When thinking about working in the theatre, actors and directors may be the first job roles that spring to mind, but the National Theatre helped uncover a whole host of career choices for a fascinated group of secondary school pupils at a recent Edge-sponsored event.
On 13 March, groups of pupils from five schools across London took part in an eye-opening, access-all-areas careers day at the iconic theatre on London’s South Bank.
The day began in the Lyttleton auditorium with an exciting preview of the opening scene of the current production of Moliere’s Tartuffe. After a very entertaining introduction by the actor playing the eponymous hero, Denis O’Hare, the show’s stage manager gave us a behind-the-scenes peek at the workings of the stage set. Even for a seasoned theatre enthusiast, the creativity and technical skill was incredibly impressive, but for many of these young people this was their first experience of visiting a theatre. This exclusive look at how the stage set, props, lighting and sound all go into creating the final production, was truly insightful.
Lots of the children wanted to know more and asked the staff questions about what a ‘normal’ day might look like and how they got into their jobs. They met a range of people who had followed various routes into their theatre career from apprentices, university graduates and some who had started off doing work experience.
The rest of the day then got more exciting as everyone took part in practical workshops. Some groups were learning about how maths is used to design a stage, some had a go at scripting the light and sound for a drama scene in a technical masterclass, whilst others learnt about the creative process involved in developing props and costumes.
The teachers had a great time too. They were given resources to take back to the classroom giving their pupils an opportunity to reflect on what they had learnt from the day. Not only did the workshops give these young people an opportunity to see that what they learn in the classroom has a use in the ‘real world’ – even one as exciting as the theatre - but prompted them to consider what skills would be useful for different careers in the theatre and gave them the critical employer contact which sits at the core of the Gatsby benchmarks.
They are serious skills shortages in the theatre industry in these crucial technical, back-stage roles so it’s important to ensure young people are aware of the opportunities. The day helped pupils see how they might fit into some of these roles in the future. As one pupil’s parent reflected:
“Thank you so much for asking my daughter to go on the trip to the National Theatre today. She absolutely loved it. It was so wonderful to see her so animated and happy, after the sadness she has been through lately, she talked about it non-stop and how absolutely brilliant it had been when I picked her up. She now wants to be a costume designer so it could have been one of the most important trips in her career!”
Fiona Taylor, the Careers and Enterprise Coordinator at Sydenham School, Lewisham, was delighted with how the day went:
“Our Year 8 and 9 pupils really enjoyed their day at the Creative Choices event at the National Theatre. The day was so interactive it was amazing. They built models of scenery and props, they saw the stage rise and fall in the theatre, they tried on the most elaborate costumes with the wardrobe department. Each session was packed with activities and the theatre staff experts were really engaging and child friendly. The backstage tour was fascinating and informative. All in all a great day out and they have all come back exhausted but so knowledgeable about working in the theatre. Many thanks to everyone involved.”
For more information about the National Theatre’s programmes that support curious young people to explore careers in the theatre, please see theirand YouTube videos.
Photo credits: Emma Hare