Tag Archives: Harrogate Theatre

Work Experience is back!

Our work experience blog is back and this week we say hello to Sam who’s going to be giving you an insight in to what goes on behind the scenes at Harrogate Theatre…

Day 1 (Tuesday)

I started the day at the unearthly hour of 10 AM, which, for a holiday, is the middle of the night for me. However I made my way to the Theatre, and was soon being shown around by Hannah. The sheer complexity of the place amazes me; it is, quite literally, a Tardis I think. I have to say, the area above the stage, where all the ropes etc are, is amazing; what a view! I really had no idea that the stage would be so complicated…!

Having found our way back to the office, Hannah set me the task of researching the Blitz and the Great Fire of London for a school workshop she would be running later on. The work took a while, but it was interesting, and I learnt something new; heck it might even come in useful to my A levels!

One o’clock soon came, which meant lunch. One Tesco pasta and a bottle of Appletiser down, and I was back to work. The afternoon saw me working with Rob in marketing; first researching a play (Move over Moriaty) which would be coming to the theatre in the coming weeks, then writing an article on it for the website… an important task for my first day! I’m pretty sure it went well; so it’s all good.

I’m loving the experience of working here, everyone is really friendly, and you can see there’s a really strong family atmosphere going on off stage as well as on it. All in all, a good day.

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Another unearthly rise at 10AM, made all the harder by the somewhat foolish move of a late night… C’est la vie I guess. Anyway one cup of tea and a bit of brekkie, and I was raring to go.

The morning saw me working in marketing again, with Emma this time. I began doing a bit of research for suitable places to send posters, etc. that took most of the morning; it was long work, but I got A LOT done, so it was good. I then moved on to reading the local newspapers, searching for news of the theatre (as well as reading some local news!) the cuttings were then pasted onto dated word documents and filed. Emma took me down to show me the archive, it really was amazing. There was a book of minutes from the 1960’s, all leather bound. It’s great to remember how long the theatre’s been going, and all the work that’s been done below the surface.

A quick bite to eat later (can’t go wrong with a chilli steak lattice…) and I was back to work; this time in operations. Caroline asked me to usher the puppet show, ‘Arabian Nights’… I have to admit I was a tad nervous as people came up, despite it being a smaller audience (in the studio) but it was fine in the end. Everyone sat down; I took a seat at the back and enjoyed the show. I’ve never really seen a puppet show before, apart from a few minutes of some corny ‘Punch and Judy’ at a beach somewhere. This was totally different; done by one guy, he really did bring the stories to life; and although you could see he was operating each puppet, even the minute details like the way a leg bends when someone walks were covered. The stage was very colourful and intricate, and the music and burning incense really gave the stage a sense of authenticity. All in all, despite some reservations, I was impressed. After the show I had a bit of a talk with Caroline about the various duties of an usher; and having e-mailed her before the placement began, signed up to usher voluntarily after the work experience. I get to see the shows, so I’m looking forward to it! And it helps the theatre… So, to sum up, another good day.

Day 3 (Thursday)

Today saw me working with Hannah in education today… had a couple of million newsletters to stuff into envelopes for the HYT, senior and junior groups. It took me most of the morning, but I had a chat with people in the office, and the work went pretty quickly; although folding so many newsletters is a bit wearing on the fingers after a while. Still I had cups of tea, so I was well fuelled!

1 o’clock came; time for a spot of lunch… a nice chicken club sarnie; thank you Greggs, and a homemade sausage roll down, and it was back to work.

The afternoon meant one thing, PRODUCTION! Having seen the fly room on my first day, I was really looking forward to working in production, and seeing what goes on, and I wasn’t disappointed. Before long I was on stage, below stage, above stage, and well, everywhere to be honest. David showed me how to focus all the lights on stage, then how the fly’s worked. Maurice took me through how all the lighting and sound works. I’ve never seen so many wires! ¾ hour down, and my brain started turning to mush, so we stopped for some tea, and discussed amusing incidents the guys had encountered down the years. Back to work; and Maurice continued to explain lighting to me. David was moving lights on stage, on the rails above stage, which meant me and Maurice were moving him about on a sort of ladder on a frame… which to be honest was a bit scary. Never been great with heights, and I was worried David would fall out! He never did though, so it was fine. Long day over, time for home and TV. See you tomorrow!

