Adam Penford is the Director of the Royal Derngate production of Holes. Find out what it takes to be a Director and how to get there in the theatre industry.
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Interviewer: Hello, I'm Oscar I'm a Royal & Derngate Arts Leader and I'm with Adam, who is the Director of Holes here at Royal & Derngate theatre. So first question that I've got for you is can you explain your job in one sentence?
Adam: That's really hard in one sentence. A Director's job is to pull together all the different elements as a production and make them cohesive.
Interviewer: What is your favourite part about being a Director?
Adam: Bossing people around. Not really, Oscar. I like producing exciting theatre that I think an audience are going to find funny and entertaining and thought-provoking.
Interviewer: What's the hardest part about being a Director?
Adam: The hardest point part is sometimes you have to say no to people. So if you're auditioning Actors you have to say no more than you get say yes and that's the same with Designers and Lighting Designers and Composers and all other creative team members.
Interviewer: What advice would you give a young person that wants to get into this industry that direct theatre?
Adam: I think expose yourself to theatre as much as you possibly can. So, read plays and watch plays, join a youth theatre. Just get stuck in, because the more experience you have, the more you're going to learn.
Interviewer: How did you become a Director?
Adam: So, I actually started as an Actor, which is what quite a lot of theatre Directors do. Decided I was rubbish at it and I didn't like people looking at me. That was a bit awkward. So then I thought what else I could do and I started directing and I worked my way up from being an Assistant Director and I became an Associate Director, a Resident Director, a Revival Director and then I became the Director Director.
Interviewer: So did you have any kind of specific training or did you just kind of get in with different companies and then work there?
Adam: So, when I was starting out there weren't really Directors training courses, although there are some now. So you sort of got into it a bit more by training as an Actor and then you start to understand the kind of techniques of acting and then you'd put that into play as a Director. The best way to learn at that time was by being an Assistant Director, watching how other people do it and then you pick the best bits of what they did, left out the
rubbish bits and then formed your own way of working.
Interviewer: Why theatre? Why not TV or film or radio? Why theatre?
Adam: Well it's not for the money because you get paid more directing TV or film. I think there's just something a bit more exciting about it being live. The idea you sit there in the audience and you get a live response from the audience and if something's working then you get laughter or tears or massive applause. If something's not working you get yawns and the seats flipping up as people exit. So you know immediately whether you're doing your job well and then it sets a challenge as to how you can improve the show the following night.
Published: 27 March 2020
Image: Alex Brenner
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Interviewers: Hi, I'm Martin and I'm Megan and we're here with...
Kat: Kat, I'm the DSM Deputy Stage Manager on Holes. The production in the Royal & Derngate.
Interviewer: So would you describe your job in one sentence for me Kat?
Kat: It's quite a long sentence. So during rehearsals I document everything that's happening and where everything is and where everybody is meant to be on and offstage. I remind the Actors of their lines and then during shows I tell the light, sound, flies, stage crew, anybody else when to do their cues.
Interviewer: What path did you take to working in stage management?
Kat: So I was really interested in theatre growing up and joined youth theatres and things. Then I went to university and studied performance studies and then I ended up working here at the Royal & Derngate while I was at university in front of house and on box office and I heard they needed someone to chaperone children on shows. So I said 'okay I'll give that a go' and I was interested in backstage stuff a little bit but I didn't know a huge amount of it and I'd actually never heard of stage management. So while I was doing that I spoke to the Stage Manager and she kind of said 'what are you interested in?' and I said 'I'm not really sure', she said 'do some work experience with us' and I did and I loved it. So then I went to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and did an MA master's in stage management.
Interviewer: Is there a best thing or a favourite thing that you love or a favourite aspect of your job?
Kat: I guess the variety. There's no two productions that are the same, no two groups of people the same. Even within the show, no two days are the same and so I really love that. Because I work freelance so I work all over the country. I really like that variety and also just constantly learning new things and about new things, yeah the variety.
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So, this is my prompt copy which is the show's Bible, which is a script of the show. Then it has all cues in it, which at the moment because we're in technical rehearsals and they will move they're all on post-it notes, so that I can move them around. We also write down the blocking, so write down what everyone's doing at every point in the show.
