Jayne Lewis, creative director
Jayne Lewis is creative director for the award winning Unanima Theatre. She is also a teacher and playwright.
My family are from Manchester, I mostly grew up in Nottinghamshire and I now live in Derby.
What job do you do?
As a freelance community arts professional, I do different projects. At the moment, I am creative director for Unanima Theatre.
I also teach a Higher National Diploma in Outreach Drama, as a 'visiting industry professional' at Vision West Nottinghamshire College.
I've also been commissioned by regional youth arts initiatives to write and direct theatre with and for young audiences. In the past I've created short films, too.
Another recent project was working as a writer for the 14/48 Theatre Festival in May 2013.
What previous jobs in theatre have you done?
I wanted to be theatre director from a young age. My mother delightfully reminds me that I used to ‘put on shows’ for a very kind and forgiving audience of family and a patient next door neighbour. I must have been a nightmare!
I discovered ‘proper’ drama when I attended youth theatre at Mansfield Palace Theatre when I was about 12.
"I’ve always had a passion for theatre to be more inclusive."
In rehearsals, I always used to think ‘wouldn’t it be simpler to do it this way?’.
I’ve always had a passion for theatre to be more inclusive and to allow young people’s ideas and experiences to really come through.
Amongst other things:
- I was a development worker for Speakeasy Theatre Company for almost five years. I learned so much in that time, working with the artistic director.
- I co-founded a youth theatre company called ‘Act Up’. It ran for three years and was funded by the Government.
- I also co-founded and directed Movers Theatre in partnership with 27a Access Artspace. It was an integrated theatre company for actors with and without learning difficulties, devising and performing theatre looking at disability issues.
I've done other jobs to support my theatre work between jobs, like private tutoring, market stall work, and factory work.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BTEC National Diploma in performing arts, and a Higher National Diploma in community performance (including technical theatre and mechanical media).
What do you do at work?
Many different things, which is why it's so enjoyable. Here are some:
- I coordinate a whole range of arts projects for children, young people and adults of different ages, abilities and interests. Often they come from varied cultural backgrounds.
- I work with young people who may feel excluded or disadvantaged to explore new skills and achievements. I like my work to encourage communication, and the development of emotional intelligence.
- I deliver workshops and employ other freelance professionals to deliver workshops.
- Finally, I direct young people’s theatre, promote performances, liaise with the press, and do administration.
I like being someone who makes things happen – well, I try to be, anyway.
I’ll even sweep the floor if required!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Being freelance lets me work in a huge variety of roles in all sorts of different venues across the East Midlands.
I also enjoy the challenges of marketing myself, meeting new people and working under pressure.
I’ve learned to be a problem solver and am now very good at multitasking.
And the worst thing about the job?
Having to chase invoices! This only usually happens with county or district council-run projects though – they have such a mountain of paperwork to have to deal with!
Oh, and also working odd and unsociable hours.
How do I get into theatre?
My top five tops for getting into directing:
- Firstly, go for it
Have confidence in your own ability and the possibility of what’s achievable. Remember, everyone started somewhere.
- Set aims, objectives, and achievable goals
Don’t forget to take time out to celebrate your achievements before setting the next challenge. Stay true to yourself – agree to disagree if need be.
- Get work experience, but don’t do too much work for free
Try to find work experience opportunities. Be aware of the risks of working for free too much.
Join a mentoring scheme if you can find one. These pair up established, experienced practitioners with those just starting out in their careers.
On some schemes the mentees receive payment for expenses and the mentors receive a nominal fee.
Other schemes partner artists up with mentors on a voluntary basis. Speak to your local Arts Council England office.
- Talk to everyone you can in the industry
However much more intelligent or experienced you may think they are, talk to them anyway. All of us have the ability to inspire, and your ideas might just do that and turn into a project.
- When something you do is a success, let the world know
When it fails, only share it with those that need to be informed, learn from it, and do it differently next time. We all have horrible days where we just want the world to swallow us up.
But so long as no damage is done, it’s just a little dented pride. Just pick yourself up and start over again.
The main thing is not to wait until tomorrow! Start making things happen today.
Jayne is part of our theatre experts panel. Ask Jayne a question about working in theatre.