Day 4 (Friday)

My last day today 😦 … and it saw me working all day with Maurice and David in production again; setting up for ‘Fascinating Aida’… the morning was a little slow to start… we helped someone deliver a piano, and had a chat about how companies organise putting on a show at the theatre. About 11:30 there was a meeting for everyone, which, funnily enough, meant LOTS of bacon sandwiches and coffee (which in my opinion is the only way to hold any meeting- can’t beat a bit of bacon in the morning!)

After that there was a bit of setting up to do, and then lunch. Still full from all the bacon, I just had a stroll around sunny (for once) Harrogate…

Back at 2 o’clock, and the crew for ‘Fascinating Aida’ arrived. From then on it was very busy; we started by unloading the truck, and moving about various pieces of equipment to where they were needed. Then came the setting up of various elements on the fly’s (I won’t tell you what- go see it!!) Lastly we focused all the lighting for the show. This job saw me working the machine that controls all the lights, whilst David, in the scarily tall and slightly unsafe looking ladder on wheels, moved all the lights; and focused them where they were needed. That was fantastic! It was great getting to grips with how all the lighting equipment works, and the various techniques used to focus the lights. I’m sure it’s going to be hugely helpful for my Drama A level, and it’s great to see how things on stage are set up, and all the work that’s done. This week has been really great; it’s opened my eyes to the sheer volume of effort that goes into every production, behind the scenes as well as on stage. It’s also showed me that there’s more to a drama company than actors, and that everyone is important. It’s very much a team effort to do anything here, and I think that sort of environment is what makes it possible to put on the great productions this theatre does. Well, that’s all from me, it’s been great!

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Day 19 in the Big Harrogate Theatre

We’re up! Everybody has a smile back on their face.  Wardrobe, sound, lights, stage management have had a tough production week and looked tired and relieved.  Front of house departments listened out for feedback as the audience departed and discovered many booking for next year.

It was great to run it in front of an audience but it is work in progress.  Exasperated with my own ineptitude over jokes, plots, lines I should cut, timings, pace, energy and pauses.  From entrances to exits, lines that are feed or punch, I felt misled over missed opportunities, making obvious choices rather than dangerous and braver decisions.  In my head I felt so much frustration for things to be different.

And so I emerged from the dressing room after the performance into the bar and this party atmosphere.  My parents had driven up from the south; there were kids excitedly collecting autographs and their parents thanking us all for a wonderful evening; friends of the cast and crew saying, “How is it always so good?!”  Even theatre staff: “I was crying with laughter”, “…we loved it…” etc.

So what do I know? I thought.  Maybe I’m wrong. 10 years in Harrogate pantomime, what experience have I gleaned?  But after a pint or two of orange juice and watching everybody’s joy and happiness and a phone call to the wife – I realised I’m right, I just care!  It’s a truly traditional pantomime – we don’t do blue, we don’t offend.  If you’re 4 or 94 you will both laugh and share the experience that is live and fascinating theatre.  And I love it.

Day 18 in the big Harrogate Theatre

By Tim Stedman

How do you learn your lines? The most commonly asked question for an actor after – what kind of acting do you do? (for which read have you been on the telly) and have you been on the telly? (meaning have you been on the telly).

My answer has always been fear. For some money motivates; many write out their lines or record and replay while some are blessed with a photographic memory.  But for me nothing motivates more than mass public humiliation.  Opening night, entrance music, my cue – you skip down the rake of that stage, the lights dancing up your body as you briefly find focus on the 500 public, press and critics glaring: “entertain me”.  150 head lights smack me in the face and the music dies.  I’m blind, deaf… Tim speak! Say your line! You try to engage the correct muscles whilst fully aware that others are busy letting go and then as if from nowhere…

So we’re nervous. But it’ll be alright on the… … on the… … …PROMPT!!!

