Corwin is in his 3rd year studying Music Production at Leeds Beckett University.
“Projections are becoming increasingly more popular within theatre as it allows stages and sets to transform with ease”
Working on Exposé is always an opportunity for Backstage to try out something new. With ‘Seven’, they had a Garden of Eden set with projection of dancing silhouettes in the centre. Last year with ‘In-Touch’ they had the fly bars moving light boxes of apps, with goal post projection structures either side of stage. This year with the projections for ‘Suspect’, I decided to try out a video wall as the set piece at the back of stage.
Projections are becoming increasingly more popular within theatre as they allow stages and sets to transform with ease, providing the audience with a multitude of visual options to best complement the show. With this years theme of Exposé being crime, every dance had a new theme and idea. I wanted to make it very clear through projections that each theme and performance was unique, while tying together the overall story of a Cluedo style murder mystery.
The video wall itself was comprised of many PixelMesh P12.5 panels. It was three rows tall by fourteen panels across creating the 448×256 pixel resolution, fifty-six panel wall. At first it may seem very low compared to today’s standards with 1080p (1920×1080) and even 4K (3840×2160) displays, however, it was very effective and portrayed images perfectly for the performance. The pixelmesh also had another feature which was it has slits down the face of it primarily to reduce weight, but also allows light to pass through it. This worked well with Chris Morris’ lighting design of sunstrips behind the wall which shone through and broke up the image creating a very nice effect. The wall was rigged onto a ground supported truss frame just over 6 metres in width. This structure allowed us to rig the wall layer by layer with motorised truss, and allowed Chris to rig lights to the bottom and sides of the frame.
“It was important that the content I had complemented the performance on stage and never overshadowed it”
I operated the show off of Resolume Arena where I composed the show. Resolume has a series of columns and layers which is only limited by the power of the device you’re working off of. I used the layers to overlap and create interesting effects with different videos using masks, and the columns to distinguish between different acts going through the show. I also used Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro to create and edit videos to the correct DXV codec for Resolume, and ensure my videos contained the correct imagery that I wanted per routine.
“Sometimes don’t be afraid to not have a video as this may be more powerful for the performance”
Knowing what best to project is solely on preference however, it was important that the content I had complemented the performance on stage and never overshadowed it. To me it was also important for certain routine to not be bland and to match the energy on stage which is where certain effects and masking comes into play. Adding masks over an image can change the whole look while keeping it familiar, the same can be said for effects although they can be altered to make something really abstract as well. Find a combination that suits you, and sometimes don’t be afraid to not have a video as this may be more powerful for the performance than something on screen in the background moving or otherwise.
Doing projections for the show was a fantastic opportunity and one I would definitely want to do again in the future. If I used video panels again, I would break up the panels and rig them at different depths to create a more abstract look with varying interest. This was my initial idea for the show however I was unable to do this due to logistics in cabling, rigging, and working around the lighting design.
Backstage do not get a lot of opportunities to work with projections, less so with a video panel. There was a lot of work done behind the scenes to learn fundamental software skills on the aforementioned software and others to understand fully which direction was best for sourcing and creating content. Normally it would take a team of people to create video of higher quality of what I did before going to the projectionist.
“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes to learn fundamental software skills”
For anyone wishing to undertake this role in the future, I would definitely say it’s worth taking some time to independently learn about content creation and how to project an image to best understand your limitation and whether the projects needs to introduce a content creator or team of. That being said, it was a very rewarding opportunity in which I can go forward and expand on this new interest of mine.
Posted on 22nd February 2018.
Katie has just completed her 2nd year studying History and Theology with Religious Studies at the University of Leeds.
“Whilst the society can seem intimidating at first, I promise you we are not at all, just chat to any of us and you’ll see how lovely we are”
I joined Backstage in 2015 with little to no experience of how anything techy worked, but I knew when I came to Uni I wanted to join a society and Backstage had been super friendly at the Freshers’ Fair! Whilst the society can seem intimidating at first, I promise you we are not at all, just chat to any of us and you’ll see how lovely we are. I came to the Backstage GIAG, signed up to the mailing list, replied to the crew call for SMS’ Cabaret a few weeks later and never looked back. Fast forward a year and a half later, and the Production Manager call for the LUU Dance Show was released. I knew I wanted to apply for it since I’d done something similar at school and Stage Managed the Dance Show the year before, and I was lucky enough to be given the role!
