A website is one thing but a person is the real thing. Gethin Evans, Associate Director of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff gave the Cardiff branch of The Writers’ Guild an up-to-the-minute tour of opportunities for engagement and a sense of the Theatre’s ambitions and future projects in a lively encounter at May’s meeting.
The Sherman’s Artist Development page has not quite caught up with the calendar as most of its references are to 2016 so it was enlightening to get a sense of how the various projects are developing.
The first wave of the New Welsh Playwrights Programme, supported by the Carne trust, is mentoring 14 playwrights. The Creative Learning department is looking for material for a variety of particular audiences. It works with writers in a variety of contexts.
The key point for any writer not yet on the Sherman’s books is that 3 development schemes will continue: the New Welsh Playwrights Programme; Taith which develops new 10-minute plays in English or Welsh and Brig, for Welsh- language work. The submission process has not yet been finalised. It’s important to be on the mailing list to get the latest information.
Two new pieces in the Welsh language are in development following the Welsh Language writers’ development programme Brig.
Gethin painted a lively portrait of Fresh Ink, the young people’s project, by describing, as an example, work with 6-year-olds, whose “scripts” are age-appropriate, including drawings done by the children, which actors interpreted and performed to great acclaim from their young critics.
The Sherman’s formal remit no longer includes new writing and since the company does not have a literary manager it cannot accept unsolicited scripts. However, it hopes to appoint a literary manager in the future.
Established playwrights are encouraged to approach the Sherman via their agent or to invite staff to productions of their work elsewhere.
The Sherman’s drive to grow new types of audience includes both Sherman Plays and Sherman 5. Sherman Plays is an initiative to bring in older audiences who come in the afternoon for readings. Sherman 5 reaches out to people who have never attended a play at the venue. It’s open to residents in Communities First areas in Cardiff and several surrounding areas and to ‘partner community groups’.
Gethin certainly presented the Sherman as a theatre with ambitions which are already paying off in higher audiences and a more welcoming ambience. He was enthusiastic about the benefits of co-producing, both artistic and economic. He underlined the significance of the success of the Berlin performance of Gary Owen’s, Iphigenia in Splott which places this piece of theatre from Wales at the heart of European production and of Owen’s Killology at the Royal Court as the kind of presence of Welsh work at the forefront of the UK stage that the Sherman wants to promote.
These, along with other examples, are evidence of the Sherman’s “raising the profile of Welsh theatre”, Gethin claimed.
Characterising the Sherman’s ambition, Gethin said it aims to be “politically, socially challenging and relevant. It belongs to the people of this city”, he said. ˜Whilst we are politically and socially engaged, we also like to offer fun evenings as well.” The Sherman Theatre, he emphasised, ˜is about championing Welsh artists and making the most exciting contemporary work.”
This relaxed and informal evening, which ended in the Chapter bar, is part of a series of encounters for writers which The Writers’ Guild runs as part of its work for the writers of Wales.