By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
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Sunday, 27 May 2012

How do you fund a thing like theatre?

Reader, a lovely chap who I went to uni with asked me to write a little bit about theatre funding recently. Mainly because he's doing a show and is trying to get people to give him money on a site called wefund so he can get it off it's feet (if you want to help out a very worthy cause and donate a couple of quid to this up and coming company, I'll put all the info you need at the bottom of the page, please do, they are jolly nice). Once I'd gotten over my epic smugness at being asked to write about something rather intellectual and 'proper' (which surely marks me out as the sort of writer who should get paid for what they Not yet? Blast.) I was hit by a sudden and abject fear.

Reader, the truth of it is that I know NOTHING about funding the arts. Bugger all in fact. I am supposed to be making a short film at the end of the year/beginning of the next, and although I know that we'll need money, it's a very vague concept that I assume I'll just magically understand when I need to. Like getting a mortgage. Or having a baby.

The thing is, increasingly for actors in today's industry, if you want to play the big/small but interesting parts, you have to create the stage on which you present yourself. Producers and directors go for named actors from the larger agencies rather than taking a risk on an unknown actor and when the opportunity to do that part that you've been dreaming of finally does come up, what's the likelihood that you'll be able to play with it and make it truly yours? Actors and crossing the line into writing, producing and directing, meaning a wider skill base (and higher levels of sanity) is needed. And as well as accepting more creative control, you also take on the not such fun bits. Like finding locations, paying for things like lighting, cameras and theatres and being the person that's supposed to be a) responsible for everything and everyone and b) the fall guy. Hmmm, a less attractive prospect perhaps. Luckily there are ways of getting help from the public. Increasingly, fewer creatives are relying on producers or commercial partners to fund their projects, but are instead putting it in the hands of the public on websites like wefund. As far as I can tell, you basically create a page for your project, you set a target and people pledge money. So if you make your Target, the money automatically goes to you, if not, no one pays anyone anything. Which seems fair. I may even use it myself one day soon!

Of course, if anyone would just like to donate a couple of grand to me to get it made, that would also be marvellous...

Hope you're enjoying the sun Reader!

Some Stuff on Volpone (The play being sponsered on

With thanks to Matthew Badham

1) why did you decide to use wefund?

This is my first time funding a show with we fund, a few companies I know have used it in the past to take shows to Brighton Fringe or Edinbrough etc, So after seeing the success they had using the site I decided we should try it out.

One of the great things about We Fund is that it gives you a chance to spread the word of a show before it even happens. Usually getting together the money for a show is quite a solitary affair, a lot of sitting at a desk and letter writing; with we fund you set up your own page for all to see, get a bit of hype going (hopefully) before the show is even in rehearsal and even the chance to forge relationships with supporters of the theatre who will continue to follow your company’ future productions.

2) What sources of funding have you used in the past?

In the past I have funded shows thoroughly through corporate sponsorship. It’s a lot of hard work though, consisting on letter writing and phone calls to follow up. It’s a bit of a pestering game.

Of course there is the option of applying for ACE funding, In the future I would like to apply for some form of Arts Council England funding for company development; our plan is to start to run workshops for actors, but the task at hand is to get this show funded and up on its feet. 

3) And what do you hope to achieve from the show? – Kris to answer

The shadow of Shakespeare hangs long over British Theatre. In this year where the UK plays host to the Cultural Olympia to play side by side with the Olympic games you cant help but encounter more and more of his productions; the Globe to Globe project, RSC residencies at the Noel Coward and Roundhouse, Timon of Athens in the Olivier, the Histories on the BBC. Shakespeare is our national poet and it is fantastic that he is being celebrated in the year where Britain is being showcased on a global scale. However our reverence does seem to lead to other playwrights of his era being left in the shade. The case for Ben Jonson is that he is too good to be ignored.
In his time Jonson was the master, Shakespeare his heavyweight challenger. Jonson, a man with links to high society, resident playwright to King James, tackles in his the man on the street; the rogues, brawlers and hookers, Shakespeare more often then not wrote about Kings and those who aspired to be. Ying and yang in style and thought, the audiences at the Globe spoke and Jonson eked out a points victory to stand as the Jacobean’s most important writers. Now looking at his legacy he has left us with three comedies that more than match up to any written by the quill of his rival; The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair and in my view his ultimate masterpiece- Volpone. The chance to tackle one of the great, underperformed plays in world theatre was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down.
The themes of greed and avarice chime particularly loudly in our present society; desperation to gain more then what we own compels people to acts of desperation and folly. Jonson writes about human foibles and the darkness of human psyche but keeps us on side with a great sense of mischief and rollicking set pieces. The audience is charmed whilst in the company of the louche playboy Volpone and his ever-resourceful parasite Mosca. These are two of the greatest parts in the classical repertory, a joy for the actors to embody and a joy for the audience in encountering them.
By cutting the sub-plot of the Politic Would Be and entourage, the plot of Volpone ricochets along, akin to the great mechanisms of farce, as the leading protagonists juggle the scheming legacy hunters and take disguise to keep their ‘plot’ going right through to its definitive conclusion. By updating the action to a modern day anachronistic world we aim to bring out the bawdy, dark, sexy and hilarious world that Jonson created
Memorable characters, thrilling, funny and dark, Volpone was the obvious choice to complement the Shakespeare heavy summer we are about to witness. We hope audiences will come and witness a play that stands up to the very best work of his friend and rival William Shakespeare.

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