Jennifer Harris, Production

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I always had a keen interest in working on musicals, and couldn’t think anywhere better to study than GSA. The musical theatre course offers opportunities to stage-manage complex musicals which are professionally produced.

Senior Consultant (Charcoalblue), Technical Manager (Northern Broadsides Theatre Company), LD Assistant / Programmer (Watermill Theatre Newbury)

Tell us a little about your current role…

I am currently a Senior Consultant for Charcoalblue; Theatre Consultants on new and refurbished theatre, arts and entertainment buildings – primarily designing stagelighting systems and project managing.  I was touring when I was approached by about this job. Prior to that I had no idea this career even existed – I had wondered what was out there after touring and residency!

In your opinion, what are the most important skills for a Stage Manager to have?

The necessary technical skills of knowing how a venue might be used by a technician to ensure that the infrastructure is distributed to the most logical and practical locations around the venue.

Prior knowledge of various venues from touring helps massively with the above, as facilities will need to be in different places depending on what format you’re playing to – in the round, traverse, end on etc.

People / social skills are key; we meet with different walks of life daily and often are the translator between technical and everyone else on the project team.

What do you consider to be the most exciting aspect of your work?

The travel, the people and eventually, the buildings themselves. Unlike a set that is gone once the production is done with, one we’ve finished with our design it lives on for the duration of the building. 

What attracted you to choose the GSA?

I grew up locally to Guildford so had always been aware of GSA from a young age, often attending their graduation shows at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre. When I was younger I thought I wanted to be on the stage but as I grew up and learnt more about what elements go in to making a production that’s when I switched to the dark side of technical production!

What were the best things about your training?

The hands-on approach. We had 6 weeks of intense tutoring when we started and I thought how am I ever going to learn all of this and actually be able to do it?! But after those 6 weeks we were straight onto working shows and doing it for ourselves. Working alongside industry professionals you get a glimpse of the different working methods of designers and develop an appreciation of how intense and pressurises their lives must be – nearly always in a technical rehearsal week, every week!

What are your strongest memories of GSA?

I remember the tiredness! We worked so hard, such long hours, but we were all in it together, wanting every production to be the very best that it could possibly be. I think that’s what it’s all about – working as a team, all working and striving to achieve the very best of every production, to enable all the creative visions to be realised.

What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?

Stick at it, put in the effort and be a team player.

You should live in the moment, take it all in and know that ‘it’ll be alright on the night because the show has to go on’ and once you’ve done it once everything seems much easier!

Go out there and get touring experience. You need experience from a technical standpoint but also be learning about the different venues and what works best depending on the shape and form of the room, FoH positions, overhead rigging solutions, stage format etc.