‘It’s never too late to give it all up and follow your dream’ she says, and she’s living proof, having quit her job as a school librarian two years ago to enrol on the Foundation Degree in Technical Theatre at New College Nottingham.
‘It’s been a great two years – the course gave us the opprtunity to try a bit of everything – stage-management, lighting design, sound operation, prop-making, you name it – a safe environment within which to try things, make mistakes and discover your real strengths and interests – I wasn’t keen on sound operation – too much knob-twiddling – but I really enjoyed stage management and prop-making.’
And after a three-week placement in the prop-making workshops of the RSC in Stratford, she’s just about to hand in her last piece of coursework before she graduates – a replica ‘Rob Roy’ style shield as part of a prop-making assignment.
‘In our second year, New College requires us to undertake ‘industry practise’ – some people opt to stay within the college and work on in-house productions, but I wanted to move outside my comfort zone – work alongside professionals in an industry setting.’
And that’s when Alison contacted New Perspectives to see if we could offer her an internship through our STEP UP programme.
The company has a long history of giving up-and-coming theatre professionals a foot-in-the-door, but it’s only recently that we’ve structured this into a formal scheme. STEP UP includes a programme of careers seminars in regional HE institutions (we met a group of students from New College earlier this year), a Summer School (13-25 July 2009 – a chance for a small ensemble of talented young actors, directors, designers etc. to work with our team on the production of a new touring theatre project), and internships like the one Alison is now undertaking alongside our tour of Wasteland.
‘I’m learning so much on tour – no two days are the same – it’s all about adapting to the needs of each space we visit and each audience we meet – and, on the occasions we get stuck in traffic (all too often when our touring includes many miles travelled up and down the M1), getting it all done on time.’
And now Alison has impressed us so much on this project that we’ve invited her back for her first professional stage-management job – our Autumn 2009 schools tour of Farm Boy adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo.
‘Farm Boy offers quite a different challenge to Wasteland – on this project I’ve pretty much just done as I’m told – the lot of the Assistant Stage Manager – including making the tea! – and a lot of that has been about touring a heavy set plus full lighting and extensive sound rig. Farm Boy is a much smaller show, with just two actors and replica vintage tractor to look after, but I will at last be in the driving seat!’
Quite literally, in fact, as our four week tour takes in schools right across the region, so watch out for her out and about in our distinctive turqouise Mercedes van this Autumn. As Alison notes, ‘On tour I get to see the world – well the East Midlands!’
Find more information about our STEP UP internships at New Horizons