Lights, Camera, Action!

2 August 2019

My name is Will Botwright and I’m a 15 year old student from Debenham High School who has always loved to watch theatre! In September last year, our school told us we would be going on work experience in summer 2019. At first I had no idea what I wanted to do but then I thought I could look into doing it at a theatre. And what better place than Eastern Angles, an amazing local theatre company whose shows I have been going to see since I was 5. 

Day 1 

Today I was welcomed by Aly (Engagement Manager) and given a quick tour around the place. Soon after, she handed me over to the awesome Penny (Stage Manager) who also operates the lights for quite a lot of the shows and gave me a brief yet detailed insight into how theatre lighting works. She taught me not just about how to use the hardware but also how to program software and how to effectively light a show. Penny is also Mum to Flossie (Cute Hamster) who for the week was staying in the office. After my lighting session, I got onto archiving programmes and posters from old plays so they can be stored online and accessed at any time by the staff. 

Day 2  

Today I started off by archiving more programmes but soon got onto designing a feedback form to be filled out by members of the public at The Undercroft Weekender event at our theatre in Peterborough. After lunch I took old signs off wooden stakes so that new signs could be put on them. I then made signs for different bins and taped them on so that members of the public knew which things to put in which bins. It was quite hot but it didn’t take me too long! 

Day 3  

Today I had an enlightening session in the Box Office with the fantastic Hazel! I sorted through a folder of people to make sure their addresses were correct and that they were still part of our Copperfield scheme. Then I printed off one hundred of my feedback forms from the day before and finished off the day with making passes for staff, artists and volunteers for our Undercroft Weekender. I then did a quick stock check before packing up for the day. 

Day 4 

Today we had an early start as we went to our Peterborough theatre - The Undercroft - to prepare for the upcoming event. We cleaned the windows, swept the floors, picked litter surrounding the area, put our signs up, got chairs ready and made more signs listing different things that would go on throughout the day. We also watched in on rehearsals for an upcoming production - There Be Giants. We got cookies which was a tasty bonus! 

Day 5  

Today was a short one as we had had such a long day yesterday, we did some more archiving and had a chat with the amazing Helena! About marketing and how to effectively design something to a brief. Today was my last day and I can’t believe how quickly it has gone. Everyone has made me feel very welcome so thankyou to all the staff at Eastern Angles for a fantastic week! I have got many so many things out of this week and wish I could stay longer. 

What I’ve got out of this 

The biggest challenge was Thursday as we were working physically for most of the day and it was really hot. I have learned how to operate basic lights, market a product effectively, what goes on behind the stage, how to sort out paperwork, how to look after a hamster (see below!) and how to operate in a workspace like the one I was working in. I was very surprised to see how laid back it seemed but yet how efficient we were at completing tasks. Working here has certainly widened my perspective into what goes on into a production and day to day things that don’t have anything to do with a show. It has also opened a new and promising career path that I will try to pursue in the next few years.  

Once again thank you to everyone at Eastern Angles for this fantastic week. 

Hi! My name’s Maisy Ward-Jackson, and I’m a Year 10 student from Debenham High School. This past week, I’ve been doing work experience at Eastern Angles Theatre Company, and it has been a blast! I love anything and everything to do with the performing arts, and when I heard I could do my work experience in a theatre, I absolutely jumped at the chance. 

I had never even realised Eastern Angles was here before: it’s right on my doorstep! But when I was looking for work experience, and realised the theatre was right here, it just made sense. I have always loved going to the theatre, and although big West End musicals blow me away local, intimate shows like the ones so cleverly crafted by the Eastern Angles team get to me in a way nothing else can. Shows like theirs immerse you into the drama: they feel real, like they’re actually happening and you’re watching something personal and private, as though you shouldn’t really be there at all. 

What’s been the biggest challenge? 

The biggest challenge for me has probably been toughening up whilst evaluating auditions with Jon Tavener (Theatre and Volunteers Manager) and Ivan Cutting (Artistic Director). I observed the auditions they held, seeing actors for Food Wars, and for their work in general. As an actor myself, I wanted to be lenient and give everybody a chance, because I know how nerve-wracking that audition process is. However, after seeing a few auditions and realising what Jon and Ivan wanted, I learnt to be pickier. It's difficult, but in theatre you have to be critical when looking for actors, and that was hard for me to accept. 

What new skills have you learnt? 

One thing I have done at Eastern Angles that I don’t think I’d do anywhere else is transcription. As part of his job, Jon interviews care home residents and records the information they tell him. I love hearing people’s life stories, and so I really enjoyed listening to all the things they had to say. It was an honour being part of the process that makes the stories more recognised by the rest of the world. 

I have also learnt how to use computers a lot more. I have never really been very good with them, but this week I have learnt how to design pages, find a customer’s information profile at the click of button, and how to use three pedals to listen to an audio file. It’s been really interesting learning how useful online storage and technology is to save time and money in a business. 

What’s been the most surprising thing, working at Eastern Angles? 

I don’t think I have ever realised before just how much work goes into making a theatre run smoothly. For me it has always just been an escape from reality: this experience has made me realise that it is a working business like any other, and it takes countless hours to make the theatre the place that I know and love. Like any business, there are so many elements that as a customer you don’t even think about needing to take place, like the emails you get sent or how the tickets website connects to the company’s website. 

Has it inspired you to pursue a career in theatre? Doing what, and why? 

Of course it has. After this week I love the theatre even more than I ever thought possible. I really appreciate the work and effort that goes on behind the scenes, and it has been an eye-opener in the way of showing me just how many different brains it takes too keep a business running. It has been really inspiring seeing how well this team of people work together, and how efficiently things get done. I know from experience that if people who work alongside each other can’t work together, nothing can run smoothly at all. 

I still think I want to be an actor, because performing is my passion and there’s nothing I enjoy more. However, this week has really opened me to the many other roles in the theatre. For example, working as a director or a script writer really appeals to me as well and this week has taught me some of the different elements of those jobs. I loved the research side of script writing and of course the audition process. 

Thank you Maisy and Will! 

It's been great to work with you too!