TheatreCraft 2016: inspiring arts careers

“What I really loved was the magic of the shared experience.” On Monday morning, Adam Kenwright - Executive Vice President at the Ambassador Theatre Group, welcomed all of us at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel for the start of TheatreCraft 2016.

Director, producer, audio and lights technicians, stage manager, but also props makers, costume designers, ushers, box office staff, (and the list is to be continued), the people behind the magic appearing on the stage are so numerous. And they all contribute to an experience, that cannot be produced by a single person, or be simply downloaded, as Adam Kenwright, Ambassador for this year edition of Theatre Craft noted.

And, on the night of the performance, there is the audience, with their expectations, their memories, and their daily worries.

Performers, technicians, and creatives come together to bring alive that script. And TheatreCraft is a special event dedicated to all those behind-the-scene careers, a space for the future generations to learn more about the industry and engage with the experts. Adam Kenwright also said, “without young people, there will be not be theatre.”
Ambassadors, partners, and sponsors for a group shot

As I entered the Hilton Hotel hall, the court was already buzzing (just ten minutes after the opening time!): a large info desk, smiling and welcoming volunteers, plenty of stalls, and many young people wandering around, asking, proposing, networking.

I personally discovered many organizations, schools, and community theatre-related, one/more for any kind of job you can imagine behind the scene, and even for those you didn’t know.

One area was dedicated to the Ask the Experts zone: one-to-one sessions for personal career advice and CV feedbacks with the experts working in the industry. As you can imagine, bookings for a slot were gone quite quickly!

However, the part I particularly enjoyed were the workshops. Novello Theatre, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Lyceum Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, and Dewynters, hosted tours, first-hand experiences, and talks with directors, managers, advisors, tutors, and many others theatre wizards, right there, to talk about their professions, answering questions, and giving advice.

Whether you are already set in a good role, in search of the next opportunity or of your first chance to have hands-on your career dream, the winning element in every situation is to understand that this young age is the right time for learning. Actually, the learning process continues, for everyone, forever.

It’s not just for the youth. It’s an insatiable curiosity and the desire for continuous improvement that demonstrate a real passion, at any age.

A gold advice again from Adam Kenwright was to ask 5 questions, every day, to the people around you about what you are doing. If you are not asking questions, it means “you are not learning enough”. And where you do not seek more discoveries, it’s easy to get into a cold routine, no change required, and loss of interest.

So - as if I was not already excited for the event itself - after the launch talk in the morning, I looked again at the schedule for the day, and transformed the titles of the workshops I was going to attend into questions.
Below, some notes and my summarized takeaways.

How do director and producer work together?

Producer Paul Taylor Mills and director Luke Sheppard shared their collaboration during – and after –  In the Heights. Among the key messages:

  • Be positive about the others. The arts industry is not an easy place. From sharing opinions, to giving feedbacks – either on Social Media or in person –: keep everything professional and positive, because people put their hearts in this job, and it not an easy work.
  • Be honest and loyal. Loyalty is far more important than awards. As Paul Taylor said, the character and attitude of the person in a crucial element in the selection process: if they are not nice people, it would be very difficult – and unsuccessful – to work together.
  • “You have to be incredibly humble, but also understand your achievements.” Humility and specificity are your shiny badges.

What should I not include in an arts review?

Young people should be allowed to write their critical opinion: it is better for them to start now, and hone their skills for the future, than later, when adult and thrown into the marketplace, they will be unexperienced and unaware even of the most common mistakes.

Tom Inniss, Content Editor at Arts Award Voice, explained what should and what should not go into a theatre review. Feedbacks and critical considerations are welcome and helpful – for the audience and the production's team – but negative comments, just for the sake of it, with no constructive sides, are definitely not what you should read in a review.

How can Virtual Reality help in the making of a theatre production?

I have to confess I really enjoyed this session, as we were allowed to try on a VR handset and touch, er, see, I mean,… be immersed in the virtual reconstruction of the Royal Opera House.

James Simpson, Lighting Visualizer, explained us why 2016 is the year of Virtual Reality. This technology allows to experiment with the possible set designs, cast movements, and other visual arrangements, and make the production more engaging.

What does a marketing strategy for theatre productions entail?

Digital is key for every kind of promotion today. Guy Chapman, Tom Littlechild, and Arabella Neville-Rolfe - from Target Live - have given us an overall insight in the world of Marketing and PR for live events.
The buzzing Waldorf Hilton Hotel Palm Court

From the “old” printed brochures (but still information-packed pieces of paper directly into the hands of potential audience), to Social Media earned reach (that is, the Facebook word of mouth from you to your friends, and the friends of your friends, and so on).

Marketing strategies can start with very little information around the event, and finish with creative extra projects around the main topic in the show.

How can I improve my online presence for a theatre-related career?

Amelia Forsbrook, Website Manager at Stage Jobs Pro, has given some advice to make sure your online presence doesn’t damage your career aspirations. Among my takeaways:

  • Go back to your online profile every three months. Even if you think nothing has changed, check that actually there is nothing you can say better, delete, add.
  • Be as much as possible in control of what is out there about you. The easiest test would be to Google your name, and see what comes up. Is there a Twitter account you are not using anymore? That MySpace profile you didn’t like? Deactivate the accounts you don’t want to appear with anymore or ask people to change descriptions/preferences.
  • Connect via Social Media and ask others about their experience with the roles you would like to apply.

Thanks to TheatreCraft for this event, and to TheatreBloggers for the special invite.