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Actors and other performers
Casting Roundabout’s casting is done by a casting director, in consultation with the director
of the play. Casting is usually done by audition.
Training and qualifications Most professional companies will usually see at audition only
fully-trained actors, dancers and musicians. There are occasional exceptions to this, for
instance where the artist practises an artform that has no recognised training or qualification,
but most performers will usually have gained university entry qualifications such as ‘A’-Levels
or a BTEC diploma, and then completed a three-year degree or other accredited training
Contracts and pay Roundabout offers an Equity/TMA (TIE) contract, which is paid at the
prevailing Equity rate for MRSL 3 theatres.
Working with Roundabout Roundabout does most of its work in schools, usually giving two
performances a day. There are occasional evening and weekend performances, and public
performances in small theatre venues. As well as performing, Roundabout company
members are involved in get-ins and get-outs at each school, carrying and packing set,
props, and costumes. (This doesn’t exclude the casting of artists with physical disabilities,
who are unable to lift or carry; special provisions can be made.)
Stage Managers
The role of the stage-manager is sometimes seen as interchangeable with that of the
technician. The two roles are actually very different, with completely different training needs.
Roundabout rarely uses technicians because its productions usually have very simple
technical requirements, but a stage-manager is employed for all full-scale plays.
Stage-Management with Roundabout Roundabout companies have only one stagemanager, who does everything from being on the book in rehearsals, acquiring running
props, drawing up the rehearsal schedule, liaising with the administration and production
teams, overseeing the get-in and the assembly of the set and props, managing petty cash,
making sure health and safety rules are observed, overseeing the loading and unloading of
the van, organising the laundry, keeping the timesheet, driving the van, booking
accommodation – and, finally, finding the way to the school or theatre! And as if that wasn’t
enough, the Stage Manager sometimes also acts as workshop facilitator, leading post-show
discussions with the actors and the audience.
In addition to first-class organisational skills for these roles, stage-managers need really
good ‘people’ skills. The stage-manager looks after the wellbeing of acting company, but also
acts as company manager – which means dealing in the first instance with any issues or
problems that arise on tour.
Appointing stage-managers Roundabout sometimes invites applications by advertising,
and sometimes by offering work to stage-managers who have worked with us previously.
This is a key role in the creative team, and is a more sensitive appointment than might be
apparent at first sight. When a team of artists has to spend long periods ‘on the road’
together, it’s essential that the group dynamics work well.
Training Stage-managers, like actors, complete a three-year training with a recognised
college or university. Of all the roles at the ‘sharp end’ of theatre, stage-managers have
perhaps the most varied, and a thorough training in all aspects of the job is essential.
Contracts and pay Roundabout offers an Equity/TMA (T.I.E.) contract, which is paid at the
prevailing Equity rate for MRSL 3 theatres.
“A Company Stage Manager means being everyone's mum; wiping tears,
sharing smiles, picking up socks and reminding people of what's expected of
them. Like most mums, it also means working when everyone else has
finished. The most useful advice I received about the role is that sometimes
you just have to smile and think ‘oh dear’. Oh, and if gaffa tape doesn't fix it,
then you haven't used enough!” Ali Murray, Company Stage Manager.
Andrew Breakwell, the Playhouse’s Director of Roundabout and Education, directs most of
Roundabout’s plays. A few are directed by freelancers, who come to Roundabout for a fixed
period of time, usually less than a month. Often, these artists are specialists in young
people’s theatre, or have a particular interest in developing skills in the area.
Commissioning freelance directors Freelance directors are commissioned by the Director
Roundabout and Education, with the choice of director often being made in consultation with
the writer of the script. Roundabout, like all other companies, gets to know the work of
directors by seeing the work they produce. There’s no fixed route to getting a directing
commission; some directors make the initial approach themselves, by inviting the company
to see one of their shows and then asking to meet up. In other cases the director is
approached by the company, who consider their style and approach appropriate to a
particular project.