“As a first time PM, the experience was stressful at times, but I had a lot of support from Committee who advised me on what to do whenever I got stuck or had any questions”
The clue to what a PM does is in the name – they are the overall managers of a particular show. They are the ones to liaise with the Production Team from the start, to choose designers and pass on all relevant information to them whilst the designers take charge of their areas. The PM also keeps track of the budget, hires vans if required for equipment pickup and return and leads the load in and load out with lots of #delegation. As a first time PM, the experience was stressful at times, but I had a lot of support from Committee who advised me on what to do whenever I got stuck or had any questions, though in general I was fully in charge of making all the necessary decisions and the show in the end turned out amazingly!
“It was a great learning experience within the society and a great way to develop myself. I can’t recommend PMing a show enough”
I absolutely loved the whole experience from start to end, and would recommend PMing to anybody that is stuck into Backstage and wants to take their experience and love for the shows to a new level! It was an incredible way to develop my skills in Backstage and learn some new things – since I mainly take on Stage roles, but I learnt a lot about lights that week. 🙂 I then went on to PM again at the end of the year doing Devonshire Hall’s Into the Woods – this was a different sort of challenge, since musicals have a bigger Production Team who all need liaising with, which was very different from just talking to the Dance Rep! However, it too was a great learning experience within the society and a great way to develop myself. I can’t recommend PMing a show enough, and if you think you have the experience in the society and the knowledge of how we work, I would absolutely say send off the application, since you never know what might happen!
If you’re thinking about applying for a PM role but have questions or need advice, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help you!
Posted on 13th June 2017, under 2017, dance, PM, production management, theatre, by Sarah.
D’arcy is in her 2nd year studying BA Fine Art at the University of Leeds
I joined Backstage in first year with zero knowledge of how to do any Backstage activities. I was mainly interested by set building and design but never discovered a niche like so many Backstage members, be they lampies, soundies, or stageaholics. I found that what I loved most about Backstage was just how darn photogenic we are as a society, all smoke and mirrors and cool-looking equipment; I loved to take pictures of everyone in action, or of the stage set up ready for a show (as a fine art student I’m all about that a e s t h e t i c). When it came to applications for the new Backstage Committee I felt that my calling was Publicity and Communications Secretary (P&C) and I managed to get the role for 2016/17!
“With these platforms I am tasked with keeping them up to date with all the activities that Backstage get up to such as building shows, working on shows, training and most importantly: socials (to maintain our image as a work-hard play-hard kind of society).”
As P&C I am in charge of maintaining and updating all the Backstage social media accounts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and sometimes the Backstage Website, although I generally update the Backstage Blog and leave the complicated stuff up to the clever coders as I can’t tell my HTML from my CSS. With these platforms I am tasked with keeping them up to date with all the activities that Backstage get up to such as building shows, working on shows, training and most importantly: socials (to maintain our image as a work-hard play-hard kind of society). There is always something going on to document and share with our audience. I generally try to keep posts entertaining and engaging, testing out different ways to display photos and videos; editing clips together to create little tasters of some of the shows that we work on, collages, and GIFs are just some examples of the kind of content I create. Backstage Society really is a ‘brand’ and I like to keep things uniform with a regular house-style each time, using similar colours and always the Backstage font. As well as social media, P&C also designs and writes the big e-newsletters, creates e-posters and banners when needed, and tries to uphold supportive relationships with the societies that we work with through mutual promotion and publicity. As I am the ‘creative’ one on committee I also often do anything deemed artistic that is required such as designing the committee hoodies or creating image-posts for events managed by others on committee that need an extra boost to catch everyone’s attention.
