Hannah Harris reflects on her time as Assistant Director

Hannah Harris joined the Leave the Light on for Me creative team as Assistant Director through the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS).

RTYDS is the UK’s foremost programme of paid professional development for theatre directors and, having finished her placement with Mind the Gap, Hannah reflects on her time working on the show.

It’s now a few weeks since my placement at Mind the Gap came to an end and it feels like it has gone by in the blink of an eye!

When I first arrived at the company I was anxious. This was a new place, in a new city, working in a different role, in a new area of work. I am autistic so these factors were a big deal! However, I knew I was in safe hands. As a leading force in learning disability performance and live arts I felt confident that Mind the Gap would be a nurturing place for me to grow and develop.

I have spent my time with Joyce Lee (Artistic Director) and Nickie Miles-Wildin (Freelance Theatre Director) creating Leave the Light on For Me. A comical but informative family piece about climate change. Throughout my placement at Mind the Gap, I have learned and experienced what it is to be an Assistant Director. I have assisted with rehearsals throughout the placement, initially observing other directors and creatives, which enabled me to recognise sections that required rehearsing. I also organised when and what order these spot rehearsals took place for us to keep to schedule.

I enjoyed giving notes to actors and seeing how they implemented directions, but it was also fun to give them the artistic licence to modify that direction and see them perform it in a way that was most comfortable for them. Movement in the piece was a much bigger role than I had anticipated. I really enjoyed observing the movement direction work with the artists and incorporating it into their daily warm up. The local performances have included two different community casts. It was a pleasure to observe their rehearsals and see how their passion and energy impacted the performances.

Finally, my favourite responsibility was caring for the well-being of the actors, which is paramount to ensuring they are in the best frame of mind to perform to the best of their ability. This opportunity has been invaluable. Prior to this experience I didn’t think a career in the arts was possible for me. I had no idea about any potential pathways and didn’t think it would be possible for an autistic person with support needs, and no experience, to be a successful part of a creative team. Furthermore, travelling and working away from home has always been something that has caused huge anxiety so, travelling and staying overnight for this placement, is a huge personal achievement.

Mind the Gap is a special place to be. The professionalism that exists within an organisation for learning disabled people rivals that of any company – exactly as it should be. It has inspired me to be a part of, and develop, to ensure that this is the standard practice for learning disabled and autistic artists, regardless of what company you’re working for. I thank everyone whom I have worked with in this time and RYTDS for enabling this opportunity.

Blog by Hannah Harris, Leave the Light on for Me Assistant Director

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