike), and if possible with the money we make, we envision a festival accessible to all.

If you would like to pledge to support this process our campaign opens Thursday 1st of December 2016.

Thank you for reading, updates certainly to follow!


Creating equality takes work

Throughout 2015, we’ve heard and read a lot about the current lack of opportunities in Theatre and Arts for those of working class and BAME backgrounds (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic, an acronym used to refer to members of non-white communities in the UK).

Early, in January ’15, Julie Walters hit the pages of the main broadsheets warning that “acting would soon become the preserve of ‘posh’ students because working class people will not be able to afford to pursue it as a career’. And only last week we heard about the BBA Shakespeare database which shows that ethnic minorities hardly get to play the main roles.

In February ’15, The Baftas were heavily criticised for the lack of ethnic minorities and working-class people in the awards. Soon after that, the Acting and Social Inequality Project published the depressing results of their survey which show that only 10% of artists were from a working-class background. Theatre and Arts were “worse than any other comparable occupation” for diversity.

The results were pretty damning. In fact, all one needs to do is to observe what is on at the Theatre and on TV and you can get a clear picture of the current theatre and arts demographics.  More often than not, I feel quite lonely when I go to see theatre: I look around and I am one of the few, if not the only person of colour in the audience. Seeing my reflection on the stage is even rarer. It is rather worryingly that the stories told on stage and screen are coming primarily from a narrow set of voices.

Last September, Viola Davis stated in her acceptance speech as she becomes the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama: ‘the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity”.

And it is as simple as that: opportunity, a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something; a chance for employment or promotion. Why are these so restricted to a small number of individuals from a certain class and cultural background?

Lack of opportunity equals inequality.  And inequality has obvious historical roots, both in the UK and Brazil.  It is one of the bitter tasting after-effects of colonialism and slavery. It is complicated, but it needs to be addressed.

The Arts Council of England has announced a creative case for change, and one of its directives is putting more emphasis on changing leaderships and making employers accountable to this change, even if it means instigating diversity quotas. The BBC is working hard to address the issue and produce work that is reflective of the country’s population. The US is making wider strides in this area, with larger number of TV programs aimed at BAME audiences and with inclusive casting policies. So much so, that the majority of the TV programs in Brazil featuring BAME artists come from the US.


Lack of opportunities for working class and BAME artists is not just rampant in the UK, but also in Brazil.  In Brazil, however, race and social class goes hand in hand, more so than in the UK.  In a recently published article, The Guardian newspaper stated that Brazil is starting ‘to slowly confront the countries deeply entrenched race issues’ as it discusses small changes happening on Brazil’s TV programs who seem to be airing more diverse work.

We don’t have to look just at the arts in Brazil: I was surprised to read that all 39 ministers of President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet are white, except one: the head of the Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality.  Widespread prejudices were made more visible by the reaction to the results of the last presidential election where a very working-class northeast were publicly put down by a middle/upper-class southeast. And yes, I know I am generalising, but why is that, though? Why is it that out of 100,000 university students in Brazil only 10,000 are of BAME origins and working class? And how can we address this inequality and create more accessibility?

Almost three years ago, the introduction of a new policy of positive discrimination means that Brazilian universities are now required to devote a percentage of their admission capacity to poor students enrolled in public schools and to increase the number of university students of African descent. There has been a lot of criticism. One of the biggest Brazilian newspapers has taken a firm editorial stance against racial quotas in universities, holding that a system encouraging socioeconomic diversity would be enough. Critics have regarded quotas as reverse discrimination, or worry that they might incite racial hatred in our imagined ‘racial democracy’, where blacks and whites play side by side in the streets without being shot in the chest.

There is this myth that Brazil is a ‘racial democracy’ and everyone has equal opportunities, but in the past few decades, more and more Brazilians are discovering the truth, sharing their experiences and speaking out on how much race factors into the lives of Brazilians who are not white.

Affirmative actions has its origins in the US in 1961 when the term was first used by Kennedy who introduced a policy whereby government contractors ought to ‘take affirmative action’ to ensure that applicants are employed without regard to their race, creed, colour or national origin. In the UK, throughout the 80s and 90s positive discrimination was widely used by employers in order to create opportunities to those of BAME backgrounds, and, although it has had immense benefits, there is still a lot more ground to be covered, particularly in the arts. Brazil has had anti-discrimination policies since the 1950s, but only in 1988 the constitution made racial abuse and racism crimes. And, despite all these policies, the country still struggles to change attitudes.

Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was astonished to learn, during a visit a few years ago, that Brazilians don’t talk much about the subject, as if racism were not an issue.  “I couldn’t help but notice that race and class are connected in Brazil. I would go to nice restaurants and not see a single black person. Brazil is in denial about the racial issue.” And sadly, I see what she sees too.

Namibia, Não, a new play written by Brazilian Audri Anunciação, deals with such denial in a very intelligent and direct manner; Anunciação presents two black men very well placed in society until the government declares that all citizens of black descent are to be deported back to their country of origin in the African continent. In this setting, the audience is taken through the journey of the two protagonists in a comical but thought-provoking manner, exposing Brazils’ attitudes and inner prejudices.

If prejudices created the mess we’re in, do anti-prejudice actions fix it? More opportunities are needed and unless commissioning and financing are socially and ethnically diverse, nothing will happen.  We urgently need to take responsibility for a more equal society.

The Parable of the Polygons puts it all in a clear and simple way: ‘creating equality takes work. And it’s always work in progress… Reach out, beyond your immediate neighbours’.

Too much talking? May 2016 be a year brimming with tolerance and positive actions.

Franko Figueiredo

*This article was originally published in the November printed edition of BrasilObserver

Connecting StageDirectors with sound

by Rebecca Gwyther

As an essential part of the StoneCrabs Young Directors Programme we are introduced to industry professionals, providing us with talks and workshops that will help us with our knowledge of the industry and our job as a director. Last week Sound Designer Dinah Mullen came in to discuss the tool of sound in our work. Dinah, having worked with StoneCrabs since 2003 with The Real Princess, now does work for theatre, dance, films and audio tours with most of her time being spent with PanicLab.

Perhaps the most important part of our talk with Dinah was finding out exactly what the relationship between the director and Sound designer is. When first having the idea of a show and the possibility of a sound designer, Dinah explains “I want to be involved from the start, unless they suddenly realise they need a designer” as this makes her job easier- she can observe the work as it takes shape and “use sound as early as possible and try it out in rehearsals”.

This helps all aspects of the creative process “helping actors and director think about the connection with sound”. To even get to this stage though, Dinah stresses the importance of what she wants from a director, “lots of references and ideas of the overall design. Sounds even have temperatures and moods so you can give an overall idea of it being hot or cold, having tension or being relaxed. The more information the better”. However, as a director she understands that there are many other things going on and at that moment in time sound may not be at the forefront of our minds so “I’ll always remind directors that I’m here to help them reach their vision”.

Having a sound designer isn’t always essential, and sometimes isn’t within the budget. “Look for BA somewhere like Central or ask someone you know in theatre to recommend someone. You can use Stagejobs Pro but ideally go through word of mouth” is the advice given when asked, “how do you find a sound designer?”. We are also given the advice that if we just need a song or a sound then “to look at Creative Commons” which has filters to find royalty free work.

Some sounds are more complicated to create though, especially when you branch into layering and Foley (a sound that is happening in the space). Dinah explains that “it is the job of the sound designer to be aware of when there is too much sound” and emphasises that silence is important; it often means more to have silence than filling every second with background noise. The technical rehearsal and opening nights are essential, giving an opportunity for notes to be given although Dinah says “often I see the show more than once, especially if they move to a different venue”.

As a group we are impressed with the bizarre ways that Dinah has had to design sound. “I once had to make a sound of someone having their heart ripped out” and as she continues to explain how she used a melon and recorded herself attacking it we know that originality and being inventive is all part of the job! We were conscious of giving the sound designer artistic license to their work, but still wanting to fulfill our ideas so it is suggested to us that we give “suggestions but allow space for an offer. Then give the feedback.”


Dinah & some members of the Young Directors Training Progamme (from left to right: Femi, Katie-Ann, Rebecca, Dinah Mullen, Ria, Devan and Tom)

There are a few last words of invaluable advice that come from Dinah though mainly to be good at communication and to “have a go at Q Lab, this runs shows and can even add video cues. The more you know how it works and observe a sound designer the easier and more cooperative the relationship can be”. There is also a vital element in knowing that “a sound designer won’t be able to do everything at one moment in time”, we have to treat and respect them as artists themselves.