New directors do sometimes find it takes time to establish themselves in these networks. It’s
not unusual for young directors interested in educational theatre to enter the profession by
running workshop programmes and working on small devised projects or youth theatre
programmes for established companies. Once their work has been seen, they find it easier to
move on to larger projects.
Another pathway is a training bursary offered by the Arts Council or other organisations.
These bursaries place directors with companies, where they can observe the creation of a
programme of work, work as assistant director on a project alongside a more experienced
director, and then direct a piece themselves. Roundabout has worked with a number trainee
directors, often on small-scale projects to begin with, but a high proportion have gone on to
direct full-scale plays later.
Training Many of those currently working as directors began their careers as actors. Some
follow a postgraduate course before moving from acting to directing; others go straight into
directing, with little or no further training.
Of course, some artists choose directing as a career from the outset, studying it as a
component of a first degree and then following a postgraduate course and/or a bursary or
Whichever way directors enter the profession, a good training is important. Of course there
are directors working in the field who have had no significant training – however, without this
it can be difficult to develop the necessary skills, and new entrants to the field with no
qualifications or track record will find it hard to get professional work.
Contracts and pay Roundabout uses the standard Equity contract for Theatre Directors.
Directors are employed on a fee basis rather than a weekly wage; fees are negotiated
individually with the director concerned, although they must be at or above the minimum
stipulated by Equity for that type of production.
“I think the best advice I got was to network, network, network and not to be
discouraged when you’re turned down for things. Always ask for feedback;
that way, people get to know your name and that you're willing to learn and
improve. In theatre, and I guess in life, we're always learning!” Trina Haldar,
The designer is responsible for the visual text of the play, creating the physical
context and space in which performances take place. Usually, the designer designs both set
and costumes, and either designs or describes the props that will be needed. Occasionally,
the same artist will also design lighting for the play, but this is more often done by a specialist
lighting designer. Roundabout, like Nottingham Playhouse, has no in-house designer, and all
the artists we use are freelancers.
Commissioning freelance designers Designers are usually commissioned by the director
of the play. As with freelance directors, designers come to us by a number of different routes:
by making an approach themselves, or after a director has seen their work elsewhere, or by
working with us on a bursary or placement first.
Training Designers follow a three-year accredited Theatre Design course. Roundabout
works closely with the Nottingham Trent University’s Theatre Design Department, offering
placements and opportunities to create realised projects to third year students. Some of
these students go on to design full-scale productions for Roundabout once they have
Contracts and pay Roundabout uses the standard Equity contract for Theatre Designers.
Designers are employed on a fee basis rather than a weekly wage; fees are negotiated
individually with the designer concerned, although they must be at or above the minimum fee
stipulated by Equity for that type of production.
Musical Directors
Most of the music used in TIE and young people’s is specially commissioned, and usually
played live. Music is a crucially important part of the production, adding its own text in
addition to the spoken, visual and physical elements. Often the role of composer is combined
with that of musical director, and the artist will not only compose music, but teach it to the
company members who are to play or sing it in the production.
Commissioning freelance composers Roundabout, in common with other similar
companies, has built a relationship with a small number of composers whose work and vision
matches well with that of the company. It isn’t unusual to see the same composer’s name on
many of an individual company’s castlists, so intrinsic has their work become to the
company’s productions. New relationships continue to be built, though, often by similar
means to other members of the creative team: approaches from artists, or a director hearing
the work of the composer on a production by another company.
Training Composers and musical directors are also working musicians, and will have come
to their profession by a number of different routes. Some will have trained to degree level,
others will have learned their skills ‘on the job’. All are accomplished musicians, usually
playing several instruments and also able to compose vocal music.
Contracts and pay Composers/MDs are employed on a fee basis rather than a weekly
wage; fees are negotiated individually with the artist concerned.
