12 Rules For Making Theatre With People Who Have Anxiety

This fun-time list was inspired by my own recent experiences with anxiety, and various conversations with people about how it fits into the kind of work I do (most of whom are credited below). It is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive: suggestions for more “Rules” are welcome. It is intended for theatre directors or companies who are new to working with people with anxiety, or who have been working with them for a while but are unsure about what access provisions they can make for them. It has a specific focus on rehearsing and performing shows, since it didn’t seem like that info was out there. Enjoy!

  1. Start each rehearsal session (ideally morning and afternoon) with something calm – meditation, yoga or just stretching and breathing.
  2. Honour their requests to work alone, even if group activities are planned. It won’t be productive to force interaction on them if they don’t want it.
  3. Avoid games and warmup exercises where people can’t sit down until they’ve done the thing well. This creates a lot of potential performance anxiety around being perceived as inadequate. (Contributed by Emma Baskeyfield)
  4. If they are contributing less suggestions than others, ask them how you can make a framework where they can make offers more easily. This might involve allowing more input in an informal or one-to-one setting, or working / writing alone, rather than improvising or talking to the whole group on cue. Quietness doesn’t mean apathy or hostility to the process.
  5. Conversely, loudness or humour doesn’t always mean confidence or arrogance, and can be a different kind of anxious reaction. Find an outlet for excessive nervous energy without sandbagging or shutting them down.
  6. If they have a concern about a problem, challenge or task in the rehearsal process, LISTEN. No matter how seemingly unimportant or unfounded the worry might be. NEVER dismiss them outright. Once the anxieties have been noted, discuss strategies for ameliorating them, but DON’T BE A FIXER. Even if a simple solution is visible, allow them to process their worry about the problem in their own time.
  7. Create and share a very clear rehearsal schedule well in advance, but offer the most flexibility possible within it. If a session is being unproductive, consider a long break or calling it a day, and making time up on more productive days. (Cribbed from MAYK’s mental health policy, written by Alice Holland)
  8. Allow time off for doctor / therapist appointments, however much notice is given, and don’t discuss what they were for unless invited to. (As above)
  9. Be extra clear about when and how payment will happen. (As above)
  10. In moments of stress/conflict, spell out exactly what you mean. Someone suffering from anxiety will likely put the worst possible connotations on ambiguity. (Contributed by Mimi Thebo)
  11. Don’t EVER tell them to “calm down”, “relax”, “chill out”  or “don’t panic”.
  12. Try and apply all these rules to everyone on the team. Being singled out as a special case can cause a lot of discomfort and awkwardness for people with mental health issues. If done right, these principles can make everyone more productive.



Job Opportunity: Producer

About Jack Dean

 “Artists like rap storyteller Jack Dean make us excited about what they might do next”

– The Guardian

Jack Dean is a writer, performer, poet and theatre-maker who uses hip-hop, spoken word, comedy and theatre to investigate modern mythologies, contemporary social issues and the human condition. His current repertoire includes three full-length theatre productions. These include two shows for adults, Grandad and the Machine and Nuketown, along with Horace and the Yeti, an eco-adventure for children aged 3+. He has been supported by a range of funders, including Arts Council England, Literature Works, Seedbed and the Lush Foundation, and received commissions from Camden People’s Theatre, Apples and Snakes, Unlimited, Barnsley Civic, ARC, Bristol Old Vic and the Bike Shed Theatre, among others. He is producer and creator of the Infinite Hex and Fake Town fables storytelling podcasts. More information about Jack can be found at his website: www.jackdean.co.uk .


The Role

Jack is seeking a Producer (individual or company) to support the management of a series of projects in 2018. This will involve:

  • Marketing, and project management for the tour of Nuketown in May/June 2018.
  • Fundraising, marketing, and project management for the production of new show Jeremiah, launching in September / October 2018.
  • Tour booking and fundraising for a summer 2019 tour of Jeremiah.
  • Managing Jack Dean & Friends, a planned Arts Council England-funded programme of audience & organizational development spread across all of 2018’s projects.


