Before the Gig

On Producing: Industry, Infrastructure and Cultures of Change

February 25, 2019  NUI, Galway

This event investigates the role of the producer and the processes of production with a particular emphasis on how change can be facilitated to occur. The primary analysis is directed at producing for theatre and performance, but takes account of the intersections and relationships with the wider creative arts industry. This event is intended to examine producing from multiple perspectives and areas of expertise, including the history of producing, networks and training, hosting and touring, festivals and events, budgets and financial planning, the impact of identity politics at policy and decision-making level, and the development of storytelling content.


Workshop Overview

Producing is essential to the making of theatre and performance, and requires greater attention in theatre and performance scholarship, as well as further training opportunities. Producing is vital to the successful management, growth and legacy of single events, co-productions, touring, and festivals. Producing theatre and performance ensures creativity is central to social and cultural activity, as well as a financial stimulant for the wider economy. As Galway prepares for the 2020 European Capital of Culture designation, creative arts graduates must be equipped with the skills of creative entrepreneurs to identify the opportunities and challenges that are forthcoming. Graduates in the current creative arts workforce must be multi-skilled. To build a career, one is required to build a network, develop an audience base, and attract sponsorship and support from a variety of corporate and institutional entities.

However, recent studies and symposia, such as the Gender Counts[1] report commissioned by #WakingTheFeminists and supported by the Arts Council, identify that certain value-systems continue to discriminate against women at professional level, resulting in less employment opportunities and less pay. Therefore, any study into the role of producing which fundamentally concerns the creation of storytelling for public consumption and circulation must include a dedicated focus directed at hiring practices, funding awards, and how and why certain stories get told and retold, while others become marginalised and/or dismissed. Furthermore, recent local and international revelations regarding workplace relations behind the scenes have highlighted the need for reviewing and strengthening workplaces cultures and labour relations policies as they pertain to the creative and cultural industries.

Feminist theatre scholar Elin Diamond analyses the relationship between theatre and the world it speaks to, maintaining that ‘representation and social-historical reality are fully imbricated.’[2] Diamond summarises the odds stacked against women in the theatre specifically, while highlighting their essential role for meaning-making to occur at all, ‘Historically women have been denied power in the theater apparatus yet signs of female sexuality have been crucial to that apparatus’s functioning.’[3] These issues have attracted much attention recently as questions regarding the need for change in theatre and performance practices come under renewed scrutiny.

How have these changes affected contemporary culture, and the culture of producing? Is there change occurring behind the scenes as well as with the selection of work staged? What further steps must be enacted to support and sustain long-term change, rather than culminating in a brief burst of energy that inevitably dissipates? In All Change Please, Lucy Kerbel of Tonic Theatre examines the various types of change that can inform theatre practices and ideologies, noting that marginal gains can offer major rewards if undertaken by multiple people simultaneously. Kerbel advocates that the ‘principle of focusing on small things, of being specific, and of recognising that a vast range of steps and actions are required to achieve a bigger goal, is a sound one. The business-speak way of phrasing this would be to ensure the actions we commit to are SMART: those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.’[4] This symposium is intended to be both reflective and aspirational in scope, examining the changes that have occurred in the past, while considering the opportunities for change that remain ahead.

Key questions this event asks, include:

  • What is the current state of training for emerging producers in Ireland and Europe today, and how can training opportunities be developed and supported?

  • What are the most important skills a producer should hone to nurture and sustain a career?

  • What are the most significant opportunities and threats facing producers today?

  • What policies should be reviewed, and, what policies should be implemented to ensure a safe and professional work culture is maintained?

  • Should a study/ies into past practices concerning theatre and performance production be commissioned to examine and address issues regarding discrimination and/or identity politics?

  • What type of change still needs to occur to lay the groundwork for a more fertile and equitable creative workforce to emerge?

This event is curated by the Feminist Storytelling Network at NUI Galway, and sponsored by the NUI Galway College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies Research Support Scheme, the Irish Society for Theatre Research, the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, and Gender ARC.

The training workshop and working groups are free, but places are limited. To secure a place:

  • For the workshop please register for ‘A Producer’s Toolkit’ via Eventbrite.

  • For the Working Groups, please register for ‘On Producing’ via Eventrbite

For any further information relating to this event, please email ‘


Morning Workshop 11am - 1pm: A Producer’s Toolkit

Workshop Facilitators: Dr Mairead Ni Chronin, Moonfish Theatre

                                             Jane Daly, Irish Theatre Institute

1:00 -2:00 Break

2-3.30pm: On Producing Working Group 1

Chair: Dr Miriam Haughton

Lucy Kerbel, Director, Tonic Theatre UK

Una NicEoin, Executive Producer, Prime Cut Productions

Anne Clarke, Producer, Landmark Productions

3.30-3.45: Break

3.45 – 5.15: On Producing Working Group 2

Chair: Roisin Stack

Jen Coppinger, Head of Producing, Abbey Theatre

Louise Lowe, Co-Artistic Director, ANU Productions

Craig Flaherty, Cultural Producer, Galway 2020

5.30: Wine Reception and Book launch

Staging Trauma: Bodies in Shadow (Palgrave, 2018) by Miriam Haughton

Introduced by Prof Niamh Reilly (NUI Galway)

Launched by Louise Lowe (ANU) and Dr Cathy Leeney (UCD)

[1] ‘Gender Counts: An Analysis of Gender in Irish Theatre 2006 – 2015’, conducted by #WakingTheFeminists research team, sponsored by the Arts Council Ireland. Free PDFs can be downloaded here:

[2] Elin Diamond, Unmaking Mimesis: Essays on Feminism and Theater. London and New York: Routledge, p. iii.

[3] Ibid, p. iii

[4] Lucy Kerbel, All Change Please: A Practical Guide to Achieveing Gender Equality in Theatre. London: Nick Hern, 2017, p. 22