Thom Freeth is our new Producer – but why did he want to come to York Theatre Royal? It seems that the 275-year-old building itself played a key role in his decision.
“York Theatre Royal has obviously got an amazing reputation – I’ve always been aware of it and it’s such a grand building. It has a special feel to it. When I was visiting while at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and at the National Theatre in London I felt there was something about the character of the building – it has its own life and is really nice to be part of that.
“It’s really exciting to be here, especially when it feels like there’s a fair bit of change happening. It feels like it’s embarking on a new chapter of its journey which in itself is so exciting.
“Theatres generally feel like families as well, so I’m looking forward to that aspect of it.”
He will be producing main stage and studio shows but also looking at community productions when there are large scale community pieces. That ties in with his background of engaging people in the arts who don’t usually engage. He arrived from Hull where he was doing similar work with Back to Ours, an Arts Council funded Creative People and Places organsiation.
“That was all about engaging audiences in the arts who don’t usually engage. There was a festival strand that happened every half-term which I produced,” he says.
“Before that I was working with Hull UK City of Culture, split between the No Limits learning team and Back to Ours festival strand. And before that I was at the National Theatre working on Connections during the year they had their 21st anniversary where they doubled the festival in size.”
Previous work also includes managing the learning team at Colchester Mercury Theatre and Newcastle Theatre Royal.
“So lots of theatre experience but more so from a learning background and more recently shorter term contracts in festival environments and producing across a range of different type of projects, not just theatre but more so visual arts or festivals,” he says.
As the theatre is programmed well into 2020, Thom is busy picking up shows that are coming up and looking at the shape of the year as it goes forward. “Mostly, it’s trying to meet everyone in the theatre to get a sense of how everything runs within the building and how that then connects to the communities it reaches across York and further afield,” he says.
He didn’t arrive at producing through acting or directing. “I studied theatre for my degree and performance live arts in my masters but quickly realised I was not that suited to actually performing. Working for Newcastle Theatre Royal got me very much in the mindset of really loving working in theatres, particularly grand old theatres.
While at Newcastle Theatre Royal he took a secondment – or “theatrical adventure” as he calls it – to the MCC Theater, New York, which he describes as “an amazing experience that gave him a sense of how that world works”.
Since leaving Newcastle Theatre Royal he has “moved all over the place” and not been based in an arts centre for some time. Working in York not only brings him back to a theatre base but also brings him closer to Newcastle where he still has family and friends.