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Olivia Munk - Part of the Grid Workshops Interview

Alongside their smash-hit show Bloody Mary: Live! (we’ve interviewed star Olivia Miller which you can read here) that is currently touring the UK, Part of the Main is delighted to present an exciting series of accessible theatre training workshops called Part of the Grid. Designed to empower artists and budding creatives in the theatre sector, this series of practical and affordable workshops will be led by experienced instructors, and held both in-person and online which commenced on Friday 29th March 2024.

Part of the Main are an innovative and exciting upcoming theatre company based in London that curate political, provocative, and accessible work. Their current touring production, Bloody Mary: Live! has been shortlisted for the 2020 Les Enfants Terribles Award and they have completed a successful run at VAULT Festival in 2023, earning the show OffFest Nomination and Part of the Main the Excellence in Accessibility Award.

As Pleasance Associate Artists for 2022- 2024, the first round of workshops will be held at The Pleasance Theatre, kickstarting on Friday 29th March. The first of these will be an introduction to intimacy led by Christina Fulcher, who will guide directors, theatre makers, movement directors/choreographers and actors to reflect on their artistic practice and gain insights into applying intimacy guidelines. This will be followed by a budgeting and fundraising workshop later that day led by Part of the Main’s Artistic Director, Olivia Munk. Olivia will show participants how to build a budget for a theatre production and different avenues available to them for funding. This workshop will also be held on Zoom on Monday 22nd April.

The other workshops will run online via Zoom throughout April, and will cover a diverse range of skill sets and careers in the arts. Championing all things marketing, on Wednesday 10th April female-led agency Cup of Ambition will discuss the fundamentals of how to sell your theatre show, advising on top tips and tricks to reach audiences and fill seats. On Monday 15th April award-nominated designer Will Alder, will lead a masterclass on QLab, the leading software for audio in live performance, introducing participants to all things sound design, showing participants how correctly building cues can lead to a show that is streamlined and slick. On Tuesday 16th April, join Creative Captioner Rachel Sampley (National Theatre, The Barbican), on creating captions that make theatre productions accessible for deaf and hard of hearing patrons. The following day, audio describer Roz Chalmers MBE will introduce participants to audio description, which renders live performance accessible to patrons who are blind or visually impaired.

Olivia Munk.

To learn more about the workshops we caught up with Part of the Main’s artistic director Olivia Munk.

Where did your arts career begin?
I was fortunate to grow up in Queens, NYC, with Broadway just a subway ride away. As a kid, I took all kinds of dance and singing classes at my local studio, and participated in musicals at a Manhattan youth theatre called TADA!. In high school I danced at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and reviewed Broadway shows for the Theatre Development Fund’s teen magazine. I also performed in all of my high school’s musicals — which is a bit less impressive than it sounds once you learn I went to a science-focused school! When I got to college I was primarily a performer for my freshman year, but tried my hand at directing when I was a sophomore and fell in love with the discipline. I directed David Ives’ adaptation of Mark Twain’s Is He Dead? in a swimming pool converted to a theatre in 2013 and never looked back! After college I completed a Master’s at Oxford — I tried to just focus on my programme but of course I found myself becoming involved in theatre in any way I could. I earned a visa to start Part of the Main in 2018 and formally embarked on my professional career here in London.

Were there any people or performances that had a big impact on your formal career years?
I saw every Broadway show I could between about 2006-2012 when I went off to college. I loved anything Sutton Foster was in in particular — what a triple threat! I drew a lot of inspiration from modern dance, in particular the work of Ohad Naharin, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, and Martha Graham. I received a lot of encouragement from performing arts teachers in my life, in particular Colleen Hawks-Pierce, who choreographed and directed my high school musicals and was my singing teacher, and Oliver Tobin, a teacher of mine at Martha Graham. Today, I’m drawn towards work that is very physical and incorporates music. I love directors like Rachel Chavkin, Rebecca Frecknall, Katie Mitchell, Jamie Lloyd, Bartlett Sher, and Lynsey Turner. I also am very inspired by large-scale works like those by Complicité, Belarus Free Theatre, and Ivo von Hove. 

What inspired the founding of Part of the Main?
After I graduated from my master’s at Oxford during the summer of 2017, I knew I wanted to stay in the UK to make theatre, but the now-reinstated postgraduate visa had been removed. My only route to staying in the country was a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, which fortunately, would allow me to start a theatre company. The name is taken from the John Donne poem ‘No Man is an Island’; myselfand longtime Associate Artist Jessica Bickel-Barlow knew we wanted to be a bridge for emerging artists like ourselves. After pitching the theatre company twice to Oxford business school professors for endorsement, I was given the green light for the visa in the autumn of 2017. I incorporated the company in 2018 and we’ve been consistently making shows, workshops and even a rogue COVID podcast for over 6 years!