From Dinah’s passion for playing with music and trying things out, the connection between sound and image is what has appealed to her to become a sound designer. She says that “the best results for her come when she can entirely visualise a project”. We’ve been given a lot to think about in terms of sound design and I’m off to have a go on Q Lab before we start casting and meetings early next year!

Listen too Dinah Mullen music and read all about her work here: http://dinahmullen.com/

StoneCrabs Young Directors Trainees 2015-16 are producingHeadways, a festival of short plays at the Albany,  March 2016

5 useful Q&A’s about the Young Directors Training Programme

1) Is there an age limit on joining the Young Directors Training Programme?

No. The Young Directors Training Programme was created to facilitate the development of theatre directors in the very early stages of their career, at whatever age. We are likely to offer places on our programme to people who can show they are committed to theatre making (whatever their background) and who we feel will benefit from training.

StoneCrabs Young Directors in Training: Laura Remmler, Artur Assis and Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu

StoneCrabs Young Directors in Training: Laura Remmler, Artur Assis and Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu

2) Are there restrictions on my choice of play?

Choose a play within our restrictions – they are there for a reason!

The idea is that you will be directing this play for a scratch performance as part of the Young Directors Festival in 2016. You will only be able to afford to work with 2 or 3 paid actors and it should have a running time of 45 minutes, so consider how this affects your choice of play.
My main advice would be to be responsible and realistic in your within your restrictions but remain ambitious and creative. Often limitations encourage the most creative use of resources, so embrace them!


Working from the text – photo by WorkofArtFilms

3) How do I find a play within these restrictions?

If you’ve got an hour or two to spare, go to a library or bookshop and look through the plays keeping in mind your restrictions – only 45 minutes long and with 2/3 actors. Skim over, get a good sense of the play and the issues it deals with and make a shortlist of plays that interest you. It’s always good to have other ideas and options in case the rights aren’t available, which can be horribly disappointing.

Also, check out Nick Hern Books website: http://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/plays-to-perform there’s a clever filter so you can select cast size. You can also explore plays on http://www.stageplays.com

This Wide Night

This Wide Night directed by Lynette Linton 2014

4) What can I expect to learn over the 6 months?

You can expect to learn about production, project management and theatre directing. It introduces artistic and practical management tools for the director and encourages an individual approach, utilizing the director’s own vision. At the end of the programme, the participants put their training into practice by producing a festival of staged readings with professional actors, each participant directing a play of their choice. This way, you see the holistic process of theatre making. As a group you will be responsible for fundraising for the festival which is a challenging and rewarding experience. The best thing about the programme is that it encourages you to dig deep and use skills you didn’t even know you had. Above all, you can expect to learn a lot about yourself as an artist, a manager and team player.

yd 4

Directors in training. Photo by WorkofArtFilms

5) What will I be expected to pay for?

You will need to bring along a notebook and a pen, a packed lunch (or money for lunch) and comfortable clothes. The course does not require any specialist equipment or clothing, just your brain and energy! The funding for the festival itself will come from you fundraising as a group and any sponsorship you manage to secure. It is not expected for you to put your own money into the festival. The course is free of charge and is over 1 ½ days a week for a reason – we want applicants to not be put off by finances and to still be able to work around the course.

Hattie 2

Hattie Coupe and Camilla Gurtler in training with Kwong Loke. Photo by WorkOfArtFilms

If you have any worries or questions please get in touch with Hattie at youngdirectors@stonecrabs.co.uk, our Recruitment Co-ordinator who knows the course from doing it herself in 2013-2014 .

If you have the passion, talent and drive to be part of this year’s Young Directors Training Programme then make sure you get your application in by midday on the 26th August!

Click here to apply.

Young Directors – What does it mean to be a director?


A younger theatre pic

A director is like an architect…

It is hard to begin to explain the kind of impact that StoneCrabs Young Directors Programme is having on all of us. After each session, we feel a mixture of exhaustion and bliss. The work itself develops at such a speed that it leaves us no time to over-intellecutalise anything.

