Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jack Maple

These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we've faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we'll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times.

Let's stick together, share the love and get through this as a community!

*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation. Please keep that in mind when reading* 

Jack Maple started producing at the age of 20, becoming one of the West End’s youngest ever producers. His work includes European premiere of Max Vernon’s The View UpStairs at Soho Theatre and the celebrated revival of Kander & Ebb’s The Rink at Southwark Playhouse which won five Off-West End Awards including Best Musical Production, the European premiere of Stephen Schwartz & Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Working (Southwark Playhouse), the Olivier Award-winning revival of Show Boat (New London Theatre), The Diary Of A Teenage Girl (Southwark Playhouse). In 2018, Jack founded Take Two Theatricals Ltd, an international concert and production company, with his producing partner Brian Zeilinger. Together, with Club11 London, producing a series of concerts, including the UK premiere of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Caissie Levy, Tony Award-winners Kelli O’Hara and Stephanie J Block along with Sierra Boggess. 

On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction? 

For me, it really started the week prior. When I’m not producing independently, I work as part of the General Management team on Bat Out Of Hell The Musical. Our company, who’d been rehearsing since the beginning of March were due to fly to the US to start the international tour on the 18th March. Suddenly that all came crashing down. In the space of 24 hours, the Governor of New Jersey, where we due to open, had closed all performance venues and the President had announced a travel ban to the US. The tour is on hold for now, but due to start back up again here in the UK in September. 

When the announcement came out from SOLT, I was in the office dealing with agents, airlines and everything in between to try and wrap up the show for the time being. Initially, there was a sense of confusion. The Government hadn’t actively instructed theatres to shut down, merely advised against attending them, which presented a legal minefield for producers and insurers alike. Then the uncertainty hit. I’m a freelancer and with no shows that means no income. It was the right decision, no doubt, but the consequences across the industry are going to be felt for some time to come. 

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?

My co-producer, Brian Zeilinger will tell you I’m terrible at reading scripts, but I’ve really got my head down and am reading a lot of them at the moment. There’s a lot of planning going on for concerts and productions we’re going to do once we’re on the other side of this madness. People are going to need their spirits lifted, and we’re keen to be ready for audiences once they’re allowed back!

Beyond that, I’m making sure I’m keeping in shape. Sod’s law dictated that the week before this all started, I signed up to a gym and had a hired a Personal Trainer with the aim of getting fitter. He’s given me some terrific at-home exercises to be keeping busy with, but I’m keeping an eye on some of the Instagram workouts that many West End performers have started offering. It’s a brilliant way of engaging with people and getting them off the sofa for half an hour! 

Whenever you log onto social media there is so much negativity circulating. How have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times? 

I take social media with a pinch of salt. There’s a lot of negativity, but there’s a damn sight more positivity out there if you know where to look. I’m also lucky enough to be in the countryside, so I always take an hour out of my day, for Government-approved exercise, to take the dog for a long walk, put my phone on airplane mode and plug myself into a cast recording. 

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

Artists and Creatives are immensely resilient, and I’ve been hugely impressed by the sheer amount of content out there at the moment. There’s so much good theatre available to us, it’s hard to get bored! Whether it’s the National Theatre’s At Home series or Lambert Jackson’s concerts with the Theatre CafĂ©, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy great theatre and support the arts.

Also, shout out to Paul Taylor-Mills and the team at the Turbine Theatre for their brilliant Fund for Freelancers initiative – an opportunity to support those most affected in our industry. 

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers?

The Coronavirus cruelly took one of our greatest playwrights, Terrence McNally. I’d urge you all to read some his beautiful and brilliant plays; Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion! & Mothers And Sons amongst others.

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?! 

I’m surrounding myself (virtually, because you know, lockdown) with positive people. I’m spending my days juggling FaceTime calls or pub quizzes on Zoom and re-connecting with old friends. If anything comes out of this madness, it’ll be that I’m reminded just how many wonderful people I’m lucky enough to have in my life! 

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over? 

I honestly can’t wait to see my friends again, to go for coffee, to grab a drink, to go to the THEATRE! There’s going to be one hell of a party in the West End when this is done, and I cannot wait. 

We'd like to thank Jack and all the other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

Other useful links for anyone needing further help:

Acting For Others - Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Help Musicians - An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need.
Industry Minds - Mental Health Support for the creative arts.
Theatre Helpline - a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.
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