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Why giving emerging artists a chance to shine benefits us all

Adam Zane, a Manchester based creative, explains why giving emerging artists the stage helps us all in the long run.
Adam Zane

Adam Zane is a Manchester-based creative, who sees the value in giving emerging artists a chance to shine.

He did this in 2003, when he directed the seminal play The Laramie Project for the University of Salford, which he is about to revisit.

And every year at The Lowry, he and Executive Producer Mike Lee search for emerging writers, actors and directors as part of the brilliant Outstageus which featured one of our theatre writers, who penned a short play, as opposed to writing about others.

Hive North prides itself in the wraparound support they provide for writers and actors who are new to the profession and it is wonderful to see.

We caught up with Adam to discuss what it is like to revisit this play and that has changed in the 20 years since Hive North was established.

Adam Zane interview

Laramie Project Adam Zane
Clip from the Laramine project

Where did you discover the Laramie Project?

In 2003 I was looking for a play to direct at the University of Salford and I’d heard about a verbatim play about Matthew Shepard.

As a young gay man, I had been utterly shocked by the brutal beating and death of Matthew in 1998. It was a watershed moment for America and brought international attention to the issue of hate crime.

Queer communities across the world held vigils and marched in solidarity, all of us thinking how could this happen?

What kind of world are we living in?

The play tries to explore those questions and paints a picture of the town using over 200 interviews with the Laramie community.

I read a copy of the script, and I knew immediately that I had to direct the play and bring it to Manchester.

Why do you think it remains such an important play?

The Laramie Project should be a period piece now but sadly it’s just as relevant and as important today.

Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people have steadily risen over the past five years, especially against the Trans community.

The play starts a dialogue and asks difficult questions, but it is also full of hope.

I’m always incredibly moved to see young people playing the real residents of Laramie – they continue Matthew’s legacy.

What made you want to revisit this production after all these years?

It’s an incredible opportunity to revisit a play that literally changed my life. Twenty years ago, I made the decision to focus on directing and writing and launched Hive North (back then called Hope Theatre Company) all because of The Laramie Project.

I saw how theatre can make a real difference – to audiences and performers and society.

It’s also the first time I’ve directed the play since visiting and spending some time in the town of Laramie, Wyoming.

What was it like visiting the town?

After my husband and I got married, our honeymoon was a road trip across America, driving from New York to Los Angeles.

I wanted to see the town that I’d been talking about for years and pay my respects to Matthew. It was a surreal, life-changing experience.

On our first day we drove into the town and stopped at a coffee shop. Within seconds, I saw Andy Paris, one of the writers of The Laramie Project sat transcribing interviews for a new play, Laramie – 10 Years Later.

That meeting lead to us being asked to present the UK Premiere of the new play at The Lowry, and Hive North grew from there.

There’s a line in the original play where someone says, “Matthew is guiding a path with his light for me to walk down” and Hive North’s path is lit by Matthew.

With this project and Outstageus, you discover hidden talent. Is that part of the hook for you?

It’s why I still love my job!

I’m incredibly lucky to get to work with so many new, emerging artists and I’m very proud that we often give them their first professional, paid work.

One of my highlights last year was working with George Hughes, who I’d seen at the Arden Showcase.

He joined the cast of Outstageus in the Summer for his first professional acting job and by October he was in the West End starring in Jock Night!

Have you kept in touch with the talented actors you supported when The Laramie Project was originally staged?

I’m in touch with a lot of them to this day and I’m incredibly proud of them all. A lot returned to perform in Laramie – 10 Years Later or they have worked with me on different productions over the years.

It was an extraordinary cast of actors, including Erin Shanagher (best known for ITV’s The Bay and Beginnings at the Royal Exchange Theatre), Warren Brown (Luther/Five Pound Poms), Sophia Di Martino (Marvel’s Loki) and Matthew Ganley (soon to be touring in Little Shop of Horrors).

So many more of the cast are still creating important theatre that strives to make a difference in the world.

Hive North is now 20 years old. What is next after this exciting collaboration with Manchester School of Theatre?

I’m currently in rehearsals for the play Outloud which tours Greater Manchester schools every year.

It explores hate crime and uses real life stories, including the story of Matthew Shepard.

Over 50,000 young people have seen the play now, so again, Matthew’s legacy lives on through our work.

I’m also very excited that my play Jock Night will finally come to a theatre in Manchester before it heads back to the West End in the summer.

It’s a play that celebrates Manchester and I can’t wait to see it in front of a Northern audience!

Hive North has always championed new writing. Are there any opportunities for writers this year?

Outstageus is our annual LGBTQ+ new writing event, and we will soon be opening submissions for writers.

It’s become an important part of Manchester’s theatrical calendar and a lot of that is down to my incredible producer Mike Lee who has built Outstageus every year, building our audiences and giving hundreds of LGBTQ+ artists opportunities – but Outstageus starts with the writers, so get writing!

How would you say theatre has changed in those two decades, in terms of representation and accessibility?

For me, it’s a question of authenticity.

Hive North wants to put authentic voices on stage and create safe, accessible spaces for all artists.

By encouraging original voices, shared experiences, and shared truth, we will always create authentic work that celebrates diversity.

There’s a very different atmosphere in an Outstageus rehearsal room full of LGBTQ+ creatives. It adds something special that I never experienced back when I was an actor in the nineties.

In Queer as Folk I was one of the only gay actors in the cast of a big gay show and I can’t imagine that happening now!

Back then a lot of straight actors were ‘playing gay’ and as Russell T Davies himself has said now, “gay is not a performance”.

That said, the cast of The Laramie Project play over 50 characters – gay, straight, young, old – and that’s part of the joy of the play.

What are you looking forward to seeing in Manchester on stage over the next few months?

I’ll be heading to the Octagon in Bolton to see our Patron Julie Hesmondhalgh in her play These I Love.

I saw a very early version in Manchester and It’s a beautiful love letter to her dad and her childhood in Accrington.

I’m also looking forward to seeing My Beautiful Laundrette at The Lowry – a powerful gay love story set to 1980s soundtrack.

I’m most looking forward to a show at the end of the year when Come from Away also comes to The Lowry – it’s an incredibly moving and life-affirming show that (like The Laramie Project) explores a town going through something remarkable.

It is hugely recommended!

The Laramie Project is at The Manchester School of Theatre from 25th – 27th April and you can book tickets by clicking here

You can find out more about Adam Zane by clicking here

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