A US producer has founded a female-led theatre company in the UK to champion underrepresented stories through a mix of bursaries and produced work.
Jessica Rose McVay, who has worked primarily in New York, has established 45 North, and has announced a series of shows for 2020 that will run in London, Edinburgh and Australia.
At least 75% of creative teams for its shows will be female, trans or non-binary.
McVay said: “45North was created with the primary goal of finding and promoting new work by theatre creatives who set out to tell stories that are all too often unheard – we want to advocate and amplify the amazing work that is out there when you step away from white-male-dominated narratives.”
She has also secured private investment to launch two bursary schemes for female, trans and non-binary emerging artists.
The larger of the two will be open to writers, directors and theatremakers, and will offer an initial grant of between £1,000 and £1,500, with three to six months studio and office access to create a first draft.
If the resulting piece “fits with 45 North’s core values”, it will then be commissioned by the company and will receive further financial backing of up to £5,000 and a full production.
McVay said the purpose of the scheme would be to ensure artists receiving research and development support are not given an initial grant that is then not pursued further.
“The reason we’re doing it like this is so that we never leave the artists. We’re never saying yes [to something] and then dropping them at the end, so we want them to feel support throughout the entire process.
“I feel really passionate and positive about finding out who is making really great work, but hasn’t got a chance to produce it. They might be doing great scratch nights or great short plays, but they can’t write a full play because they don’t have time if they’re working three jobs to pay the bills.”
The second, smaller scheme will give artists a day in 45 North’s studio in Hackney Downs to research and develop new work, with the option for feedback and support to stage a public showing.
McVay said 45 North’s productions would primarily be staged in the UK, beginning with Gillian Greer’s play MEAT. This will run at Theatre 503 in London in February, and will be followed by a collaboration with theatre company Scripts for Supper on an immersive experience inspired by The Wind in the Willows.
It will also produce four shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and two shows in Australia, including Iskandar Sharazuddin’s Post-Mortem, which ran at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.
McVay will run the company alongside Emily Carewe as creative producer for theatre, and a creative producer for events will join the company in March.
She said her long-term plans for 45 North included securing its own venue and commercial producing shows in the West End and on Broadway.