Hello and welcome to ‘The Next Stage’!
My name is Iwan Lewis and someone thought it was a good idea to make me the Artistic Director of a theatre. This will be my personal blog about my journey as Artistic Director of the new Barn Theatre in Cirencester in the lead up to its launch. Welcome to The Next Stage
Who am I?
In short, I am a 28 year old Welshman who spent a few years as an actor (I was upstaged by a candle in the film of Les Mis and spent some time being ‘legally blonde’….. I’m the one on the right)
My duet with a candle in the Les Miserables film
So how did this happen?
Even though I am from West Wales, I have a lot of history with Cirencester. I first came to this special town in 2005 to attend a summer youth music project playing the part of Marius in the school’s production of Les Miserables, and now, 12 years later I am returning as Artistic Director of the town’s new professional theatre. As a budding young actor attending the summer school in Cirencester, I was introduced to local legend Ian Carling and his wife Chrissie, who were working very hard to support the community project. I vividly remember Chrissie calling me out for constantly fussing with my hair in the mirror. Not much has changed.
Both Ian and Chrissie have been a big part of the performing arts community here in Cirencester for 35 years. Chrissie has enjoyed many leading lady roles in the Cirencester Operatic Society, and Ian, (who famously produced a concert for The Who for £500 back in 1967 at Manchester Uni) has always been on hand to make sure that all the technical elements of the theatre were in place. Both Ian and Chrissie are passionate about the performing arts and the development of young talent. They have supported many young locals with their drama school tuition fees and have travelled the country to watch them in shows as they have subsequently emerged onto the professional scene.
Ian, who turned 70 last week, has always harboured a dream to develop a professional theatre in Cirencester. After retiring from his career in the concrete industry he saw an opportunity to put his dream in motion when the town’s resident community theatre (then home to Cirencester Operatic Society) and adjacent country house came up for sale. Following a suggestion by a colleague, Ian saw its incredible potential and jumped at the chance to buy it so that he and others could help keep the performing arts alive and thriving in Cirencester.
Enter me… So how do I come into the picture you may ask?
Fast forward to 2014, I had made my way down to Cirencester after finishing a run of a musical Thérèse Raquin at the Park Theatre in London. Ian, having just retired was naturally looking for his next big challenge and as we looked around the space pondering the potential of the venue, a conversation happened which changed my life forever. In summary:
IWAN “I reckon this could have the potential to be a professional theatre”
IAN “Really? Any idea how to run a professional theatre?”
IWAN “No idea”
IAN “Shall we do it anyway?”
IWAN “Yeah, go on then”
And so the road to the new Barn Theatre began…
My acting job at The Park Theatre was to be my last, I moved to Cirencester 2 months later and we have all been working tirelessly on The Barn Theatre project ever since. Now, in February 2017, we have come a very long way and although it’s still the beginning of The Barn Theatre’s professional journey, we’re ready to invite you along for the ride. I will be posting a regular video blog which will track my journey in the run up to the launch of the theatre so please follow our progress here or Facebook (@TheBarnCiren) Twitter (@_BarnTheatre) and Instagram (@_BarnTheatre)