How did you start in theatre?
I was born to a Polish and Romanian family and raised in one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas. I was bullied in school and never felt like I belonged. At 15, I joined a theatre because it offered me a place to reinvent myself.
What is your advice for students?
We need new narratives and experiences that empower the most vulnerable. In a world where mainstream narratives normalise hate and fear, and loneliness is an epidemic, I advise students to explore the edges of possibility and not to underestimate audiences.
What would you change about UK training?
We need to prepare students for the harsh reality they will face when they leave. We can do this by co-creating new models of teaching based on students’ experiences, cultures and abilities. We need to make students aware of the responsibilities they have towards audiences as artists and makers. We have a duty to empower students with tools and strategies to survive the challenges of the creative industries in an ethical and collaborative way.
What is the best part of your job?
Working with the artists who will lead the way in the near future. Being surprised, challenged and inspired by their passion and vision.
And your least favourite?
Having to find creative ways to work around the limitations of the education system, in order to offer students the best possible experience.
What is the one skill that every successful theatre/dance professional should have?
Knowing when to listen to criticism and when to ignore it.
Why is participatory theatre company ZU-UK collaborating with University of East London on a master’s programme?
We believe we have a responsibility to support a new generation of makers. Immersive theatre has grown dangerously fast and needs to be approached with care and responsibility. We believe a master’s is one way to contribute to the future of audience experience.
Jorge Lopes Ramos is joint programme leader for the MA in Contemporary Performance at the University of East London and executive director of ZU-UK. He was talking to John Byrne