The first two weeks.
I began my placement on the 3rd of January 2018 after a somewhat hectic festive period. It was filled with more stressful days of packing and train journeys than Christmassy merriment. The stress was compounded by working off my notice at three different jobs, while also trying to find somewhere nice to live in a city I’d only visited once (for my interview). Paying deposits on a flat you’ve never viewed is anxiety-inducing but thankfully it all turned out okay.
Arriving in Plymouth, I had one day of getting settled before I started work. It felt like university all over again, not least because my mom was dropping me off and helping me get moved in. She also ended up staying the night, it was all very Lorelai and Rory.
My first day was kind of a blur. I arrived at stage door and was given a temporary building pass. Then I got to see my office, which was very exciting and made me feel very grown up. The fact that I was so delighted to have my very own desk may have undermined the whole grown up, sophisticated thing though. I had a similar reaction to discovering I’d be getting my own phone line and email address (complete with an email signature!).
Along with seeing my office (full disclosure – it’s not actually my office, I sort of live in someone else’s. But still, I have a desk!), I also got a whirlwind tour of all of Theatre Royal Plymouth’s departments and got introduced to everyone. Hard to take it all in but I’m getting to grips with everyone’s names now. The TRP staff were very welcoming. I got asked to come and eat lunch with everyone, assuaging my worst Mean Girls-related fears (no one wants to eat lunch in the toilets). I was also given a list of various meetings I’d be attending to help get me fully immersed in the theatre.
So far, a lot of the learning process has involved being around people who are already great at their jobs and sponging in all that knowledge. Some of the most useful information I’ve learned has been gained from conversations with colleagues about what it is they do, it’s taught me how the various roles all fit together, how processes like casting/contracting/commissioning work, how designing sets for plays works and helped me to develop theatre specific language (I was given a glossary of generally accepted theatre terminology too that has proven invaluable).
One of my favourite intro week meetings was with the technical department. I’ve never seen the backstage areas in a theatre that size before and it was so impressive. I saw the giant crocodile from Peter Pan and how it’s operated, the fly towers, the scenery storage, the orchestra pit and the grid. The grid is at the very top of the theatre and it’s where most of the things in a show that move will be attached (writing this section has really highlighted the need for me to keep working on that technical lingo). The floor is just metal slats that you can see through, it’s totally safe up there but still terrifying for vertigo sufferers like myself. I was very torn between how cool it was and how scared I was.
Look on down from the grid. This isn’t getting across how high up this actually is!
Another very cool thing I’ve been able to do was attending two press nights in London. It was my first ever ‘business’ trip and I snapchatted that hotel room like it was a penthouse suite. It was actually a Travelodge but it was still so much nicer than any hotel room I’ve ever booked myself. Anyway, suffice to say that business travel made me feel like a baller. I don’t think the novelty is ever going to wear off. The press nights were about more than just me feeling super snazzy though. It allowed me to see two great plays we’re staging (The Here and This and Now by Glenn Waldron and Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Has Not Yet Started, both at the Southwark Playhouse and being performed in repertoire [a new word I learned!]). It helped me understand a bit more about how producing shows works and how partnerships with other theatres are forged. I also got the chance to attend a theatre event and build up some contacts. So far, my networking skills leave a lot to be desired but I’ll have the chance to build on this throughout the year. Hopefully I’ll never again go in for a handshake the person isn’t expecting and just end up holding their hand for a bit. Because, let me tell you, that gets very uncomfortable very quickly.
At the moment I think my nervousness networking and lack of confidence are related to my worry that I’ve somehow fluked my way into this and don’t quite deserve to be here. There’s also the concern that I’m not important enough to be introducing myself to big players yet. These are fears I need to work on and I think that, for me, much of this placement is going to be about building confidence. I was confident in my old job and was initially worried that this hadn’t translated to the theatre. But I worked at my last place for around 4 years. These things take time (hopefully not 4 years) so I’m endeavouring not to beat myself up about it.
Run-down of other cool stuff I’ve done: got to grips with a finance system; printed and bound a lot of scripts; helped prepare a Show and Tell for one of our productions (Show and Tells are where creative teams show the theatre staff what they’re working on, to get people excited for it and help everyone get a feel for what to expect); helped organise a bunch of props for delivery to a rehearsal room in London; attended the first day of a show rehearsal; saw an initial read-through of a script; saw 5 plays I would otherwise never have had access to; packed away an extremely delicate show model; researched travel/rehearsal space arrangements; saw the prop and costume stores at TR2, which is Theatre Royal Plymouth’s production centre – it houses our set building facilities, Engagement and Learning department, rehearsal rooms and all sorts of other good stuff; learned more about the engagement and learning side of TRP; made some internal posters for our various productions; took minutes for meetings; along with various other tasks as and when!
Goals for the next two weeks: Be more efficient! At the moment, I feel like what I do keeps me busy but I struggle to pin point what it is that’s taking me so long. I want to start structuring my time better so I can get things done to a higher standard, which I think will help make me more able to keep track of what I’m learning and achieving.
Be more confident! The confidence issue is going to crop up a lot I think. Here’s hoping I can start recording some actual improvement in that area!