This year I was delighted to be asked back to work at the Shakespeare School Festival as a Venue Manager.
I manage a cast workshop, where schools come in and have sessions with professional directors and I work with the teachers to discuss the more technical and practical aspects of their performance. How many chaperones, emphasising the rules etc.
On the performance day there are four schools performing, each of whom have a tech rehearsal, a dress and then later a full performance. My job is essentially to make sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time, to keep everyone to schedule and to fix problems as they come up.
This can be complicated with four schools with upto 30 young people each – ranging from Primary schools through to FE colleges. Some of the teachers have never been involved with theatre before, others have professional experience.
This is challenging work – especially as the performance day is a very, very long day. It is made even more complicated at the moment as I am using a walking stick to get around (long story, but don’t be embarrassed to ask if you see me). But it is so rewarding. Young people are very capable of understanding and performing Shakespeare – and they love it and the whole experience.
It is an awful lot of work for the teachers too – quite often outside of lesson time, but many of them come back year after year.
This year I am doing 7 cast workshops and 7 performance days across 4 venues, one week I am going to have 4 in a row – of 14 hour days, plus travel. I have pencilled out the next day as a rest day. I have to say I am a bit apprehensive!
So why do I do this? Because I think the festival is wonderful and I get a real sense of pride of being involved. I can’t be the only person who feels proud to be involved – this is part of their fundraising campaign for next year. The above poster is displayed at each theatre. The company is great to work for – things do go wrong – this is theatre after all, and I am the person who has to deal with it there and then, but I know that I have great support behind me.
Seeing the students come off stage, and pretty much bounce off the ceiling in pride, excitement and joy is a privilege to be part of.