5 minutes with Assistant Directors, Priya Dosanjh and Milli Bhatia
Priya Dosanjh and Milli Bhatia are both working at The REP as Assistant Directors. We caught up with them to find out more about their roles and how they got into directing. First up, is Priya, who is currently Assistant Director on The Exorcist.
What is your role as Assistant Director on the production? What do you do?
I was actually talking about this with the ASM the other day. I feel like I'm at my best when I'm part AD, part ninja. Anticipating the needs of the Director, and the production as a whole, is key so if I'm doing things efficiently, people should hardly be able to tell what I'm doing at all. My chief responsibility is to support Sean in realising his vision for the production but this can mean any number of things, from research to liaising with the VFX team to noting actors. It changes from day to day but the variety is something I love about the job.
What is the most exciting part of your role?
I'm a huge fan of horror and The Exorcist is an absolute classic so, for me, it's incredibly exciting just to be part of the team that's bringing such an iconic story to the stage. It's been so much fun working with such a talented group of people and I feel like I'm learning a lot from Sean. Without giving too much away, this production is unusually tech-heavy and there are elements that we haven't been able to see fully realized in the rehearsal room. So I'm super excited to see them come to life.
What's been the best thing about working at The REP?
The support and encouragement from all of the awesome people who work here! I was made to feel welcome from the moment I walked through Stage Door, I was incredibly nervous on my first day so I was immensely grateful for that. The REP has cultivated a really positive environment that nurtures creativity - you're encouraged to fly and you feel safe trying because they're holding the net. I'm thrilled to be back!
How did you get into directing? What has your journey been?
My journey has been a little unconventional. I was always an unashamed drama geek at school (I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say I was involved in all of my school productions in some way or another) and I developed a taste for directing during A Levels. That said, I actually read Law with American Legal Studies at university, then I trained as a barrister and soon found myself working at a NGO in international human rights, primarily on death penalty cases. It was only when I moved back to Birmingham that I started thinking about pursuing a career in theatre. When I came across the REP's Foundry programme, I honestly thought it was a long shot. I applied anyway and the rest, as they say, is history.
What would your advice be for someone interested in pursuing a career in theatre directing?
REP Foundry was an invaluable “foot-in-the-door" for me so I would encourage people to apply when the next round of applications open. If you live outside of the Midlands, check if theatres nearer to you offer a similar programme. Also, don't dismiss opportunities to gain experience in other aspects of theatre. It takes a team to put on a show and having first-hand, experience from the perspective of those team members can prove useful as a Director. More than anything, read lots of plays and see as much theatre as you can. It's not the cheapest hobby in the world but many theatres address this with discounted tickets for students and young people.
Can you describe the production you're working on in 5 words?
Horrifying, in a good way?