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The three women bringing diversity to theatre

DREAM TEAM: Siobhan Walsh, Kandace Caine and Elizabeth Alabi

NEXT UP Talent is providing a platform for BAME artists to showcase their work to an audience this November at National Theatre Studios. The aim for their business is to create a space, which highlights scenes and monologues from the UK's inspiring and emerging talent in acting, writing and directing.

We spoke to co-founders Kandace Caine, Elizabeth Alabi and director Tian Glasgow about their love of theatre, funding and whether diversity is here to stay in the UK.

Q: When did you first develop your interest in theatre?

Kandace Caine: We’ve been doing theatre as actors for a long time. Theatre is my main source for acting and when I went to LA three years ago, I was getting so much work out there and when I came back I realised that there was a gap here. Some of the actors here in UK are getting nowhere near the work I was getting in Los Angeles, and that’s when we came up with the idea for the showcase, to promote diversity and women especially.

Elizabeth Alabi: Since my youth, I’ve always been interested in acting and writing and I actually went down a slightly different route. I went to university and studied law to have that safety net, because acting can be very up and down. But during my studies I still did acting and once I finished I immersed myself in theatre.

Q: Tell me more about how you share the responsibilities of Next Up Talent?

Kandace: So we have a third member to our team, Siobhan Walsh, and we all have different roles. We try and do as much together as we can but Siobhan is head of marketing, I’m really good a pitching, finding locations and Elizabeth is really good at the admin. We all have our individual areas that make us work well as a team.

BEHIND THE CAMERA: Director, Tian Glasgow

Elizabeth: We all know how to handle pressure to – which is important when you’re building a business especially one built on friendship. You need to know how to handle those outside pressures of just trying to get out there and succeed as a team. We’re the producers; the co-founders and we really make it work.

Q: Over the years, there’s been a decrease in funding towards the arts, and many young creatives don’t know how to go about financing their own productions. What advice do you have for them?

Tian Glasgow: You’d be amazed about how much you can invent and how creative you can be when you get a team together for a common goal. You could rehearse in a friend’s basement or film outdoors etc. So you can get quite creative with that. Also it’s important to keep a tab on all the opportunities, workshops and funding programs out there.

Elizabeth: Social media plays a big role as well. A lot of people have been uploading there own material and putting it out there for the world. So that’s something that can be monetized and assist with financing and creating projects on a limited budget.

Q: What should we expect from your second major showcase in November?

Kandace: We have some interesting different extracts of writing. Some of the writers are emerging, some have never really done any at all, and some are very established. We have 40 actors a part of this showcase and 14 directors, so you’re going to see all different extracts and performances at this showcase including musical theatre, film, theatre, solo performances and TV.

Q: Between your first showcase and now, how has the production process and quality developed?

Elizabeth: That showcase in February was our first and looking back we definitely prioritised organisation even more so for our second showcase. There’s a lot of strengths that we learnt from the last showcase that we’ll bring into the new one, like keeping to time, making sure the extracts are under a certain amount of minutes, and we’ve received some really great feedback too.

Q: With Kwame Kwei-Armah being named as the new artistic director of the Young Vic, do you think this signifies a shift in diversity behind the scenes in the theatre world?

Kandace: I think there are some changes if you are an innovator. If you are willing to work hard then yes, but if not then I think you’ll have trouble. There are more opportunities but you’ve got to put in twice the work.

Q: What can we expect from Next Up Talent in 2018?

Kandace: We are focusing on the pieces we’ve written and our own smaller projects.

Elizabeth: Doing two showcases in one year with such a fast turnover means that we really need to do our own evaluation and reflect on what we’ve done and what our next step is.

Tian: I’m writing a piece at the moment, planning to apply for a new set of funding and do more workshops around the country.

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