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Year of the Producer Blog: Stage One - Busy Busy

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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 are 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 blog post, Stage One apprentice producer Tom O'Connell, currently on placement at production company Fiery Angel Ltd, tells us about a busy week juggling work on multiple productions.

As the weather changes with the season, the days seem shorter and time seems to fly by. Excited as I am about the thought of Christmas lurking around the corner, I have to contain my enthusiasm and focus on learning and working as an apprentice producer. Another busy week this week, starting with a brand new production and including The Painkiller, Peppa Pig, Swallows & Amazons and The Ladykillers.

Monday in the office was fantastically disrupted by an internal premiere reading of an exciting new well-known title by Patrick Barlow, to follow in the footsteps of The 39 Steps, which Fiery Angel are producing. We had a stella cast in to animate the script, some very familiar faces and – crikey – they certainly made us all laugh with their assorted random noises and booming voices bleeding out of the room during rehearsals! As with any new productions it is very ‘hush-hush’ and at the moment I can’t give much away, but I know this is going to be very exciting to work on – will explain more in my next blog.

This week my mini-mentor, Fran, has been off on a much deserved break – and although it has only been a week without her, it has felt like months! Taking on some of her day-to-day tasks (and not being able to prod her with my many questions) has been challenging, never-the-less productive and educational too. One of her tasks I have taken on, is arranging ticket allocations for The Painkiller (Lyric, Belfast), which Fiery Angel has been involved with; again - great to learn about ticket allocations, house seats and producer’s relationship with venues.

The Ladykillers rehearsals are now in full swing ready for the Liverpool premiere/transfer to Gielgud Theatre, London. The director, Sean Foley, has been back and forth from Belfast (he directed The Painkiller) so I have been busy arranging flights, hotels and tickets for him! Rehearsal photography has been taken, Peter Capaldi has been on television talking to many chat show hosts about the new production, and I am hearing reports that the show is tickling everyone who has popped in to have a sneak peek. I have been busy working with my colleague Sarah on the press night arrangements, invitations and general logistics – the show deserves a great party, and a great party it shall have!

Onto Swallows and Amazons now; another busy week casting understudies, sitting through production meetings, organising rehearsals and seeing the first model box of the set – which is looking beautiful. This production is interesting for me, because although it is a musical it is very different from anything I have worked on before; the ‘poor theatre’ style, and using actor-musicians to create an ensemble company. The tour is finally on sale now, and the Vaudeville Theatre opening is less than two months away now – which is more exciting than daunting at this stage!

From one family production to another, with a complete contrast: Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt. I ventured across to Guildford this week with the team to witness the first performance of the new Peppa Pig tour, which runs until July 2012 and does a month stint in the West End at Christmas...

Having a four-year-old sister (huge age gap) myself, I am very much familiar with Peppa and her franchise - it was lovely to be sat in the packed audience with all the families cheering, singing and fully engaged with what is a beautiful and interactive co-production with Limelight Productions. The show certainly is the definition of commercial theatre and strides to do so with credibility. Not really something I could stomach more than once a week – very child-friendly but not really my cup of tea, as much as I love puppetry and bright colours.

Being a ‘Stage One Apprentice’ you are given oodles of opportunities, and one of those opportunities this week has been a ‘Stage Two’ session on producing a tour. During the workshop I was able to meet some key industry professionals and listen to their experiences of touring commercial theatre. Two speakers that stood out for me were Rebecca Mills, an established tour booker, and Michael Harrison, theatre producer and managing director of Qdos Entertainment (pantomimes). I have met Michael many times before, and he advised me (very wisely I might add) alongside Jonathan Kiley, on a show I was asked to produce in London a number of years ago – so it was lovely to see him again and it was extremely fascinating and educational to learn about budgeting for a first-class tour and the many challenges and risks that come with it.

Without a doubt this week has been very tiring for me, cramming in SOLT meetings regarding the 2012 Olympics and how it will affect the West End, moving out of a house with three lovely actresses and moving into a new home in Acton with two great creative guys, whilst prepping and reading heavily for the Stage One workshops that commence next week – that’s all for now, see you next week!

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


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