Final reflection…

Here we are, the final blog post required for the online presence section of my 3rd year.

Well, what to say…?

I’ve enjoyed blogging, generally speaking, although as the previous posts here are testament to, it’s not something I’ve routinely managed over the months. With so many other aspects of my final year studies to complete, as well as maintaining a personal and home life, wittering on about my progress in each area has been somewhat tiresome.

I’ve also struggled with the whole premise of blogging; I personally feel it’s quite an arrogant activity, documenting my every thought and action for the greater world of online users to browse and judge. I don’t believe I have anything of such outstanding interest to say that it needs putting down in type for others to peruse, I’m just not that sort of person. In fact, the only person to have any interest in my blog and website is my mother. It’s her job to be proud of me, and after a few months of wondering if she would still be around to see me graduate, it’s nice to have something to be proud of. Maybe it’s just me being old fashioned, I don’t know, I just know that I’m unlikely to continue blogging after completion of my degree. I don’t believe my future employment prospects will be affected by this decision though; I’m turning down work in my area at the moment, while I finish my degree, so it’s not the end of the world.

The online portfolio, which is the online presence showcasing my skills and experience, has resulted in a website that is very personal to me and is, again, unlikely to be used much after graduation.

After initially struggling to get my head around the programme in use, a tip to use the Wix ADI version sped up progress no end. Using this I was able to create a website which had all the basic areas covered, before switching back to the editor version to tidy up and add further content. This was a massive help and allowed me to complete the basics for the website with minimal brain melt.

I’m basically happy with my website, but I know I’m very unlikely to use it in my professional progression, due to the nature of the industry I’m heading into. My planned area of industry relies more on personal recommendations and contacts than it does advertisement, and with work already being undertaken, I’m making the contacts which will provide work opportunities in the future.

I have a job lined up on a festival in July which was acquired by simply asking the festival Director for an opportunity. I’d met him at a conference and spent maybe 10 minutes having a chat with him whilst outside having a smoke. The impression was made in that initial meeting and was clearly sufficient to warrant a job offer.

That’s how my industry works, and I like it.

I’ve never been one to shout and make a fuss about what I can do; I’m crew, not a performer. My work and attitude speak for me, in place of a fancy website or regularly updated blog. I accept there may be some polite interest from prospective employers for my online portfolio or blog, but that’s likely to be all it is; polite curiosity.

I’m confident I will continue to find work in the areas of interest to me without having to update my blog or remember my website details.

Cheerio WordPress and Wix; I’d like to say it’s been fun, but that would be a lie. I’m glad to be able to hand you all over to someone to judge now, while I get back to making and planning things for my final degree show load in next week.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

 

Over and out.

Laura x

 

Soooo close…

 

So, we’re back up to speed with my personal life messing with my uni life, but I’m still here, battling away, trying to thump out a dissertation to be proud of.

In my defence, the numerous months of physical inactivity weren’t entirely wasted. I took any opportunity to talk to people about my chosen subject and waffled endlessly to my other half. My head was forever trying to finalise the question so that I could start writing; the free rein to write about anything has never been something I enjoy. I’d rather have a solid question or point and then hurl myself at it.

That’s not how dissertations work though, is it?

After getting my work placement done and dusted, I was slowly ticking off the work still to be completed. Another glorious weight off my shoulders when I handed in the reflective journal for my work placement, I was moving ever closer to having nowhere else to hide, I was going to have to start dissertating, and seriously.

And I did.

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Essential nutrients for successful dissertating.

It’s Easter Monday today and I’ve had no sleep, due to my back having twanged yesterday, leaving me unable to get comfy all night. This is going to be a fun day…

I’m having a break today from dissertating as I feel I need feedback for what I’ve written so far.  I’ve spent the previous week absolutely hammering it, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve done ok so far.

I’ve just short of 900 words left to write, but I’m ready, I think, to start concluding. Tomorrow will be the first opportunity I’ve had to gain any sort of tutor feedback for what I’ve got, but I still have the rest of the week to conclude and tweak as necessary.

I’m actually not scared of my diss anymore, and it’s a glorious feeling.

Not as good as it’s going to feel handing the damn thing in mind!

So, there you have it, I’ve spent endless days and nights at my desk, clacking away and referencing like a demon. I’ve produced an incredibly dry, academic piece of writing, discussing the predisposition of some to having a higher level of emotional intelligence than others, making them better placed to progress as a stage manager. I’ve cited all sorts of sources and spent yesterday discussing my primary research; responses from festival directors and production managers about their experiences.

I’m quietly really quite proud of what I’ve written so far, but I might feel differently after a tutor or 2 has read through it.

