Arts of the UK 2020: Making theatre fairer for women writers through empowering new company Burn Bright
LONDON – With plays by writers who identify as women still struggling to breakout on the larger stages, writers Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have come together to launch Burn Bright, a new not-for-profit organisation driving positive change for the next generation of women in the creative industry. Fuelled by the erasure of their work, this inspirational pair have founded the organisation to create a level playing field in the arts, providing an incredible support network and opportunities for the marginalised, lobbying for change, and calling out gender inequality. It is more important than ever to remain connected and stay strong as an industry in the current climate and Burn Bright hopes to make theatre fairer along the way.
Burn Bright will kickstart their work with two new and exciting initiatives to collectively connect and empower women writers – Time Bank, a networking hub for industry-led mentorship, and Better In Person, a commissioned series of short plays by women created specifically to be shared digitally via Zoom.
Time Bank offers women writers the chance to connect one-on-one with industry professionals willing to offer mentorship, feedback and advice on a variety of topics affecting playwrights. It is an invaluable opportunity to ask questions and engage with people from all aspects of the industry, with directors, writers and publicists at your disposal. Confirmed advisors include producer Tara Finney (The Greatest Play…, Trafalgar Studios), writer and actor Oliver Lansley (Flack, UKTV), writer Morgan Lloyd Malcom (Emilia, Globe Theatre and Vaudeville Theatre), acclaimed director Eleanor Rhode (Boudica, Globe Theatre) and screenwriter Kirstie Swain (Pure, Channel 4). New advisors and additional sessions will be added regularly.
Inspired by the general public’s stories of conversations that would be Better In Person, but are happening online due to the ongoing lockdown, comes a new series of commissioned short plays by women made for and showcased on Zoom. Creating live theatre in the digital age, the audience are invited to be an online fly-on-the-wall witnessing these intimate, uncomfortable, hilarious, and always very human conversations, as they take place in real time. For the pilot, Burn Bright has commissioned Natasha Brown (I Am [Not] Kanye West, The Bunker), Sharmila Chauhan (The Husbands, Soho Theatre), award-winning Charlotte Jones (Humble Boy, National Theatre, Gielgud Theatre; The Woman in White, West End/Broadway), Krystina Nellis (Glitch, VAULT Festival) and will feature a joint piece by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley. This will be aired live on Zoom on Bank Holiday Monday, 25th May. Burn Bright plans to open up future Better In Person events for script submissions.
Sarah and Tori comment: “It’s taken us a while to recover, galvanise and gather our strength to launch Burn Bright – we wanted to honour our supporters properly and launch with the right team and a vision for the future. Writers who identify as women are still woefully underrepresented on the big stages and we fear that the current climate of ‘safe bets’ and ‘big names’ with ‘tested material’ will only serve to increase the gender gap, not to mention a lack of diverse representation in stories, and eradicating working class and benefit class talents. We want to be the change we want to see, there’s still a long way to go and a lot of trial and error to be had, but we’re really excited to have started this journey, and would like once again to thank all of our supporters for their generosity and patience.”
They added: “It feels like a weird time to launch – with theatres unsure of when they’ll open – but the way we see it, people will always need art, so we will do what we can to make sure women are represented in what’s produced.”
The cast of Better In Person comprises Sharon Small and David Yelland, who have been cast in Charlotte Jones’ play The Cardigan, with Cherrelle Skeete starring alongside Temi Wilkey in Natasha Brown’s Mahoganie Jo. Completing the cast are Arinder Sadhra and Naveed Khan in Sharmila Chauhan’s I’m Better In Person, Luke Barton and Kat Rose-Martin in Krystina Nellis’ Recipes and Debra Baker, Amba Rose Mendy and Timothy O’Hara in Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley’s Options. The plays will be directed by Abigail Sewell.
Comments Tori Allen-Martin: “We’re so excited to have such a diverse cast on board for this – representing neurodivergent performers, the south Asian community, the black queer community, people of mixed heritage – we still have further to go but we want all of our work to be representative of the world that we live in now. We also feel strongly about mixing new and established talent and we’re so excited to see such brilliant actors and writers coming together and lending their time and their talent to bring these truly brilliant plays to life. Our goal is to keep creating work where people feel heard, seen and represented – we hope this is a nice start.”
Co-founder Sarah Henley added: “The response to our launch and to Better In Person has been fantastic which we think shows we’re tapping into something important – audiences want the future of theatre to be diverse and for up and coming voices to heard and platformed. We’re really excited for the pilot and hope it’s the start of something wonderful which gives talented women a space to share their gifts.”
Better In Person will run on 25th May 2020 at 8pm. Tickets available from Eventbrite
For more information about Burn Bright, visit their website here