Composer, musical director, and sound designer Ben Occhipinti has been awarded an esteemed paid residency to enable him to spend eighteen months based at the Octagon Theatre as part of the Regional
Theatre Young Director Scheme 2016/2017 – a position previously awarded to current Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman.
Ben is to be one of just three directors selected to work in regional theatres, with Cardiff-based Julia Thomas and London-based Lekan Lawal awarded positions at Curve Theatre, Leicester and Derby Theatre respectively.
Wiltshire-born Ben has a passion for musical theatre and opera and has recently worked on the composition and musical direction of a number of Octagon productions, including Piaf, Private Lives and currently The Family Way.
Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman said of Ben’s appointment: “We are thrilled to be hosting Ben Occhipinti at the Octagon, and cannot wait to welcome him into the organisation. Our Theatre is deeply committed to learning and training, and it is great that the Octagon can offer a unique and meaningful experience to Ben thanks to the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. RTYDS is an invaluable organisation that helps us make a difference to the national landscape, and we are proud to be part of this important endeavour. It’s vital that we continue to nourish and develop the future generation of artistic directors.”
Funded by Arts Council England, this residency provides the opportunity for the directors to mount their own production as part of each theatre’s programme – the productions are yet to be announced. In addition, the residency will allow the directors to develop their understanding of the artistic and operational workings of a theatre as potential artistic directors and to assist on its productions.
Established in 1960, the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS), a Young Vic Associate Company, is the UK’s longest running and most influential training scheme for emerging directors. RTYDS brings together emerging directors with the UK’s leading regional theatre companies and is particularly focused on directors who live outside London and are from communities presently under-represented in theatre.
The scheme which was re-designed last year with support from Arts Council England is now offering many more opportunities to directors at the early stages of their theatre careers. It has just attracted a grant of £114,500 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation over two years towards the development a national programme of regional theatre and director development which is designed to bring a richer range of life experiences, cultural traditions and different voices into regional theatres and the theatre industry in general.
RTYDS has helped the development of many of the best directors in British theatre including: Trevor Nunn (RSC and National Theatre), Michael Boyd (RSC), Rupert Goold (Almeida), John Tiffany and Vicky Featherstone (Royal Court), Natalie Ibu (Tiata Fahodzi) and Matthew Xia (Manchester Royal Exchange).
Many RTYDS alumni are now Artistic Directors of major UK theatres, this year Elizabeth Newman (Octagon Theatre, Bolton) and Nikolai Foster (Curve, Leicester) join Lorne Campbell (Northern Stage) as past recipients of RTYDS residencies who are currently hosting the next generation of RTYDS resident directors at their theatres.