I’ll keep you posted. Hand in is next week, and I can’t chuffing wait!

 

 

Soooo slow…

 

It’s been a bit of a while, I know, since I was last here, regaling you all in delightful stories and anecdotes about my dissertation, but here I am, by eck.

To catch y’all up to speed, everything kinda fell apart for me last year, a mere few weeks into the first semester of my final year, and it’s been a long haul to get to this point, but I managed it. Well, I am a stage manager…

Mid October, my oldest daughter’s birthday to be exact, my mother lands me with the devastating news that she has cancer. I lost all focus and direction for months and my dissertation suffered as much as my other modules. Thankfully radical surgery removed all the nasty bits and, fingers crossed, me ma is ok for a bit longer yet. I didn’t realise just how much it was affecting me until one night talking with my other half; I cried like a baby for so many reasons, but let’s not turn this post into a therapy session, I need to keep cracking on.

I missed my New Year draft hand in due to throwing all of my attentions at my creative project. I was still a bit fuzzy over the exact direction of my diss at the time and that was slowing me down from making progress. Also, it’s academia at its worst, and not my greatest ally. I’ve always felt confident of being able to manage the 7000 words required from my diss, I just couldn’t quite get started. Trying to find enough quiet time to turn my busy head into an oasis of academia and focus is nigh on impossible in my house.

After completing my project and spending the proceeding fortnight hammering the portfolio, I handed in everything for my creative project and told myself I could now try and get started with my diss.

Ever the optimist me…

I had one successful session in the library, but that was all. Work commitments, training days and my work placement all interrupted my dissertation progress, and my diss tutor was increasingly unimpressed. I really wasn’t trying to avoid her every week, I simply had several other commitments that were falling on Mondays, when I should have been chatting academia with her.

Progress was slow.

Did I say slow? I meant not there.

I knew I had to lock myself away somewhere for a week or so to allow my brain the necessary focus to dissertate, but…

 

 

 

Wild? I’m bloody livid!

Not really, just thought it was about time that poor joke was aired.

I do have a confession to make though…it has been several months since my last blog post, please forgive me father, for I have indeed sinned. In my defense though, I have been doing a fairly OK job of sourcing stuff, and I’ve not killed anyone yet; I’m calling that a win.

It has indeed been quite a while since I last blogged about my end of year show role of Stage Manager for The Wild Party: it’s been a somewhat trying few months and I’ll be honest-I struggled to care enough about my regular updates. The discovery of my mother being quite seriously ill threw my focus and I struggled through the following months in something of a blur, trying to keep up with my workload and personal life, whilst my brain struggled to make sense of the information it was receiving. There were some bleak times for a while and my desire to witter on for the sake of a blog which will rarely be viewed just didn’t feature on my list of things to try and complete.

My bad.

Sorry.

 

To conclude…

 

Referring to my module guide, I must now conclude my week with the Fish ‘n’ Leather ladies, specifically with an analysis containing the following points:

  1. Summary of major experience
  2. Major skills developed or learnt from the practitioners.
  3. Critical reflection of their own input and how effective they were.
  4. Impact the experience has had on their future development.

I know, the fun and games just never ends in my house…

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Ms Andrews always insisted it was a very good place to start, and who am I to argue?

I was called upon to carry out the role of Stage Manager for a small production of the 3 woman show, Fish ‘N’ Leather, taking place in a large pub on the outskirts of Hull. The role was to include usual SM tasks, such as propping, set dressing and keeping the backstage area tidy and organised. As explained throughout my blog posts, I carried out the role of SM to the best of my ability, with little assistance from elsewhere and with the initial nervousness soon dispelled, thankfully! I could waffle on more here, but I’d like to think my ramblings over the week has filled in any gaps in experiences, so I’ll move straight on to the 2nd point for discussion…

Patience? Tolerance? The major skills for an efficient SM are those relating to organising and communicating. The issue of publicity calls during the week clearly demonstrated a need to develop my communication skills further, to avoid similar issues from occurring in the future. I am fully aware that my personal confidence is generally to blame for my lack of speaking up, and I continue to hope that as I progress into the industry and become more comfortable with my working practices, that my confidence will also develop. I always feel more confident in speaking up when I know exactly what I’m talking about. As Mark Twain, or possibly Abraham Lincoln, no one is quite sure, explained ‘It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.’ This has always been an issue for me…

Keeping everything organised in the backstage area was no problem for me at least; with such a small area, there wasn’t the space to make a mess! I had bags for props, bags for defunct props, a cool bag for the edible props, and my small SM tool bag, which proved vital on every day, for one thing or another. Being an old lady with children, it’s been second nature for me to be prepared for any and every possible eventuality of a situation, and this ‘skill’ transfers into the role of SM remarkably easily. Knowing the overall requirements of a production is an expected minimum for all members of the teams involved. Providing baby wipes backstage for the performers who had forgotten such a basic, or handing them that all important safety pin to save their modesty on stage; that’s the sort of skill that allows a good Stage Manager to stand out from the crowd that little bit more, and hopefully impress someone enough to be offered another job!

