James Seabright is the youngest (he was 22 when it was awarded earlier this year) ever winner of the Theatre Investment Fund's New Producers bursary.
The money went toward staging his company's forthcoming productions at the Courtyard Theatre. The first, Told You So plays at the Courtyard from 17th December to 12th January. The second, The Mapmaker's Sorrow, runs there from 14th January to 9th February.
Theatrenow went to meet James in Covent Garden.
You've made an early start to your career as a producer!
"I'm lucky in that I knew what I wanted to do from an early age. I had - as is often the case with people who make a career in theatre - a very good English teacher, and that set me off on the right track. "Although I didn't really understand the role of a producer, or that you could have a job as one, at that stage, producing is in effect what I did with the school plays - one year I stage Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, using the same set for both!"
Your first show at the Courtyard is a musical, too?
"Yes, it's a musical retelling of Aesop's Fables. There's something about musicals that I really enjoy, and they're always a great challenge."
It seems quite ambitious to start your producing with, in effect, a season of plays.
"Well, to be fair I have produced other things already - a tour of A Tale of Two Cities for example. But I like the Courtyard as a space - it's a converted stables with atmosphere and lots of nooks and crannies that make it a very interesting space to perform in.
"I also find the management very helpful - which is a crucial part of getting a show successfully staged - and it made economic - and artistic - sense to get both plays that I wanted to do on at the same venue. It also helps make a bit more of an impact, which is something every producer has to do!"
The bursary must have been a great help, but presumably raising money for productions when you are at the start of your career must be quite difficult?
"You not only need good contacts in terms of finding investors, you also need more than one source of income. I work with another theatre company - Ophaboom - who are currently at Riverside Studios.
"I also do a certain amount of journalism - internet journalism, in fact! This has always been a parallel interest of mine, and however much you love theatre - and you have to, to make a career in it - it's good to have an outside interest, and not just in commercial terms, but to take your mind off it occasionally. It keeps you fresh."
Your theatre company is called Bright Choice. Any particular reason, and does it have a particular ethos?
"The name's a sort of double pun - on my name and on the idea that we're a good choice for both theatre managers and audiences.
"As for an ethos, I think it's very important to start with, and maintain, very high production standards in all your work, wherever it's performed. I also think its important to keep links with your creative team - designers, lighting, directors, whoever. If you are comfortable with working with someone and you have a shared history of collaborating on other plays or musicals, then that's bound to be a positive thing when you work together again. There's also a sense of loyalty to and from the company that is also important."
Given the help that the bursary has given, you'd presumably recommend other young writers to apply when it comes round again next year?
"Yes! Though the cash part of the bursary is only one element to it. You also get a mentor, someone already successful as a producer to whom you can - and are expected to - turn for advice. Getting the benefit of someone else's experience is a crucial part of getting started in any career - and I hope I'll be available to help other young producers in years to come!"
Told You So previews at the Courtyard Theatre, King's Cross, from 17th December. Press Night is 19th December.
For details of the Theatre Investment Fund's New Producers bursary, contact The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), 32 Rose Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9ET
- By Paul Webb Theatrenow