We're four weeks into the semester and time seems to have rushed by. The first years seem, for the most part, to have settled in and there's some really promising work coming out from Levels 2 and 3.
I'm still finding my feet a little as Academic Director with each week bringing further challenges. I'm still in the honeymoon period, but it's feeling a bit like a race against time. One day, very soon I know I'll be expected to have more answers than questions.
The toughest part of the new job is getting used to not being so directly involved in the students' work. I hear of good things in dispatches now, rather than being in the meetings or rehearsal rooms myself. I'm really pleased that the second year Applied Theatre group have started a blog for their project, which, even if I can't be directly involved with I'll have some chance of staying in touch with.
Most of my new role is about looking forward and outwards, trying to plot a course for the Drama Programmes over the next few years, whilst raising our profile beyond the institution. It's less operational and more strategic. After five years of Programme Directing though it's taking a bit of effort to learn to let go of some of the nitty gritty, day to day problem solving. Ultimately it's a question of trust, though, and Kasia, Patsy, Matt, Michelle and of course Trevor make up a vastly experienced team. It's still delightful to catch someone in a corridor and hear them speak excitedly of how their work is going.
So to the future. The best way forward is, I think, to push for very high standards of practice and delivery from our current students, whilst doing everything we can to keep a buzz about the shows. Exciting, creative work attracts attention, builds reputations and enables us develop ever more interesting projects. I've always thought that successful cultures are built on the high demand of everybody operating within that culture.
In the short term I want to make sure that each student is aware of the expectations that the course has for them and feels secure within those expectations. If we can get that right then we'll be in a better place to create some wonderful theatre.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.