How do you reflect on the journey with the company and what are your hopes going forwards?
As any independent theatre maker in the UK knows, working on a project-basis is thrilling and challenging. Every project brings new opportunities, new collaborators, and also often difficult lessons. It’s important to take the challenges with the rewards, and to reflect upon each project and understand what to take with you to the next one and what to leave behind as a new experience that you didn’t quite know how to approach. It’s been difficult to see opportunities we had in the past, like VAULT Festival, disappear, and I can only hope that new even better offers for emerging artists replace ones we’ve lost. Funding is always a game of cat-and-mouse, and a tough but important lesson to learn is when to pause a project if the cash doesn’t come through — what’s most important is that everyone in a project feels fairly treated and compensated, and a good experience doesn’t pay your rent. Moving forward, I’m hoping to really take my time with projects that are important to me, ensuring we find the right partners, funders, and audiences to make it a success, rather than moving ahead with the first offer that comes along. 

You launched Part of the Grid workshops back in 2018, how important is this for you to help the next generation of theatre creators?
I founded Part of the Grid right after EdFringe 2018. We’d just made Part of the Main’s first show, and I realized there were many skills that were important both when making my own work and also in developing my practice as a director. This included basic lighting and sound design, stage management, design, and producing. I decided other artists might also be interested in gaining these skills, so I organised workshops at the Drayton Arms, where we were a resident company. Our weekend-long Lighting and Sound Design workshop immediately sold out, as did other sessions on stage management and producing. When lockdown hit, I put them online, and found an audience all over the world. As freelancers need to seek their own professional development, it is vital that there is practical and affordable opportunities for them to develop their craft. As theatre artists, it’s also so important to understand the disciplines of your collaborators, too. Part of the Main is designed for artists who want to round out their skills and understand how to make their own work, and best collaborate with the other artists whose expertise makes up the vast ecosystem we all work in. 

What can you tell me about the programme of workshops this year? 
This year, we’ve brought back participant favorite workshops Introduction to QLab for Sound Design led by Will Alder — who led our very first Lighting and Sound Design workshops in 2018! — and Marketing Your Theatre Production, led by my go-to marketing duo Cup of Ambition, led by Isabel Dixon and Grace Chapman. I’m running Budgeting and Fundraising for Theatre, where I’ll walk participants through the finances of Part of the Main projects through the years. I’m really excited to have added new access-focused workshops: Introduction to Captioning led by Rachel Sampley, which will introduce artists to how to make captions for deaf or hard of hearing audience members, and Introduction to Audio Description led by Roz Chalmers, which will introduce artists to the process of creating a complementary audio description for audiences who are blind or visually impaired. Last week we had two workshops in-person at the Pleasance: Introduction to Intimacy Guidelines led by movement director and intimacy coordinator Christina Fulcher, and my Budgeting and Fundraising workshop. It’s been so great to connect with new artists and I’m excited to meet more when our Zoom programme begins on April 10. 

What would be one bit of career advice you’d give your younger self?
It’s OK not to do a project or to take an ‘opportunity.’ When you’re starting out, it feels very important to do absolutely everything you can — every scratch night, every festival, every assisting opportunity. Looking back, I definitely stretched myself very thin, particularly on projects that were low or unpaid. I also took a lot of poor venue deals that practically ensured I would lose money on shows, just in the hopes that I would get a good review or have an industry member who could further my career come and see my work. Now, I think a lot more carefully about what work I take — will it secure my next few months financially in case there is a fallow period? And if not, is it artistically fulfilling, or allow me to connect with new exciting collaborators or partners? If a project is neither, it’s probably not right for me. Taking time to find the right opportunity is important and valid. 

If you were a biscuit, what would you be and why?
Probably a Thin Mint, a Girl Scout cookie that will be more recognizable to your American readers. I don’t have a good metaphor as to why this tracks with my character — I just could eat them all day!

What keeps you inspired?
Really big, bold, political work. My favourite play of the last few years has been Dogs of Europe by Belarus Free Theatre. It was provocative and original in both content and form, something that is so hard to pull off and they did it masterfully. Artists who keep going even in the face of political oppression and censorship reminds me that free expression is core to humanity.

What does theatre mean to you? 
Theatre means a live, shared experience, which feels precious and exciting in the digital age. It means pressure, precision, bravery, and quality.

How can anyone get involved with this years workshops?
Visit our website,, and book directly! Your readers can use code WORKSHOP20 for 20% off :) Zoom sessions run April 10-22!  

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