An exclusive interview with John Mitton, Founder and CEO of Sky Blue Theatre Co. He also works as an actor and executive producer for MB Productions and Shit-faced Shakespeare.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is John Mitton and I was born into the world of theatre and have very happily lived in it ever since. Making a living in the arts isn’t always easy but my life is filled with fantastic events and the most colourful of people while my home is filled with props, set and costume from around the world and all the ages.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
After graduating drama school I was very keen to create my own work and starting a theatre company seemed not only incredibly daunting but also incredibly likely to fail (the vast majority of new theatre companies don’t make it beyond their first production let alone their first year), but with a big breath and giant leap of faith I did it anyway.
A three year steep learning curve ensued, learning as much from the failures as the successes. Pooling together everything that I had learned I wanted the next project to be something I felt passionate about and could commit to long-term… I always had a strong disliking for Shakespeare when studying at school, it was boring, dull. However, drama school had given me a renewed understanding that Shakespeare’s work had been written down solely for performance and not for study, and so, with two business partners on board I set about creating our next ‘product’ and thus Shakespeare Rewired® our interactive Shakespeare show was born.
From old works to new, not long after the success of Shakespeare Rewired® we launched our international new writing competition, the British Theatre Challenge. Seeing a gap in the market, we offer new playwrights across the world the chance to have their plays performed and filmed in a London venue.
How much potential market share can you achieve in next 3 years?
Over the last 6 years, Shakespeare Rewired® has been performed to over 60,000 people across the UK with new audiences each year. We would love to take what we do outside of the UK and bring it to an international audience. Many countries have an interest and passion for Shakespeare and we are now looking for theatre contacts to bring our highly accessible show across the world.
The British Theatre Challenge has gone from 40 scripts from 2 countries to over 1,200 scripts submitted from over 20 different countries and continues to grow year on year.
We hope to sustain growth whilst keeping the friendly and personal nature of what we do remembering we deal with people and not numbers.
What was the best book or series that you’ve ever read?
This question has me thinking back to my early days when I really discovered a love of reading. The imagery in a well written book presents so much to a keen imagination and offers every opportunity for escapism. However, I’m going to choose (maybe somewhat predictably) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare can teach us so very much about ourselves, others and the situations we find ourselves in. “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
What takes up too much of your time?
Put simply, work! Could I lighten the load? Yes, but running a company has led me to become somewhat of a control freak. I like to know what is happening at every level of the business so if any problems occur it doesn’t take long to find the source of the problem and fix it.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?
1. “Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.” – Build your business at your own pace, take time to get things right.
2. “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – There is so much we don’t know, always strive to learn more, education isn’t just academic.
3. “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
Who has inspired you most with what they’ve accomplished?
My family & friends. For some of which, battles with mental or physical health means simply getting out of bed is a great achievement. Others inspire me with their will to never give up doing what they want and love to do. I really feel that if those closest to you continue to strive towards their next goal, big or small, the inspiration they offer, with or without them knowing it, is boundless.
Tell us about something you are proud of – about your greatest challenge.
I suppose I’m most proud of the fact that we’re still going. With my industry always being the first to get cuts to funding I really feel so proud and accomplished that Sky Blue seems to be getting stronger in this stormy weather. From humble beginnings and without startup capital, it still stands 12 years on providing myself and friends with a source of income and a way to express our art.
How people should connect with you?
Feel free to get in touch, would be good to hear from you!
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