Dundee Rep Theatre

Work Experience - Callum Wood & Eleanor Williams

Hello! We are Callum (S6, Morgan Academy) and Eleanor (S5, Dundee High School) and we have been doing our Work Experience placement at the Rep since Tuesday of this week to gain an experience of all the roles involved in working in the theatre.

On Tuesday we were greeted by Heather Cassidy and taken on a whistle stop Tour of the building and departments. We spoke to some of the staff in these departments who we would be working with later in the week.

When we came back after lunch in the afternoon we met the Heads of Sound, Lighting and Stage management and were taken on a tour of the auditorium and some backstage areas. We then took part in a Technical Theatre workshop with visiting school Morgan Academy. The pupils were told a bit about what’s involved in tech theatre and the different roles. They then read through a script and were split into individual groups to visit the three areas – Sound, Lighting and Stage Management. In Stage Management we looked at props and parts of the set for And Then There Were None. In Lighting we got a lesson on different theatre lights and a tour of the desk and how everything works. In Sound we looked at the use of different sound effects in both film and theatre. We also looked at microphones and got to play with a reverb unit to change our voices to sound different with echo and delay, etc. The pupils then took turns at acting out a scene from And Then There Were None whilst others ran the sound, lighting and stage management aspects. This is a photo of all the skills as we put them to the test:

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On Wednesday morning we were with Creative Learning who had their Inform theatre group in. Everyone we met was very welcoming and introduced themselves to us. They told us about what they had been doing in their classes. They had lots of fun playing drama games and worked alongside each other and supported each other. Improvisation games were then played which resulted in lots of laughter and they got quite tactical.

Later on that day we went up to the dance studio and watched the Scottish Dance Theatre dancers in rehearsal. The level of focus in the studio was amazing. We watched them from the side as they guided each other through the movements. We were amazed by their coordination and flexibility. They were working on elongating a dance piece that they are planning to go on tour with. After this we watched a very different type of rehearsal with the Ensemble. We went through to the Cars and Boys rehearsals and watched the actors as they read through a few scenes and then got up and blocked them following close direction from the Director, Philip Howard. It was interesting to see the actors give their own ideas about what their characters would do or say and how this was incorporated into the performance. The actors were all very friendly and chatted with us easily.

On Thursday we started at 10am with Heather’s 3-5 year olds Youth Theatre class where we met the children, helped to play games with them and we learned a bit more about what it is the younger youth theatre groups get to do. Afterwards we were in Wardrobe where we got to arrange and measure all the belts as the team are currently having a clear out of things that are no longer needed. We sorted the belts into sizes and put these in the appropriate boxes.

After lunch we were with Stage Management in the matinee of And Then There Were None. For the first half Callum was with an Assistant Stage Manager backstage, moving and resetting props, making fake champagne using burnt sugar and lemonade and also making coffee (which is used as brandy in the show). He also got to sit underneath a big part of the set while a crew member fake-stabbed one of the actors in the back with a magnetic knife as part of one of the murders. While Callum did this, Eleanor was up in the Technical Box watching Lesley (Deputy Stage Manager) cue the show. At the interval, we swapped over.

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On Friday morning we were with Creative Learning again but this time it was with the Illuminate Ensemble (pictured above). This was a bigger group and some of the same people we had met on Wednesday were there. They were all very full of life and character and there were some rather interesting personalities. We began playing some introductory warm ups where we all said our names and this was because there were some new members. This helped them to feel at ease and they settled into the group very quickly. Everyone was very included and during a game of ‘’grandmothers footsteps’’ they worked really well as a team to try and win. They all seemed to have lots of fun and really enjoyed themselves. We then worked as a team to pass a ball round a circle and reached our target of getting it round in ten seconds. We then had a quick chat with Heather about our time here but not for long as sadly she had to dash to catch a train to go up to Aberdeen for some training.

After lunch we came to Press and Marketing and they told us all about the importance involved in the marketing department as it is how the plays get their audiences. They make sure that Dundee Rep has good press and good public relations, publicising what the Rep do in the Dundee community. They are vital in ticket sales – without them there would be no audiences. It was nice to hear about a part of the theatre that is maybe sometimes forgotten about.

Overall we had a fabulous time at the Rep on our placement. We got a very complete and full experience of what it is like to work in each area of a theatre and this will change our perspective on theatres and what they get up to. We met some great people and personalities here and we hope we will bump into them again.


