Interview with Mariele Runacre Temple - Wireless Theatre Company

Mariele Runacre Temple

Mariele Runacre Temple is the Artistic Director of The Wireless Theatre Company www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk which brings audio theatre to the discerning public with quick and easy downloads to ipods and mp3 players. Many of their plays are FREE, it really is brilliant. Find out more about the company on their About page http://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk/index.php/about. The company received 2 top awards at The Radio Production Awards 2011 - BEST ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCER and BEST ONLINE PLATFORM.

Mariele talks to Female Arts about how she founded the Wireless Theatre Company and their recent ventures – including Wireless Theatre Company Live - live performances recorded for radio, and Wireless Theatre for Kids.

• You trained as an actor, how did you get into radio?

Whilst at East 15 Acting School I was chosen to represent them in the BBC’s Carleton Hobbs competition. It’s a great competition for radio acting, if you win you get a contract with the BBC upon graduating. I didn’t win of course, but I had plenty of extra training on radio performance for it and I LOVED it. It was such a great medium for acting. When I left drama school I looked around for companies to work with and there really weren’t too many so I thought....well, if I can’t find radio work – maybe I should make some for myself....?

• How and when did you launch the Wireless Theatre Company and did it feel like a big risk at the time?

I launched it in 2007 – and it didn’t feel like a risk because at the time I had no idea what it would become. For me it was just this really great idea – with a brilliant name (thanks to my dad!) that me and my friends could use to create exciting fun stories and plays without the boundaries that all other companies have to stick to. But it grew so quickly – as soon as the first plays were online we started getting feedback, and then I started to feel like we were really doing something that people cared about. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the idea and it was a great time.

• How long have you been a producer for, and do you prefer it to acting?

I have really only been doing producing since I started Wireless. I was always quite proactive as an actress so I would usually be very involved in the productions I did (in terms of publicity etc), but I had never done actual producing before. I never thought I’d find anything I love as much as acting – it’s what I thought I was born to do (my mum is also an actress so it seemed fairly natural) but actually I LOVE producing. I haven’t acted for ages, and I don’t miss it at all. Producing, especially for my own company, is the best thing I have ever done.

• What does being the artistic director of the Wireless Theatre Company involve?

A LOT of admin! I know that doesn’t sound exciting or artistic, but the day-to-day running of the company is what takes up most of the time. I taught myself how to run the website (which is a bit like solving maths problems and not something that comes naturally!) so that I could change and add things as we went on. The website is really important to the product so it’s important that I can run it without having to get a web expert involved every time I want to add a play etc. It also involves a lot of reading of new scripts and choosing from the many amazing ideas that come in. I love live theatre, so I do spend a lot of time working on the live shows – they’re great fun, as well as being hugely stressful and rewarding. We have quite a large team so I spend a lot of time organising production meetings, rehearsals etc... in-fact, for someone who is hugely disorganised, I spend about 90% of my day organising stuff!!

• Tell me more about the success story that is the Wireless Theatre Company – why do you think it is so popular with your audience and critics?

When I first started the company a friend of mine said “the company will live and die by the quality of the work it produces” and it’s something that I have really followed. All of our plays are recorded in professional studios, with professional actors, editors, composers, directors etc and I do think that makes a difference to the quality of the plays. Coming from an acting background has meant that I have been very fortunate to know some incredibly talented people and that really helps. We’re also very lucky that we don’t have to stick to as many boundaries as larger companies perhaps have to, we can do plays that are a bit more risky, or strange – and we can do plays of any length or genre, which I think the listeners appreciate. I also think that people just love radio drama. They want it to stay alive despite our modern growing world which relies so heavily on visual entertainment. The internet has really given radio drama a new lease of life – everyone wants to download, so why not download drama? It makes sense and I think people respect what we’re doing, which is great! We’ve also managed to get the support of some amazing people who really helped boost our profile – such as Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Nicholas Parsons, Richard O’Brien, Julian Glover and even Jude Law!

• You recently launched Wireless Theatre for kids – what has the response been?

Brilliant. Everyone is right behind the idea. It’s been a little tougher to get the popularity going because it’s a very different market, but we’re working on it. We have our first live kid’s show this week and I think it’ll be a lot of fun and should boost interest in the website. Parents and teachers seem very keen to use radio drama to help children use their imagination so I think it’ll be popular. We need to add more content to the website but it’s well on it’s way and has been great fun to work on.

• Recording Wireless Theatre Live must take nerves of steel – how do you ensure the quality is maintained for recording purposes while keeping it fresh for the audience?

Yes it’s terrifying. Honestly, petrifying. There’s so much that can go wrong! A room full of live microphones, full stage lighting, live music, live sound effects and an audience who’s every response is being recorded! But that’s what makes it so thrilling. I love the live shows because they’re so electric. The audience is in on the gig – they make the recording – we want them to be part of the show. Although the recordings have to be top quality, I like them to sound live – I like the atmosphere to be captured so the listener feels like they’re involved. But I also like to create a great visual performance for the many (sometimes hundreds) of people who come and watch. So we have full lighting, full costumes and take risks with actors movements – we sometimes use radio mics or boom mics and we have very visual Foley (SFX) being performed on the stage. They’re loads of fun. Although I usually have no nails by the end of it!

• Do you think there is equality in the workplace? If not then why?

Certainly in our work place there is. We have a very heavy female team – our SFX director, two of my co-producers, one of our lighting designers and several of our editors are female – as well as loads of our actors, writers and directors. I am really keen on making sure that generally everyone is very equal – we have very little ego considering there are so many performers involved! I think theatre is one of the industries where there is a lot of equality – but there are sadly always exceptions. In terms of other work-places – I still think there is a way to go before we can truly say it’s equal.

• What advice would you give to others wanting to be in radio?

Go for it! I’d say it’s the best medium in the world and just keep going. I think being proactive is the most important thing in the world. Nothing comes to you, you have to go out and find it. And if you’re an actor – get a voice-reel!!!

• What is the favourite part of your job? And least favourite?

Wow, that’s a tough one!! My favourite part is probably meeting so many totally cool and really fun people – who are all really passionate about Wireless and tend to stay on the team and work with us lots more than once. My least favourite is doing our company tax return – seriously, does anyone actually enjoy doing that?!

• How do you achieve a work/life balance?

Wireless is my life! We’re a very sociable team so the work/social aspect does become intertwined and often a session in the studio ends up as a session in the pub. It’s a lot of fun. I work really hard, and so do the core team (mostly Jack Bowman, Fran Kirkham and Saskia Willis) and we all have other jobs we have to do from time to time as well, so it’s all about dedication. But definitely for me, it’s opened many doors in my personal life as well as my professional life.

• Who do you find inspirational?

Without wanting to be totally cringey – I do have to say my mum. She’s always been SO supportive of me and my sister, and always encouraged us to be hard working, passionate and fun. Especially as I am older, I realise what a totally great job she (both my parents) did raising us and what a good time we had that I can’t help but be inspired by her.

• Blue or pink?

Pink!

© Female Arts 2011
image copyright Mariele Runacre Temple

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