Andrew Loretto, creative producer
Andrew Loretto is a Creative Producer for Sheffield Theatres and occasional freelance theatre work.
I'm originally from Belfast and currently live in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
What job do you do?
I'm a creative producer for Sheffield Theatres. I also do occasional freelance theatre work.
What previous jobs in theatre have you done?
I was originally much more interested in television, but theatre somehow managed to take over! At my school, participation in the arts, at that time, wasn’t viewed as prestigious as taking part in sports. However, we had some fantastic teachers who really believed in extracurricular arts activities.
Whilst studying at the University of Glasgow, I ran my own projects and did various part-time jobs in theatre.
My first main professional job was as a workshop tutor and project director for West Lothian Youth Theatre (now Firefly Arts).
I was the youth theatre director for the Sherman Cymru theatre in Cardiff for three years.
After that, I moved to West Yorkshire. where I was appointed as the University of Bradford’s Fellow in Theatre. That role involved being the artistic director of Theatre in the Mill - a venue specialising in new work and emerging artists. I did that for several years.
Subsequently I was artistic director of the National Student Drama Festival for three years, and artistic director of at Huddersfield's Chol Theatre for another six years. Finally I joined Sheffield Theatres.
I've also worked in a freelance capacity as a director, dramaturg and facilitator. I was a founder partner for the International Young Makers’ Exchange.
What qualifications do you have?
I studied for four years at the University of Glasgow and graduated with a joint MA in film and television studies / theatre studies.
This was a mostly academic course, so most of my practical theatre learning happened through projects I directed with friends around the city.
"I was told it was unlikely I’d find much work in the arts, but I stuck to my guns."
I also worked part-time at the Tramway Theatre. This enabled me to see some fantastic international work from world-renowned artists and directors – like Peter Brook, the Wooster Group and Robert Lepage.
I then spent two terms at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as a postgraduate director, before being offered my first professional job as an artistic director in Scotland.
Training never stops – I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to learn new skills. Although I’ve gained loads of experience over the years, each new project feels a little like starting over again.
What do you do at work?
At Sheffield Theatres I have a very broad brief. My work is focused on exploring ways of making new theatrical work, with and for the artists and communities of Sheffield and beyond.
No two days are the same – thank goodness. I couldn’t do a job that stuck to a constant routine and timetable.
I tend to view my job as being divided into three sections:
- Organisational leadership
This is everything practical that's involved with running projects. It includes managing staff, attending internal and external meetings, and lots of emails and paperwork. There's also funding applications, report-writing, and general administration.
- Artistic leadership
This is about having an artistic vision for the work that will help lead and define how people engage with Sheffield Theatres. It’s about thinking up big ideas, and then working out how to set these ideas within a realistic and artistically coherent delivery framework for the next five years or so. It’s also about facilitating other artists’ ambitions and ideas.
- Artistic delivery
This is the actual hands-on work. I directing rehearsals, stage shows, write plays, and leading workshops. For this part of the job, I get to be a practising artist in my own right.
There are lots of other associated things I do, but the balance of the above three areas shifts throughout the year, depending on the delivery timetables of our various projects.
For example, I might be focused more on the organisational leadership side of things when I’m not directing a show – and vice versa.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Being part of one of the country’s most respected and prolific producing theatre venues. Theatre also enables my colleagues and I to make a – hopefully positive – difference to society.
And the worst thing about the job?
Report-writing, emails and funding applications – a necessary evil!
How do I get into theatre?
Here are my top five tips on how to get into artistic directing.
- Don’t let anyone tell you that there are fixed routes into theatre directing
You do not need to be based in London! I remember when I was choosing my A level subjects. At school, I was told that it was unlikely I’d find much work in television or the arts. All I can say to that is: I didn’t listen to that advice, I stuck to my guns, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work in theatre full-time.
- Don't regard directing youth theatre or community-focused work as a second-rate option
You often don't have to compromise on artistic quality or ambition in these areas. I hope that the work of places like Sheffield People’s Theatre shows this. You’ll be making work that's genuinely contemporary and relevant to people’s lives.
- Learning on the job is important
With directing, the best experience you’ll ever get is simply doing it – far better than sitting in a rehearsal room and watching someone else run the show!
- If you have a great idea, get people on board who can help you make that idea happen
You’ll have to convince them that your idea is great in the first place – but go on, be brave. No-one else will do it for you!
- Make sure you go and see as much theatre and live performance work as possible
This should include things you think you might not like.
Andrew is part of our theatre experts panel. Ask Andrew a question about working in theatre.