Scenic Design & Stage Management Intern Blog 2

The weeks are passing quickly at Dundee Rep and it sounds a cliché, but the lesson that I’m focusing on this week is that every day really is different when it comes to theatre. This has been most evident in the lead up to the opening of And Then There Were None.

For a career in theatre, you have to be prepared to take on anything. At the Dundee Rep, Stage Management takes on the role of making/sourcing all the props, which is something that a Props Department would do at a larger theatre. The skill set of Stage Management at the Rep is pretty impressive from sewing, to painting to upholstery…. It has surprised me, however, that, like student theatre, there are no hard and fast rules and improvising is sometimes the only way. One of the props required in the show is some vol au vents and to create these so that they would last for several weeks involved experimenting with any substances that might make the filling look appetising. We ended up using polyfilla, topped with some herbs!

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(Guess which ones are filled with cream cheese and which ones are polyfilla?)

Some of the tasks that I have undertaken in the past couple of weeks are an indication of just how varied the job is:

  • Painting furniture
  • Filling and corking approx. 50 glass bottles with multi-coloured liquid (each bottle was required to have a precise colour of liquid inside!)

  • Hoovering the stage in preparation for the show! Glasses get smashed each show and each day the stage must be restored to its former glory.
  • Helping with workshops for school students: A big aspect of Dundee Rep is also Creative Learning. Every so often school students are invited in for an afternoon and are given workshops in the backstage elements: lighting, sound and stage management. Last week, I helped Dan (Stage Manager) during one of these workshops. Most students weren’t actually able to define what Stage Management is, which is expected, as it doesn’t necessarily come to mind when thinking about jobs in theatre! However, they all seemed keen to discover more and had a plethora of questions which mainly focused on guns and what happens when things go wrong in theatre. It’s a fantastic way to introduce theatre and possible careers to schoolchildren and I wish I’d been given such an opportunity when I was at school.

Look out for the next installment of Elizabeth’s blog…


Work Experience - Holly Dye

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Hello, I’m Holly Dye, I’m in 6th year at St Paul’s and I’ve had the pleasure of doing Work Experience at the Rep Theatre for the past week.

On Tuesday we started off with a Tour around the theatre and met everyone in each department. It was interesting being shown around and helpful being introduced to everyone we’d be working with throughout the week and it was nice seeing familiar faces as we went around. We then got to sit in on a rehearsal with Scottish Dance Theatre for Kingdom. At first, it was really confusing as when we walked into the studio there were lots of bamboo sticks being tied together as well as people dancing. Once the rehearsals started again we learnt that the bamboo sticks were for the dancers to climb on and throw about. It was really fun watching the rehearsals and being able to see the dances come together bit by bit. Then we went to watch some Ensemble Rehearsals for And Then There Were None, and then after that we got to watch the Community Youth Theatre rehearsals for their production of Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations. During all these rehearsals, we had to sit in the audience very quietly so we didn’t distract the group which was quite hard as I’m very chatty but the rehearsals were really good to watch so that kept me from talking.

We started the Wednesday off by joining Amanda and the Inform theatre group. This was a lot of fun as we just got to play lots of games with them and be a bit silly. It was a lot of fun and really enjoyable as everyone in the group was extremely friendly and happy to have us there. Inform are a group of actors with learning disabilities and so it was insightful to spend a period of time with them actually getting to know them and see them in this sort of environment. We then went on to Stage Management which I found lots of fun. We were given a short talk about what stage management actually is and what it is they do. We then got to go to the Paintshop and make a toy soldier for And Then There Were None. I found this really interesting as I didn’t know that stage management actually made some of the props etc for shows. We then got shown around the prop cupboards which are basically big cupboards full of everything you could think of (and the kitchen sink!) It was funny looking through the things and finding such random and odd stuff. After lunch we went to Sound and Lighting. I wasn’t expecting to find this as interesting as I did. First, Ian showed us the different types of lights they used and explained what they did. We then got to play about with one of the lights and gobos (a weird metal shape stencil that fits in front of the light to make a shape) which was a lot of fun. Then we got to look at the lighting and sound desks, this was good as we got to sit in the chair and play around with the different lights in front of the stage seeing which colours we could create. We also got to see the sound desk and play around with that a little which was also really interesting as on first glance it looked really complicated but once it was explained a little, it was a lot less intimidating.