“Whilst we have fun as friends, Backstage committee is quite a professional group and you will really gain some important transferable skills for the future…”
Within Backstage committee we take our roles quite seriously (most of the time). Weekly meetings can be intense as we discuss updates and future plans, make decisions about show roles, decisions about technical things such as investments in equipment for the society. This is just a small portion of the activities that we do as a team but I am sure that one of the other committee members has gone into more detail than me. Whilst we have fun as friends, Backstage committee is quite a professional group and you will really gain some important transferable skills for the future such as participating in formally organised meetings, team working, and generally learning how an organisation is run.
I hope that I have given you all enough information about my role on committee and that some of you will apply to keep P&C role going strong! Send me an email at email@example.com if you have any further questions. Good luck <3
Posted on 18th March 2017.
Cam is in his 4th Year studying BA Music (International) at the University of Leeds
I’m not going to lie, being on committee this year was a rather large surprise given that I had little involvement with the society in the year prior, however I am extremely grateful for the chance to have come back into the fold and play a part in steadying the ship post-upgrade and setting the foundations for the future of a society which has played such a large part in my time at Leeds. I wholeheartedly believe that this future is a very, very bright one indeed.
As with any role of the committee, there are two aspects. Firstly, you have your named role and all of the responsibilities relating to that (which I will talk about later on), and then in addition you are also a committee member. This means that for at least half of your time you are simply representing the members and working hard to ensure that their experience is as enjoyable and rewarding as possible, whether that is representing their views in committee meetings or being around during shows to support members and answer any questions that they may have.
The role of equipment and safety secretary was created in 2011 (before even my time!), a role which India Arden stepped into from the role of President. This, like many of the other roles, including the more recently created Publicity and Communications Secretary, was created to assign responsibilities to a specific person on committee to ensure that they can be carried out to their fullest. What are these responsibilities I hear you ask? Well, read on…
“The role of the E+S Secretary can be molded to suit the person elected to the role. As an example, this year I have played a large role in overseeing our equipment that we use and advising members on its use across all areas.”
As there are no current constitutional responsibilities for any of the roles outside of the exec, the role of the E+S Secretary can be molded to suit the person elected to the role. As an example, this year I have played a large role in overseeing our equipment that we use and advising members on its use across all areas.
As of this year we now own radio microphones and receivers, and this adds to our collection of tools in the workshop to make up the equipment that we own. It is the responsibility of the E+S secretary to ensure that all of this is looked after and maintained in working order. You don’t need to be able to fix everything yourself, instead the responsibility is simply to ensure that it is done, so you just need to be able to utilise your contacts! The majority of the equipment that we use is technically owned by the Union, on the terms that they fund the maintenance of said equipment and provide adequate training to ensure that we can use the equipment safely. In my role overseeing our equipment I have also been keeping track of the consumables that we own and replenishing stocks when they run low. Numerous packages of flambar and tape have arrived at my house over the year, only serving to reinforce the fact that I’m a muppet and should’ve got them delivered to the union rather than having to carry it all into the Riley (a handy tip for my successor!). I must admit one of my happiest moments of the year was realising that I had the power to acquire actual spike tape for the stage and proper black and yellow hazard tape, it’s all about the little things in life!
Whilst we are still in the process of moving back into spaces that we can call our own, I am excited to be able to spend my Easter organising our equipment and what should go where (fancy tape, organisation and labelling – life really doesn’t get much better!), so if any of you are around over Easter drop me a line and I’ll probably be around sorting and inventorying our equipment and tidying all of our spaces to a suitable standard.
“It is imperative that everything we do is approved by the Union before any risks are taken and it is the job of the E+S secretary to ensure that this happens.”
For the safety aspect of the role this year I have introduced a new set of show safety procedures that I provide to the PM’s to ensure that each show is carried out in a safe manner (I’m sure that any recent PM will tell you of the pleasure of the lengthy email they’ve received from me!). This was an adaptation of some of our old procedures inspired by Rob Palin’s infamous email back in his time as E+S. This is still very much a work in progress and something that I hope to be able to pass on to my successor for them to continue to tweak and improve how we run our shows. When checking the safety aspect of our society I have liaised with a number of contacts both within the Union and from the hire companies that we work closely with. It is imperative that everything we do is approved by the Union before any risks are taken and it is the job of the E+S secretary to ensure that this happens. A large part of this is our template risk assessment and guidance for the safety procedures which I plan to revisit and update over Easter so that everything is up to date and thoroughly water tight before the next committee takes over.