Person Specification


  • Strong communication skills, and ability to set and meet deadlines consistently and delegate effectively.
  • Extensive experience of UK tour booking for small-scale theatre work
  • Experience of successfully raising funds from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme, especially of applications both under and over £15,000 in size.
  • Experience of delivering successful marketing campaigns for small-scale touring theatre work.
  • Ability to attend face-to-face meetings once a month in Exeter



  • Experience of raising funds from diverse sources, especially trusts and foundations and / or individual giving.
  • Experience of promoting digital content, especially podcasts and Youtube videos.
  • Experience of delivering audience development and / or organisational development projects.
  • Strong relationships with audiences and venues in the South West.
  • Production / company management experience on small-to-mid scale theatre



£100 per day on a freelance basis, based on an average of 1 day per week, to include all personal expenses. The initial contract will cover 15 days between January & April 2018, with the hope that the role will continue and expand beyond this timeline as more funding becomes available.




Deadline for applications: 5pm Sunday  5th November 2017


Interviews in Exeter: Week of 13th November 2017


Decisions: Week of 20th November 2017


Start: Early January 2018


How To Apply


Send a CV, a link to your website (if applicable) and a brief cover letter outlining your suitability for the role in relation to the Person Specification to Jack at jackdean1989@gmail.com


Jack Dean in association with LittleMighty is looking for a FEMALE actor with a playing age between early 20s and early 30s to perform in the tour of a new two-hander for families and children aged 4+.

The role will see the performer play a number of different characters. Physical theatre skills and a strong singing voice are essential requirements. Some experience of puppetry and object manipulation would be desirable but not essential.

Rates of pay:

£100 per day plus travel and accommodation expenses. How to Apply:

Casting will be through a workshop-style audition led by director Tom Wright. This will take place from 2- 5pm on Saturday 9 September in Barnsley (location tbc if called).

To apply, please send us an email including a link to your Spotlight profile or CV to producer Dick Bonham at dick@littlemighty.co.uk by 3 September.

About the show:

Intrepid Victorian adventurer Horace is out hunting yeti! He’s trekking across the Himalayas, hoping to find one of the legendary Abominable Snowmen. The creature is guarding a priceless jewel, which is wanted by Queen Victoria herself.

But things change when Horace actually meets the Yeti, who turns out to be far from Abominable. Together they head off on a journey though the valley of Shangri-La, here mythical beasts live hidden from humanity.

But Horace has to make a choice. Will it be personal glory or saving the natural world?

The show was originally commissioned and developed through a Research & Development period with The Civic Theatre, Barnsley and ARC, Stockton.

Written and with music by Jack Dean Directed by Tom Wright
Design by Emma Williams Dramaturgy by Dick Bonham Produced by LittleMighty


You will need to be available for the following dates:

Rehearsals – Barnsley:

3 – 6 Oct 2017
9 – 13 Oct 2017 16 – 20 Oct 2017

Rehearsals – venue TBC

23 – 25 Oct 2017


26 Oct 2017 – The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds
4 Nov 2017 – CAST, Doncaster
14 Feb 2018 – The Ropewalk, Barton-Upon-Humber
17 Feb 2018 – The Coro, Ulverston
19 Feb 2018 – Northrope Hall with Creative Scene
20 Feb 2018 – Batley Bulldogs RLFC with Creative Scene
21 Feb 2018 – The Venue Birstall with Creative Scene
22 Feb 2018 – Healey Community Scene with Creative Scene
23 Feb 2018 – Thornhill Sports & Community Centre with Creative Scene 2 – 7 April 2018 – The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

Nuke town Villages #10: “Derbados”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Derbados”

Made by: Audience at performance at Derby Theatre 14  people)

When: 30/09/2016

Buildings featured:  the Death Cage, the Glass House, the Castle, the Minarets, the Train House, the Communal Staircase , the Euphoric Emporium, the Beehive

