Diane Page, this year’s JMK Award winner brings her directorial vision of Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard to the Orange Tree Theatre 28 August – 2 October 2021.Tweet
Her director credits include Out West (Co-director), In Love and Loyalty (also as writer), Ghost Stories, Leave to Remain, Dick Whittington (Lyric Hammersmith), Yeggs (Wildcard Online), Love and Information (ArtsEd) and Krool Britannia (Rabbit Hole Theatre/Camden Fringe). Her credits as an associate director include Ghost Stories (Duke of York’s Theatre/UK tour); and as an assistant director, othellomacbeth (Lyric Hammersmith/HOME) and Bartholomew Fair (Shakespeare’s Globe). In our quest to support #BIPOC creatives ALT caught up with Page to take diversity, gender equality and theatre, theatre and more theatre with page offer stellar advice on how to get started in directing.
ALT: So how did you get started?
DP: Let’s go right back. I didn’t really fit in, in an academic sense at school it didn’t mean I wasn’t academic. It just meant it didn’t really click with me, but the one thing that did was always films. I’m really dyslexic. So I found it really difficult to access a lot of curriculum. So I used to watch loads and loads of films, probably too much. Then I started doing sort of little bits of like youth acting but then realised I was more interested in the craft of the storytelling not that actors don’t craft as well. But, yes what’s going on behind the scenes and I suppose crafting the story. But I didn’t even know what direction was when I was younger, to be honest. Then I went to uni really late, really, really late. And then I did an MFA in Directing and then started Assistant Direction and then ended up Directing.
ALT: What do you like about directing?
DP: I hope this doesn’t sound too sort of arty, but I really like being in other worlds and I really like that ultimately what you’re putting on stage or on camera is humanity. I think like looking at humanity in all its complexity, all the things that were amazing and us as people is the thing I think that really drives me and I just love. I think we understand things better when they’re told in story form. So that’s the thing that I love about it. I really love working with a team and like being collaborative, and creating this world together, like with the designer or Sound lighting. and I really liked that kind of sense of working together. So I think that’s what I love and just with loads of artists.
ALT: Congratulations on winning the JMK Award. So how does that make you feel?
DP: Do you know what if I was honest, I haven’t processed it properly yet. I do this thing where I go, that’s amazing and I’m really happy and then I think, okay, go back to work. but yes, it is amazing. It’s such a prestigious award how it came to be and everything, it’s really an honour because for directors in early stages of their career, it’s difficult to get a show on and there’s so many of us and so many talented people, so actually the opportunity to be able to direct a full-scale show is one I am very grateful for, really, really grateful.
ALT: Let’s talk about your play. Can you tell us a bit about the story behind?
DP: It a play by a South African playwright called ATHOL FUGARD and I believe it was written in the seventies. It is one of his plays that is lesser performed and it is a brilliant play and I picked that because it’s set in Apartheid, South Africa it centres around, an interracial couple, at a time where interracial relationships were illegal. And then as, as you say, it is self-explanatory with the title, they get caught, then it’s about what happens after. So we sort of see them at the beginning before they get caught and then after, when they get caught and separated, that’s what it’s about.
ALT: What kind of stories do you like to direct?
DP: Looking at a lot of the short amount of work that I’ve done so far, the stories that I seem to be drawn to tend to explore race racism. That’s the type of work but not only limited to that, but so far that seems to be what I’m drawn to and in all its complexity.
ALT: What does it feel like to be back directing a play knowing that it will be back on stage in front of a live audience?
DP: I just directed a play just before this at the Lyric. It was so strange being back in. Even outside of just doing the work we do, even being in a room with people was a bit odd. But yes, it’s sort of thrilling and terrifying in equal measure but I’m looking forward to it.
ALT: Since lockdown: what would you say some of the positive things that have come out of this space and what would you like to see?
