News & Blogs

18 November 2015
Author: The Place

What’s the biggest misconception about working backstage in a theatre?

We asked two Production Managers about how they got into the industry and what they think are the most common misconceptions about the job.

Carly Hook is the Technical Stage Manager for Richard Alston Dance Company at The Place and Sam Wood is a freelance Production Manager who has worked international with companies including Hofesh Shechter, Wired Aerial Theatre, Darren Ellis Dance and Sadler’s Wells.

What is the most common misconception about your job?

“That technicians are big burly men who shift equipment around; I think that a good and efficient technical team consists of a range of skills and qualities. Within the technical team we all have our strengths and weaknesses.” Sam

When did you decide what career path you wanted to take?

“My interest in the theatre started back in school where I did drama and enjoyed helping to produce shows. For my work experience I contacted the Tricycle Theatre and then from school I went on to study theatre practice and lighting at University. On leaving university a good friend suggested I start work as a casual technician at The Place. I learnt so much in those three years of freelance work, and it has led on to working in different areas of the organisation. I’m now about to start my second tour with the Richard Alston Dance Company.”  Carly

“I studied dance at university and knew that I wanted to work within this industry, but was always unsure in what capacity. In my final year of university I did a week’s work experience at The Place. It made me want to learn more about all the different production elements that go into making a dance piece; lighting, sound, costume etc. When I graduated in 2010, I asked if I could return to The Place and help out. I've been working as a casual technician in between tour dates ever since.” Sam

What does your typical day involve?

“On a fit-up day on tour we arrive at a new venue, unload our trailer of lighting equipment, dance floor and costumes, before starting to rig the lighting with the help of the in-house crew. If we're lucky we squeeze in a mid morning tea break before laying the floor and flashing through the rig. After lunch we'll focus the lights and prepare the stage for the arrival of the dancers the following day.” Carly

“A show day involves doing technical and dress rehearsals, keeping the company running to schedule as we often have strict time constraints, and then ensuring the smooth running of the show.” Sam

Which organisations/resources do you think are helpful for people entering your industry?

“There are lots of websites such as Arts Jobs, Stage Jobs Pro and Arts Admin that email you the latest opportunities. However, I believe, that contacting the companies, venues or organisations that you want to work for and asking for work experience, or if they have any internships or openings is a good way to get started.” Sam

“I'm a current member of BECTU, the theatre technicians' union and I would recommend joining the SMA, the stage management association. I also receive updates from artsjobsonline and artsjobs. You can’t expect to sit back and the work to find you, every job builds your personal network and that is what gets you work.” Carly

What is the one thing you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

“How much it would take over my life, the hours are very unsociable, but I do enjoy it.” Sam

 “If you find the thing you love to do, it will never feel like work. I adore what I do, running a show fills me with adrenaline and joy.” Carly 

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