So I will wear a headset in the show so I can speak to everybody, but also sometimes use cue lights. So for this, I have one for the Flies in case their headsets go down. So I would do that to tell them to stand by and then that to tell them to do their cue. I've got a microphone here to do announcements to back of house or to tell Actors to come to the stage or what we're up to.
Then up here I have a couple of screens because I can't always from where I'm sitting see everything that I need to do to cue. So I've got the monitor to get more of a front on view. Then this one is infrared. So if we go to blackout and I need to for instance wait for the Actors to be clear to bring the lights back up again. I can see when that is because I can see them on the infrared.
On this show, I'm actually operating the sound. This is my go button. So when I want a sound cue to start I press the Go button. This is the list of the sound cues. So that will be a list so I can see which sound cues are coming up so I can make sure I'm ready for the right one.
Published: 27 March 2020
Image: Alex Brenner
Steven Kavuma, the Associate Director of Royal & Derngate's production of Holes, tells us what his role is, how he got into theatre and his advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in the theatre industry.
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Interviewers: Hiya, I'm Martin, and I'm Kayla, and today we're here with Steven Kavum and Steven is the Associate Director in the Royal & Derngate's production of Holes. So, Steven could you tell us about your role in the production as a whole?
Steven: Yes, so my role is a lot of things. There are a lot of responsibilities. So the Associate Director is the person who supports the Director and all the other teams around and making sure the production goes as smoothly as possible. Because it's a touring production and it has a certain time limit, that means that I, as the Associate Director, take care of the show when the Director is off. So I'm responsible for how the show goes on, to make sure that it's still a continuous production as it was on the opening night. It's quite different to being an Assistant Director. An Assistant Director is you're still supporting the logistics and the running of the show, but you don't have the responsibility of taking care of a show.
Interviewer: So how did you get into the role of being an Associate Director?
Steven: So I started off as being an Actor, and soon I realised that wasn't my passion and I wanted to do more sort of directing stuff, and when I was younger I would get my mates to be in my own little plays and I'd direct them and it would be after school directing our own little shows, and that gave me a little insight of how I can work as a Director and I was constantly pulling those muscles and seeing how they could be improved. Then I went to drama school which is like university but not university. So there's more specialised, more rounded training.
Interviewer: Is there any sort of advice that you'd want to give other people who may want to get into the acting industry or be an Associate Director as well? Anything of that sort as well?
Steven: I think the only advice is that anyone can do it. Anyone can be a Director and we're sort of Directors already organically.
Published: 27 March 2020
Photo: Alex Brenner
There are many different types of disabilities people can have and these can be either physical or mental disabilities. One of these disabilities are learning disabilities which again can mean a number of different things.
A learning disability affects the way a person learns new things throughout their lifetime. This can affect the way a person understands information and how they communicate. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability and it’s thought up to 350,000 people have a severe learning disability and this figure is increasing.
If you’d like to learn more about learning disabilities please see the NHS website for more information.
We interviewed Dominick Rutter from Bradford who is a training Actor and happens to have a learning disability. He is currently training in the Performance Academy at leading learning disability theatre company Mind the Gap. Dominick answered a few questions for us about his journey pursuing a career within the theatre industry with a learning disability.
My biggest inspiration is Lee Evans, so I’ve always wanted to get into comedy. I don’t think I’d be very confident as a solo Comedian but I would love to be a part of an ensemble in a TV show like Phoenix Nights or Men Behaving Badly. Training on Mind the Gap’s Performance Academy course is helping me develop my skills in acting as part of a group.
I don’t know why they would as they wouldn’t know what I was capable of without meeting me. For me, everyone is equal, whether they have a disability or not and should be treated the same way. It’s not something I worry about to be honest.
FACT: All employers must follow the Equal Opportunities Policy in any industry. The Equal Opportunities Policy (EOP) are guidelines put in place to ensure an organisation commits to fairness amongst applicants for new jobs and existing staff members. Basically, if you apply for a job, the employer cannot discriminate against you for any reason and you will be treated equally like everyone else.
I think it’s a difficult industry for anybody to get into really, but you need to be confident and keep trying, whatever your situation is.
I want to make something of my life. I want to do something that I’ve never done before and I like to challenge myself. The world of theatre and TV seems to be opening up for people with learning disabilities at the moment so it’s an exciting time; I want to be part of that. I’m inspired by people such as Liam Bairstow on Coronation Street and Lost Voice Guy, their success motivates me.