Critically discuss my input and effectiveness? Well, I’d like to think I was very effective in my role here with a significant improvement to the show due to my involvement. However, that makes me sound incredibly big headed and that’s just not me. As my blog posts before will confirm, I provided numerous items for the show, went the extra lengths necessary for the right outcome, went a little further than was expected to add more to the show, and kept up with the relentless changes in demands: I’d say that was effective behaviour. Keeping a positive disposition despite the relentless changes and providing everything that was asked of me left me feeling that I had been a significant and positive addition to the production, whilst always bearing in mind that any half decent SM would have done the same. That’s the point of being a good Stage Manager; being flexible enough to change direction at a moment’s notice, without losing momentum, and providing whatever the production needs in order to realise the creative vision of the Director to its fullest potential.

Will that do for that bit? I’m going to say so…

Which brings us to the 4th and final point for discussion; the impact the experience has had on my professional development and future plans.

I covered much of this during my ramblings from the weekend, but I’ll reiterate them here, just to make sure I’ve covered all bases.

One of the major things I learnt from the experience was the confirmation that theatre is a fickle creature and flaky Directors are not my cup of tea. Whilst I fully understand and accept there will invariably always be a number of creative practitioners above me, hierarchically speaking, the apparent lack of understanding for the roles of the technical and production teams is a cause of annoyance that I prefer not to have in my working environment. I love theatre, I really do, but it can be incredibly frustrating at times, with tradition and so many egos in a high-pressure situation. The often-slow pace that a working day can go at, with repeated stops for technical issues to be dealt with, or a wardrobe malfunction that needs attending to urgently. All these elements combine, eventually, to create a wonderful spectacle of imagination and creativity, whilst the crew are often worn out, worn down, and looking forward to the end of the run. I don’t like wishing my life away and I’ve done far too many naff jobs in the past to want to continue with an unhappy working environment.

Despite having only minimal experience of festival working so far, the insight I have had continues to interest and excite me. I know there will be obnoxiously long hours, heavy work, and the not-so great British weather to contend with, but that still doesn’t deter me from pushing for a career in the music festival industry. My great love of music and nature, combined with my raison d’etre to be a Stage Manager, points to one thing in my mind, and that is to SM on festies. Walking into a theatre will still always feel like home to me, but spending a weekend in a field with non-stop music; that’s where I really belong.

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Thank you, and good night x

Last night!

So, here we are, Saturday and the last performance in this short run of Fish ‘n‘ Leather. It’s been a peculiar week, to say the least, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed it. There’s certainly been plenty of opportunities for development, on a professional level, and it also served to confirm my previously vague assumption that I don’t really want to be a Stage Manager in a theatre setting. I’ve loved carrying out the standard SM tasks, like propping and organising, but dealing with flaky directors and hitting endless issues due to lack of planning; I’d rather not actually, if it’s all the same with you. I will always maintain my deep love of theatre, and my happiest memories will forever more include those generated during my time as backstage crew at York’s Joseph Rowntree Theatre, when I was still a teenager. Working as a Stage Manager in that environment now though? No thanks, I’ll continue my plan to head into music festivals as an SM and leave the theatre to someone else. I love going to festivals and the fast pace that stage management clearly work at appeals to me so much more than the often slow, staccato style of working which can grind a person down, after the 15th attempt to correctly carry out a simple task… I’ll still be more than happy to work in theatres as crew, but I feel confident that my post-graduate progression will not include theatre stage management.

Anyway, back to the show…

Another 4 p.m. call saw us unable to enter the backstage area when we arrived at the venue, due to Fish being up to something. The subterfuge was later revealed, when large bouquets were handed to the Director and other lovely lady of the cast. Jonno and I were given a thank you card each, which was nice; it’s fairly standard to not receive much praise for what we do, so it’s nice when it does happen. This isn’t an industry for those who need regular praise and pats on the head for good work; that comes from the self, with the knowledge that they’ve worked hard and created the best end result possible.

