Art & Design blog

XETH talk with Louis Hartshorn, Executive Director at Arts Theatre

Artist / designer:   Louis Hartshorn
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Tue, 31 May 2016

Rat Pack Producing team ARTS 2014

Photographer: Piers Foley

Louis Hartshorn has been working as a theatre and live music producer since 2006.  Alongside Brian Hook he manages Hartshorn-Hook Productions producing West End musicals and over 60 other live productions, specialising in transferring international productions to the UK. XETH is delighted to have caught up with him during a break from rehearsals to hear about his latest projects.

At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

I was interested in performing from a young age, but turned my attention towards producing when I was about 16 years old when I co-produced an adaptation of The Birdcage written by a friend of mine at school. The production was an unexpected success and the feeling of having created it from scratch was electric.

Oliviers Red Carpet 2016

Photographer: Unknown

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

Closing the road for the American Idiot red carpet reception was pretty special, as was opening the Blues Brothers at the Arts in 2010. I think I’d go for the Best Musical nomination we got for Woody Sez in the Evening Standard awards in 2011. We lost out to Matilda.

None of that compares to the feeling I got when I scored against a Liverpool under 21s goalkeeper at the Kop end of Anfield, of course…

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

I have to constantly balance art and business. People take a very dim view of art being constrained by finance – but sensible business decisions create an environment in which the art can survive and flourish for the long term.

What are your top three favourite songs?

California Soul (Marlena Shaw) is my number one, then possibly Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke) & Come Back to Me (Sammy Davis Jr) – although it feels wrong to leave out Waiting All Night (Rudimental)

What is your favourite London venue and why?

Great question. My favourite place that I’ve played was the Brixton Academy – it was crazy. As an audience member probably Royal Albert Hall – I was lucky enough to be taken into a box as a guest and to be able to eat and drink in private while also having that view and that quality of performance was an absolute winner.

Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?

I think Michael Frayn is a certifiable genius. It’s pretty amazing to consider the breadth of his writing – from Noises Off to Copenhagen. Eric Whitacre has done some amazing things to fuse classical and modern music such as in his Paradise Lost. I think Michael Grandage has managed to combine quality theatre, popular appeal and social conscience.

I’m incredibly inspired by the memory of Sammy Davis Jr. He asks if he can perform for the audience, as if they are doing him a favour. It’s all because he wants to sing for them so much – it is so honest.

The Cast of Woody Sez, The Words, Music and Spirit of Woody Guthrie, featuring David M. Lutken, Andy Teirstein, Darcie Deaville, Helen J Russell. Photographed by Tom Oldham 18/1/11

The Cast of Woody Sez, The Words, Music and Spirit of Woody Guthrie. Photographer: Tom Oldham

Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?

Absolutely. Richard the Second at the Palace of Westminster on Shakespeare’s birthday, which is just mind-blowing to be working on. I’m also working with Gregory Batsleer on a new collaboration between a composer and DJ for a piece at Latitude festival – we can’t announce the details just yet, but watch this space. There’s loads more going on – we have hundreds of shows at my theatre, Arts Theatre West End, and updates on my producing projects can be found on the Hartshorn-Hook Productions website.

If you weren’t a theatre and live music producer what other career would you have chosen?

I guess I’d be running a football club. Who knows – there’s still time!

Hartshorn - Hook Productions: Managing Director Ð Louis Hartshorn Creative Director Ð Brian Hook Photographed by Tom Oldham 18/1/11

Photographer: Tom Oldham

What advice would you give to people working in the creative industry?

People say ‘believe in yourself’, but you can’t make it with self-belief alone. You have to really commit to honing your skills and constantly looking to improve. I was confident about producing before I was any good at it – and those were hard years. Thankfully I put in the hours and eventually my skill level caught up with my self-belief – only then did things start falling into place.

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