SDTN Travel Bursary Fund – Samantha’s Work Experience at Victoria Palace Theatre
Victoria Palace Theatre Work Experience
SDTN TRAVEL BURSARY FUND RECIPIENT, SAMANTHA RAE, TELLS US ABOUT HER TIME DOING WORK EXPERIENCE WITH THE HAMILTON PRODUCTION TEAM AT THE VICTORIA PALACE THEATRE.
I was introduced to Maria who gave me a full tour of the theatre. I was stunned at just how beautiful the place is. Cameron Mackintosh had it refurbished last year and they are still doing building works inside on a new café. I was able to see Camerons personal room at the theatre which is used only by himself or his guests. the theatre is seriously like the labyrinth. I got the full backstage tour as well. I got to see the orchestra pit, sound room, dressing rooms (Jamael Westmans dressing room is huge!), costume department (they have costumes stored in 4 different areas backstage), wigs department and finally the stage. I wasn’t able to walk across is today as they were touching up the paint on the floor but I was able to see all of the different props that are used in the performance. After lunch I sat with Daan at the stage door. He explained to me about all the safety regulations and responsibilities the person at stage door will need to know. He deals with everything from everyone signing in and out, parcel deliveries/collections, paperwork, key management to getting permits for deliveries using the side street. After this I went to the box office team. I started off with Barnaby who explained to me just how different their booking system is. They operate a paperless ticket system through ticketmaster where your card that you use to pay is essentially your ticket. This means that the person who buys the ticket must attend and means that people cannot buy tickets to sell on for ridiculous prices. The theatre has a police dog who comes in and checks the whole building everyday, today it was Todd the beagle. Everything was fine, he did find a scarf in the stalls though which he kindly passed onto the box office team. All in all a very informative and exciting day. Looking very much forward to the rest of my week here!!
I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time tonight at the Picadilly Theatre. Absolutely outstanding!! The stage was made up of three walls that looked like graph paper. These walls had doors and cupboards and even a table hidden within them. The lighting and projection was phenomenal. The floors and walls all had LED lights within them that would light up at certain times to create graphs and shapes. A very simple yet highly advanced set all at the same time.
Today I was part of a group front of house training for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres at the Noel Coward Theatre in Leicester square. There was 8 of us in total doing the training. Everyone else there would be starting new roles at either the Victoria Palace or Noel Coward as FOH ushers. The training was being taken by 3 people – Francesca Padovani (FOH supervisor) and Juan de Dios Aguire (performance Chashier) both of the Noel Coward and Nick Brooker (training consultant for DMT). The day was very informative, fun and interactive. I learned a lot of what they expect from the ushers in a Delfont Theatre and a lot about their procedures on dealing with patrons. It will certainly help in the preparation of tomorrows shift which is FOH during a show. The Noel Coward is currently showing ‘All About Eve’, I didn’t manage to get a tour of the building but I did get to have a look in the auditorium and see some of the set which was on the stage.
Tonight I was part of the amazing front of house team at the Victoria Palace. I could not fault one of them, they all go above and beyond to make sure each and every customer has a first class experience at Hamilton. I was reporting to Petra who was the FOH supervisor for tonight. All of the team (which can be up to 70 per shift) will all have a briefing session before the shift starts. I got to follow Petra around and helped her deal with any problems which arose. She was in charge of looking after parties of guests who essentially are VIPs pre show and during interval. It’s a good thing I have lots of hospitality experience as she needed help with serving the guests during the interval. I was more than happy to help. Pre show I was stationed in the foyer. I got a lot of people coming up to me thinking I was working, thankfully I have a good memory and could direct them to toilets, bars and merchandise easily. I was incredibly lucky to be able to stand in during the show and actually watch Hamilton! Words cannot describe how amazing this production is. The cast and ensemble were utterly outstanding. The stage has 2 part which rotate at different times which add a really unique dynamic to the scenes along with the lights. I am very much looking forward to my day tomorrow where I will be on the stage for both matinee and evening shows!
Im a bit lost for words as I sit to write this. I started off my day with Chris who took me to the fly floor for the first part of act 1. There aren’t many fly cues as most of it is run by automation. He then took me to Millie who is one of the stage crew. Theres only a few stage crew as there’s no set changes etc. they set out the furniture ready for the cast to take on and off as needed. While in the midst of helping and making sure im not in anyones road, I had most of the cast who passed me coming up to me and introducing themselves. Including Jamael (Hamilton) himself. Safe to say I was starstruck. I cannot believe how humble and friendly the cast are. As well as the cast and stage crew you have around 13 dressers backstage too. There are a lot of quick changes that take place in the wings. And although the theatre is huge, the wing space isn’t. so it was a bit of a tight squeeze at times. There is no back passageway between the wings, so if you need to cross the stage unseen you will need to go substage, so lots of going up and down stairs. During the interval chris took me back up the fly floor to help with the preset for act 2. I was able to fly in some of the set which is a double purchase counter weight system. He then took me over the grid to see the automation department who are based above the opposite wing. Act 2 is a bit slower in the sense of stage crew. Theres not a lot of cues. I helped with presetting for the evening show which included hoovering and mopping the stage. For the evening show I got to shadow the DSM, Rachel. It was incredibly insightful to watch and listen to her giving the cues. I got to speak to … who made up the book and she gave me some great advice on what softwares and techniques to use for making up a prompt copy. I cannot fault the backstage crew at all. For all it is incredibly manic but everyone is choreographed perfectly. Everything and everyone just flows. Tomorrow I will be doing lighting maintenance. One of the lights in their rig has broken, so looks like I will have an interesting day tomorrow trying to fix it!
Today I was shadowing the LX team with their maintenance. During lastnights show one of the viper fixtures decided to not work! So first on the list was to bring in the LX bars from the rig and change the fixture. I was shown how to remove the gobo mechanics and bulb as they take them out of the current fixture to put in the new one as then the light will look the same with the new fixture. They are massive and heavy! For the show they use over 100 movers and over 200 generics. It is a massive rig. Because the show is very busy for lighting cues and programming they have a main desk in their dimmer room which is the main hub for lights. The desks they use are essentially just controls that plug into the main system. We cleaned all of the lights on the rigs using the compressor and also cleaned the casings and lenses. After all the maintenance is done we have to do a rig check. They have a stage desk that they use for adjustments which is preprogramed with cues that will test all parts of the lights (gobos, colours, pan/tilt, centre points etc)
Overall this has been an amazing experience. I am incredibly grateful for being given this opportunity. It has seriously opened my eyes and given me something to work towards.
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