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Guest Blog: Director Colin Blumenau On The Made-For-Digital ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD

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The Production Exchange finds a new way to support artists

Guest Blog: Director Colin Blumenau On The Made-For-Digital ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD

Sometimes the stars align, and there seems to be no doubt that what you're doing is correct. It happens rarely. My professional career has been characterised by the familiar self-doubt that so many of us carry around as a matter of course. But, at the moment, I am sure what I am doing is right. It might not be good - that is yet to be discovered - but I know that it is right.

Although I am slightly bored of both saying it and of hearing it, we are living in unprecedented times. The theatre world has been turned upside down and, despite several noteworthy efforts to right it, there seems to be little prospect of it attaining its previous state for the foreseeable future. I also think that, post-COVID, when we are permitted non-socially distanced (i.e. economically viable) indoor performances, it might take more than a few months to coax audiences back into our theatres. An alternative is needed in the interim.

There is precious little performance for audiences to consume and there is precious little performance for our marvellous creative community to use to strut their stuff; to act, to sing, dance, write, direct, design and compose. The Production Exchange is a charity - part-production company and part-agency - that supports, mentors and offers opportunity to early-career practitioners in the creative industries. We help them make work. We represent them when other people want them to be part of their projects. We advise them when it gets tough or the protocols become impenetrable. We are a resource of experience and knowledge and we are a shoulder to cry on.

Except, at the moment, we are finding it difficult to fulfil our mission. There isn't enough work for the artists to do what they want so badly to do. Consequently, we can't do what we do. An alternative way of working is needed until circumstances allow creatives to practise their art.

We have been working with our client base through lockdown and beyond by organising regular play readings, weekly coffee mornings, workshops, Q+A sessions and anything else we could think of. We raised money so that they can embark on projects and enabled them to continue developing their practise and honing their skills.

One of the plays that we read as a group was Elephant's Graveyard. We read it as the Black Lives Matter movement shook the world, as we were jolted out of the everyday by the realisation of what Black people go through every day in a White world. The establishment was challenged with a dynamism and energy that was inspiring. Action and change were demanded.

Elephant's Graveyard struck an immediate chord with everyone who was part of the reading. There was a palpable excitement about the play and the question was asked: what next? Frankly, it didn't take much thinking about.

Our made-for-digital production of Elephant's Graveyard uses the true story of the lynching and murder of an elephant in Tennessee in 1916 as an allegory. It buzzes with poignancy, comedy and truth about the consequences of prejudice, selfishness and man's inhumanity to man.

A made-for-digital production is an alternative to our dark stages. It sits somewhere between the live event and Netflix, and it provides one of those alternatives we've been looking for. It allows artists to continue with what they are brilliant at.

As I say, the stars have aligned.

Elephant's Graveyard will be available to stream from 17-19 September. Tickets are available at www.tpetv.com


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