Work experience student Jenny Le tells us about her week observing rehearsals for Hungry Ghosts.
As soon as I saw the email in my inbox, I couldn’t wait to spend a week at Melbourne Theatre Company! My week mainly consisted of observing rehearsals for Hungry Ghosts and shadowing the stage manager, Lisette Drew. As I sat in my little corner of the room, I watched how the director (Petra Kalive) would assist the actors (Emina Ashman, Jing-Xuan Chan & Bernard Sam) in understanding and portraying the message of the script. It was interesting to see how they would all work together to experiment with different ways the script could be interpreted and how the blocking, characterisation and delivery of lines would change to portray that meaning to the audience. The trialling of blocking and timing was especially informative as I saw how the director and the actors focused on different ideas and connections in the playwright’s (Jean Tong) poetic and thematic language.
I also noticed what the Costume Designer (Sophie Woodward), Set Designer (Eugyeene Teh), Lighting Designer (Emma Valente) and Composer/Sound Designer (Darius Kedros) did during the rehearsal period. One of the highlights of the week was walking into the rehearsal room after a break to see the designers conducting ‘lighting tests’, to see how the costumes looked under the lights built into the set. I was so excited to have a glimpse of what the stagecraft would look like when put together. It was also very interesting to see the major and minor tasks the stage manager would do throughout the week to ensure that rehearsals ran smoothly. Whilst I knew some basic information about stage management, spending the week in the rehearsal room helped me to understand how the stage manager fit into the production team. Watching everyone work together was like watching a well-oiled machine.
As well as observing rehearsals, I was given the opportunity to assist the Props Hire team. I spent a morning in the props store, where I helped organise various props. I was surrounded by towering shelves of plastic plants, chairs, suitcases and one large, old-looking wedding cake made out of Styrofoam. In the midst of the rows of glasses and plates, I sorted through the makeup and office supplies section. Looking at the variety of powder puffs, pens and stamps made me feel like I was peeking into different eras in time. It was amazing to see how many different types of props there were – little pieces of past and future productions.
I was also lucky enough to receive a ticket to see Abigail’s Party, which was another MTC production at the Southbank Theatre. Abigail’s Party was completely different from Hungry Ghosts in terms of style, themes and story, which was very interesting since I was able to see the range of productions that MTC puts on. It was also exciting to think that at one point, the show I had just seen had been through a similar process to Hungry Ghosts.
I will be forever grateful that I was able to have this experience. The knowledge I have gained has been invaluable to my education in theatre, especially in areas that I was unfamiliar with before. It was so beneficial to see different aspects of a professional theatre company, as well as gaining new experiences in a field I have so much passion for. It was an unforgettable experience that will inevitably come up in many conversations in the future. And last but not least, it was tons of fun!
Learn more about Hungry Ghosts by Jean Tong.
Learn more about our Work Experience Program.