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‘I think there’s going to be a renaissance once this is over’: The masterclass for budding theatre producers

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Elishka Lane Barnes is taking part in a series of masterclasses this month for budding Irish producers

Elishka Lane Barnes is taking part in a series of masterclasses this month for budding Irish producers

Elishka Lane Barnes is taking part in a series of masterclasses this month for budding Irish producers

Producers are a vital cog in the theatre machine. One of the most influential people in Irish theatre at present is Anne Clarke, producer of Landmark Productions. Noel Pearson was a producing trailblazer in Dublin of the 1970s, eventually taking his shows to Broadway. But it’s an elusive role without a clear entry pathway.

As part of its pandemic programming, the Gate Theatre has roped in British producer Kate Pakenham to lead a series of masterclasses this month for budding Irish producers. Pakenham has produced for the Donmar Warehouse and The Old Vic Theatre in London and recently produced the New York tour of the Gate production of Hamlet starring Ruth Negga. The masterclass is aimed at emerging professionals.

Elishka Lane Barnes is an eager participant. She is from a theatrical background; her mother is the actress Julia Lane and her father is the director Ben Barnes. She grew up in Wexford and moved to Dublin four years ago to do drama and theatre studies at Trinity College. She is an actor, theatremaker and producer.

She has served on the committee of Trinity Players as secretary where producing “basically meant you were organising the bake sale”, so doing the Gate masterclass is a welcome move on “from cupcakes”. She sees Pakenham as a great role model.

Post-pandemic, she feels a hybrid will emerge between in-person theatre and online. “There is an upside to things being online in that it’s more accessible,” she says. “Players did over 50 online plays this year, but any theatre artist will say they are gagging to get back into the auditorium.”

Lane Barnes misses the dynamic of meeting people coming out of the Project or other venues but feels social media has compensated somewhat for that kind of word of mouth.

Now in her final year at Trinity, she is a co-founder of Gift Horse Theatre Company. She co-produced their show, Tess, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which premiered in the Rose Garden at Trinity. They had to cancel their near-sold out tour of stately homes in the southeast last summer once the lockdown was introduced.

Her first producing venture was no rose garden. She and her peers are emerging into the profession mid-pandemic. “It feels daunting and disheartening to be graduating just now,” she says, “but I’m an optimist and I’m hopeful. I think there is going to be a renaissance once this is all over and we are going to be a part of it.”

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