Keira Dulake (@keiradulake20) writing for the Musical Theatre Appreciation Society.
For most people, theatre is about being under the spotlight where all eyes are focused on you and the audience intently watching as you belt out that solo you’ve been rehearsing for the past 6 weeks.
For some of us, be it probably the minority, theatre is about being behind the spotlight, up a 5 metre ladder while you focus the spotlight and have spent the past 6 days agonising over the position of each individual par can. Theatre is universal and no matter where your interest lay, be it stage management, electrics, or performing a sonnet, everyone creating theatre has one common interest; to be a part of something unique.
I am a first year student studying Production at GSA and honestly I have no idea when I decided that technical theatre was where I wanted a career. I’d started on stage as a lot of techies do, and I couldn’t have been that bad because I achieved my grade 8 singing, but it just wasn’t something I could see myself doing for the rest of my career.
The only moment I can kind of pinpoint was when I saw my first ever west end show which was Wicked (cliché I know, but it’s good), and of course I was impressed by the vocal talent having never seen anything like that live before. But what I was most intrigued about was how they made that wheelchair move at the same time as the bang, and how the actors knew it was going to happen and how the lights know when to change…I need not go on. Basically I was mesmerised and couldn’t believe that all those things happened at once so perfectly 8 times a week.
When you ask anyone how to get in to the technical theatre industry, they will undoubtedly give you the same advice; see everything you can, and get work experience on anything you can. Now I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot easier said than done. I’m lucky in that I live in close proximity to London so I get to the theatre regularly, but in terms of work experience I had very close to none. My secondary school weren’t big on theatre and there was pretty much no opportunity for me get involved with drama as I didn’t study the subject after year 9. So I took it upon myself to make work experience where I could. I took up Head of House roles that I linked to stage and event management, I got involved with a local theatre and started helping out, and one day I even decided to contact Delfont Mackintosh for a work placement, and I was lucky enough to get a week’s shadowing at the Queen’s theatre (yes where Les Mis is on!). I was fortunate, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! Confidence is key and with a smile and polite request, it’s amazing what you can get.
From there on, I have no idea how it developed but I knew when I was 3 months into my History, Music and English literature A-Levels, there was no chance I’d be studying an academic subject at uni, so I looked into my other options. I did the usual of ordering all the brochures and going to all the open days and only ended up applying to 3; Guildhall, RADA and GSA.
Now these were all ‘drama schools’ and to me that was big, scary and daunting. I didn’t recognise myself as a drama student and the idea of interviews were a tiny bit petrifying. But my advice to anyone going through the same situation, whether it be auditions or interviews is to put the time into preparing. With school work it can be hard to juggle, but personally I’d say it’s more important to be prepared for a University interview, than it is to get that assignment in this Friday. Of course it’s important to get school work done, but you have to prioritise. Because lets be real, there’s nothing worse than going in to a interview and having no idea what you’re saying.
Even after you’ve decided that technical theatre is where you want to be heading, there’s then so many different pathways you could choose from. Personally, I am most interested in Stage Management, specifically being a DSM (deputy stage manager), as calling a show is something that just gives me a thrill (does come with a lot of pressure though). For some people what drives them is lacing up their steelies before climbing a ladder over 5 metres tall while they rig lights to the ceiling or perhaps creating a soundscape in Q Lab that pans across the whole theatre. It can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you have the passion for it.
Anyway, back to future day. I am a month in to my degree and I’m loving every day. It’s a lot of work but even more fun. Drama school for me is such a great way of learning because you’re allowed to mess up, but you learn from it and have a laugh whilst doing it. If anyone reading this is considering a career in backstage theatre (and I hope you are because its fab), my best advice would be just to throw yourself into it. Explore everything wherever you get the chance. And if anyone was wondering, yes we do still rap along to Hamilton and In The Heights backstage, there is certainly quite a show even after the curtain is down.