(Gbolahan Obisesan, ULTZ, Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and John Studzinski. CR. Adrian Myers)
Six people with no previous formal training in performance design have been chosen from more than 50 applicants for the pilot Genesis Theatre Design Programme and have begun their studies.
A new iteration of the renowned Motley Theatre Design Course which ran as a one-year full time programme from 1966 to 2010, the Genesis Theatre Design Programme is a free, two-year part-time course which will train and support six designers with the aim of increasing global majority representation among theatre designers in the industry, expanding the pipeline of talent and opening more career opportunities.
It is a partnership between the Mulberry Creative Industry Training College, the National Theatre, The School of Historical Dress and Brixton House and is funded by the Genesis Foundation and the National Theatre Foundation, with additional support from the James Family Charitable Trust.
The programme includes tutorials with world-class designers and directors, lectures and research projects with staging and costume experts, design projects with global majority directors and artists, practical training with production and technical staff, placements as assistants to designers, and experience in theatres. Participants will also network with and receive mentoring from leading industry professionals.
The Genesis Theatre Design Programme is delivered on a part time basis over two years to allow the trainees to keep their current jobs to support their living costs. Classes are held on Monday and Wednesday evenings and on Saturdays. Towards the end of the second year of the programme placement opportunities will be sought for the cohort across the industry.
During induction week in April, the trainees were welcomed by Paul Handley, Head of Production and Technical Director of the National Theatre, who gave them a detailed tour of the National Theatre including the design studio in which they will be studying and working. This was followed by a site visit to The School of Historical Dress where many of their costume classes will take place, taught by Professor Jenny Tiramani and colleagues. The trainees have also settled into their permanent workshop space at Mulberry UTC.
The Genesis Theatre Design Programme is led and delivered by Sadeysa Greenway-Bailey, Gbolahan Obisesan and ULTZ, in collaboration with Clint Dyer, Deputy Artistic Director of the National Theatre, and other industry leaders.
Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey, Gbolahan Obisesan and ULTZ, course leaders, said, “We have now started the programme after four years of planning. Our first cohort has individuals from many different walks of life, bringing their own experiences, stories and perspectives. We will be developing, stimulating and supporting them on their creative journeys over the next two years of the programme, and for many years to come”
Theatre designer Es Devlin, alumna from the Motley Theatre Design Course said: “In the theatre, objects and environments can be given voice and invited to sing with performers. Through the care, curiosity, skill and imagination of designers, environments framed by theatre can cast their spell on audiences, and help shift perspectives in ways most urgently needed in our time of civilisational crisis. The Genesis Theatre Design Course has this knowledge at its roots: I look forward to witnessing its first cohort flourish, and to learning from them while supporting their progress.”
David Lan, Trustee of the Genesis Foundation, said: “The Genesis Theatre Design Programme is a rebirth of a much valued tradition and, at the same time, the start of something new. Whether ‘the space’ of performance is empty or filled, theatre design is at the heart of theatre, is as expressive of meaning and feeling quite as much as acting or directing. Huge appreciation to Paul Handley, ULTZ, the Mulberry School and Genesis for keeping the faith during the long dark covid winter – and welcome to this happy coming together in the spring”
Mark Dakin, Trustee of the Genesis Theatre Design Programme, said: “Ever since working as an assistant alongside resident designers at Stratford East and The Young Vic in the 1980s and in The Model Room of The Royal Opera House in the 1990s, I have understood and advocated the value of design based training for the full breadth of backstage crafts in the performing arts, live experience and beyond. I am in no doubt of the profound impact The Genesis Theatre Design Course will have on the institution in which it is based and the sector more widely and I’m thrilled at the prospect of the worlds of the stories which are told on our stages being seen through more representative eyes.”
John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, said “For more than 20 years, the Genesis Foundation has been investing in the careers of exceptional creative professionals, enabling them to develop their skills, networks and resilience. At the National Theatre, the Genesis Music Theatre Programme has been running successfully since 2017. We look forward to see the first ever cohort of the Genesis Theatre Design Programme through their training, which will nurture outstanding talent while addressing a striking imbalance in the creative industries, to benefit from two years of mentorship from some of the UK’s leading design professionals. Structured, collaborative programmes like this are vital to the UK’s cultural sector, ensuring that it thrives and that it leads by example when it comes to innovation, professionalism and representation.” .
Find out more about the Genesis Theatre Design Programme