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 course. 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. Directors 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 traineeship. 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, Director. Designers 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 graduated. 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. Writers 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 training. 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 something. 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.