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On Thursday we were thrown straight into something a lot more practical than other departments had been, and messy, Scenic Design. First of all Leila showed us around the Paintshop a little and explained how a few of the things had made their way into the workshop and what shows they had been used for. We then got to do something a bit messier - paint pieces that will later make up a giant dinosaur. It was really fun being able to get stuck in and get messy with the paints a little and I found it funny thinking that when I go to see the production of And Then There Were None, I’ll be able to point proudly at the stage and say “I painted that giant dinosaur up there.” After lunch we went to Press and Marketing to write up our blogs (which is what I’m doing now). I’ve found it good being able to write up a blog as it means I will always have this to read back and remember what I did here.

On Friday we joined Amanda and the Illuminate Ensemble. It was a lot of fun. They were all so friendly and I’d worked with the group before so it was made even nicer by the fact that a few of them recognised me still. We played a few games with them and it was just really about having a laugh. Illuminate are a group of adults with learning disabilities and so it was good to spend time with such a different and diverse group. We then went to Wardrobe where we got to look around all the clothes and accessories and try on different costumes. I enjoyed trying on all the different hats and took lots of photos in them. I also really enjoyed being able to look at all the different costumes and shoes and coats and also being able to try things on and be a bit silly.

I’ve had such an amazing time over my four days here and would recommend it to anyone, whether they are interested in a future career in theatre or not. It has been a really insightful time and I’ve loved having the opportunity to be backstage and experience each department and what they all do. Thanks to all the staff for making this a really fun and memorable experience. I’ve had the best time doing my Work Experience here and would love to do this every week.


Stage Management & Scenic Design Intern Blog

I’m Elizabeth and I’m a student at the University of St Andrews. A few months ago I came across an application for Creative Productions Intern at Dundee Rep. I’d never actually been to the Rep before (which I very much regret now!), but I knew that any opportunity to get hands on experience within a professional theatre environment is incredibly rare. A strong involvement in student theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has led me to consider theatre production as a career, and I’m hopeful that this will help me gain an insight. Over the next three months I will be working with stage management and scenic design. The Rep is a far cry from normal student internships; this is the door to the ‘office’…

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I will be writing bi-weekly updates (well, this is my intention at least!) so you can follow my journey at Dundee Rep. Each post will focus on a specific lesson that I have learned.

Attention to detail and precision

There’s definitely no attitude of ‘That’ll do, the audience won’t really notice or care.’ Everything has to be spot on. This may seem obvious, but until I started at the Rep, I didn’t realise exactly HOW spot on things had to be.

On my first day I was shown the model box for the Rep’s current production in rehearsal: And Then There Were None. I’d never actually seen one of these myself as in student theatre there is simply not the time to construct one and no one has the skills! Leila Kalbassi (Scenic Artist) assured me something along the lines, ‘This one is basically just a lot of grey, it won’t be too difficult.’ And indeed that is what I thought to begin with, until I realised that, even though the furniture just needs to be painted grey, that is actually quite a task in itself.

One day last week I spent 3 hours trying to create a specific shade of grey that the Artistic Designer had chosen. It’s not the scenic artist that decides whether the colour is right, that is up to the Artistic Designer, who, for this play, also happens to be the Director. He had chosen a Farrow & Ball colour (for those of you who don’t know, Farrow & Ball is luxurious expensive paint!) To be as economical as possible, it was decided that we would make the colour ourselves, as happens fairly frequently. There is a sign above the sink in the paint shop that says something along the lines of: ‘The scenic artist sometimes spends more time mixing paint than they do painting the scenery.’ This, I realised, is very true.

By mixing a concoction of green, dark brown, lighter brown and black into a vat of white paint, laboriously mixing, then painting a swatch and drying with a hairdryer to compare it to the Farrow & Ball shade, the right shade of grey that matched was eventually made. Fifty shades of grey, it certainly was.

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Look out for the next installment of Elizabeth’s blog in about 2 weeks time.


