Audrey Thayer is a programming Director at the Drayton Arms Theatre and we got to find out more about what the role involves and about her new production The Laundry: A play in two parts, by Nicole Palomba and Audrey Thayer, with sections lifted from Matryoshka by Brandon Force.
The three contributing writers graduated from the same university, years apart, and met separately after moving to London. Each explores a facet of women, past, present and future. This is their first collaboration. The Laundry runs from 17th-21st July.
How did you get into being a Programming Director?
I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t exactly something that I sought out. I’d done loads of jobs in theatre before – acting, directing, producing, stage management, dramaturgy, teaching – all in an attempt to figure out what I truly wanted to do. When I was offered the job of Programming Director I realised it combined a lot of my interests together. It’s a bit of producing, a bit of literary management, a bit of marketing, a bit of development and financial management, all rolled into one. So I happily accepted.
What would be a top tip for people who want to get into the theatre world like yourself?
Don’t focus yourself too early. Try a bunch of different things, develop your skills in as many areas as you can. Also try to meet with the people you admire, those whose jobs you’re interested in or work you particularly enjoy. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to meet for a coffee and offer some guidance. And lastly, don’t compare yourself to others. There is absolutely no one path to success and even if your path is winding, trust that with some hard work and dedication you will get to where you need to be.
You are currently working at The Drayton Arms Theatre, what can you tell us about the theatre for people that may have not heard about it?
I think there’s a lot people don’t realise about the Drayton. Firstly, it’s a huge space for a pub theatre, our stage is incredibly deep! It’s also maintained very well and the technology we have is pretty great. Our rent is also pretty cheap (for London), in fact our Sunday/Monday slots are just £50 a pop. The theatre is above a genuinely lovely pub, with good food and good drink. But I think, most importantly, we are up for almost anything. I programme everything from new work to classics to operas – cold staged readings to full-blown musicals. Whether it’s spoken word, cabaret, dance, musical acts, stand-up comedy, I am always open to hearing a new idea.
Your next project is “The Laundry” which you helped write a part of, how was it working with 2 different writers?
Working with two other writers on The Laundry has definitely been a new experience. Respecting one another, being open-minded and willing to compromise is absolutely key or things would never get done. What’s surprised me most is how drastically the show has evolved from the original idea to now, and it’s still evolving! Things have blurred (in an exciting way) so much that sometimes I honestly can’t tell who wrote which bit, whether it was in the original script or discovered later and added in the room. It’s truly a collaborative process and the end result is going to be absolutely spectacular.
Can you tell us a bit about the Laundry – why should people come and see it?
People should come see The Laundry because no matter where you are in your own life, you will recognise yourself in at least one of the characters. The characters move through time and the struggles people have gone through, particularly women, and overcome to get to where they are. The joy and burden of family. Making difficult choices in order to survive and be happy. It will be heartbreaking, but hopeful as well. At least I hope so!
Do you think the industry has changed since you started?
The industry has absolutely changed. Things used to be so cut and dry. Things were done a certain way, certain types of people were hired, there were expectations for what people wanted to see on stage. Now, we are finally seeing these conventions being thrown (if somewhat slowly) out the window. Anything goes now. People are creating their own opportunities, putting on the work that they would like to see, audiences are getting more adventurous and we are seeing a real push for the theatrical world to be representative of the country, indeed the world, we live in. It’s a wonderful thing to witness and be a part of.
Where has been your favourite place to work?
Oh my, it’s hard to say! I have a huge amount of freedom at the Drayton. I am able to choose the theatre I want on the stage, I can run the venue as I wish. But I also need to give a huge amount of credit to Theatre503. I was a Resident Assistant Producer there for six months when I first arrived in London and the amount of support and responsibility I was given, the amount I learned, the hard work of the team to constantly do better and bring vital new work to the stage was so incredible to be a part of.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
Working with the companies themselves. My favourite part of my job is sitting down for that first meeting with a company that wants to bring work to my venue. I love hearing about their ideas for their show, where they want to go with the piece, their hopes for the future of their company. It’s honestly just lovely to listen to and talk with people who are so passionate about what they do.
What’s been a funny moment for you writing/producing? Or Any mishaps you want to share from your productions?
Well, I can honestly say that men drunkenly wandering into the theatre thinking it’s the loo happens at least a couple times a month. We’ve begun locking the theatre from the outside to prevent it from happening!
Are there any shows you recommend we should see? (Other than The Laundry!)
Yes, obviously The Laundry, but we’ve also got our Edinburgh Previews coming up, which is just this lovely mix of companies putting on all sorts of new work. Then in August we have a great piece called Tomorrow in the Battle by Kieron Barry, which during its past London runs got absolutely cracking reviews so I’m hugely looking forward to that. Then we have one of our resident companies, MKEC Productions, whose recent production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee earned ten five-star reviews, with A Man of No Importance. Should be good fun. But there’s absolutely something for everyone coming up so just keep an eye out!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Honestly, nothing terribly exciting. If I’m not seeing theatre I’m hanging out with my partner or my friends, going out to eat, relaxing at home, going out of London and visiting different cities, traveling in general. I do my best to disconnect and step back as much as I can.
Is there a musical/play you would love to produce?
Anything Tennessee Williams. I’d love to see more of Jason Robert Brown and Adam Guettle’s work here in London. Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, María Irene Fornés’ Mud, Caryl Churchill’s A Number…too many to name really.
Where can people follow your work on Twitter/facebook/Linkedin etc?
The Drayton Arms Theatre can be found at on Facebook under Drayton Arms Theatre, Twitter on @draytonarmsSW5, and Instagram at @draytonarmsSW5. My own personal Twitter is @audrey_thayer.
Then check out everything we have on at www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk.