Lime interview - Theatre
EDITOR - Vernia Mengot
Associate Director at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Dawn Reid talks to Lime about work on ‘The Harder They Come
Dawn Reid has a remarkable list of accreditations within the theatre industry, through her all-embracing work in performance, directing and producing. Recently she has been co-directing ‘The Harder They Come’ and ahead of the opening at the end of this month, Dawn talk’s rehearsals, preparations and the Olympics.
You have an extensive association in performing arts, producing and directing have you always had passion for a career in theatre?
For me- yes I suppose I have. It started back at school; I was very lucky to have a fantastic drama teacher; who is still my friend and mentor. It’s a bit of a cliché, as drama has been a saviour since then. I knew I felt comfortable.
One of your theatre credits includes working as associate director on Avenue Q, that must have been quite an experience; Tell us more.
It was the most fantastic time; it was a long process because it came off Broadway, and so I worked with the first original cast for the West End. It was a long process doing auditions and recalls, puppet workshops; where actors had to learn how to work with puppets, as none of them had done it before. I worked with a great guy who had worked with Disney. It was the first big show I was associate director for. I looked after the show once the American team had gone. It was a lovely cast; everyday was different, when you have a great script and great songs it. It was a great experience for me, a learning experience.
What is one of the hardest things about working in theatre?
I suppose if I’m really honest the thing about theatre, is that the shows are in the evening, directing/ rehearsing all day. It can take up your hours, so it falls into your personal life. Lots of my friends are part of what I do. There are Pros and cons, but you do it because you love it. I’m lucky I’m doing a job that I really love, so I’m blessed.
What’s one thing you know now about working in theatre that you wish you knew when you first embarked on your career?
I suppose it’s such an education for me, you’re always learning. I don’t think I would have known anything before. You’ve got to give it one hundred percent. Always learning skills things you learn along the way.
You are co-creator of Spoke-Lab with Roger Robinson; tell us what Spoke –Lab all about?
Spoke lab started out of spoke fest, back in 2006, which was a festival of spoken word. Roger Robinson I’d known from previous work, he is a performer, poet, writer and musician. He’s a great mentor and teacher. The festival was for two weeks, with a slam championship at the end for unknown spoken word artists.
I created one show with a group of the guys, who were fantastic artists and still are. We were very interested in mixing theatre and spoken word. In 2006/07, we looked at how do we could take this further, we came up with Spoke-Lab, it was to be a space, a lab, a safe secure and creative place for artists to question, play, workshop ideas and learn new skills.
Hopefully we can bring that in again.
You were awarded with a Carlton Multicultural Achievement Award for performing arts, how does it feel?
I was very taken back actually because you do what you do and of course you hope they have a great show. When People outside the biz see that, it boosts you and also you see people get it. I was honoured.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I love sci-fi, I love my Underworld and the vampire thing, the Twiglight thing. I can’t wait for Prometheus to come out.
Recently you have been working on ‘The Harder They Come’, out this month at Stratford East. How are the preparations going?
This time we are doing a concert version, it’s stripped back, not the full version. We only had a week to rehearse; its part of the Open Stage initiative about allowing the audience and community to choose what they want to see on stage. We were not able to do big productions but we did concerts. The Harder They Come, has rhythm, flow and energy, and brings culture onto the main stage. We are lucky that we were able to do that, Kerry Michael co directs.
You must have a busy year ahead of you, what else are you working on?
We don’t start Hard until the end of the month. It’s been a busy year so far, we are right in the middle of the Olympics; a lot of the countries will take over a building, we going to have Nigeria with us. So it will be Nigeria house, this will help promote cultural events, in music, fashion, and we will create a couple of programs. Legacy is really important to us, 30 Nigeria House will give £3,000 to 30 emerging 18-35 year old artists from the UK and Nigeria. That is exciting.
I have Panto this year, so look forward to that, I’ve got Jack and the Beanstalk, with a new writer called Paul Sirett, he wrote The Big Life and he helped on the show Come Dancing. It’s his first Panto. We have original music and songs; we take the story with a bit of a twist.
When you’re not working what are some of your favourite things to do?
You know what I sound so boring, I catch up with my friends and family, I’ve got lots of nieces and God-children, my mum is my role model she is just amazing. They root me back down again. And Sleep [laughs].
Remarkable Men: Who in the theatre industry do you think is a remarkable male?
It hard for me, I think that our black actors work hard. They have to work twice as hard, actors by right have to work hard. And for male actors like Idris Elba, who have done their time here and weren’t getting the stuff they need and have to go to the States to work their socks off there and then they come back here and then it’s like “Hi, you can do your thing now.” They are all remarkable. The Adrian Lester’s, men from back in the day like Victor Romero Evans and Eddie Nestor, there’s a whole generation of guys; they are out there and we know, but not everyone knows about them.
Info: The Harder They Come Concert will be performed on 29 & 30 June Friday 7.30pm & Saturday 2pm & 7.30pm at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
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A BRIMFUL OF ASHBELL