DUNDEE REP THEATRE: BLOG 2

A Posting with the Posters

When the word ‘marketing’ is mentioned in relation to theatre, the first image that tends to come to mind is of a bright, colourful poster for an upcoming show, featuring big, bold titles and a pithy tagline. Plastered over buses, peering out of bus-stops, adorned proudly on the huge glass windows which welcome the audiences in to Dundee Rep, these posters are precision designed to capture the public’s attention and light the first sparks which may later fire their interest in the season’s performances. It is thought on occasion that a marketing campaign starts and ends with these posters, but in reality, as I discovered when backstage at the Rep’s marketing department, they are only one small part of a greater task: to act as the outward face of the theatre company for all-comers, including audience, press and collaborators. It takes more to sell a show – indeed, to sell the idea of an entire theatre – than a pretty picture and the name of a big star above the title, and in this blog, I discover why.

At the entrance to the great corridor of wonders that comprises the backstage of the Rep, I am met by Head of Marketing Graham King, who shows me into the department office. Compared to many of the other offices I have seen backstage at the Rep, this room is positively Spartan in its décor, despite the production images, graphs and calenders bedecked in every little corner of the space. There is a sense of order here, a sense that every little piece of paper, every small item, is in just its right place. Except, curiously, the staff, who are conspicuous by their absence. Graham is manning the office on his own today, a daunting task considering the staff reshuffle coming to the department, including the hiring of an on-site designer (the Rep productions are often reliant on bringing in off-site designers for their shows). So it makes sense for the two of us to settle into a more formal discussion of the purpose and importance of marketing. Given the lack of staff and activity today, it would be strange to have me simply observe and report for the blog, given that there would be very little to see.

Or so I think. Immediately as we sit down to chat, the phone rings and Graham is called away, rushing out of the office to welcome an expected visitor. When he returns, he tells me that, because marketing works largely cross-department, it is concerned enormously with people, and so the activity that comes from liaising with so many people can become somewhat frantic, even on less busy days such as this. Indeed, it is not just the audience with whom the marketing department must keep in constant contact: it is imperative that good relations are maintained with other outside sources such as advertisers (in the case of the Rep, DC Thomson) or the press. They aid just as much in the promotion of an upcoming show as a poster, thanks to reviews, production images and advance hype, so it helps to have them on side.

As we settle into our discussion, the reasons for this become clear: the job of marketing a show is to make EVERY performance seem accessible and interesting, even if their content is unusual or non-commercial. A theatre such as the Rep may be funded to produce exciting new theatre, resonant and artful as it is entertaining, but it also needs to make its money back, and this does inevitably mean having to make concessions to mainstream populism. Indeed, Graham tells me that any marketing campaign is created with the intention of costing less than 15% of the performance’s overall gross. Therefore, revenue is just as important in the dictation of the marketing process as creativity, and as such, part of the Rep’s business plan is for thrillingly theatrical new shows such as Further Than The Furthest Thing and the National Theatre of Scotland collaboration Let The Right One In to be balances alongside resoundingly popular crowd-pleasers such as The Mill-Lavvies and Sunshine on Leith. Art and commerce sit comfortably side by side at the Rep, with the big earners providing commercial and financial support for the riskier ventures.

With this in mind, our conversation turns to how a marketing campaign works to bring in large audiences for every show. The trick, I am told, is to campaign with the intention of appealing to everyone, from theatre aficionados to casual visitors. Therefore, a campaign needs to communicate effectively to a wide range of patrons across an even wider set of platforms, which the explosion of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has made all the easier. To begin, the language which is used to describe a show – either in seasonal leaflets, newspaper articles or social media postings – must be warm, inviting and understandable: ‘magazine style’, in Graham’s words. An image that both succinctly sums up the purpose and spirit of the performance is also required to both hook in audiences and ensure they do not feel cheated. Sometimes, the title alone is enough: if it is a well-known or popular performance, an enormous, bold interpretation of the title will be all that is needed to attract a large viewer base already familiar with the material. Still, for lesser known shows, images are powerful, too. New shows need indelible new images to stand them in immediate good stead with the public as enticing and exciting new properties that will be worth their time.

Which is more important, I ask: title or image? Such a consideration is based on so many factors, Graham replies. The show itself, the audience, the creators bringing it to life. Whatever will both portray the show effectively and at the same time bring in the audiences. Does image truly matter that much? Yes, says Graham. Should it? A pause. Probably not. Theatres, for all the great art they are capable of producing, need to make money, like any other business. And the marketing department is the tip of the spear for ensuring that this money is made. With that, I depart from the marketing offices, my head full of questions and considerations about the nature of art, commercialism, and audience perception. Who would have thought that my blogging adventure would take such an intellectual turn so quickly?


