INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE FOWLES
Catherine has worked in various arts management roles in New York and London, and holds an MFA in Creative Producing from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Most notably she has worked for Jessimeg Productions operating St. Luke’s Theatre and Actors Temple Theatre, and general managing over 25 Off-Broadway productions in New York; and with BROKENSTEREO, Defibrillator, Nick Thompson Productions, Reading Rep, Hannah Kendall Productions, and ENO Baylis in London. She is currently Assistant Producer at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on a Stage One Regional Placement.
At the moment you are… an Assistant Producer at Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) as part of the Stage One Regional Placement scheme. I’m currently lead producing on two shows in the New & Nurtured season in The DOOR this autumn – Delightful by Olivia Winteringham and Baby Daddy by Elinor Coleman – as well as supporting on Nativity! and The Hundred and One Dalmatians in The HOUSE.
What does Stage One mean to you and how has Stage One developed your career?
Stage One has been an active presence in my career development from the moment I arrived in the UK.
I first encountered Stage One while completing my MFA in Creative Producing at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. As an industry resource for students, we had several lectures and one-to-one sessions that allowed us to explore the role of the commercial producer. These sessions also introduced us to the support that Stage One can offer to those trying to break into commercial producing, from workshops to investment. Following graduation, Stage One has given me the support and the ability to explore gaps in my knowledge and experience that would otherwise be difficult to pursue. While I have worked within smaller companies (several also supported by Stage One!), a yearlong placement in such a vibrant organisation as The REP has given me a brilliant perspective to learn about producing regionally, but also the ability to have ownership over the work being produced.
What is the biggest thing you have learnt whilst on the placement?
To be afforded access to the contacts, knowledge, and experience of an organisation is invaluable to an emerging producer, and there are few opportunities as comprehensive as the regional placement scheme. I have been able to solidify the skills I have while also applying those skills to new and varying situations. It’s similarly informed my work ethic and preferences – being part of a brilliant team at The REP has been integral to my personal practice and development. More specifically, I am taking this time on the placement to learn about commercial co-productions and producing in the regions, which is of particular interest as these types of producing become more prevalent to the UK’s arts economy.
Last show you saw and loved?
Tommy at The REP – A New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich in co-production with Ramps on the Moon. It was an incredible, fully accessible show that really challenged (and changed!) the way I thought about theatre making and accessibility.
What do you think, is the best thing about the Theatre Industry?
My favourite part of the theatre industry is storytelling – we’re nothing without our stories, and I never tire of hearing them. All you need is a room full of producers to prove that the “industry” loves telling a story as much as a playwright!
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
This industry is a tough one, and I’ve received lots of excellent practical advice. However, one of my favourite quotes that has gotten me through a lot of rejection and self-doubt is the one below from Lee Edward Colston, II whose applications were rejected three times before becoming the first African-American male to be awarded an MFA in Drama from The Julliard School in 2016:
“Sometimes, we let rejection define us. Rejection is not an adversary, it's a guide post. If a door does not open then it may not be your door YET. Keep going. Climb in through the window. Break in through the roof. Sneak in through the basement if you have to. But DON'T QUIT. You're probably much closer than you think.”