WRITTEN BY ED PAGET
On Sunday 21 February, at the OffWestEnd Awards Ceremony, we were honoured to be awarded the best SERIES OnComm for our Autumn flagship show: 15 Heroines. Along with Digital Theatre +, who captured the drama on stage, and the freelancers who made 15 Heroines, we are so proud to be a part of such a resilient, community-minded industry. Our congratulations to the other nominees and a big thank you to the OffWestEnd Awards. We have been so fortunate to be able to continue creating work for audiences despite such a difficult year both within and without the theatre industry, so a huge thank you must also go out to all the people that have engaged with and watched our work this year.
In March 2020, having closed The Tempest and subsequently the theatre itself in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and facing the consequences of a catastrophic flood that destroyed our workshop, archives, and dressing rooms, JST faced the prospect of permanent closure. The theatre was saved by the generosity of a crowdfunding appeal to our audience. Fundraising work stabilised our recovery over the course of 2020 and enabled the artistic output to continue.
Despite our closure, we were able to continue producing, creating digital work including The Sonnet Project, featuring drama school graduates and household names Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter. We also produced Sing For Your Supper led by Stefan Bednarczyk, a podcast series Prompt Corner, an audio version of One Million Tiny Plays About Britain and a Zoom production of The Wind in the Willows, which helped us to continue connecting with our audience and bringing our theatre to them when they couldn’t come to us.
Our Opening Doors scheme endeavoured to continue our community work and to support artists during the pandemic, sponsoring three diverse groups of early-career artists and giving them access to our empty theatre space where they could workshop their new plays. 16 new Creative Associates, made up of some of the applicants to our Opening Doors scheme, became part of our family.
In the latter half of 2020 we employed 72 actors to perform The Odyssey, produced with the London Review Bookshop and commissioned 12 actors to create and perform bedtime stories from their different heritages through In Dreams We Wake. We also co-produced a zoom production of A Christmas Carol with Guildford Shakespeare Company, starring Brian Blessed and Penelope Keith.
In Autumn, we commissioned 15 leading female and non-binary playwrights to adapt Ovid’s Heroides into 15 Heroines, directed by Adjoa Andoh, Tom Littler and Cat Robey. Performed live from the theatre and captured by Digital Theatre +,15 Heroines featured a stellar cast including Olivia Williams, Nadine Marshall and Patsy Ferran.
In January 2021, we were delighted to be named Fringe Theatre of the Year as part of The Stage Awards. Artistic Director Tom Littler and Executive Director Penny Horner were also recognised in The Stage 100 for continuing to put on shows during the pandemic.
Tom Littler said, “I want to thank our audience and our friends who have been with us every step of the way and without whom we really would not still be here”, recognising just how important our audience has been in supporting us through these unprecedented times. He dedicated the award to the 300+ freelance artists with whom we work and who call our theatre their home.