Work experience student Katherine reflects on her week observing rehearsals at MTC HQ.
The week I spent with the cast and creatives of Shakespeare in Love for work experience was one of the best I’ve had throughout my school career. Having worked with my school’s theatre company for a number of years, I’ve grown an ardent appreciation for the creative process behind a production, and the collective drive and effort from a company to put on a piece of amazing theatre. Through my work experience placement, I had the opportunity to see this process at work on a professional scale, and it proved to be an invaluable experience.
On the first day, I took a tour of MTC HQ. In many ways, this was a primary example of how many different elements form the productions MTC works on. Seeing the size of the prop store, or the number of people working on costumes gave me a strong idea of how hardworking everyone in the rehearsal room was going to be.
Walking into the rehearsal room, which is where I spent most of my time, I was quite overwhelmed! There were a lot of people working on Shakespeare in Love, and a lot of new faces. However, with the new faces came lots of welcoming smiles, and regardless of how nervous I was initially feeling, having everyone readily accept me into their rehearsal space was very reassuring.
Throughout the week, I observed almost every rehearsal, taking particular note of the relationship dynamic between Simon Phillips (Director) and the actors, as well as the relationship dynamic between the actors themselves, and the creative team that surrounded them in the room. Within each person, you can see an obvious regard and respect for everyone else they’re working with, and that acknowledgement of the hard work that others are putting in goes a long way. Seeing how consistently on the ball the Stage Management team (Christine Bennet, Brittany Coombs, Meg Richardson and Julia Smith) were, was inspiring, and I have no doubt each person in the room noticed too.
Looking directly at the rehearsing of each scene, one of the biggest things that I took away is how the actors never stop acting. There was never a dull moment on stage, and while this cast was definitely full of funny people (Peter Houghton, I have never been more entertained by one’s facial expressions), I would largely attribute that to the fact that the actors were always in character. There was never any going through the paces, or marking things through so-to-speak. Each time one of them jumped on stage, they always brought a level of commitment that gave a purpose to each decision they made as their respective character. Simon had an amazing way of pulling apart the script to give it new meaning; to make each line or stage direction make sense in a different way. Whenever he had criticism of the actors movements, or there were changes that needed to be made to a particular scene, everyone involved took on his ideas and feedback with an open-mind.
As part of my placement, I was fortunate enough to see another MTC production (Storm Boy), which was a highlight of my week. In its theatrical nature, Storm Boy was quite different to Shakespeare in Love, but having spent a few days watching the effort that goes into an MTC production, it was great to see what the finished result of that effort looks like. Another highlight was the opportunity to interview Simon. He answered every question I had in great detail, and with a lot of insight, and he even asked me questions! I also interviewed Julia, and it was interesting to learn about all of her responsibilities – a stage manager does a lot!
On the last day, I was really lucky to sit in the first full run-through of the show the actors had ever done. To see the show in full, while it was still in that creative, developmental state was really special. Even though everyone had a lot of work to do to get it in its current polished state, there was a sense of accomplishment, that gave the room the kind of buzz and energy, that just makes you smile.
Overall, my week was full of lots of laughs, being surrounded by amazing talent (on and off the rehearsal stage), and a bunch of fascinating experiences that I will hold with me as I continue to explore a career in theatre. I had a better time than I ever could have expected, and I’m very grateful to have been presented with that opportunity.
I’d like to thank everyone at MTC for my week with Shakespeare in Love. Whether it was just a smile, or a conversation, from each of you, I’ve learnt something new. After my week, my mum asked how I could have had so much fun at work experience. I said, ‘I don’t know. It’s a mystery.’
Published on 7 July 2019