In the 18 years since Combined Theatrical Charities, known as Acting for Others, revitalised its fundraising activities by persuading almost every theatre in London and throughout the country to hold bucket collections during the last weeks of October, we’ve collected and shared the astonishing sum of £3 million with our member charities, who provide financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Theatre has been a gig economy for ever. Almost everyone in theatre will go through a period of difficulty at some point. One or more of the 14 member charities will be there to help you get through, or get yourself back together, when they are needed. Who knows when you will be the one to need help? Performers, creatives, front-of-house, backstage crew: all receive support when you need it, whether it’s through retraining for dancers, financial help through illness, mental stress or advancing years, or support for nursing home fees, at Denville Hall or elsewhere.
In recent years, the bucket collections have raised about £250,000 a year, but in 2019 we only narrowly topped £200,000. I don’t think members of the public have become any less generous with their notes, coins and card-tapping. For some reason this year some theatres and shows declined to participate. Why would they not join in making this appeal – the only one our very generous industry makes for its own colleagues?
A few organisations, themselves charities, have said they can’t help others, only themselves. That’s not the law, and not the guidance of the Charity Commission. Many such organisations collect for us every year. We are not collecting for Acting for Others – nor our 14 member charities. We are just the means to our end, which is ‘being there’ for all theatre-workers when they need someone.
Please, everyone in theatre, this is your opportunity to be there for your less fortunate colleagues when we ask you to help us fulfil our supporting roles later in 2020 knowing that support won’t come from anywhere else. Let’s do better than in 2019, and let’s do it in every theatre in the land.
Co-chairman, Acting for Others
While I agree with what Michael Bath says, the problem with quoting Ibsen and Chekhov, among others, is that in translating them they are already adaptations.
A few years ago, The Stage published my letter about the joy of captioned performances provided by Stagetext for deaf people like myself at an ever-growing number of theatres.
Since then, an annoying issue has begun to affect those of us who need to read captions at these shows. To follow a play, I must be alert to both the stage and the caption boxes, but I have become concerned about the annoying trend of unnecessary light shining from mobile phones during performances.
All theatres request that mobile phones are switched off in the auditorium but many audience members ignore this important message and the light distractions continue well into many performances.
I am trying to find ways to help theatres to buck this trend at captioned shows. London’s Royal Court Theatre is taking this matter seriously, but there are still numerous selfish offenders in audiences, some of whom are actually texting or viewing messages on their phones during performances.
What is the solution? I note that no one lights up cigarettes in the audience, so why should they light up mobile devices? Does anyone have constructive suggestions for dealing with this growing problem?
Email address supplied
I note with interest the recent ongoing debate about the low level of pay for freelance creative theatre workers.
For the past 40 years I have worked as a small-scale, freelance theatre designer. As such I have always been a ‘one-man-band’ – designer, maker and painter – on the more than 250 shows I have worked on.
The worst job I ever had was when I spent four months (12 hours a day, seven days a week) creating a large set for the princely fee of £1,500. To make matters worse, every penny spent on the set was deducted from my fee.
Was I stupid to accept this work contract? Of course I was. My reason for accepting: being an artistic and creative person (who lives and breathes theatre), I wanted to express my creativity, so didn’t want to turn the job down.
Can any of your readers beat this story of being a slave to the industry?
Email address supplied
It’s good to hear that Guildhall School of Music and Drama is cutting its audition fees for actors in half.
But considering the extraordinarily high tuition fees, surely schools such as Guildhall should consider the cost of hosting auditions an investment in their own future?
“If you really want to know what being an artistic director is like… It’s lying awake at 1am, understanding that the price of crisps in our bar is a genuine existential question about our organisation’s values, and stressing [as] I really don’t know what the right call is…” – Battersea Arts Centre artistic director Tarek Iskander (Twitter)
“I feel more comfortable on stage than I do off. That’s the weird thing.” – Actor Colin Morgan (Times)
“If one of your first jobs is in the tipping industry and you’re told by your boss to pull your zip down and pull your skirt up to survive, then you start at such a low bar of expectation that, thereafter, nothing fazes you.” – Actor Saffron Burrows (Guardian)
“I truly believe in my own strength, but sometimes I need to admit that I need help. In our work we don’t like to show our weaknesses; it’s a tendency developed so early on in school that we always have to be fine. So it took me a long time to admit when I needed help.” – Dancer Alina Cojocaru (Times)
“People who run theatres: PLEASE find a space for the new. Be braver at investing in makers. Theatre does not always need to be playwright driven. Please support collaborative, process led, ‘made’ theatre.” – Producer Jo Crowley (Twitter)
“When she showed me her [Bruntwood prize-winning] script, I told her it felt a bit pretentious and expensive to stage. But what do I know? She won. She’s never taken my advice.” – Comedian Jenny Eclair on her daughter, playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell (Sunday Times)
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