Over the next two weeks, we will be taking a look behind-the-scenes of Theatre Royal Plymouth People’s Company and their new show, Scenes from an Execution. We will be speaking to company members, from cast to crew, on how they got involved in theatre and to provide us an insight into staging Howard Barker’s darkly humorous play. Our first blog comes from Amy Shaw, the production’s volunteer Deputy Stage Manager – a role she has never done before…
I think that a lot of people consider the performance side of theatre. But backstage roles are just as vital. I love being any part of a production, being one of the many elements that brings a script to life. When I moved to Plymouth nearly 2 years ago I was delighted to hear about the People’s Company. The concept that people new to theatre could work alongside professionals in order to create great theatre was so exciting. I was delighted when I was offered the role of Deputy Stage Manager, working as part of the company, making new friends and learning new skills.
My first few weeks as part of the Stage Management team has been great fun! I have been Assistant Stage Manager before so it has been good to take on a new role. Becky (volunteer Assistant Stage Manager) and I have been learning on the job. Brooke (professional Stage Manager) has been really helpful and supportive, showing us the ropes in stages. In the first few weeks of rehearsals, everyone is feeling their way, seeing what the play brings, and what the director has in mind – we are all learning together.
Scenes from an Execution is about the conflict between art and politics. An artist has been commissioned to paint an epic painting of a victorious naval battle. She chooses to paint it in a controversial way. Nikolas Partridge (Director) is adding in some really interesting chorus elements.
The rehearsal process is one of exploring many different ideas and seeing what works. This means things can often change. We have to be flexible about props and where the actors move on stage (blocking). Part of my role is to write all the blocking down in what is called the ‘prompt copy’. During rehearsals, this can change right up to the last week, so I use post it notes. This means that my script is very colourful and I don’t have to keep rubbing things out! I’m now looking forward to production week, which should be great fun and hard work. It is, after all, a culmination of all the work done by everyone in the People’s Company and Theatre Royal Plymouth over the last few months.
On a basic level I hope that the play goes well and is well received by large audiences. On a personal level, I am looking forward to working with the professional technical staff in The Drum. Learning more about those elements of the production. As Deputy Stage Manager, my role includes calling the show. This means telling the tech personnel when lighting and sound cues have to happen. I love the feeling when a play is just about to start and the audience is sitting expectantly in the dark waiting to see what will happen. This time, I will get to say the magic words – LXQ 1 GO!
You can follow Amy’s updates on Twitter at @amyswrites.