One of my biggest projects since my previous time on committee was the idea of creating and providing learning resources for members. To write and utilise guidance for each of the roles allows members to be able to have greater independence in new or unfamiliar roles, whilst still having the support of the more experienced members around them. This is yet another project of mine for the Easter holiday – to leave these in a state in which they can be given to PMs and distributed through the crew.
Like I’ve said above, the role of E+S is pretty flexible and would suit a number of different people. So long as there is the enthusiasm and willingness to learn, there is no reason why someone cannot make a great contribution in this role. It really can be a lot more fun than it is often made out to be!
“Even if you are unsure, I would highly recommend that you run for committee if you feel that it is something that you’d be interested in, as you never know what happens come the voting in the AGM!”
This year I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a number of shows with a variety of crews in a variety of roles. At the point of writing I have now been actively involved in 41 Backstage shows across every role that you could imagine on crew (and some you probably can’t!), and I think that puts me in good authority to say being able to be on committee and serve the members (as well as being an extremely keen member myself) has been one of the best things I could’ve done with my time in Leeds. Even if you are unsure, I would highly recommend that you run for committee if you feel that it is something that you’d be interested in, as you never know what happens come the voting in the AGM! One thing is for sure, I don’t regret taking that chance.
By far the best memories I will take away from this year are those where I have had the privilege to witness and play a role in the growth of our members. As I’m sat writing this, I’m watching the first fully crewed night of American Idiot as a co-Production Manager literally welling up with immense pride at what has been a crew that no words can describe. Those who know me know that I’m pretty poor with words at the best of times, but I’ll try to describe the indescribable regardless! The endless enthusiasm, positivity and professionalism from each and everyone of the American Idiot crew will stay with me for a long time to come. The perseverance and aptitude for continual improvement in the face of adversity is commendable in the highest order. You have all made me extremely proud, and you have left me with no doubts that Backstage Society will continue to be playing a great part in enhancing the lives of students at this university for years to come. I couldn’t be more proud to have had the chance to be one of the PM’s for all of you.
I am aware that I’m often not the most outspoken (well, I do occasionally have my moments…) or approachable person but please do contact me if you have any questions at all, whether they’re relating to this role, other committee roles or anything backstage related in general. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, message me on Facebook or simply chat to me in person – I’d be more than happy to answer any questions that you have, or even to simply talk backstage. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t enjoy doing it and talking about it!
Posted on 17th March 2017.
Corwin is in his 3rd year studying BA Music Production at Leeds Beckett University.
The role of Social Secretary is a very active role in the society. It is my responsibility to liaise with the societies we work with and create events to assist integration as well as maximising our members enjoyment. You have seen yourself that socials vary from the standard curry and Fruity during show weeks, to movie nights, and even fun like trampolining. Later in the year we will be doing ‘Backstage on Tour’ which is probably the largest project the Social Secretary will undergo. In my opinion, other than the exec, this is the most crucial role on the committee as without socials we rarely put the time in to unwind outside of the Riley with our members.
“When shows hit, you’re constantly on your toes to communicate and liaise to organise and see through all the socials.”
Being Social Sec is involved from day one. As soon as term starts in September, you’re on it with planning socials for returning members to catch up as well as inviting prospective members for a chance to get to know us before the give it a go. When shows hit, you’re constantly on your toes to communicate and liaise to organise and see through all the socials. These can be fun and creative, while still trying to find the balance of integration as it’s good to socialise with the societies we work with.
“Social Sec is a role that anyone can go for. How much you know of tech or the union does not affect doing this role and really allows you to find out more about those things and the society a whole lot more.”