[Laughs] I don’t think so. If Gok Wan applied for a job in a costume department, I don’t think anyone would question his skills. If you want to work in a certain area in theatre, it shouldn’t matter who you are.
FACT: Job roles within the theatre industry are becoming more ‘gender neutral’ as one role is not deemed more for a woman and another more for a man. Women and men can pursue any role within the theatre industry as long as they are the right person for the role.
Not at all! Nothing stops me from doing what I want to do. I don’t feel like I’ve faced barriers in my life because of my disability and I’m determined to achieve what I want out of life.
Go for it, you just need to apply, what have you got to lose? You’ve only got one life and you’ve got to do what you want to do. If people think you can’t work in theatre, prove them wrong!
I hope so. When I was looking for a course in acting for people with learning disabilities, I was lucky enough to live in Bradford and have heard of Mind the Gap. Hopefully Get Into Theatre will be useful for people all over the country to find courses that are right for them.
Photo: Mind The Gap
Published: 14 November 2019
Theatre Sound Technician Michael Poon, has worked on shows including the West End production of Company, as well as War Horse, Lazarus (the David Bowie musical) and Chicago. Michael offers an insight into how to work in a theatre's sound department, the misconceptions of the theatre profession and his biggest obstacles.
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Hi, I'm Mike Poon, I am 32 and I'm a sound operator. I was born in London and I moved to Singapore when I was three and I only came back to London when I was 18 to study and that was when I was exposed to theatre really for the first time properly. I started working front of house at a theatre actually and I met the Head of Sound who was working on the show at the time and eventually I asked him for a job, and of course it wasn't anything full-time but he luckily gave me a job as a casual member of backstage staff, and that kind of led to this career.
I worked on War Horse and on Lazarus the David Bowie musical. I've even toured both within the UK and internationally such as I've been to China with Chicago (musical) and now I'm one of the company at the Gielgud Theatre. The staff, the people you work with very quickly become your family and the feeling of creativity, it is seen as a very technical role but realistically it isn't just being technical. There's a huge amount creativity in it as well. I think coming from my background the biggest obstacle for me going into theatre was I was always very very pressured academically and I did perform well but it was to go into your standard real jobs working in finance that sort of thing.
So when I eventually did move into theatre it was viewed very much as that 'this isn't a real job' and the easiest way of overcoming that is by being really good at it. Work hard and buy nice things and pay your rent and actually have a career and that's how you prove them wrong. If I could give advice to someone just starting out I think it would be enthusiastic, really listen, really pay attention and don't take criticism too hard. I think two things you could do is if your school or anywhere nearby offers work experience opportunities really go for it and take those and another thing is if you've seen a show and you enjoy it, write to the Sound Designer, write to the sound team. If I could turn back time I would have started sooner. I didn't start late by any means but I'm glad I did lots of other things but I would jump straight in.
Published: 08 March 2019
Gemma Dobson tells Get Into Theatre what it's like to be an Actor from a working class background and the challenges she faced when starting to work in theatre and also now she is working within the industry. Gemma has starred in shows such as A Taste of Honey at the Oldham Coliseum and is currently starring as Sue in Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Gemma was also awarded Best Actress in a Play at The Stage Debut Awards 2018.
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Hi my name's Gemma, I'm 28 and I'm an Actor. So my story is I grew up in Leeds on a council estate with my mum, I still live there now. I'm really really proud of being a working class Actor. So I went to a High School in Leeds called Intake High School. There I did GCSE Drama, Dance and Music and then I went on to do BTEC in Drama at Sixth Form. Then when I was coming out of Sixth Form I really didn't know what I was gonna do, didn't want to go to drama school and I didn't really know any other roots into the industry, I knew I wanted to be an Actress. I ended up on the dole (receiving benefits) for a few months and then I was like I really need to get a job and saw an advert in a paper for a call centre and ended up working there.
So I was working at the call centre and I started going to these evening acting classes in Manchester at a place called Manchester School of Acting. From that I got an Agent and I went on to be in an ITV drama called Brief Encounters, I've played Jo in A Taste Of Honey at Oldham Coliseum and I've been playing Sue in Rita, Sue and Bob Too for Out of Joint (theatre company). As an Actor working in theatre, what I love most about it is the rehearsal process, all the hard work that goes into it from the whole company, getting to know the cast and crew, working on a character, working on the story, performing to a live audience and engaging with audiences.
