The Almeida Theatre currently has seven young people starting off their careers through internships, apprentices and student placements. On 14 November, the group met to discuss how their experiences were getting on.
The conversation included Gala Assistant Intern Lucy McCallum, Community Arts Apprentice Lauren La Rocque, Technical Theatre Apprentice Jack Hurley, Michael Webstall, on a student placement in Projects department from the Central School of Speech and Drama; Evangeline Dunn, on a student placement in stage management from the Royal Academy of Art and Drama; Beth Carle, on a student placement in stage management from London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art; and Martha Quigley, Marketing and Office Intern. Below is an excerpt from their conversation.
Martha: One of the things I’ve found really interesting about being here is the relationship between the theatre and the office. Before coming here I didn’t appreciate how much interaction would have to take place between the Marketing and Box Office teams, and how much they have to consult on information about a show. Is there anything else that you guys have been doing here that you thought, “Oh, I didn’t expect that”?
Lucy: Something that has shocked me the most is how much “backstage” work goes on. I had no idea that these departments, like Development, Marketing and Projects, would be so huge. And it’s only now that I work in the Development department I really understand how important it is. When they told me that there are near 100 people who work here, I was so shocked!
Martha: So how did everyone come into their roles? I know for people like Michael, Evangeline and Beth, it’s a semester of their course, and for Lucy and me these are post-degree six-month internships. But what about for you, Lauren and Jack, because you are both here for a whole year, aren’t you?
Lauren: Yeah we are. It’s a role I applied for, I was working at the Lyric [Hammersmith] before, and then I applied for this. I went through three interviews!
Jack: I found out about it online when I was applying for other roles. But I only had one interview. I interviewed here on a Thursday morning and they offered it to me that afternoon and I accepted then and there.
Lauren: You find out so much just from word of mouth. If I wasn’t at the Lyric, I don’t know if I would have heard about this.
Martha: Yes, word of mouth is really helpful and also social media – I found out about this internship on Twitter. Do you all think it’s what you expected your roles to be?
Evangeline: For Beth and me it’s just different people to work with. It’s nice and refreshing to be on a new team.
Beth: It’s really refreshing to be seeing the work we do in a professional environment.
Evangeline: Yes. Normally we’re used to a fringe budget – beg steal and borrow – whereas here we have more time and money to spend into getting everything right.
Beth: It’s still a small budget, but there’s sort of more leg room.
Evangeline: Yeah, it’s still small but it’s bigger than what we’re used to!
Martha: Everything is on a much bigger scale than the experience I have with other theatres. It’s strange because it is what I expected, but I also feel like I’m learning so much. It’s definitely confirmed my interest in Marketing, but also opened up other roles that I think would be interesting.
Beth: For Evangeline and me, as students in Stage Management, this is where you start. I would really love to be building the set –
Jack: Well, you’re more than welcome to come and help!
Beth: I would love to! But this is what we know; this is what we are taught first.
Evangeline: I want to go into fashion, but I’ve been in theatre for ages now so I’m just enjoying keeping it going. My plan is to start with Stage Management because it’s a good way to get into costume.
Michael: Well, I’m doing this as part of my degree and it’s just made me more confused about what I want to do when I’ve finished! There’s too much to think about, everything makes me think, “Oh, this is interesting and a nice route to go down…” I like what I’m doing now, but I’m quite hands-on and would prefer to facilitate and be working with people rather than planning. It’s important to learn all the skills that go in to it, and interesting to see how many people and processes go into working in a theatre like this.
Martha: Yes, and how much attention to detail there is as well.
Lucy: Definitely. In the stuff that I’ve been doing I’m always surprised by how much thought goes into every single thing. At the moment we’re sending out the Save the Date invitations, and I honestly think we’ve been discussing if for at least two weeks. There’s been so much talk about how to format and word it.
Beth: Surprisingly, there’s not that much attention to detail in production, because its theatre, so it doesn’t matter if something is not 100% right.
Evangeline: You just have to think, and use your imagination a bit. We were spray painting some Christmas baubles yesterday, and one was not perfectly painted but from an audience perspective you wouldn’t notice.
Beth: We’re taught that that too much attention to detail isn’t necessary because it’s theatre, not film.
Martha: When I read the rehearsal notes and it says “Blahdeblah will be smoking in that scene,” I’m always so surprised by how precise the description is. I, probably naively, imagined that it would be a more informal conversation like, “Yeah, why not, let’s have him smoke in that scene,” but it’s so precise and step-by-step.
Beth: It’s all blocked out; everyone knows exactly what they’re doing.
Evangeline: You’ve got to think through every decision of set design; budgeting wise, how and when things are going to be used and whether we will need to be able to purchase more during a show’s run, and if so we how easily this can be done. I was going to buy something from a market yesterday, but I thought, I can’t because if it breaks or runs out, I need to be 100% sure we can replace it, and if the market’s not there we won’t be able to.
Michael: It’s strange because it’s so exact but also such a relaxed atmosphere and everyone’s so friendly. Everyone is doing what they need to but in a nice, calm way. Office banter is always good!
Martha: Yeah, definitely, even when there’s an important deadline in Marketing it never feels like everyone’s really on edge–sometimes a bit more rushed, but no one gets stressed with each other.
Lucy: When it’s a really busy day, people are still willing to help you get things done. I think it’s because, this sounds ridiculous, but everyone has a common goal.
Martha: I also don’t feel too much like an intern. I don’t feel like I’m continuously getting the small jobs – they may not be big jobs! – But it feels like I’ve got a lot of responsibility and I can chose how I get on with it and how to structure my time.
Lauren: Everyone’s just considerate, like, “Who wants a cup of tea?”
Evangeline: Yeah, but we’re not expected to make tea!
Beth: We are doing the small jobs, but that’s what we came to do, and we enjoy it.
Martha: I suppose what you’re doing is so integral to the whole process of putting on American Psycho, like finding the little props that will go on stage. What’s been the hardest thing to find?
Beth: Oh! All I can say is do not go looking for a spanner that doesn’t have a rubber handle!