Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Interview with Becky Brown, BA (Hons) Theatre Production

One of my closest friends, Becky Brown, is a professional freelance stage manager, designer and technician. She has been involved in a lot of theatre productions and live events, including working as an artist liaison at Glastonbury Festival, and has just graduated from Bath Spa University with a BA (Hons) Theatre Production. 

Becky's work as puppetry assistant - Moominland Midwinter

I have known Becky for over 10 years and she has always been creative, aspirational and hard working. I have seen her work and I must say, I am always impressed, and I can see her doing well in the future.

I took the opportunity to interview her to learn more about her role in the theatre industry, and to hear any tips she has for anyone wanting to start a career in this field.

What influenced you to work in the theatre industry?

My Mum took me to the theatre pretty regularly when I was younger, that was probably my first influence. She took me to see my first ice show when I was about 7 which I loved and so took up ice skating myself. A year later I performed in my first ice show, Cinderella, as part of my local ice skating kids club and went on to perform in 7 more after that. That was my first taste of being involved in the magic of theatre. 
Alongside my skating I took Drama at GCSE and A-Level at school which increased my knowledge and passion for performance, but I never aspired to be an actress. Whilst doing a foundation course in Art and Design at college I started to get much more interested in stage design which led me to applying for university courses in scenic and costume design. When I went to an open day at Bath Spa university, I was amazed by the course they were offering. A BA (Hons) Theatre Production would open up all sorts of doors for me into backstage theatre, not limited just to set and costume design. I learnt about lighting, sound, stage management and construction, as well as continuing to follow my initial interest in design. I felt instantly at home on the course and I knew then without a doubt that I had to work in the theatre industry.

Concept Design - A View From The Bridge

I can imagine it can get quite stressful working backstage. What’s the most challenging part of your job? Is there anything you do to handle the pressure?

Very stressful at times! One thing I've found particularly challenging as part of a stage management team is being the mediator between everyone else. The director, actors, designers, technicians and construction teams all turn to you for answers and managing all of those expectations can be very daunting. I've been fortunate to have worked with people that I could trust so if I wasn't sure how to deal with an issue I could turn to my team for advise. A problem shared is a problem halved after all. 
Keeping a calm head is important, so getting a good amount of sleep and maintaining a healthy diet helps me stay focussed throughout the day. And taking some me time is necessary too, I like to lose myself in a good book for at least half an hour before bed, which takes my mind off any of that day's worries so I can approach any unresolved issues the next day feeling refreshed and with a clear head. 

You've been involved in quite a lot of productions so far. What has been your favourite production to work on and why?

My favourite has to be when I was the scenic designer for The Jungle Book. It was my final university show and we put it on in a professional venue, children's theatre The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath. Since setting off on the theatre path it had been a goal of mine to get a scenic design realised and this was my chance. I was very ambitious with my design, it was the biggest set that had ever been made on the course! It was challenging but very rewarding and a great way to finish my time at university. 

Concept art for the scenic design of The Jungle Book

During your time at university studying Theatre production, you held a various number of roles including assistant stage manager, head of prop construction and puppetry assistant. What role did you enjoy the most and for what reason?

The role I enjoyed most was when I was on work placement at Theatre Royal Bath working on Moominland Midwinter as a puppetry assistant because it was very different from anything else I've done. I got to work with puppetry company Horse + Bamboo, learning all sorts of new craft techniques which really opened my eyes to puppet making, a discipline I wouldn't have learnt at university ordinarily. Plus it was the first time the moomins had ever been seen on the UK stage, so it was a real privilege to get to work on it.
What are your plans for the future?

The future is a tricky one. I am working as a freelancer so I'm never working in one job for too long. I prefer it like that because it means I can work in a variety of roles on a range of performance types to broaden my skills further. I am currently the production manager for an international theatre fringe festival in London but after that who knows! I'm looking for more theatre work but I'm also considering TV jobs, perhaps as a set dresser or props master so watch this space! 

Have you got any advise to give to someone who wants to start a career within the theatre industry?

If you have the means to study a theatre course at university then I think that is your best way in. You learn a whole range of skills with the safety of being able to make a mistake because you are learning. The opportunity of professional work placements gives you industry contacts which often leads to that all important first job! Apprenticeships are also a good option, or even just volunteering at your local theatre can get you a foot in the door. Persistence is important, I've had to do a lot of work for free to get myself known and increase my chances of paid work, it's a difficult industry to break but so worth while when you do.

The team for 'Character' on set at The Leicester Square Theatre Lounge

Becky has her own website containing all of her work to date, so please go and check it out. She would really appreciate your support and I'm sure you'll be impressed by her work. Go check it out HERE!

I hope you found this post interesting and if you would like to know more, feel free to email me or contact Becky on her website.

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Disclaimer: None of the products, people or companies featured in this post are in affiliation with me. These are my own opinions and thoughts of these products.

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