In between main acting jobs I have worked in a call centre I've done bar work and I've also done workshops of new plays. So one of the biggest obstacles for me was money. I couldn't afford to go to drama school and therefore I found a good quality acting class which meant that I could work full-time, pay my bills but also train. The second obstacle I think is having an insecurity about being working class especially being northern and having a voice like mine which you don't hear a lot on TV or in the theatre, it does give you quite a bit of anxiety about you know speaking properly or not having a proper voice and that has put me off in the past because I thought there's no place for me in this world but there really is and I've learnt to embrace it and there are people out there that want to hear my voice and that want to employ me and you know I just have to, I've had to learn to be confident enough to use it as a tool.
So one of the biggest obstacles that I still face is money, so it can be really hard to find a normal job in between acting roles. So for example if I know I've got a job coming up again in a couple of months' time I have to be really organised with the money that I'm currently earning so I try and save as much as I can to cover me for that period of time because I don't have the financial support elsewhere. So my advice to you would be if you are northern, if you sound like me, if you're from a similar background to me and you feel put off by that, don't. Theatre is not a posh person's industry. Theatre is for everyone and there are parts out there and there are jobs out there for people like you.
Photo: David Monteith-Hodge
Published: 11 April 2019
Theatre Lighting Designer and Technician Rajiv Pattani has worked on shows at venues including the Pleasance Theatre, Kings Head Theatre and the Bush Theatre where he is currently the Senior Technician. He offers advice on how to kick-start a career in this profession, and how to overcome obstacles that could stop you pursuing a career in theatre.
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Hi, my name is Rajiv Pattani. I'm 29 years old and I was born in Britain but with a Gujarati background. My story is, I've always been involved in theatre from a young age but my parents background was always academic so they pushed me in that route. But it wasn't until recently they realised I am good at what I do, which is a theatre Lighting Designer. Well starting from primary school I started being involved in school productions and that led to the Young Vic theatre putting on mask making workshops and various other helpful tools. I then went off to my secondary school and was very more academic because of my parents' route, but I managed to sneak in GCSE drama.
Once I left secondary school I went to Hamleys, the toy store, and I was working there for three and a half years. But it just wasn't the same as wanting to be in a theatre, which I got a great break at the Young Vic theatre with their backstage workshop placement working as a Lighting Technician. After leaving LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) I went off to work at the Pleasance Theatre in London. I then went freelance and working with various designers and directors. One show in particular was Might Never Happen at the King's Head Theatre. Then I started as a casual Technician at the Bush Theatre to now where I'm their Senior Technician at the Bush Theatre. What I like the most about what I do involves working with all of the creatives and the Designers, Directors, production staff, production teams and how we achieve the end goal vision.
What obstacles I faced when I was younger was parental pressure wanting me to become a academic student rather than my own creative visual, so I had to fight them on many occasions, get them involved, bring them down, see the shows that I'm working on, that's where I started to actually change their opinion. Three things you can do to help you become a Lighting Designer is to seek out with this website your local theatre on backstage apprenticeships and courses. Apply for drama schools in the technical theatre field and if you've seen any productions that you liked the lighting design of it email the Lighting Designer.
Published: 07 March 2019
Actor Emmanuel Kojo has appeared in Scottsboro Boys, Kiss Me, Kate, Show Boat and Twelfth Night at the National Theatre, London. Emmanuel tells us how he got into acting, how he earns money in between acting jobs and advice on how to stay positive.
Amy Trigg tells Get Into Theatre what it is like to be a wheelchair user who has trained in performance and musical theatre, as well as the physical and mental challenges she faced when she first started acting. Amy has starred in The Glass Menagerie, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Doctors, and Fusion at Sadler's Wells (theatre).
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My name is Amy Trigg, I'm 26 years old and I'm an Actress. I was born in Essex and I still live there now. I was born with spina bifida which basically means that my spine didn't get its act together while I was in the womb, so now I'm a full-time wheelchair user. My parents took me to theatre a lot when I was younger so I was exposed to theatre from a young age and at school I joined after-school drama clubs which then led to local am-dram shows, where I made most of my friends like I think most drama kids, and then I started thinking about going to drama school. So I did all the GCSEs and A-levels that I needed to do, started preparing, got into Mountview and got an Agent from showcase at the end of my three years there.
