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:
- Summary of major experience
- Major skills developed or learnt from the practitioners.
- Critical reflection of their own input and how effective they were.
- 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.
Thank you, and good night x