Before Backstage I had some theatre knowledge, but only really in sound. However, through my first year I quickly gained knowledge of how the society works, not just with tech but also from a social standpoint by attending nearly every social (much to the dismay of my wallet). The fun and excitement I gained from shows being back to back along with the socials made me decide to run for committee. Not being a student at Leeds University, I wasn’t aware I could join LUU societies let alone be on committee for them. Social Sec is a role that anyone can go for. How much you know of tech or the union does not affect doing this role and really allows you to find out more about those things and the society a whole lot more. If you have fun with the society and want to continue the fun and organisation of it then this is definitely the role for you. Always remember you are a committee member before a Social Secretary, so attending weekly meetings and having a say in the organisation of the society is key before fun.
If you have any other questions about the role then please feel free to send me a message on Facebook or drop me an email at email@example.com.
Posted on 16th March 2017.
Richard is in his 4th year at the University of Leeds, studying MBChB Medicine.
“It’s all about the money, money, money” (that’s a lie, we don’t have any).
This year has been a year of firsts for me! First year on committee, first year in the ‘new’ Riley, first set design and first PM. I decided to hang my metaphorical microphone up this year and explore the other aspects of being in backstage. I started the year from a different perspective, finding myself at the wrong end of the multicore in the band pit for Little Shop of Horror’s as Co-MD with our very own (HRH) Chris Morris. Moving straight from Little Shop, I took up a role as Set Designer for SMS’s production of Cabaret which was a great new challenge! The main lesson learnt from this forage into set building was not to leave your door frames lying around the workshop, or else they will become part of the Union Upgrade… The partition wall between the backstage toilets if you are wondering.
“With back-to-back shows and collaborations with multiple different performance societies, it is more akin to being treasurer of six societies than one! However, being involved in every show is one of the rewards of the role.”
Being the treasurer of Backstage is a unique role in both its challenges and reward. With back-to-back shows and collaborations with multiple different performance societies, it is more akin to being treasurer of six societies than one! However, being involved in every show is one of the rewards of the role. I am continually impressed by the creativity of PMs and designers to create shows of an outstanding production value with very modest budgets. It involves lots of spreadsheets, communication and multitasking. A large portion of the role involves distributing the budgets of each show to the right people at the right time, whether it is paying suppliers or reimbursing members. Maintaining good relations with our regular suppliers (3D and Zig Zag), the activities office and the cash office are also key part of the job. Concurrent shows mean good organisation skills are a must, especially as you need to show societies a breakdown of exactly how their budget was spent.
Because I hadn’t had enough of show finances, I decided to PM one of my favourite shows of the year: Exposé. Some would say that PMing a dance show with very little lighting knowledge is a bold move, and they would be correct. However, I had a fantastic team to work with and the omnipotent (HRH) Chris Morris on hand as a lighting advisor. Exposé offered me one of my stand out moments of the year. Finally being able to use the motorised scenic bars was an exciting opportunity that was fully utilised by designers Sarah Lewis and Richard Wells. The lightboxes looked incredible, and as treasurer the fact they were so cost effective made me happy too (sad, I know). Lessons learnt; 4m goalpost truss structures are heavy and confetti doesn’t sweep up off the seats too well.
“Investing in Backstage is one of the most exciting parts of the role, as it is a chance to bring a real positive change to the society and to offer members the opportunity to try new things…”
In addition to organising the financial aspects of shows, the treasurer looks after Backstage’s own money and is responsible for budgeting the year ahead. This includes budgeting for training sessions, safety qualifications, consumables, and investments. Investing in Backstage is one of the most exciting parts of the role, as it is a chance to bring a real positive change to the society and to offer members the opportunity to try new things, such as using a white cyclorama in lighting design. The highlight for me this year was securing funding for 12 radio microphones, which has really helped to make using higher numbers of radio microphones more affordable for shows. Managing the hire of our equipment, both internally and externally, is very important as it is one of our few sources of revenue.
