International and online: The New Works Playhouse

We talked to Robert Kodama, Founder and Artistic Director of The New Works Playhouse, a global community of performers and writers striving to support each other through bringing theatre online.

About your company: Tell us a bit about The New Works Playhouse. What does the company stand for? What sort of things do you produce? Why? What are you working on at the moment?

The New Works Playhouse has been set up to try and make the performing arts industry more accessible to those who might have difficulties getting their foot in the door, whether it's due to their financial situation, gender, ethnicity, or any other unnecessary barrier that might be put in front of them instead of looking at the talent someone has. I (Robert) certainly faced those barriers constantly in the industry and it pushed me to try and set something up where we thrive to break those barriers down and give everyone a fair opportunity to join us and produce new productions. 

How does sustainability come into your practice?  We are currently based solely on an online platform which reduces the need to travel, tour, and use up resources in a theatre space. To combat both the sustainability issue with financial constraints our members might be facing, we also do not place a heavy focus on high-quality recording equipment. This will help support our performers financially in that they are not disadvantaged because they do not possess expensive equipment, but also prevents the culture of buying new devices frequently by encouraging our members to use what they already have to the best of their ability to produce our shows.  How can theatre makers collaborate internationally in the midst of the climate crisis? This is actually at the heart of what we are trying to do. Our tagline is "Join a global community of performers and writers to get your voice heard." Our team is based in Japan (me), the UK, and Canada which means we can host auditions for prospective performers and interviews for prospective script submissions around the world. When we approve scripts, we are able to match performers and writers globally to put a production together. Our first production also had cast members located in those three countries - organising rehearsals were a little tricky but we made it work. As we are currently an online base, producing online productions allows us for a variety of voices and performers to participate and be heard in any of our productions. 

What have the highlights been of running The New Works Playhouse?  We have only been running for three weeks but the response has been incredible. We have had over 70 script submissions and over 100 applicants so far who have expressed their interest in becoming a member with us. We have also been featured in publications in Japan and also supported by a variety of drama schools, the BBC, and other major organisations. Feedback from our applicants have also been fantastic. Many have expressed that they have not been able to find an organisation in the industry quite like ours where all of our application and membership fees are free to support those with financial difficulties and to have a huge focus on looking at talent and not at someone's background. It is fantastic to see that our message is resonating with our applicants and to get such a huge response so early on and see the trust people have in us has been incredible. 

What have the difficulties of running The New Works Playhouse? What have you learnt? We have just put out our first production: Karoshi and one major difficulty is adapting a stage script to an online format. We are very conscious of not making our production into films so that we can try to stay somewhat true to a theatrical experience, but also as our members are spread across the globe, we cannot film in a physical theatre space. We are also not producing video conferencing style productions but trying to combine video editing techniques with our goal of producing a theatre production online. This is a mammoth task that will evolve over time as we learn new, best techniques to communicate our stories. 

Who should carry the responsibility for making the theatre/entertainment industry more sustainable? We all should be playing our part big or small as every little bit of effort will all add up to making the industry more sustainable.  Tips and tricks: What can emerging artists/companies do to be more eco-friendly? Innovation is key. This pandemic has pushed all of us to think of new ways of adapting to our current lifestyle and one option is moving to online formats of productions to reduce our carbon footprint when putting productions together. How we use the format is up to the artists and companies to think of new, exciting ways of producing shows.  Inspiration: Is there anyone else whose work in the arts and/or sustainability is inspiring you? It's difficult to name artists and groups but it is always inspiring to see how young artists are pushing the boundaries and breaking down unnecessary barriers that have been put in their way to create their own work and form their own organisations to keep telling stories and get their voices heard.  How can people get involved in your work? Prospective performers and writers can apply through our website to be on our books for future productions and read-throughs of new works. We are also currently looking for people with a wide range of skills such as directing, video editing skills, composers, the list is endless! If you think you can support our future projects, please get in touch at Website:  Tickets to our first production: Karoshi Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

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