In the room where it happened…

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DST President, Lamesha Ruddock, tells us about her experience over the summer as an assistant stage manager for Hamilton: The Musical on the West End:

What exactly was your internship over summer/what did it involve?

Over summer, I did a stage management internship for Hamilton West End. It involved all stage management roles; admin, cleaning down of props, making sure the props and furniture were in order (for example the iconic Skylar bench). It also involved making props including many Reynolds Pamphlets. I also got to go to rehearsals and work plots which incorporated setting, moving and connecting props and furniture. I also got to work, DSM, and call a show. I was able to go up automations and see how the revolve moves. It was a bit of everything really. I also did historical context sessions, saw how dramaturgy works and how important it is to contextualize the history of a show. We talked about it a lot because a lot of the show is problematic. For example, if you look at the Jefferson song where Sally, who is a slave, is mentioned.; it is quite jovial, upbeat, and doesn’t really address the realities of slavery. So, we had sessions and talks to discuss the history behind this and address the issues. We sing these songs about people and say we love them, however problematic they were.

It showed me just how crucial stage management is to pulling off any production

Who are some of the best people you met and worked with?

Everyone was so nice. I spent so much time with the Covid-19 officer because I had to support him a lot in building stuff and making sure there was enough PPE around the theatre. So I really liked Sam. But then the Company Manager and the Stage Manager really took me under their wing and gave me the opportunities to do what I wanted. They knew I studied history at university so they pushed me to lead disscussions in front of the cast. It was so nice that they took my interest and talents on board so that I had the best experience. Everyone on the stage management team was so nice. We had lots of birthdays whilst I was doing my internship so we’d have party hats, matching shirts and Nando’s, which was cute.

What did it show you about stage managing, something which often in Durham we don’t give a lot of focus to?

I think it showed me just how crucial stage management is to pulling off any production. The Stage Manager is the voice of reason—a voice in your ear. A stage manager is this ‘God’—I don’t know how to explain it—where they can speak to everyone through the comms. They’ve got to have a calm voice and presence, and make sure they know what they’re doing. I really want to emulate that in Durham productions where we can pull things off in a slick manner and not in a last-minute rush— mistakes happening, everyone crying backstage – we really need a stage manager just to root everyone and reassure us that we are going to pull this show off.

It also made me see how much is going on in the wings way more than you realise, as there are such quick changes. For example, stage management would use candle carts to bring candles on and off in the background, as the process is long and stage management dependent. the slickness of this seems automated when it’s actually just a stage manager pushing it on. [She laughs]. When you get the calls in your ears “palate queue number 3 standing by” and then a reply “standing by”, and when you do it it’s an electric feeling. Feeling like you’re on stage, even when you’re not. Feeling like you’re helping the production and really feeling part of it.

You feel like you’re a part of the show and you’ve made a difference in bringing the show to life

Did anything shock or surprise you?

People think with stage management that there’s always a props table. But you find in professional shows that there’s no space for one; so you find that props are hidden in nooks and crannies all over the set—just in random spots. Because of Covid, there were multiple sets of props as you couldn’t use the same props on consecutive days. So we did lots of printing; love letters, and so many Reynolds Pamphlets. It was kind of overwhelming how much stuff there was and how we had to really look after it. Also, It shocked me just how small the stage is. It feels like it’s bigger because the performers put on such a big show. I was also surprised at how consistent all the performers were. I didn’t hear one bad note the whole time I was there.

What would you say was the overall highlight of the experience?

Getting the opportunity to work on a professional show and see first-hand how the job works in a real-life setting. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see the show progress from rehearsals to live performance. You feel like you’re part of the show and that you’ve made a difference in bringing the show to life. Yeah, that was my highlight and an it is an experience you just can’t replicate.

Would you give any advice to student creatives at Durham, from what you have learnt?

The advice I’d give is just be nice to people. The industry is just so competitive and the way you’re going to stand out and be more memorable and get called back for jobs and have people want to work with you is just to be nice. You’re more likely to be put forward for work because you ‘re an easy person to work with. Also, its key to just have fun in the experience. There’s no point doing it and not enjoying what you’re’ doing. Just enjoy your creativity, and letting it come into action, and hopefully things will fall into place. Being creative is arguably unstable, but the journey is worth it.

Image credit: Sudan Ouyang via Unsplash

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