As an exec member you also pick up lots of other odd jobs that are needed to be done to keep the society going, such sitting on the Theatre Upgrade Group in a bid to make a dent in the Riley ‘snagging’ list. The depth and breadth of these additional jobs are always surprising and the variety keeps the role interesting! At times it has been challenging, and I have learnt a lot whilst in the role, but being treasurer for BSS has been an absolute pleasure.
With our AGM looming, if you have any questions about the role – please come and ask me any questions or drop me a facebook message or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on 14th March 2017.
Chris is in his 4th year at the University of Leeds, studying MBChB Medicine.
Over the course of the year, as President I’m responsible for organising and overseeing the running of the society, as well as being the key contact (alongside the Secretary) for Backstage. I chair our weekly Committee meetings and have the joyful responsibility of writing a sick annual review for the AGM. Alongside the rest of the Exec, I’m also responsible for maintaining a friendly, healthy relationship with the other performing societies, union staff and our regular hire companies.
“I’m responsible for organising and overseeing the running of the society, as well as being the key contact (alongside the Secretary) for Backstage.”
This year, in part due to my involvement as Technical Supervisor at LUU, my role has also extended into looking at equipment procurement for the ongoing Theatre Upgrade – going forward the Backstage President will sit alongside myself and other key LUU members at the Theatre Upgrade Meetings to help guide LUU’s vision for its theatres over the coming year.
“whilst it can be stressful and time-consuming at times, it is fully worth it for the final reward!”
I’ve had great fun sitting as President this year and whilst it can be stressful and time-consuming at times, it is fully worth it for the final reward!
P.S. In the event that another Committee member can’t fulfil their duties, the President is responsible for covering their duties until further notice.
If you have any further questions regarding my role on committee then please do contact me via email@example.com and I will do my best to give you some more insight.
Posted on 14th March 2017, by Chris.
Chris is in his first year studying BA Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Leeds
Prior to coming to the University of Leeds I never had any experience with behind the scenes aspect of theatre. However, after attending music gigs and clubs here in the UK and abroad, I developed a great interest in the lighting of these events and knew I wanted to get involved somehow. So at the freshers fair I found Backstage, signed up to the mailing list, attended the events and have not looked back!! This first year so far has been really enjoyable and look forward to being involved with the society for the rest of my time here.
“At the freshers fair I found Backstage, signed up to the mailing list, attended the events and have not looked back!!”
So far, I have been part of two shows and will be looking to be part of a few more this year. The first show, Little Shop of Horrors, I was one of the lighting assistants. This role gave me the basic understanding of how a show works and gave me the confidence to step up and co-lighting design Dance Comp. Designing the lights for Dance Comp was a very enjoyable and stressful experience at the same time due to several factors that occurred during show week. However, by show night all the stress suffered paid off and it went off with no major disasters.
The next show I was a part of was Exposé, where I was the AV assistant. This is the first opportunity this role was called so I applied for it in order to get a greater knowledge of different areas. The show nights went well with major disasters and by the last show night on Saturday everyone in the team performed brilliantly and it was the best show of the week.
For the next shows I will apply for roles in different areas in order to gain experience in all areas. For example, I will look to be part of the sound, stage and front of house crews for the next shows this year and in the years to come.
“It is very rewarding and all the people you meet are so friendly and easy to get on with.”
I definitely recommend becoming part of this society and being an active member, I will be sticking around a while!! It is very rewarding and all the people you meet are so friendly and easy to get on with.
Posted on 13th March 2017, under av, blog post, dance, fresher, lighting.
Erinna is in her second year of Bsc Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds
“I’ve made so many great friends through this society, and got to do a lot of things I never imagined myself doing.”
The past year with the LUU Backstage Society has been amazing and it definitely made up a huge part of my first year at Leeds Uni. I’ve made so many great friends through this society, and got to do a lot of things I never imagined myself doing. I worked on various events throughout the year with Backstage, such as musicals, dance shows and awards shows, doing everything from set building, front of house and stage crewing, to sound engineering and lighting designing. I was lighting designer for the Rileys 2016, and that was easily the highlight of my year. It was my first designer role and everyone on crew were very helpful and supportive. I got to play around with different lights and also a smoke machine, creating different lighting effects that suit each performance. We also won Best Performance Society!
