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Year of the Producer Blog: Stage One - Getting Started

By • West End
Inspired by our adoption of Stage One as the charity for the 2012 Whatsonstage.com Awards, we’re declaring this the “Year of the Producer” on Whatsonstage.com, and will be running a 12-month editorial series of interviews, blogs and other features to give theatregoers a greater understanding of the crucial role of the producer and an insight into the people who put on the shows they love.

In this inaugural blog post, Stage One apprentice producer Tom O'Connell, currently on placement at production company Fiery Angel Ltd, gives us an insight into his new position.

The start of any new job is a daunting thought - always slightly awkward, nerve-racking and sometimes a bombardment of information for one whole day, but starting a new job, becoming an apprentice and having to write a blog about it to inform all of you – even more daunting! Luckily, I was starting my ‘Stage One Apprentice Producer’ scheme in the workplace of Fiery Angel Ltd, so I shouldn’t have worried at all…

When applying for the apprenticeship, which was all thanks to two friends (Carole Todd and Andrew Hilton) constantly telling me to apply; I knew it was the best ‘next-step’ in my career and a perfect new chapter in my life. The initial interviews with Katie Harper and Nick Salmon went well and the waiting game to find out if I had a placement filled me with more anxiety than waiting for Christmas day (and I love Christmas!). Although there was an awful lot to learn on day one, it was an enjoyable first day and very productive.

The match with Fiery Angel so far seems perfect. I would describe the company as a ‘boutique’ theatre business, producing a handful of high quality theatre both as commercial and educational products. Eventually this type of business is something I would love to be running and majorly involved with. The team, led by Edward Snape and Marilyn Eardley, are fun, friendly and focused – my mentor for the scheme is Jon Bath who is Head of Production, and my mini-mentor is Fran Rafferty who is Production Coordinator.

Every day so far has not only been a major learning curve but it has been enjoyable and exciting; the team really let me get stuck into current productions, new projects, and encourage me to make connections with key industry professionals.

My first project / production to focus on is Swallows and Amazons, which was originally produced at the Bristol Old Vic last season and is directed by Tom Morris (War Horse), and golly - what an exciting production to start me off! Swallows & Amazons is being revived by the Children’s Touring Partnership (Fiery Angel & Chichester Festival Theatre), working alongside The National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. As a sub-rep production it has been very exciting to learn the sensitivities of a remount, the complexity of having other parties involved/Arts Council Funding.

Recently we had a marketing launch for all the venues who have booked the production into their theatres for the tour – there were some magical moments created by the team, for example we had to recall our best memory of outdoor play in our childhoods, we had lunch on a glass boat in Bristol and we had to all dress up with a nautical theme. It truly was a great day and so much to learn from it (there will be lots more to come on Swallows & Amazons in my next blog).

The other productions I have so far been involved with are The 39 Steps, Peppa Pig Live and more recently The Ladykillers: first day of rehearsals / script-read last week was hilarious – James Fleet was quite simply side-splitting as Major Courtney and Ben Miller’s concise characterisation as Louis was brilliant as a juxtaposition to Marcia Warren’s ‘Mrs Wilberforce’, who is delightful.

Again – another great show for Fiery to get its teeth into and looking at the model box of the set, it will certainly be the most technical production of a play the West End has seen for years – more updates on this to come next time…

As I complete this week’s blog, I almost forgot to mention the other things I have started doing like playing a game called ‘Question of the day’ (highly original – I know) which enables me to probe the team and learn as much as possible about things I am unsure of, plus doing homework on investors/business/law and occasionally visiting the theatre to see some great productions on in town.

I am only on my fourth week as an apprentice but loving every second of it – I highly recommend the scheme and the team behind it for other budding commercial producers. I have so much to tell you, but not enough time – see you next week!

For more information about Year of the Producer, and the producers taking part, click here.

Tags: Year of the Producer


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