Songs for the Struggling Artist

What I wish American Theatre would learn from the Brits (#5)

#5 – Develop a culture of mentorship

My friends in London complain that they need to help each other out more because the jobs that they’ve gotten have always come form older artists giving them opportunities. I think we need to help each other out more, too,  but we also need to add this element of mentoring so those farther along can give a hand to those below.

It sometimes seems to me that we’re all in competition with each other here so that instead of looking down and seeing people we can help along, we see the younger folks eye-ing our positions and scheming to replace us. I don’t know how we fix this. The only thing I can think of as an individual is to be conscious of it and look for who we can give a hand to sometimes.

Institutionally, I think there’s a lot that could be done. In my short time in London, I joined a group for young directors sponsored by the Young Vic and a writer’s group at the the Royal Court. The young directors program provides opportunities to attend workshops, discussions and talks with more established directors, as well as ongoing training, networking opportunities and space grants. My group at the Royal Court wasn’t even an official writers group there (they have their own) but they donated the use of the room for our monthly meetings anyway, just to help us out.

There’s a mentorship network connected to one well-respected independent theatre company. Others seem to be constantly looking for how to give back to the community.

The supports for artists at all stages of a career are many there and most are open groups, in that anyone could apply. There are certainly groups here as well, but the spaces available are so few that entry becomes highly competitive and before too long, that group becomes another wrung on the ladder to success rather than simple support. Those that do not fit the criteria are left flailing and unsupported.

Maybe I’ll change my tune when I am no longer flailing and unsupported but I doubt it. Hopefully I’ll put my hand out and give someone behind me a boost up the ladder.


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