10 Things I Have Learned Working in Theatre

It’s been seven months since I started a full time job in a producing theatre. I’ve learnt many, many things about how to do my job in that time. But that’s not what this post is about. Well, it’s not specifically about digital marketing anyway. These are things I’ve come to know better about the ins and outs of theatre.

  1. Knowing an actor gives you a completely new appreciation of characterisation. This was revelatory to me the first time I experienced it. It’s like the differences between actor and character are lit up. And then you see and love the character in a completely different way. It does take a way an aspect of mystique though because you believe a little less.
  2. Seeing a professional production lots of times tunes you in to the liveness of theatre in all of its totality. The actors change and the audience changes. It also teaches you something about your own tumultuous perspectives and subjectivity because you hear it differently every night. Different lines ring out. You might miss a whole section and be convinced the actors missed it. You’ll laugh in different places. You will feel differently each time.
  3. Theatres are swans. Everything is beautiful on opening night but a whole lot of craziness goes down in preparation for that.
  4. A hit show is a hit show and it will sell whatever you do about it. There’s only a small extent to which “buzz” can be engineered by marketeers.
  5. Lots of people who go to the theatre aren’t you. By which I mean, even other ‘theatre’ people behave differently and unexpectedly. They’ll get angry about things you take as granted. They’ll fall in love with something you think is mundane. People are unpredictable, even ones from the same tribe.
  6. Each person matters. Everyone who works in theatre can’t help but feel that their role is the most crucial at any given (stressful) moment but then you remember that you’re a beautifully interconnected machine and nothing would work without the cogs of every single person in the organisation turning.
  7. Love the front of house staff. The ushers – though seemingly both the front line and the last to be connected to what’s going on – are often the people with the most interesting stories to tell. It’s the front of house staff who are trying to make it as creatives across the industry. They are powerhouse people. Talk to them.
  8. You become a master of critical prediction. It’s quite easy to predict a split in traditional critic and blogger opinion and how that split will fall. Although the fault line isn’t always exactly critic/blogger. Sometimes it’s certain types of each.
  9. Starting at 10am is really important for theatre people. It’s because so much of our work happens after the show; in the evenings, in the other theatres we visit, and the people we connect with. That’s more or less true depending on what your role is. But the late start isn’t just a cushy artsy thing. It means we do our jobs better.
  10. Wherever you work at whatever the scale, subsidised theatre will always be pushed for money. The budgets will always be smaller than you want them to be so it’s a good job we’re all creative people. But also, I don’t think I saw the differences in funding between different theatres properly until I started working in one. Look at cast sizes, look at the sets. You’ll know which theatres have money to spend. Sometimes that matters and sometimes it really doesn’t. It’s sort of crazy how little that plays into audience expectations and also that’s right – it should be that way. We’ll make it magical for you however we can.

The lead image is of Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj. It’s the first full-run play I worked on the campaign for from start to finish. Photo by Marc Brenner.