8 things we've learnt working in theatre

Monday, 28 September 2015 23:00 | Posted by 

1. Small theatre is better than big theatre.

We're bound to say that but, well, it is, mostly. There's nothing better than being on the front row of an exhilarating theatre show with electricity in the room, the whites of the performers eyes and the tension rising and falling in waves. Equally there's nothing worse than arriving at [generic large theatre] to discover you're sat on row Z, seat 430 and the stage appears as a speck on the horizon, where if you're lucky the performance is relayed on a low resolution screen, or, if you're unlucky, well... Still, at least the tickets are usually a reasonable price in those massive venues… Oh no, wait… Tough times.

2. The most popular department is always the one who provide the most cakes.

This probably doesn't just apply to theatre, but boy we love our cake. There’s regular conversations about whether it’s possible to integrate cake into meetings where previously there was none. Also, if you want a meeting to start promptly then the provision of cakes or pastries will ensure that everyone is on time and alert from the sugar overload.

3. Not all actors are needy…

…most of the time. 99.9% of actors are dedicated, hard-working, passionate, enthusiastic optimists. Well, maybe not 99.9%, maybe 89%? Our point is that contrary to the belief that actors are diva’s they are, more often than not, incredibly humble.

4. If you have a puppet expect people to want to play with it

There’s something amazing about puppetry done well, but at the end of the show everyone wants a go on the puppet that has taken months to create, master and perfect. There’s always a few people who will believe that despite having never done puppetry that all you need to do to become a puppeteer is watch War Horse or Avenue Q once. It’s really tough to do!

5. Nine to five? Nope.

Theatre really isn’t a nine to five job – we have over 300 performances a year, from our Christmas show to late night comedy – in every role, week by week, the hours vary. If you want to work in theatre then be flexible!

6. Directing is harder than just pointing.

Directors can get a raw deal – plenty of credit goes to actors, writers and designers but often the directors are a little hidden away – it’s a really tough job, you have to take an initial idea of what a show will be, temper it with realism, collaborate and incorporate ideas (and reject ideas too), make sure that the team is working well together, that everything is progressing, that every element of the show tells the story and sends the audience on the right journey. Then there’s the nerve-wracking first night, sat at the back, control passed over, fear setting in. It’s exhausting. If it goes well prepare to be lauded, and if it goes badly… hide.

7. "It must be great seeing so much theatre"

Yes it is – it’s really great seeing loads of shows, but it can be tiring on occasion – spending 8 hours at work and then staying on for another 2 hours can be occasional overload – but it’s really rewarding to see shows come to fruition in front of an audience. That said, we know from our experience of ushering that seeing the same show 20 to 30 times can get a little wearing – especially when you find yourself singing the Christmas show theme tune on the bus…

8. The stage manager is always in charge (then technician, then everyone else).

They always know what’s happening with a show, are a fountain of knowledge, know every piece of gossip, news or rumour, offer a shoulder to cry on and are the backbone of any show. They also always have the best stationary. Always.
Sam Freeman

Sam has been Unity's Marketing Manager since June 2010. He is also a freelance writer, director and occasional stand up comedian. His favourite performers are Daniel Kitson, Will Adamsdale and anything written by Tim Firth. Follow him on twitter @mrfreeman1984

Website: www.samfreeman.co.uk