The pandemic has thrown things into perspective, shaped our world view. This became apparent to me when involuntarily I found myself categorising my friends into two main groups (sorry friends) - just friends and body shifters. The latter being the people I would feel confident to call in the event I had a dead body on my hands I needed rid of discreetly. It's a crude suggestion, I know, but I have found theatre companies to fall into similar categories since our lives were tossed sideways by a persistent virus. There are theatre companies and there are supporters of artists. The latter you can rely on in a storm.
It's ironic, really, that the last staged production before the epic shutdown I worked on was The Metamorphosis by Vanishing Point. Suddenly we were all Gregor, waking up in a world we no longer recognised. Gross frail bodies others might be scared of. My title was 'supported artist' and when I accepted the role I had little clue what it might entail. There was a rough list: The freedom to sit in on production and design meetings. A free pass into rehearsals and tech. An invite to study the producers. A chance to see the crew re-fit for different venues. The rest was up for grabs. But mostly the offer was simple and generous: A company willing for me to ask of them what best suited me as a developing artist at a crucial time in my life. And they paid me to do that learning. In exchange they asked very little of me. I offered whatever insights I could during production, rehearsals and tech. Bu they didn't pay me for my contributions, they paid me to learn. And I learnt a lot of course. I was and am truly grateful. When the engagement came to a halt shortly after the show opened I considered myself lucky to have been a part of it. I didn't expect anything more.
But when I dreamt up a fairly unorthodox show I was finding difficult to explain to people, to get funded, to find a home, I felt I could ask the Vanishing Point team for pointers (pardon the pun). They asked how they could help and I answered. They've done all I asked and a hundred times more. The result has been Deliverance, produced by Vanishing Point, made by Brite Theater, currently a year old and still touring , this summer and autumn with funding from the Creative Scotland touring fund and now internationally thanks to Vanishing Point (next stop Busan in South Korea).
I/we at Brite Theater literally couldn't have done it without them. Without them going 'it's a good idea, we'll invest in it and support it, whatever it needs' it might never have seen the light of day. No one would have danced in the name of Deliverance and 20 freelancers would not have had a gig. At the toughest of times, Vanishing Point have reshaped my idea of support.
So what could you or your company learn from this supported artist experiment?
Believe in artists.
Ask them what they need.
Do what you can to make their visions come to life.
Utilise your team to work for a community of artists rather than the people in your office only.
See potential in the new, the untried, the out of the box.
Reward artists who have sought you out to work with you.
Underpromise and overdeliver if you can, rather than the other way around.
Trust in the vision, even during the tricky bits.
Champion the work as if it was your own.
Congratulations Vanishing Point on a year of Deliverance.
And thank you.
Your support redefines the word.
Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir
Artistic Director of Brite Theater
Supported Artist on The Metamorphosis
Insights from being an FST bursary assistant director to Zinnie Harris on A Number by Caryl Churchill at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival and being a JMK assistant director to Gareth Nicholls on Ulster American by David Ireland at the Traverse Theatre.