Interview | Theatremaker Angela Witcher
Next up in my Local Artist's Interview Segment is the lovely theatremaker Angela Witcher. Angela studied with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, trained at E.15 Theatre School in London and has a Masters in Shakespeare studies from the University of Birmingham. She is passionate about performance in all forms, inclusive theatre, promoting new work and talent and encouraging creativity to blossom in the most unlikely places. Angela has over 30 years of theatrical experience as a performer, director, tutor/facilitator and artistic director of a theatre company in the UK. As founder and Artistic Director of Independent theatre company InsideOutside (since 2012), Angela produces and facilitates opportunities for emerging artists to create new work and provides opportunities for people with disability, dementia and disadvantage to experience and create theatre. Here's what she had to say...
VIRAG: How did you become involved with the world of theatre and performance?
ANGELA: I grew up in England and like most small girls started taking ballet classes at the age of three which soon became my passion. With an English mother and a Serbian father I always felt a little bit displaced and not too sure where I belonged, if anywhere. Then at fifteen, after a knee injury put paid to my dreams of being a professional dancer, I was taken by my drama teacher to see a production of Hamlet, directed by and starring Steven Berkoff (no set, six actors playing various roles, no props or costumes and 'theatre in the round) and I fell in love with both Shakespeare and acting. I had found my tribe.
I started working with a RADA trained private drama teacher, joined an amateur theatre company and immersed my teenage self in the world of performance. At 17, I started studying at E15 Acting School, then LAMDA and have been an actor, writer, director, producer, facilitator and artistic director ever since.
VIRAG: How has the coronavirus impacted your own creative practice and the theatre companies you work with/manage?
ANGELA: Ooh a two-parter! For my own creative practice, I have been re-acquainting myself with acting techniques as there is so much on offer which is affordable and high quality and I've got the time to do it. So I would say that it has had a positive effect and allowed me to acquire new skills including acting to camera and self-taping which I trust will be useful when we embrace the 'new normal' whatever that may be.
For my company InsideOutside Theatre, all work has been postponed or cancelled but we have a show ready to go and are working on something special for the end of the year. I am consistently surprised and delighted by the resilience and determination of my team of collaborators. We have also created a strong support network together so we can check in with each other and reach out if we are struggling.
VIRAG: Have you been able to shift any of your creative practices onto an online platform? And if so, has it been a difficult change?
ANGELA: Because our work is very interactive, it is difficult to move our shows online. However, our new show will definitely have a digital platform not just to ensure that if restrictions are still in place we can showcase our talents but also to provide opportunities for people in regional and rural areas to see our work and take it onto the global stage.
VIRAG: What would you encourage young artists/actors/creatives to do at home to keep them creative?
ANGELA: My company positively encourages emerging artists, artists with disability and those who want to learn new skills to come and collaborate with us. I know a lot of young artists are really doing it tough at the moment and my heart goes out to them. But I would say get up every morning, build a routine (exercise, meditation, vocal warmups, yoga) to set yourself up for the day.
Experiment! Set yourself up on Vimeo and learn how to self-tape. Build a bank of monologues and songs (if musical theatre is your thing) ready for auditions. Film them all and get them onto your Vimeo channel. Go agent shopping if you don't already have one. There are lots of free to enter competitions for monologues, short film scripts, etc. Give it a go. It's not about winning but about showing the industry you are serious about your craft.
Build your network via Linked In, Industry FB groups. Build collaborations for the future.
And most importantly look after yourself, love yourself and be yourself. And if you're having a bad day talk to someone else in the industry who will understand.
There is no doubt things will be very different on the other side but there will also be some great opportunities and exciting collaborations so be ready to grab them. Never, ever underestimate yourself.