Writing is perhaps the most difficult area for new and emerging artists to break into. Part of
the difficulty is that there are few initial training courses for writers. Another issue is that
writing for children and young people needs specialised skills; writers need time and space to
develop those skills, but there are few bursaries available to fund them whilst they are
A major issue for young people’s theatre companies is that they are under pressure to
produce everything they commission. There simply isn’t enough research and development
money available to companies to allow a commission to fail. Even if writers are matched
carefully to projects and are well-supported during the writing process, it wouldn’t be
unreasonable to expect a failure-rate of one in five for new scripts – but the fact that young
people’s theatre companies usually have to produce all the scripts they commission means
it’s sometimes difficult for them to work with young or inexperienced writers, or to take risks
with writers who usually work in other areas.
All this means that a significant proportion of the new work Roundabout commissions will be
from established writers. However, the company has in the past, and will continue, to offer
commissions to new writers. The creation of the Theatre Writing Partnership in the East
Midlands has been a huge success in bringing together writers and prospective producers,
developing the skills of emerging writers, and encouraging young people to have a go at
writing for the theatre. This will continue to result in new commissions and productions,
including new work for children and young people.
“I used to spend hours imagining how great my work would be when I'd
finished it. It put off the awful moment of having to sit down and write
If friends and family ask what you're doing, tell them you are writing a play.
Don't be embarrassed to say 'I want to be a writer'. It's an extra spur to getting
down to work if you know those near you expect you to put your money where
your mouth is!
When I was first started I always stopped short of what I knew I could really do
because I was frightened of sending out my best shot and failing. That was
really stupid.
When you've finished the first draft, put it away for as long as you can, then
when you look at it again it will be with fresh eyes. Rewriting is the best fun.
If you get a letter from a theatre company with any positive comment over and
above the basic rejection, you're heading in the right direction. Theatres don't
waste time encouraging those who can't write. I wish I'd known that.
Get someone to read your work to you before you send it out – you'll see at
once what works and what doesn't.
Do your research before you send your work out. It's no use sending a small
company a mighty epic requiring a cast of thirty – no matter how good it might
be they are unlikely to read it.
Keeping going when no-one seems to want your work is hard, but if you are
serious you have to – it's the only way you'll find your own voice.
Go to the theatre! I would say at least 40% of the manuscripts I read show little
or no idea of what makes a piece of theatre, or how theatre works.
No matter how blocked you feel – write something. You can't rewrite a blank
page.” Nick Wood, Writer.
Education Officer
Theatre education is a strand that has developed enormously during the last decade, with
almost all established theatres now having an Education Officer in post. The job description
varies from theatre to theatre, but usually includes running workshops for students and
others attending main stage shows, overseeing the production of teachers’ resources, and,
sometimes, running Youth Theatres.
Appointing Theatre Education officers Usually these posts are permanent and salaried,
rather than operating on a fee basis. They are usually advertised both locally and nationally.
Training Most Theatre Education Officers trained initially as teachers.
“The best thing about my job is working with young people and passing on
drama skills to them. The worst thing is a whole day in the office doing admin! I
like to be up on my feet doing things.” Sarah Stephenson, Nottingham
Playhouse Education Officer.
Administrator/General Manager
All theatre companies need someone to do the administration, but it’s actually quite unusual
for new companies just starting out to have a member of staff who deals exclusively with
administration. Often this work will fall to the artistic director, who has to fundraise for the
company and make sure that tours are fully booked out.
More established companies have an administrators or, more commonly, a general manager.
The role is a broad one, encompassing finance and budgets, tour booking, fundraising,
marketing, contracts, and policies and legal matters.
Appointing administrators or general managers Usually the posts are permanent and
salaried, and vacant posts are advertised locally, regionally and nationally.
Training Some of those wanting a career in arts administration will follow a first degree or
MA course. Others will come into the role by other routes, sometimes having worked in other
areas such as stage management or teaching, and sometimes having worked in an
administrative context outside the arts world.
“I love my job, but the best things are the creative parts such as producing
digital artwork. I also love being able to see new work as it emerges from the
rehearsal room, having been transformed from a script I read months ago into
a living, breathing play.” Kitty Parker, Roundabout Administrator.