International Women’s Day – empowering women in theatre since 1997

Ever since Interactive Theatre International was founded – with the creation of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience in 1997 – women have been at the forefront of directorship, development and all things regarding the creative and production process.

The company’s owner, executive producer and artistic director, Alison Pollard-Mansergh, started the company in the late ’90s – at a time when women in the UK represented only 22% of management jobs and 9.6% of executive directors (catalyst.org). Figures have somewhat improved since, with over one-third (35%) of UK legislators, senior officials, and managers represented by women (catalyst.org) – but everyone agrees that there’s a long way to go.

At Interactive Theatre International we’re proud to have two company directors, one of each gender, with 75% of senior management roles filled by women. In addition, the company’s staff consists of over 80% women (full- and part-time roles) and casual staff 100% – along with equal pay among male and female employees.

Given such positive representation of women, here’s what some of them had to say about working in the company…

Alison Pollard-Mansergh (Ali) – Owner, Executive Producer & Artistic Director

It’s amazing to me that a performance company I started 21 years ago is still going today, considering I thought we would be only doing Faulty Towers The Dining Experience for a few months! I sometimes look in disbelief at the way in which it has grown into the highly respected international theatre company that it is today, and still encompasses the heart and soul that it started with. I have not done it alone though, and I am very proud of the fact that 80% of our administrative and performance team members are women who work from their own homes, and work their company role around their roles as partners, wives, mothers, daughters of ageing parents, the list goes on…

We are a company that has been showing what is possible for more than two decades, and that still leads the way … even now … in the 21st century.

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Geraldine Hill – PR & Brand Director

Theatre is full of really juicy roles for women both on- and off-stage, and those roles are increasingly more responsible. I joined ITI in 2008 having worked in my own company in industry as well as the arts. At that time, ITI was just starting out in the UK, and my remit was to work with Ali to help build the business around the world. Using the flagship show, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, that’s exactly what has happened, and ITI now produces and tours five shows. They’re performed by over 30 extremely talented actors and supported by 20 staff; all of them are women apart from the general manager, three marketing staff, and the (necessarily!) male performers. Meanwhile, I’m still working on the PR and business development side of things. It’s busy, it’s creative, and that’s just the way I like it. From front of house to executive producer, actor to director, there really is room in this company for women from all backgrounds and at all levels and stages of their career.

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Stacey Hewett – Customer Services Representative & Production Assistant

I have worked for ITI for nearly nine months now and I have the role of UK Production Assistant and Customer Service Representative. Working for a company which is made up of mostly women is a fresh experience and has allowed me to flourish in a role that I hadn’t expected. I feel being around so many women who are strong minded and willing to work hard and push themselves has inspired me to really dig into what my own strengths are and to find my path within the company. “Don’t just stand for the success of other women, insist on it.”

 

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Claire Housden – Head of Sales

Returning to the workforce after my last child was born, I started working with ITI in a part time capacity. I was responsible for reception and basic administration duties and at that time all administration staff were female and most had young children. Flexi-time was company policy and very much encouraged by the directors.  I enjoyed working part time, and working from my home office meant I could work around my children’s needs.

I did envisage, when both of my children started school, returning to full time work in the world of commercial real estate.  However, by the time they were both at school I had increased my hours with ITI, moved into the sales department, was working on expanding territories, and was really enjoying the working in a small team of supportive women. I was offered a full time role in 2012, and have now been with the company for eight years. I  head the sales department and manage staff based in both the UK and Australia. The hours are still flexible, which still suits me. The late nights working with the UK team and international clients mean I can take time when the children get home from school to help with homework;  I have time to be fully involved in their lives.

With strong female leadership the company has gone from strength to strength; creating and producing new shows, expanding territories and increasing the volume of shows sold all around the world. It’s great to be a part of such a successful team.

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Suzanna Hughes – Actor & Sales Executive

I started at ITI as a jobbing actor playing Sybil Faulty back in September 2012. As an actor, good, regular work is hard to come by –  I’ve been incredibly lucky and have toured the world – Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Ireland to name but a few, and have performed extensively at our West End residency.  I now also perform in our sister shows – The Wedding Reception – of which I am also the associate director, Faulty Towers A One Night Stand, and Pamela’s Palace, and I work as a sales executive for the shows, working from home in between touring.

ITI is a fantastic company for women to work in – I’ve been given so many opportunities and now have a fantastic career doing what I love, which fits in with my life, husband and dog, Desmond.  Our company director and original Sybil, Ali, built the company whilst raising a family and now encourages us girls (and boys) to have it all as well!

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Donna Gray – Associate Director, Actor & Sales Executive

I’ve been playing Sybil in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience since 2012. It was a privilege to be the first UK actor to play the part after its successful launch in Australia and Europe. I followed on from the founder of the company, Alison Pollard-Mansergh, an influential business woman and actress who created the company from nothing. She inspired and encouraged me to become the person I am today. Six years later I am Associate Director for ITI, I cast the actors, write new content and perform in three of our shows. I am also one of a team of women who run the sales department. I am so incredibly empowered and proud of the females in the company – we mean business. If we say we are going to do something it gets done. My children have grown up watching me do what I enjoy most and my husband has always supported my love for acting and comedy. I feel truly blessed to travel the world, work with wonderful women and be creative every day.

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Rhian McLean – Actor (Sybil from June 2016)

Working within a company, surrounded by other strong and talented women, is a privilege. Particularly in an industry that can and is often viewed as male dominated.

Also, to be among just a select few who have been chosen to portray the role of Sybil, for a global company like ITI, is something that I am so grateful for and proud to be a part of.

And taking on the iconic role that ‘Sybil Faulty’ is, on the platform and in the environment where ITI works, really has increased my confidence as a performer, on- and off-stage.

Particularly as the company was founded by a female, who supports and encourages that confidence and the female voice and position, is a positive example.

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Katie Cooper – Actor

I joined ITI in Feb 2016 and now play six different characters in three productions. I also assist with the marketing and branding for Pamela’s Palace.

I am incredibly excited to be working for a successful business that is run by an amazing woman and I love that I am surrounded by strong, powerful women; it is so rare to be in the majority. We are setting an example by showing the world that we are not just equal in capabilities but exceeding and trailblazing! Also, I feel incredibly inspired by the fact that this company was founded by a woman, but not just any woman… A woman who has had a family! As a freelance female performer there is little support if you want to have a family and continue working. Ali has proven that it is possible. You can be a mum, run a kick ass business, all the while dealing with huge life changing challenges. What a woman!

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Monique Lewis Reynolds – Actor (Sybil from June 2016)

Being one of only a small select number of Sybils for the company world-wide, I feel extremely proud. Within Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, Sybil, as the sole woman of the ensemble, carries a precious opportunity to give women a voice. Every day I am more empowered through having the opportunity to play an iconic role and also navigating the collective personal roles of performer, wife and mother. In regards to role models, an important aspect of accepting the role of Sybil for ITI was being able to balance a healthy and successful performing career within the challenges of also having a family. It was vital to me that my son have the opportunity to see his mother doing what she loves and understand how important it is to have a balanced and fulfilling life. It was also comforting to be surrounded by like-minded women within the company who share and embrace similar roles and this includes having our company founder, Alison Pollard-Mansergh, as our first role model in this regard.

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