We are learning production and directing at the same time. Our task is to produce a festival and direct the plays that will feature in it. On Tuesdays, we sit down to talk about the production, evaluating the progress we have made so far, as well as planning the next steps towards our festival and future career. We are responsible for everything: fundraising, designing, marketing, printing, programming, copyright, press, casting, venues for rehearsals and the actual production of the shows (props, sets, stage management, etc). The list goes on. No wonder we feel overwhelmed…

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Making a theatre trailer

Theatre trailers have been around for quite a few years now and with social media being very much a part of our culture it is vital that your marketing team has as much online content they possibly can.

Trailer for the Asphalt Kiss (StoneCrabs production at New Diorama Theatre, 2012)

Trailer for the Asphalt Kiss (StoneCrabs production at New Diorama Theatre, 2012)

When I first started making theatre trailers I fell into the trap of pointing the camera at a piece of rehearsals or an extract from the play, pressing record and shooting it all from the same angle. While this type of recording is useful for your portfolio or evidence, if you want to get an Arts Council grant, its not going to get paying customers through the door.

Theatre performance doesn’t communicate through film in the same way it does when your sat in the audience watching it live. No matter how good the play or actors are, when you watch it through a recording it can still feel like watching someone’s GCSE drama performance. I find it quite surprising that even now most productions, West End included, advertise shows in this way.

I think the first thing to remember is that, though you’re making a trailer for a theatre production, your using film to create it, so a good start is to watch lots of film trailers. Obviously watching all the big blockbuster trailers with their huge budgets isn’t going to be very helpful, entertaining but not helpful. So it’s best to concentrate on small independent films across all genres and make a list of what you do like and what you don’t. Personally I love a trailer that hooks me enough that I’m not entirely sure what the film is about but I know I want to go and see it. I hate trailers that just serves as a highlight reel of anything funny or surprising that happens in the film, so that by the time you go and see it there’s nothing left to interest you. This is the same reason I no longer read reviews before seeing a show or film, as too many people seem to think that a review consists of telling you every minor plot detail! Sorry I digress.

Once you’ve decided what you like about a trailer the next step is to ask yourself: What is your production about? What’s the story and how do you want to tell it? What will the lighting and music be like?

With all these elements included in your trailer your potential audience will have a much clearer understanding of what your production is about and, hopefully, be excited to come along.

The first theatre trailer I saw which gave a perfect example of this was for Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein teaser trailer.

National Theatre trailer for Danny Boyle's Frankenstein

National Theatre trailer for Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein

What’s great about this trailer is that in a short space of time it tells you so much. We know both actors will play both lead roles, from the chosen piece of dialogue we know that the line of focus will be on the Creatures search to find a place in his world and that he feels he has a right to do so. Also the look of the picture combined with the unsettling music indicates that the play will be a dark interpretation.

The other strength of the trailer is its simplicity. Two actors talking into the camera mixed together with some brilliant sound design.

Admittedly they would have had a nice sized budget to create this trailer, with it being the national it was probably a very nice sized budget, but the inspiring thing about this trailer is they haven’t relied on expensive set ups or tricks. It’s still relying on all the skills from people involved in the main production.

One more important lesson I learnt from this trailer was: Use close ups. They’re an effective way of adding production value to your trailer and disguising your location, so if you’re clever with the way you shoot you can use one location for the entire video.

Skin in Flames trailer

Skin in Flames trailer

The last bit of advice I’d give for making a trailer would be to approach it in the same way you’re about to approach the production you’re promoting. When putting on a play we rarely have any money but we use those financial restrictions as challenges to come up with creative solutions. We also spend a great deal of time on preparations before rehearsals even start. The same amount of time should be spent on planning your trailer before you start filming.

When we made the trailer for Skin In Flames rehearsals hadn’t yet started, we had no budget and the actors were yet to be cast. As the directors were keen to get the trailer out the same week rehearsals started we carefully planned out an idea that could be shot in one location and wouldn’t rely on seeing the actors faces (we could then add voice overs once rehearsals started) but at the same time would stay true to how the production would eventually look and feel.

I think we managed to produce an engaging theatre trailer that stands out from most but I’ll let you make up your own mind on that one.

Christopher O’Donnell is a theatre director and film maker. He has been an associate artist with StoneCrabs for the past four years and also his own videography company Lucky Number 13.

