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Artistic director Emilia Teglia: ‘Carry on with your daily job: it’s the source of your story’

Emilia Teglia. Photo: Morgana Porzio Emilia Teglia. Photo: Morgana Porzio
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How did you start off in theatre? 

Touring with a cabaret company when I was 10, followed by acting training from Italy’s top practitioners, mime work in opera and a good deal of street performance. I didn’t know how much theatre meant to me until I landed in London in 1999. I had become homeless and was selling the Big Issue when I heard about Cardboard Citizens. Through them, I got to train with Augusto Boal and learn theatre that was more than mere spectacle.

What advice do you give your students?

Carry on with your daily job: it’s the source of your story and your bridge for creating work that genuinely communicates with your audience.

What would you change about UK training?

Inequality of opportunities. I had the privilege to study in two very different academic institutions: London Metropolitan University and Goldsmiths College. Both have incredible teaching staff: experienced, dedicated and passionate. The British education system and its roots in the static class system means the support for students in terms of post-degree opportunities is often not equal.

What is the best part of your job?

Few other professions rely on a playground environment for success. Everyone involved is required to connect with their eight-year-old self and let their imagination run wild. It’s beautiful. It’s more spiritual than any religion.

And your least favourite?

When a project ends, energy levels drop, endorphins rebalance and the adjustment for body and mind can feel like a comedown from a week at Glastonbury. I think this side of the job is one reason why there is such widespread use of legal and illegal drugs and a sadly high rate of suicide in the industry.

What is the one skill that every successful theatre professional should have? 

Commitment. You can be the most talented performer in the world but if you don’t show up on time and learn your lines, you’re not going anywhere.

Emilia Teglia is artistic director at Odd Eyes Theatre. She was talking to John Byrne

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