Jack’s Thoughts: This build shows the full range of people’s responses to the building challenge: the artistic types who semi-ignore the brief and  build based on the lego thats available (the Train House), the socially conscious who go with the brief and build something community spirited  (Euphoric Emporium, Beehive) and the guys who couldn’t care less about the brief and just try and build the most fuckoff massive thing they can in 30 minutes (the Castle). But at the end of the day, that’s kind of the point of the show. People are rad, even when they don’t do what you want, and they should be free to make whatever world they want to be in. And the people I’ve worked with over this show, by and large, have proved my point. Score 1 for Jack. And for people.

Quote of the build: “I am supporting your creativity. I did not just break it!”


Nuketown Villages #9: “Twocastles”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Twocastles”

Made by: Audience at performance at ARC, Stockton (24  people)

When: 28/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right, ):  Castle 1, Castle 2, the Communal Kitchen, the Chill Supermarket, the House Catamaran, the House, the Art Deco Building, the Mortuary, the House of Escher.

Jack’s Thoughts: This was the most competitive build so far, with an intense rivalry between Castle 1 and Castle 2’s builders. But all were ambitious in their own way. One of my favourite parts of the show is when I tell people they have 15 minutes left and there’s a collective groan of despair.

Quote of the build: “You could live in my castle. You couldn’t live in theirs”

Nuketown Villages #8: “Stockton Garden City”


[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Stockton Garden City” (Again my own, forgot to ask audience due to extensive cold-brain)

Made by: Audience at performance at ARC, Stockton (14  people)

When: 27/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right, ): The House, The Other House, The Eco-House, The Ice Rink, The Garden, The Government Building, the Portable Lido.

Themes discussed: Housing, Public Spaces, Lidos

Jack’s Thoughts: A humble but pleasant village from this build. Why do portable swimming pools keep coming up?

Quote of the build: “He didn’t say what type of government goes on there, just government. It could be shady”

Nuke town Villages #7: “Kidderminster”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Kidderminster”

Made by: Audience at performance at Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter (35 people)

When: 24/09/2016

Buildings featured: The Skyscraper, the Slide, The Theatre, The Trolley Station.

Jack’s Thoughts: A hasty pack-down at the end of the show means a lot of details of this town are lost to time (and I guess the people who built it). Why the tall thin spires in the building on the far right? What’s that one guy doing on the roof? Is a skyscraper with no doors still a skyscraper? The name is by far my favourite so far though.

Quote of the build: “I have to build the tallest thing!”

Nuketown Villages #6: “Nietzcheville”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Nietzcheville”

Made by: Audience at performance at Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter (35 people)

When: 23/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right, non Exhaustive List): DJ-Tron 5000 the Mech DJ, the Gateway, the Community Centre, the Anti-Bungalow, the Market, the Ziggurat of Ugliness, the Custard Pool, the House, the Tiny Nuclear Submarine (thanks dad), the Castle.

Themes discussed: “Beauty and the Beast libraries”, markets, freedom.

Jack’s Thoughts: The audience really blew us away with this one. There was also a handsome Tardis that didn’t make it into the pics.

Quote of the build: “We have art in order not to die from the truth” – Nietzsche (by way of my mum).


Nuke town Villages #4: “Boomtown”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Boomtown”

Made by: Audience at performance at Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter (18 people)

When: 22/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right): The Giant Radioactive Duck, The Helipad, The Gathering Place, The Dog Playground, The Crane, The Hot Tub Car, The Monolith, The Solar Powered Flying Sauna, The Swimming Pool Hovercraft, The Government Surveillance Unit, The Cloisters.

Themes discussed: Puppy Libraries, open spaces, Passivhaus buildings.

Jack’s Thoughts: This is the most impressively scaled build so far, with lots of imposing structures. I think being at lots of separate small tables might have spurred the audience on to compete with each other a bit.

Quote of the build: “There’s a slightly creepy fascist vibe to this village” – Josh