Still, it was nice to get a card…

The final show went ahead as expected; lots of family and friends again demonstrating their appreciation for the final outing from Fish, Leather, and Miriam. Last night speeches, as is traditional, saw the Landlady of the venue and the Director’s friend and assistant being thanked and given a large bouquet, with the usual other thanks from the Director for all and sundry. Jonno and I were missed out on this round of thanks, which was a slight poke in the eye, but that rather confirmed my earlier point; we don’t do this job for the praise, that’s for the performers to aim for. We do this work because we love it, because it’s what we love, even when we’re hating it. The long hours, the crazy requests and unreasonable demands is all a part of the work that we feel compelled to do. Even on the 16th hour of a shift which may have only seen one 5-minute break and now has feet that are audibly humming, I’d rather be doing this than working in an office. It’s where I know my progression after this ruddy degree lies, and I don’t mind if that means no thanks; I know I’ve done a good job, and that’s what matters.

As the lovely ladies enjoyed their post-show glow, circling the audience to bask in their personal glories, Jonno and I were busy striking the ‘set’ and gathering together everything that needed returning. The LEDs and associated cables were tidied, as were the numerous props and dressing items that were to return to college, or my house. Some were left for the Director to take on to further productions, and the car was loaded up with the smaller items that were mine. Plans were made for the return the following day to remove the larger items and after a long and strange week, I returned home to enjoy the last couple of hours of my Saturday night.

Sunday saw me returning to the venue to collect the bench, office chair, lectern, table, and LEDs and cables. The bench was dropped off en route to home and the rest came home with me, to be taken into college the following day.

And that was that. The crazy week for my work placement module was over and I had my life back again. Sort of. The return to degree stuff loomed ever more ominously and the events of the previous week were soon replaced with the ongoing plans and requirements of my course…

Fish Friday

 

Day 6 into my work placement and we’ve made it to Friday. TGIF doesn’t really apply here, but we did have a later call for today, which allowed a slighter slower paced start to the day, which was nice. Not needing to be at the venue until 4 p.m allowed me to catch up on some housework and see my youngest munchkin for more than 5 minutes.

After a pleasant, relaxed day, I arrived at the venue with some paper rose petals I’d bought earlier to replace the sequins from the previous night. The visual effect, as the sequins were thrown across the stage during one particularly silly part of the show, was great, by all accounts. Unfortunately, the high heeled Leather almost lost her footing on more than one occasion due to the slippery nature of the little discs of plastic. I did wonder if that would be an issue for the performers when I suggested them, but as with most of this show, it was a trial and error thing which didn’t work out. I returned to an earlier thought I’d had after seeing the part in question and knowing that flower petals would be ideal. Luckily for us all, Valentine’s Day was just around the corner and the purchase of cheap paper flower petals was no effort whatsoever.

I love it when propping is both cheap and easy…

I showed my latest acquisition to the Director and she loved them. Of course. If I have a good knowledge of the production I’m propping for, I generally don’t have a problem knowing what I need to source and, often how to do so too. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman of a certain age, maybe it’s because I’ve led the sort of life that has often necessitated resourcefulness, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I enjoy analysing a script, watching rehearsals progress, and heading out in search of weird and wonderful items to complete the props list. A regularly changing props list isn’t unusual throughout the earlier stages of the pre-production process, but doing so throughout the actual shows; that got a bit silly sometimes. It often felt that the show was being made us as we went along, despite it having been originally produced nearly 20 years ago. That said, I was able to keep up with the constant changes and alterations to the requirements and provided everything that was needed, and sometimes things that weren’t…

The show tonight went ahead to a much calmer audience than the previous night, but it ran smoothly, with the various alterations being successfully implemented and my scene changes smoother; after a request for Fish to take the half full wine bottle off stage with her.

A more notable event from this evening was the near fire that was only narrowly avoided after I noticed one of the napkins on a table was looking lop-sided and precariously close to the candle that was on the table. Indeed, upon closer inspection, the red napkin was found to have a small black scorch mark on it, and was dangerously close to causing a bit of bother, to say the least. Suffice to say, I kept an even closer eye on the tables until the dining guests started to arrive, after that incident.

The near miss from Mr Sands aside, it was a fairly uneventful day really. The show was OK, the audience were OK, everything was just, OK.

Final show tomorrow night and then it’s the final clear up and on to pastures new. In my case, it’s back to the harsh reality of my omnipresent dissertation; to try and regain focus on academia, and the numerous other, course related things that I need to get back to doing.

I never like to wish my life away but, my god, I will be so glad when I’ve finished this degree; I just want to do the job and not have to write about it all: is that too much to ask?

For now, yes, yes, it is.