The Old Vic is to open up its talent development arm to people of all ages for the first time, as part of an overhaul which will also see the theatre launch a space dedicated to the creation of new work.
Old Vic New Voices, which is described as the arm dedicated to talent development, education work and community projects, has previously had some restrictions on the ages of artists who can work with the department.
This has meant people over the age of 30 have not been able to apply for some projects.
However, from this year it is allowing anyone of any age to apply to work with the division in an attempt to redefine its definition of “emerging artists”. The change is also in response to feedback it has had from older artists keen to work with OVNV.
Steve Winter, director of OVNV, explained: “We have always tried to be open about age anyway, but emerging artists can be emerging at any time, so now everybody is welcome to apply for any strand. It’s something we have been questioned about on a number of occasions – why do we have this strict age limit? Actually that restriction has been mostly put on us by funders. But this year we feel it only fair to respond to what people have told us, which is ‘I am a 38-year-old writer and I want to develop my skill as much as anybody, so why can’t I apply?. Now you can.”
Winter said this year’s OVNV is different because it will not work on a “project-by-project” basis, as in previous years.
He said OVNV will invest in “nurturing artists over a whole year”, and highlighted OVNV Lab, a new space allowing artists to “brainstorm, network or devise”.
“The past model has been sporadic, with short, sharp bursts of activity with its projects, that absolutely had an end goal. But this year is more about offering a space for a whole year so people can use it any way they want,” he said.
Artists who want to make use of the space, which will be based in Clapham and open six days a week, will have to apply by downloading an application from its website.
Winter said: “A process for artists is as important as an end product and not everything will result in a performance and a neat outcome. But how wonderful would it be to have a space to try things out? That is what most people need to move a project forward one way or the other.”
Winter added that the space will host a new “community company”, which will run over three years and will “explore shared social issues” and is aimed at “empowering participants with the skills and platforms to express themselves collectively”.
This year’s OVNV will also see 20 writers commissioned over two years to pen new work. These writers will be mentored by professionals associated with the Old Vic and Winter said some of the plays will be performed as part of an OVNV season in the West End.
Other initiatives as part of this year’s OVNV will include Eversheds Twenty, which will see 20 actors mentored by professionals so they “have a better opportunity to succeed in a highly competitive industry”, and funding to allow new work to “get off the ground at the research and development stage”.
Winter said he hoped the 24 Hour Plays would return too, but said nothing has been confirmed at this stage.