“Seeing a show turn out to be successful makes all the hard work worth it and makes me feel proud that I was part of the team that made it happen.”
Backstage puts in a lot of work into ensuring that the shows we work on are phenomenal, and all the late nights we spend at the Union making sure everything is ready for these shows are a testament to that. Seeing a show turn out to be successful makes all the hard work worth it and makes me feel proud that I was part of the team that made it happen. It’s what makes me keep responding to the crew calls and coming back. The lovely people in the society are also very welcoming and are joys to be around, and our socials are always fun-filled. We really do work hard and play hard! I spent most of my time in first year with Backstage, and I hope to continue to do so until I graduate from Leeds.
Posted on 8th October 2016, under 2016, blog post, testimonial, the rileys, by D'arcy.
Sophie studies BA Fine Art at the University of Leeds and is currently on her year abroad in Marseille, France.
I somehow landed a designer role for my first show in Backstage as the Set Designer for Guys and Dolls! I knew before I got into Leeds that I wanted to join societies, and Backstage really interested me. So I signed up at the freshers fair and finally replied to a crew call a few weeks later. I enjoyed the stress and chaos of pre production and loved the atmosphere of the show nights. For the next two years after Guys and Dolls I set designed two more shows and helped on lots of set build crews. I’m an art student so have always loved art and craft but especially enjoyed learning to build and design safe sets and working with the production team.
My advice to any newbie at Backstage would be get really stuck in early on, even if the other members seem intimidating, they’re not, so just chat to them. You’ll see that it’s a really easy group to become part of and everyone is lovely! Then, after that, my advice is also make sure you study, as much as Backstage is my favourite part of uni, it’s, unfortunately, not what I’m paying £9k a year for. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news).
“I love making something and seeing it used on stage and the difference it can make to a performance.”
As for what to do at Backstage, of course I recommend set! I love making something and seeing it used on stage and the difference it can make to a performance. Obviously, all areas of Backstage make a huge difference to the performance but there is something nice about the physicality of set. The great thing about set is the range of what you can do. I would recommend to any designer to try to push this; the production team will probably give you an idea of what they want but if you have your own idea in mind sometimes there is room to play with. I also like working with the budget and having to be inventive with your money.
One of my best memories of my university life so far was joint set designing with Freddy Marlow (Hardcore Backstager) for West Side Story. The set involved creating a three-sided metal cage on stage and graffiti-ing all over the floors and walls, something we could only do because of the union upgrade! Working together with Freddy meant we had a good mix of the art side and technical side of set and, in my humble opinion, this made for a pretty good team. I loved going to see the show with my non-backstage friends and showing them our set! This is why I love set design at Backstage AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO.
“I gained many valuable experiences and skills working with Backstage for the past two years and cannot recommend it more if you’re looking for somethings to add to your CV.”
As well as set, I have dabbled in other areas of Backstage too. Most importantly committee and as Production Manager for Opera Soc’s Magic Flute. Again, I definitely recommend applying for Production Manager when you feel you understand enough about Backstage as a whole. This was a brilliant experience both emotionally, as it was so rewarding to see the show you have worked to produce for months succeed but also as an experience to cite in job interviews and write on CVs. I gained many valuable experiences and skills working with Backstage for the past two years and cannot recommend it more if you’re looking for somethings to add to your CV.
As for committee; last year I was the Publicity and Communications Secretary, for Backstage Society. Committee was wonderful for the life experience but more importantly for the people I was able to work alongside. Four hour long committee meetings, loading out whilst everyone else is at Fruity Friday (actually this only happened once and was great), and crazy amounts of union food sums up my year on committee. This may not all sound wonderful and occasionally it doesn’t feel it at the time but I absolutely loved my year on committee! Backstage does so many great things and really feels like an important part of the union. It’s a great feeling being part of that, even if it is a small part. I met some of my favourite people in and through Backstage which makes any 3am finish totally worthwhile.
Posted on 8th October 2016, under 2016, blog post, set, set design, by D'arcy.