Work Experience - Jacob Dudgeon

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My name is Jacob Dudgeon, I am 15 years old and in fourth year at Craigie High School in Dundee.

This past week, I have been doing Work Experience at The Rep. It has been fantastic and motivational and has helped me with decisions on my future (jobs etc).

I started on Tuesday and, to be honest, I was pretty nervous but when I met Heather, I felt very welcome. We started with a Tour of the building which was much bigger than I thought. We visited the auditorium, workshops, offices and rehearsal rooms, most of which we would later be working in throughout the week. After the tour, Erasmus (another boy on Work Experience) and I were able to read the script for the upcoming christmas show, The BFG. It was really interesting to read and I am now really hoping to see it. In the afternoon, we were able to observe a Scottish Dance Theatre rehearsal. It was really fascinating to watch the dancers talk together and make the dances as well rehearsed as possible. To finish off the day, we got to watch rehearsals for The BFG. This was my favourite part of the week as I was able to watch the actors give their own ideas on how to make a moment better and funnier for the kids who would be in the audience watching. The actors and director were all very friendly, funny and nice to chat with during breaks. Joe, the Director, asked us for our opinions on how the show looked from what we had watched and also asked if we had ideas of our own to make the show better to watch as an audience member. He happily took our ideas into mind which I was glad about.

On Wednesday morning, we met Amanda from Creative Learning who leads groups for people with disabilities. The group we joined for a session first was Inform Theatre. The people in the group were great to work and have a laugh with. They were developing a piece of drama about disability hate crime. We were able to join in with the drama set in a college and it was great to listen to everyone’s different inputs. Overall, it was a great bunch of people to work with and I really enjoyed it. In the afternoon, we joined Leila in Scenic Design. We started off by making fake blood and adding it onto fake limbs. After this time of madness and fun, we were able to paint pieces of set. This will be good if I go and see the show and be able to say “I painted a bit of that!” After our session of Scenic Design, we went back to The BFG rehearsals which was great, especially being able to chat with the cast and also see how a scene is developed over and over again with inputs from the actors and director. We also were able to watch Ali (who is playing the BFG) use the largest BFG puppet for the first time and I give him praise for it as I could see that it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to carry about.

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On Thursday, we met the Stage Management team. It was good to work with them and see what kind of work they do in the theatre which is mainly focused on props. On that day, there was frustration around the office as another batch of boxes awaiting a paint job to become a present prop for The BFG had disappeared through the night. We went back into the Scenic Design workshop to paint books for the show and sand down furniture for painting. This was a really interesting session and made me really think about it as a future career. In the afternoon, we were with the Sound and Lighting team. This was good as we got to see inside the Sound and Lighting boxes at the back of the auditorium and walk across the lighting bridge above the audience. We then got to go around the stage which was set up for September in the Rain and have a look at the different lanterns they have at The Rep. After this we got to go to the top of the stage to see the fly ropes. This was really interesting and was fascinating to hear the different stories the stage flyman had to tell us including injuries and close calls. This was clearly a very dangerous job to work in and something I probably won’t do in the future. After our time with Sound and Lighting, we were able to watch the matinee of September in the Rain which was very funny and, overall, a good play about memories of Blackpool holidays.

Our last day, Friday, started with Amanda from Creative Learning again. This time, the group was Illuminate Ensemble. Some guys from Inform Theatre were in this group too and it was good to meet the others that we hadn’t met. The group were rehearsing their piece of dance for the Christmas Light Night when the Dundee christmas lights are officially getting turned on. The piece was really good and it was clear that everyone enjoyed it although some people were nervous as it was the last rehearsal before the proper performance.

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We then went to Wardrobe where we masked and spray-painted the BFG’s waistcoat. This was fun as we were helping make another piece of The BFG that we will see when we watch the show. Our last department was Press and Marketing. This was interesting because we got to see what the team were doing in the build-up to Christmas Light Night, making goody bags to get the word out to the public about all the different things happening at The Rep this Christmas.

Overall, my Work Experience was unforgettable and I will really miss it. Everyone was so nice and I am really thinking about working in theatre in the future. Thanks to The Rep for making it a great week.