Find your creative calling

 1 February 2011

Rhiannon Ellis began her creative career as a theatre director, and is now Learning & Community Engagement Manager for Theatre Royal Wakefield. She spoke to Creative Choices about how she changed her career to work with people and communities.

From drama school to community engagement

"I feel my skills are really valuable here. I enjoy running workshops. I enjoy working with people who may have never done theatre before."

"I loved making theatre when I was at school. I had a great drama teacher that got me interested from a director's perspective. I went to Rose Bruford's School for Speech and Drama in London and did a three-year degree in theatre directing.

"I then got interested in how I could use those skills as a director to work with people in the community. I worked doing quite a lot of theatre and education work.

"I've just come from a theatre company called Mind The Gap in Bradford, that works with professional actors with learning disabilities.

"I was a theatre director there for the last five years and this is my first post in a theatre itself as opposed to a theatre company. It's a new and exciting challenge thinking how we can do that engagement work and bring people back into the theatre."

Getting the community involved in arts

"We try and create a range of different opportunities here, through what we've described as 'gateway' and 'pathway' opportunities.

"Gateway is for people who've never experienced or might have no interest initially in arts work. That might be things that focus on soft skills like confidence-building and self-esteem, it might be a series of workshops. Often a very good way to access that group of people might be through school, youth groups or other existing forms.

"We also have a range of pathway opportunities for people who really maybe do want to do theatre and know quite a bit about it. I'd class 'West Side Story' and some of our Wakefield Youth Music Theatre as opportunities for people to really hone skills that they already have and work in a team to create a piece of performance.

"I think that ultimately it's really important for communities to have the opportunity to engage. We're a publicly-funded organisation and it's really important that everyone can have the opportunity to engage in the work that we do. Otherwise we just exist in this little vacuum and it's not relevant to the people of Wakefield, and I feel that's really crucial."

Finding a creative calling

"We're a publicly-funded organisation and it's really important that everyone can have the opportunity to engage in the work that we do."

"I think that all arts organisations have a responsibility to look after the needs of their local community.

"In my last year of university, I was like, 'I'm gonna come out, I'm gonna direct my play and go up to Edinburgh, sod the kids!' But actually when I got into practising working with young people, I thought 'This is amazing'.

"I feel like my skills are really valuable here. I enjoy running workshops. I enjoy working with people who may have never done theatre before and giving them a passion to do more of it, or even just to be up on stage or just to come to a group every week, and find different ways to use those skills. It's really good."


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