INTERVIEW WITH SOPHIE CORNELL
Sophie Cornell took up the new role of Programmer of Talks and Events at the National Theatre in January and is Executive Producer of Undercurrent. Sophie was awarded a Stage One Bursary in 2015, mentored by English Touring Theatre and previous to this she attended the Stage One New Producers’ Workshop in 2015.
At the moment you are…
Just finishing programming my first season of events at the National Theatre, which will be going on sale in May. Undercurrent is about to become the first Associate Theatre Company at the British Library, where we’ll be in residency for a year, supported by an Arts Council grant. In the midsts of all this, I’ll also be getting married next week!
How is the new role going at the National Theatre?
The National Theatre is a fantastic place to work; I still pinch myself when I step on the Olivier stage. I’m enjoying the creativity the role allows and linking up with industry friends - old and new! It’s a healthy challenge to put together a programme in a subsidised theatre that has income targets, knowing full well that some events will take a financial loss but be very beneficial in other ways. There are clear programming criteria including representing gender, ethnicity and the NT’s overall objectives, but there is also the freedom to bring new ideas into the organisation - which I’m looking forward to doing in the near future. Watch this space…!
What does Stage One mean to you?
Stage One gave me the opportunity to leave my day job and enter the freelance world, where I could take the time to pursue my own projects. I’ve met so many wonderful people, and am constantly surprised by how generous others are with their time and advice. I’ll be forever grateful to Stage One for taking a punt on an inexperienced producer with big ambitions and providing me the framework to accomplish what I promised I would.
What was your journey to becoming a Theatre Producer?
I’ve spent all my professional life working in theatre in a variety of roles from dressing to chaperoning. I didn’t go to university, but spent those years working my way up in a regional company and being part of the team that set up a venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Before Stage One I was in administrative roles at the Royal Opera House and Cultural Institute at King’s and had just set up a production company. At the ROH I produced Mark Thomas’ Bravo Figaro which was originally programmed as part of the Deloitte Ignite festival and then assisted with The Owl and the Pussycat which was ROH’s offering to the Cultural Olympiad. At King’s I was producing exhibitions, installations, performances and events but Stage One’s support allowed me to concentrate on producing my own work, beginning with Dark Tourism at the Park Theatre. I joined Undercurrent in 2015 and produced Calculating Kindness in 2016, which will tour next year.
Last show you saw and loved?
I saw Nina Raine’s new play Consent at the NT at the end of last week and really enjoyed it. I love theatre that provokes you to think beyond what you see immediately and makes you feel a bit uneasy. It’s a gritty subject matter and makes for interesting conversations in the bar afterwards!
What do you think, is the best thing about the Theatre Industry?
People do it for the love of it - so you end up working with a group of people who really want projects and productions to succeed.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Ask for help. If you don’t know the answer, someone else will and they’ll almost definitely be happy to share it with you!