I faced two main obstacles when I decided to be an Actress, the first one was physical obstacles so things like steps and stairs in my case, which meant that when I decided to go to drama school I had to make sure that the drama schools I was applying for were accessible, I could actually get in the building and I could go to the toilet. The other obstacle is people's opinions. So people don't expect someone who's in a wheelchair or someone who's deaf and disabled to become an Actress, so it was me when I was 16, 17, 18 years old turning around to those people and saying 'look I'm going to work hard I'm very passionate about this and I want to be good enough'.
Some of the productions I've been involved with include Ramps on the Moon's tour of The Who's Tommy, The Glass Menagerie, Goth Weekend, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Stella, Doctors, Pas De Deux, Fusion at Sadler's Wells (theatre) and some comedic street theatre because why not? At the moment I teach acting between acting jobs but before in the past I have done some office admin jobs where I've been picking up the phone while I've been waiting for the phone to ring and I just liked staying occupied so if I've got spare time just go out and volunteer.
If you are interested in working in theatre then the three bits of advice I would give you: take a class in something you've never done before like an improv class or a stage combat class and then look into your options. If you want to go to drama school, which drama schools are an option for you and then you can start looking at your funding options. Lastly, just go and watch some good theatre. As one of the first wheelchair users to train in performance in musical theatre, it's frustrating and you can feel a bit like a guinea pig but if you're the first person then the person after you doesn't have to be, so do it for the next person.
Published: 12 March 2019
Khadija Raza tells Get Into Theatre what it is like to be a Set Designer and the challenges she faced when starting to work in theatre. She has worked on shows including Hijabi Monologues at the Bush Theatre, London, and Spun at the Arcola Theatre, London. She was also awarded Best Designer at The Stage Debut Awards 2018.
My name is Khadija Raza and I'm a Theatre Designer and I'm 23 years old. I was born in Pakistan and I moved to East London when I was 11 and growing up there wasn't really much of a theatre going culture where I was from, neither in East London or Pakistan, so I didn't really get to experience live performance in any sort of way until I was about 18.
At school I studied Biology, Chemistry, English Literature and Fine Art at A-level and I originally applied to do a course in Radiography, but I also applied to do a foundation course in Art and Design, and in the end I kind of just went with what I really wanted to do which was the foundation course, and I went to a little college called The Working Men's College in Camden, and then I applied to the Central School of Speech and Drama to do a BA in Theatre Design.
Since graduating I was one of the four winners of the Linbury Prize, which is a competition for theatre design graduates and after that I designed the Hijabi Monologues at the Bush Theatre, Mixtape for the Royal Exchange Manchester, Spun for the Arcola Theatre, and Loki and Cassie and Cacophony for the Almeida [Theatre]. And earlier this year I also won The Stage Debut Award for Best Designer.
Between design jobs I usually assist other designers doing model making, research or technical drawings and I sometimes also do design workshops for teachers and students. The first obstacle I faced when I decided to become a theatre designer was convincing my parents that it was a viable option and challenging their perceptions of theatre. The only way I could really do that was to show them what I loved about it and what it was all about. So I took my mum to an open day at a drama school and showed her exactly what I'd be doing and why it's creative and fulfilling and exciting.
One of the obstacles for me as a Designer is finding the right people to work with and the right projects for me so that I know that I'm not working with people who only want to work with me for the way that I look or because I can tell a particular kind of story, but rather who I am as a designer or an artist and storyteller. And I think another struggle is just surviving as a freelancer and the key to that so far has been keeping myself self-motivated and organised and meeting lots of people and seeing theatre and keeping myself in that world.
Some of the things you can do if you're interested in theatre design and other backstage roles is go to TheatreCraft which is an event that is all about all the backstage roles in theatre, what they consist of and what the job is and you get to talk to lots of people who do this for a living. You can also go to open days for universities, I went to Central School of Speech and Drama and there's other drama schools as well and you should just go and see theatre as much as you can. There's places like Mousetrap who do cheap tickets to see big shows in the West End and it's just a lovely experience.
Photo: Alex Brenner
Published: 12 March 2019