Friday, 27 June 2008

Bolton Backstage (management)

Did you see what I did there? With the title.... If it's not obvious I will explain. After posting about various roles here at the theatre that are not directly involved with what happens on the stage I thought it was time to post something about someone who was involved with on stage workings. You might have seen her. She tends to sneak on, wraith-like, every so often during the show when the lights are down to update props, move things around and make changes to the set. Her name is Danni and she is part of our intrepid and rather smashing production crew.

Also, a big hello to the teachers that we met this morning at the Bolton Backstage event. Welcome the the blog. I have to say as teachers they make excellent students. They listened, put their hands up and asked lots of interesting questions and even those on the back row behaved themselves.....right anyway, better get back to work.


Danni Fearnley

Born in Bolton, now living in Lancaster but still working in Bolton

What do you do?
Assistant Stage Manager for the Octagon Theatre.

How long have you been at it?
I have worked at the Octagon Theatre for seven years altogether but only 18 months in my current, full time role.

What was your very first role in the theatre?
I worked Front of House and on Stage Door part time whilst studying, then did a bit of work experience in the Stage Management department before starting in my current role.

Have you got qualifications?
GCSEs, A Levels & History degree.

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
I worked part time at the theatre and in a pub whilst studying. I then had a temping job straight after University in a Solicitors office for 6 months.

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
I asked if I could do some work experience in the Stage Management department during my second year at University. I then asked if I could return the following year and it so happened that they needed an extra person backstage to crew the show that was on at this time, which I did. I then got asked to crew another show a few months later which was when I heard that a job vacancy was coming up for an Assistant Stage I applied.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was tiny I wanted to be a paleontologist of all things!!!! I soon grew out of this and decided I wanted to be a pianist, music teacher or Stage Manager.

What do you do all day?
The day times tend to be spent preparing for the next production and supporting the rehearsals. This involves getting props and furniture, sometimes making things and making sure everything satisfies the designer’s requirements. We also make sure that everything needed for rehearsals is there ready by reading rehearsal notes provided by the Deputy Stage Manager everyday and doing anything else that he/she may require for the rehearsal room.

The most hectic days of my role are in ‘tech week’ when the artistic and technical preparations for the play come together for the first time all in one week. This involves a lot of hours, often lots of changes and getting to grips with how the show is going to run. My main responsibility is compiling the setting list, which tells us where everything is set for the production and the running list which is the order that everything backstage happens during the show. I also run the backstage side of the technical rehearsal.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I love the fact that you can go into work and never predict what you will be day you could be in the van driving to Coventry to pick up a table for the set because the only one the designer likes is miles away!!, the next day you could be trying to cheekily get free chips for every production of a three week run, then another day you could be attempting to make a prop look 500 yrs old. It is also great that you get to work with new people every month.

And the worst?
You have to work a lot of evenings and weekends and sometimes quite long days.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
I’m not completely sure yet, something involving music and maybe a little more creative than my role at the moment would be fantastic.

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Work experience is fantastic, not just for getting to know the people who may want to employ you but also learning if the job you think you want to do is actually as fantastic as you imagine. Also, always be enthusiastic and willing to try new things as you have nothing to lose and ask lots of questions of those who are already where you would like to be!


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