Last night marked the end of this year’s New Plays Festival at Bishop’s University! It’s been a busy few weeks from the auditions in Frosh Week to closing night, and all the daily rehearsals in-between, but boy has it been fun. I’m going to start out by saying, since drama class in school, I’ve had zero experience in theatre before my involvement with New Plays. However, as an Entertainment Industries student at QUT, theatre is an interest of mine, typically in the sense that I enjoy seeing productions whenever possible. I’ve seen productions in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as New York’s Broadway and London’s West End.
Needless to say, theatre is an entertainment form I enjoy. Because of this, when I heard Bishop’s was holding a student theatre festival, I was interested in getting involved. I was hoping to get a position working backstage. However, I didn’t know enough about the different positions and assumed that without experience, I would have no chance. So I decided to sleep in the morning of the auditions instead.
Eventually that day I headed down to lunch where I met my friend Alice who had just returned from auditions. After hearing that I had originally been interested in getting involved, she convinced me to just go and talk to the coordinators about potential positons backstage. So I thought ‘why not?’.
I showed up at Turner Studio asking if there were any positions backstage for a student with no experience but willing to learn. The first thing I was asked was ‘if I had considered auditioning for an onstage role because my accent could make for an interesting character addition’. After considering this for a few moments, I said I would be happy to, but I would prefer to gain experience backstage rather than onstage. And with that I was taken off to meet one of the directors, who soon became my director, as I landed a role as a stage manager.
It all happened so fast and I was excited but admittedly also a little freaked out once I heard there was practice every day (since this was only my first week and I had planned not to get too tied down to anything as an exchange student) and that the play (titled ‘Dealing With It’ and based on real-life experiences) dealt with some heavy issues involving anxiety and depression. I was worried that combining the daily rehearsals (10pm-12am Monday-Thursday and 3 hours during the day Friday-Sunday) with the themes of the play, would potentially take a toll and make me not enjoy the experience. However, as it turns out I had nothing to worry about. There were certainly emotional rehearsals involved, I mean you can’t be involved in a play like that without feeling something! But the people I got to work with were so happy and friendly and we made sure we ended each rehearsal on a high note.
For those of you who have no clue what the role of stage manager entails (this was me early on), I’ll give you a quick rundown. Basically, during rehearsals I was there with a script, prompting the cast with their lines, and during the shows, I was the one in the headset running the show through lighting and sound cues.
The cue-to-cue rehearsal which took place in the final week of rehearsals (during homecoming weekend!) where I first worked cueing the lighting and sound, was a little messy, leaving me worried for the show. But I found by the next rehearsal, I’d got the hang of it. So by the time the shows rolled round, while I was a little nervous about something going wrong (I had ‘jokingly’ been told that if I messed up, I messed up the whole show – which was actually a fair assessment of the situation), I felt confident and found myself enjoying the stage manager role immensely.
To me, the fact that ‘Dealing With It’ was part of a whole festival of shows was just the best. This meant that over the period of a week, I, along with crowds full of other audience members, got to watch 9 different student plays (including Alice’s, who ended up getting cast in a comedy that had me laughing from start to finish), leaving me astounded with the level of talent this university has to offer in its theatre department. From scriptwriters, directors and actors, to lighting, set and costume designers; the list goes on.
The highlights of the whole experience for me were:
- Cast Bonding (a night where we all hung out, played games, ate lots of food and drank sangria and jungle juice)
- Getting the chance to really do my thing as stage manager and seeing the show truly come together in tech and dress rehearsal and during the festival
- Pre-show gifts where
I was presented with thank-you gifts and cards from the cast, director and coordinators. I was super surprised to say the least as I’d seen them as being the ones doing all the hard work, I was just there having fun! But that’s just Bishop’s students for you; always surprising you with acts of kindness!
It’s definitely been a great experience for me where I’ve not only learnt valuable skills but also made some super cool and talented friends. I’m glad I pushed through the initial hesitation because now I know this is something I enjoy and I hope to stage manage again in the future!
Oh and we got a standing ovation too, so I guess the hard work payed off!
And shout out to this lovely bunch: Kate, Natalie, Janelle, Adam, Julia, Kelly, Olivia, Dom, Taylor, Rachel, Mouadh, Emilie and Barbara