I’ve just finished a project which has taken five months of rehearsals, involved a cast of 40, a budget of £1000’s and has resulted in my working alongside a solicitor, a logistics manager, a speech therapist, health care professionals, a teaching assistant, and a personal trainer. It also involved managing 27 young people aged between 9 and 18 performing to an audience of approximately 900 people over seven events.
- Was it a Culturapedia project? No
- Was it paid employment for another establishment? No
Then why (I ask myself repeatedly in the low moments) do I continue to volunteer to direct a community pantomime every year?… Your guess is as good as mine!
Well, actually I know why. As Sue mentioned in her post a few weeks ago, it’s all well and good to encourage others to access the arts but it’s no good if we don’t practice what we preach. I’ve always felt that I had a greater respect for the people who have actually done the thing they are talking about. I felt that way about lecturers at uni, teachers at school and above all, the people I work with at Culturapedia. It’s one thing to read a book about arts management but it’s a whole other story to actually dive in and do it. I’m a ‘dive in and do it’ kinda gal, and so, with no directing experience 5 years ago, I dove in and took over as Director for Brindle Players.
Last year (in July to be exact), I began work on the February 2015 panto, our 22nd performance at St Joseph’s Parish Hall. As part of the Production Team we meet regularly throughout the year to make plans and spread the burden of planning so it doesn’t all come as a big rush in October when we begin casting and rehearsals. We read scripts as a team, we plan songs and write lyrics as a team, we draw set designs, have choreography meetings, discuss costumes, props, staging, pyrotechnics and publicity – all of these events involve wine… or cake… or both – it’s a motivational stimulus.
On the 14th February 2015 we began our run of Robin Hood. I wouldn’t say it was the smoothest run – the fire alarm and subsequent full house evacuation within the first 5 minutes of the first show was not a planned occurrence, and I’ll admit to the fact that I openly wept in front of the cast when it happened a second time following the interval. There were some exceedingly late nights/early mornings. There were some exceptionally low points – and actually, living off chips and pizza for two weeks isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. But for each of the very low lows there was an equally invigorating high.
I couldn’t be prouder than when I’m watching my cast stand on stage with full confidence, belting out a big production number – all singing, all dancing, all facing in the same direction and loving every minute. And it’s the tiny improvements that I like the most – the countless reminders about a facial expression that the one chorus member finally remembers. That annoying line Marian never got right, finally corrected for show night. That dance that the Witches worked on for weeks all coming together and looking incredible. The growth in confidence of our young cast is what motivates me to get up every Sunday morning and paint the set three hours before the cast arrive. The friendships they develop and the bond they all share keeps me enthusiastic about plans for the next panto even before the current one is finished for the year.
After all, if I have the ability to manage a project that brings so much enjoyment to both cast and audience then why shouldn’t I share it? Life doesn’t always have to be about having skills and charging a fee – it can sometimes just be about giving up some time to give something back. Because maybe this community pantomime is the impetus for one of these young people to strive for something really great in their lives. And as I wave some of them off to university this year I know that if I’ve given them even a modicum of self belief then I’ve helped them become well rounded, confident young people and it makes me very, very proud.
So three cheers for Brindle Players and their 22nd panto. Here’s to the 23rd – Snow White: February 2016 and thank you to the wonderful Culturapedia team who are always so supportive in everything I do.