January Blues antidote! By Alex Stringer

This week, we were fortunate enough to have Leanne Jones (Executive Director of 20 Stories High theatre company) come in and run our session.

Before Leanne joined us, we had a quick check in. Some of the wicked women have hit the ground running, as it were, in the new year and others have enjoyed the break over the holiday period and are just adjusting back into working life, myself being one of the latter.

Leanne started the session by explaining the order of how the time would be spent. As someone with anxiety, I really appreciate this approach as, when I don’t know what will be expected of me, my anxiety is heightened. Something small but I personally really appreciated it. Leanne also asked us what we wanted the vibe of the session to be, which we agreed on as: laid-back, warm, open and supportive. I really enjoy this way of working, as everyone having the chance to dictate the type of session it is, makes it more of an open, frank discussion where everyone is equal.

One of the tasks we had was to share, in small groups, when the moment was, when we realised that we wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I was in a group with Ada and Martyna. Ada said that when choosing her GCSE’s, she had a Drama GCSE taster session where they got to go and have workshops in a theatre and by the end of the day, she knew that it was for her. Martyna thought she was going to do a degree in textiles but when performing in Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis in school, she said she made this guttural scream, almost like she came alive in that moment and since then, she’s been creating.

Martyna also said that she realises this is the career for her in different ways at different times of her life and I agree with that, but I only realised last night that my perserverance to stay in this career, despite being rejected on multiple occasions and believing my self-doubt, is amazing. I was in musicals as a kid but then someone said I wasn’t a good enough dancer, so I wanted to become a “straight actor” but I knew I couldn’t make people laugh, so I thought I couldn’t be an actor and just be in the ‘crying roles’ as I put it. Until I was 15 and then I found my funny bone, so then I applied for drama school but then I didn’t get in and then I went to university, still performing but started to believe that I wasn’t good enough to be onstage anymore. I realised I was good at producing so I started doing that but, as a sober alcoholic, this is when the drink took over for me and everything else fell away, until I got sober in 2017. Whether Leanne intended it or not, this was another ‘realisation’ for me, because I realised that I’ve always been good enough, I just didn’t believe it, I even drank on it, but somehow, I’ve kept my feet planted in this industry, because I belong in it. And since getting sober, I’m still producing but I’m also writing my debut play (currently procrastinating by doing this blog post) and I started doing stand up comedy ten months ago which, without a drink in my system, makes me feel like a rockstar and like I can do anything.

This programme we wicked women are on, sometimes makes me so emotional. Whether it be because everyone in the room is a womxn and so I feel more open, or because the workshops are so self-focused and person-led, that is a question for our leaders, El & Claire, but I think it’s a good thing, a great thing, even.

The other main task we did was to write our “elevator pitch”, which Leanne described to be, where we, if met with someone in our industry, could plug who we are, what we do and how we can help them or they can help us, in one minute.

I was sat with Meg, a SFX make up artist and we both spoke to Leanne about how we were finding it hard because Meg’s art form is so different to everyone else’s in our cohort and mine feels too contrasting (theatre & comedy) but Leanne reminded us that, that is what makes us unique and interesting. For example, my unique selling point is that I’m a young, sober alcoholic who wants to make social change through theatre by challenging society’s perspective of alcoholic/addicts and additionally show that alcoholics aren’t boring by telling a decent dick joke onstage. Or as Leanne more professionally put it, that I am both political and playful in the work I make.

Finally, we had a Thoughts/Ideas/Contacts chart paper up in the corner to, at any point during the session, use it to help others in the group e.g, if you could recommend a contact for someone. I think everyone liked this idea so I think we’ll keep this up each session. Coming out of the session last night I felt revitalised and focused and happy with who I am, where I’m at, and what needs to be done and when the January blues is definitely a thing, it was the perfect antidote. Thank you, Leanne!


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