Day 17 in the Big Harrogate Theatre

By Tim Stedman

Technical rehearsals started off pretty slowly and then ground to a halt.  Though dull for the actor it’s a great time to play and consolidate.  Whilst technical crew simultaneously flying in a cloth, moving set and scenery resetting a prop and assisting a quick change – I’ve discovered the genius of knocking my knees together.  How the crew must quake in awe of my creativity.

However I’m working with some talent.  As we wait to do the scene again and again I’ve time to listen to Gordon (Dame Widow Twankey) and Jim (Emperor of China) as they name drop with the great, good and famous that they’ve worked with and for.

The ideas and stories that come spilling out trigger further ideas and moments most of which get discarded, logged for another day but one or two which maybe we can use.

I have few stories to compare and fewer names to drop.  But I can say after rehearsals I went to the local Chinese restaurant with a Dame and the Emperor of China.

Day 16 in the Big Harrogate Theatre

By Tim Stedman

Today we moved into the black box; the house; the theatre.  Suddenly we’re into Tech Week – with the stage, lights, sound, make-up, costumes, scenery, props… the list goes on.  All is alien and nothing feels how you expected.  So with a step up in production levels comes a disproportionate fall in performance.

My hat won’t stay on, the prop isn’t large enough and my trainers don’t fit too well.  And so the diva emerges.  Everyone assumes you’re busy but you stand waiting to say your line amidst organised chaos.  If it’s not your scene you’re maybe sat in the dressing room, auditorium or just continue to practise.  People rush about with hammers and headphones stitching and sewing, moving lanterns on ladders, simply to help tell this story.

I invariably get bored having run the lines a couple of times.  I’m ready to “do.”  Why isn’t everybody else?  Let’s do this, that, the other and make it better, funnier and bigger.  But we “turns” get 3 weeks rehearsing; stage management, lights, sound, wardrobe and crew et al get 3 days to work it out and one days practice.

So before I’m smacked, stabbed and lamped with that hammer, needle and lamp: Stedman, shut it!

Day 14 in the Big Harrogate Theatre

By Tim Stedman

A very bitty day.  Notes and cuts from the director plus tightening sections of Act 1.  Lots of dance and fight practising – for which all clothing remained intact.

And costume fittings.  My fetching little number designed by the talented Philip Whitcombe provides me with the instant, unsubtle, friendly impact I need but led me to return to the rehearsal room and change my first entrance.

First impressions are important for all; for the idiot, comic (I guess ‘silly billy’ sums it up best) I essentially serve the interests of the children.  If they don’t like me from the start it’s so much harder to retain their interest and enthusiasm.  At 3 and 4 years old visuals and vocal tone are hugely important.

Lara (Aladdin), Liz (So Shy), Gordon (Widow Twankey) and I went to assist the switching on of the Harrogate lights extravaganza by singing a couple of songs.  Having done 9 pantos here before a few children recognised me and came up to say hello.  Not one of them called me Wishee, or Buttons (my character from last year) or Pickles, Muddles etc.  Every child called me Silly Billy.

So I guess Silly Billy does sum it up best.

Day 13 in the big Harrogate Theatre

We’ve done it! In front of a packed table we started at the beginning and fell to the end of the play.  Our freefall was no subtle, graceful or focused.  But we got to the final page.

I was especially pleased with myself for not needing the text.  Sure, there was the odd prompt or 12 but the relief walking home afterwards!

Tom and I have been working on our fight scene.  Though my role in the “fisticuffs” is limited, I ripped one pair of cargo trousers on Monday and a pair of boxers on Tuesday.  I was a little nervous about Wednesday.

Our dancing is improving.  The rehearsal room is quite tight so when all 8 of us are in a chorus line only 7 of use can be seen as a protruding wall juts out in front of the 8th cast member – me.  So I dance with my face 2 inches from an artexed wall.  This may only appear marginally more funny than my dancing, but my wall is becoming something of a partner and I shall miss her uncritical eye and her abrasive touch…