DP: The first thing is even opening up the conversation because I think like without the conversation just no one says anything, the fact that the conversations has been opened up is the positive thing from there you can go forward. Do you know what I think the important thing is theatre buildings and in creative teams, that they are more inclusive basically, which I think we’re getting there. I think that, that we’re moving towards that and like I said, certainly the conversation has been opened, but I suppose even before that, it’s about accessibility to the arts, because like I said, when I was growing up, I didn’t even know that directing was even a thing or that you could be lighting designer, or you could be a stage manager. You just don’t know. So actually, I think it’s about opening that up to the younger generation and I think there’s the key to the change, because if you don’t know it exist, you know what I mean? Or you don’t think it’s for you, for whatever reason, which I think I didn’t for a long time. So, yeah, I think that’s it is about inclusivity in buildings and creative teams.
ALT: I just saw Paradise, which has an all-female cast. Do you think that female directors are getting equilibrium or what do you think has been happening in the last couple years for women in this space?
DP: I think that’s another area of challenge actually, being a woman, gosh, I think we’re certainly talking about it more. I don’t know if we’re getting to a more equal level I’m not sure. I actually don’t know. but I know that we’re talking about it and not dissimilar to what I said already it’s about actually recognizing it and acknowledging it before you can move forward. Do you know what I mean?
ALT: Who are the theatre makers, or playwrights that you admire or whose work you’d like to bring to the stage either past or present?
DP: I really love Debbie Tucker Green. I really, really love her work. I just think the flare and the craft is spot on. I really like musicals. I would love to do a new musical and there’s lots of composers I admire actually and a lot of artists I admire as well, sort of outside of theatre, but I sort of take inspiration from Steve McQueen, director, huge inspiration, Alexandre McQueen, and artists like Tracy Amin I mean, I sort of take inspiration from them as well as theatre makers.
ALT: I have one final question for anyone who wants to get into directing what advice can you give?
DP: There is no one route about I still sometimes think it’s a miracle that I’m here to be honest, but I, so what I would suggest is to write to directors or filmmakers whose work you admire, ask if you can observe rehearsals, some directors might say no but I’m certainly open to that.
It’s about just being in rooms and if you don’t know how, or what goes on in the rooms or how they’re run, that’s also another barrier. So, I would say, try and see as much theatre as you can, but let’s be honest it is expensive and it’s not always for everyone. I used to get loads of free tickets because I couldn’t afford to go. So I think it’s about, yes, writing to people whose work you admire and asking. It may be some directors are not, not keen on it, but I don’t know. It’s like, depending on what they are doing, ask people to meet for coffee and just read as many plays as you can because actually, I think like people know more than what they think they do. And sometimes it can feel like, oh, I don’t really know that stuff because I don’t go to the theatre but actually people do. And take inspiration from other things like art and film. I think it’s really useful. That’s what I would say, but it’s not easy. There’s no point in me pretending it is. it’s tough. but there are schemes now, a few of them, going around, even things like John Kerry, people should apply, and people should feel like they can apply. Again, it’s not easy and there’s no one way about it. It would just be a lie, you know.
The JMK Trust, founded in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin a young director of great promise, gives opportunities for theatre directors to direct a full-scale production, with the support, production values and nurturing guidance of Orange Tree Theatre.
WIN TICKETS 4 STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT BY ATHOL FUGARD
As part of the SheCAN initiative our remit to get more Black women and BIPOC to experience theatre who may not always find it affordable or accessible or who may want to work in theatre. ALT has team up with the Orange Tree Theatre to give away 2 pairs of tickets.
The story: Frieda and Errol meet in darkness. Theirs is a love story that can never thrive in the light. A relationship interrupted, by white supremacist law. And then at the end as at the beginning, they will find you again. Guilty.
A play about then that speaks to now.
A vital part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, playwright Athol Fugard’s prolific career spans seven decades. A rare revival of a classic play directed by Diane Page.
This competition is only open to BIPOC women ! To get tickets email the editor in 1 line on why you deserve the tickets. ( editor @ alt – africa (dot) com). We have four tickets to give away and will give away in pairs or as single tickets dependent on a first correct answer: Deadline 21 September 5pm.
If you can’t wait to win tickets you can book here. -28 August 2021 – 2 October 2021 Book tickets here.
SheCAN aims to create opportunities and experiences for women age 18 plus within the creative industries, from mentoring to jobs to training.
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