Saturday, 19 August 2017

Graduate to Grown Up: Emma

Emma, age 26.
Studied English at King's College London,
graduated in 2012. 

What was your dream job as a recent graduate?
I really wanted to go to drama school straight after university and train to be an actor. A lot of things made me reconsider though - or chicken out, whichever way you see it. I got quite ill the summer I graduated and lost a lot of confidence. I wasn't ever sure how to make it work financially, and I was finding other areas in the world of theatre that got me a bit curious.

What do you do now?
Right now, I'm working full-time as Executive Assistant at the Almeida Theatre in Islington. It's a completely brilliant producing theatre that, in spite of being small in size, produces some really bold and adventurous new work. We currently have Hamlet in the West End, with another two production lined up for the next six months, as well as 1984 on Broadway - so it's a great combination of being intimate and international at the same time!

In terms of getting here... the day I handed my dissertation I got a call from a director/writer I had worked with during an internship in my first year of university: she needed an assistant producer for her play in the West End and I jumped at the chance, and ended up by accident becoming interested in producing. I spent a couple of years working with a company producing new British musicals, working front of house on the side every evening, and trying to create as much of my own work as possible. It all got a bit much working day and night though, and I started to lose track of what I wanted to do and where I was going, so I took a year out to travel to Australia to work at the fringe festivals over there. I worked the weirdest mix of jobs ever, including giving advice to pregnant women and staging a group of four year olds' first Christmas nativity. 

At the end of that year I saw this job going at the Almeida and it seemed like everything might fall into place. I was dying to work in a venue, but had also started writing more and wanted to be closer to directors, writers, theatre-makers. I still write and perform on the side, I find it hard to stand still, but why I'd recommend this role to anyone wanting to break into the world of theatre, is because the access and relationships you form with so many people are unrivalled. Theatre is a difficult industry to break into and it often involves a lot of working for free or very like money and if you, like me, need to somehow pay rent at the same time, you end up working around the clock. It took me a while to work out a balance and, admittedly, having a more stable job and taking a break from being freelance has kept me sane; there will always be so many people willing to take your place or work for less money, but I'd always say protect your self-worth, say no sometimes, trust your instincts, and definitely don't feel guilty about flirting your way to free food in Pret.

What is life like working in the world of theatre? Is it 'the dream'?
I love it for so many reasons; it's a hub of creativity, you can wear whatever you like, everyone has a good sense of humour and your team is in it for the love of the work which is good for the soul. My job is quite Devil Wears Prada - I look after the diaries of the Artistic Director, Executive Director and Associate Director which can be a bit mad. People skills are a must, and being inventive, good at writing and capable of spinning a million plates also helps. It often means I have no idea what's going on in my own life and sometimes need five gins at the end of the day. Alongside the admin, I also do copy-writing for the theatre and read script submissions, which is what I love the most. Working in theatre can be strange hours - you're often seeing shows in the evening, but that also means you start later, so every cloud. I'm starting to learn that nothing is 'the dream' - we grow up on Disney and The Notebook  ideals but life is definitely equal amounts of "I can't believe I have a famous person's email address" and "I wonder what it must be like to be able to afford tampons AND food".

How important is your life outside of your job in progressing your career?
It's the most important thing for me. I have a habit of constantly looking ahead and putting a lot of pressure on myself to 'get somewhere' even if I have no idea where that is, and I just end up in Ikea. I do an improvisation course once a week which I'm obsessed with because the people are the most wonderful humans on earth, and it's also extremely good for the soul to just play like a kid for three hours on a Monday and make each other laugh. I also co-write with a brilliant comedian and one of my favourite people on earth, Tamar Broadbent; we wrote and performed our first comedy play SPLIT this year. I co-host and co-produce a podcast called Heroine Addicts with some brilliant women, and write my blog I've learned the hard way that if you do too much, and try to be superwoman, you burn out so I try to avoid getting ill or having major anxiety attacks by having at least one evening in a week to completely chill out, maybe go on a run or just hang out with my boyfriend in a way that isn't brushing our teeth in the morning before work.

Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION. I really want to be a paid writer. I'm still figuring out my 'thing' - I love writing funny stories and I'm thinking about having a go at a book. Perhaps the dream would be to be Britain's equivalent to Amy Poehler. And as clich√© as it sounds, I want to make sure I keep writing honestly and I'd like to think that whatever I write makes a difference - even if it's just making someone laugh on a cloudy day, or breaking a stigma, like letting the world know that we all get flaky nipples from time to time. But also on a basic level, the goal is being happy and healthy and to stay true to myself. I'd like to have a roof over my head and a kettle that isn't too slow. I'd like a better mattress and goodness me I'd really love a dog and to speak better Spanish. And endless, endless croissants. 

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