Stepping stones

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso

In the last year, since graduating from my directors training programme, I’ve discovered more about my identity, interests and ambitions as a theatre-maker than at any other point in the past few years. It’s all at once been a challenging year, filled with questions, doubts and uncertainties, and one of immense clarity, purpose and growth.

During this time of reflection and analysis I accepted a few things: firstly, that I still have A LOT to learn; secondly, that my biggest doubt and uncertainty is in myself as a PRODUCER; and, thirdly, that taking SMALL STEPS can be a good thing. There were also positives: that I want to make work with an international scope (especially Iberian and Latin American), draw on my love of books and create adaptations, follow my interest in the body and voice in theatre, engage with regional theatre-making, and be a profoundly political artist. This may all sound rather trivial, but accepting these things (rather than trying to be overambitious and a blur of everything) has enabled me to move forwards and begin to be a more effective and creative artist.

Thirst directed by Jude Evans | Playground, StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival

Thirst directed by Jude Evans | Playground, StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival

An opportunity arose to apply for the John Fernald Award earlier this year, an award for emerging theatre directors to work with a professional theatre company, in this case StoneCrabs Theatre. It presented me with the chance to confront many of the aforementioned elements head on. The roles included assistant producing and assistant directing, and, to my surprise and delight, on Spanish and Brazilian works. I applied for the award, pouring a huge part of myself into the application – it paid off when I got a call a month later.

I’m currently in the midst of working as Assistant Director / Assistant Producer on Skin in Flames by Guillem Clua, a co-production with Bots & Barrals (a Catalan theatre company led by Silvia Ayguadé) at the Park Theatre, London. It’s a continual learning experience!

Bea Segura & Almiro Andrade in Skin in Flames at Park Theatre

Bea Segura & Almiro Andrade in Skin in Flames at Park Theatre

Working with the production’s co-directors / co-producers I’ve observed how a full-scale Off-West End / Fringe production is shaped and managed from its preproduction stages through to its onstage performance. As part of my experience on Skin in Flames I’ve been careful to document and evaluate the process and the insight I’m gaining into it. There is too much to mention, but a few aspects include: the range and variety of marketing strategies and approaches; the logistics and detail of the get-in and tech period; and the level of coordination needed to liaise with all involved and to deliver the creative product. And that’s just the producing element!

I’ve absorbed the many ways of negotiating an intricate and complex play text: exploratory exercises; table-work; character analysis; teasing out rhythm, pace and underlying energy; space and staging. In fact, the list really could go on. Being in the presence of directors Franko Figueiredo and Silvia Ayguadé, has been a lesson in itself, watching how they build the overall staging of the production, whilst accommodating and working with the actors’ varied approaches to bring out the best and instil confidence them, and overseeing the elements of design, sound and lighting which feed into the process.

What’s simultaneously thrilled and challenged me, is being actively involved in the production, too. I’ve supported the marketing and PR processes, the production meetings, and the rehearsal process. I’ve led on social media activity, press night, and organised promotional photography. And I’ve done voice, text and line work with the cast and actively assisted scene work in the rehearsal room. The buzz and air of anticipation which surrounds everything is exhilarating, whilst the constant impending deadlines are somewhat daunting. By being engaged, proactive and an acute observer it’s been possible to consolidate and expand upon existing skills, along with learning new things and discovering aspects within the directing and producing process that I knew nothing about.

Bea Segura and Laya Martí in Skin In Flames

Bea Segura and Laya Martí in Skin In Flames

The significance of Skin in Flames being a piece of Spanish work is not to pass under the radar. It’s enabled me to thoroughly engage with a text from a country and culture I wholeheartedly love, and to embrace it as a part of my theatre-making identity. It’s a beautiful play, grappling with hard and brutal subject matter, written with great detail and delicacy. I’ve been able to add another piece to my unending theatre jigsaw.

The John Fernald Award and StoneCrabs Theatre have played a vital role in my on-going journey in the world of theatre, for which I have huge appreciation. This experience has helped me to face some of my biggest fears in my theatre journey, and to make positive steps forward in my areas of passion and interest. I look forward to my next role on Tieta. And who knows the next stage beyond that?

Jude Evans

Follow Jude’s future blog articles at The Red Room