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“It’s chaos but – organised chaos”
Show Face Festival is an online festival that celebrates ‘emerging creatives’ in the theatre industry, in a bid for them to (as the name suggests) show their face. A successful summer festival has already taken place, and a winter festival is planned for the 18th-20th of December.
I spoke to Lauren Elizabeth, the person responsible for organising what Dame Judi Dench herself called: ‘an enormous online Edinburgh festival’.
Firstly, tell me a bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, and what is your role within Show Face?
I’m Lauren Elizabeth, and I’m an actor and theatre director. I’m the founder and artistic director of Show Face.
What inspired you to start this festival, and how did you go about doing it?
It came out of quite a dark time, when theatre had been completely closed down – I was doing my masters in directing, and attempting to find a balance between being in education and working freelance, but there’s just not much support for us at the moment. As the next generation of theatre-makers, we shouldn’t just be forgotten, and I felt I had a responsibility to create opportunities that just aren’t there currently. It all started with a tweet. I really just wanted to create anything, but the tweet went viral, with over 400 people getting in touch. So I thought – I need to make something bigger.
Talking of the response you got, the team behind all this is tiny – just you and two others. Looking back at the summer program, you created a vast output of all sorts of scripts. How was the experience of having so much to put together?
It was hard. I’m very lucky to have the team I do – Natalie Pulfer, our creative producer, and Anais Denner-Roure, our business manager and creative welfare officer. It’s certainly a 24/7 thing, but it’s so worth it to see all the wonderful creative solutions to the current situation. It’s been chaos, but – organised chaos.
You’ve had to do this work in an unprecedented way. How was the experience of using online platforms to create theatre?
There really are good and bad aspects of working this way. For one thing, it’s so much more accessible – we can share rooms with people from all over, from China, Singapore, Iceland, America, that’s amazing. And all of our work is free, so we hope to be accessible to audiences. The biggest difficulties are of course surrounding technology – I didn’t even know how to set up an email account at first – so it’s learning on the go. And of course, there are wifi issues, and lag and all that. But as long as you have a line of open communication, you’re okay.
You state in your bio for the festival that you look for stories that ‘need to be told’. In the current climate, what stories are vital right now?
Well, part of the Show Face mission is to be as inclusive as possible – we don’t say no to anybody, every piece submitted we try our best to produce. This festival’s theme is ‘resilience’ – looking at resilience of theatre, but also more personally. At the moment, I think everybody’s story of resilience deserves to be heard.
A fun question to finish – what is your favourite thing to have come out of lockdown in terms of theatre? Mine, for example, is the Ratatouille musical, on TikTok.
Honestly, not the most fun answer, but probably the kindness and willingness of creatives to help out with anything. People can post on our Facebook group that they don’t know how to do something, and 7 people will reply with useful advice from their own experience. Although, I do also enjoy the Ratatouille musical.
Finally, how can people get involved and watch the festival?
We’re on Twitter as @showfacefest, and Facebook and Instagram as Show Face Festival. It will be running from the 18th to the 20th of December on a series of virtual platforms, including a lot of live performances which is very exciting. People can also email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I’m always willing to engage with creatives personally.
I also talked to Ciara Hay – a Lancaster student who is writing and directing as part of the festival.
What is your role within Show Face?
I have been lucky enough to be taken on board as both a writer and director. I have written a dark comedy piece titled ‘Medros Perseveres’, and I am directing ‘The Ghost of a Good Time’ by Vicky Richards.
How did you find out about it, and what have you done in the process so far?
At the beginning of October, I saw a post on Twitter that was calling out for emerging creatives, and I replied stating that I was a writer and director. When the official application forms were released it was a no-brainer for me to put myself forward. In the time since then, I wrote ‘Medros Perseveres’ and submitted it before having to sort through the scripts of almost fifty other writers. I then pitched my directing ideas to the Show Face team, and they gave me the option of two scripts that I could direct – evidently, I chose ‘The Ghost of a Good Time’. As it stands right now, ‘Medros Perseveres’ is almost fully cast, and ‘The Ghost of a Good Time’ has started rehearsals.
As one of the ‘emerging creatives’ that Lauren talks about, how has the covid crisis personally affected you?
I am one of the many lucky people that unceremoniously graduated this summer, so I have been job-hunting for the past few months. On top of this, a play that I was set to co-direct this summer was cancelled before we could even audition, as well as another this winter. I had a year of theatre plans that very quickly crumbled in the face of the pandemic, and while I gave myself time to grieve those plans, I had to sit myself down and ask myself “okay, what now?”. For me, my “what now” was getting involved with Show Face Festival while trying to continue on with various other projects, and remembering that a year realigned is worth the lives that we can save by adhering to the policies in place.
How can people watch your work?
Everything will be available through the Show Face Festival website. You can also keep up to date with everything through their social media accounts, as well as the Ko-Fi pages that are being set up to take any donations in order to support all of the creative teams.