Learning and Participation at The Rep…

Join Lynette Dakin midway through her second week at Birmingham Repertory Theatre:

Last week I arrived during a very busy time. The team were we preparing for the release of the new season, the press night of Of Mice and Men and performances of Home in Erdington that weekend. It was a buzzing office I walked into!

I began the internship with a tour of this massive building (which I’ve already got lost in several times) and meeting the lovely staff. The REP runs into the library next door, so there is a lovely community feel to the building. The REP is rare because, not only is it a producing theatre, but it does all this production in the building. That means everything from the workroom, the paint store; wigs & make-up and costume are all under the same roof. This means there is a lovely family feel in the REP as everyone is working together under the same roof. I was a volunteer with the REP100 team in the Oral history team and heard repeatedly from the staff how useful it was to have everyone under one roof. There are even apartments for some of the creative artists and performers to stay in during shows.

I am based on the 3rd floor with the Arts Team (I’ve got my own desk which I’m slowly working on cluttering). I work alongside Jenny Smith, the creative producer, on the events but also assist the department as well as the Learning and Participation department. The big thing I’m working towards at the moment is the October half-term workshops. These include Halloween make-up workshops at the REP and Dream Lantern Workshops at the Pavilions. The lanterns will then be used the following weekend to light the way during the Christmas parade. My role is to assist Jenny in organising and running the event. The workshops will be run by myself, Jenny and our REP volunteers, therefore, one role is to be in contact with the volunteers and to organise their timetable. I have also been helping promote the event online and done one of my many prop runs to collect supplies for the week (Poundland is my go-to shop). Today, I went down to the Pavilions to see the vinyl’s be put up.

The lantern sticks waiting and raring to go
The lantern sticks waiting and raring to go

Whilst that is my main priority, I have been doing lots of other jobs, helping with other departments and attending relevant meetings. At the end of last week I assisted the stage manager with buying the necessary props for Home. In this apprentice-like task I was given a list of items and sent out to buy them in Birmingham. This included negotiating a giant polar bear teddy in the market, lugging several bottles of bear from Tesco and asking where I could find some handcuffs in costume shops (yeah, I know). Home itself is a really lovely project, and I helped out a few weeks ago in Castle Vale in Erdington to promote it. People in the Erdington area were given the opportunity to volunteer for a piece of theatre to be made in there homes based on their own stories, surroundings or anything they like (one requested it to be about a legoman). The REP foundry artists (made up of new writers and performers who are based in Birmingham) were matched with a volunteer host and the artists creating a performance based on their requests in just one week. The hosts could then invite friends and family along to watch it be performed in their homes. The response was fantastic and hopefully is a strong beginning to an ongoing relationship with the Erdington area.

From Dahl to Brecht- a theatre book shelf has it all
From Dahl to Brecht- a theatre book shelf has it all

I also had my first glimpse into the process of funding bids. The next project I will be working on is the in-house exhibition in the foyer created by Tom Cross and Tom Piper. The exhibition will work off the running theme through the plays in the next season of “finding your voice.” The application is almost complete and hopefully the grant will be successful so we can begin the exhibition work at the start of next year.

The current front of house sound installation
The current front of house sound installation

One of the perks of the jobs is going to the press nights of the shows! I went to the press night Of Mice and Men, which is produced by the REP and directed by our artistic director Roxanna Silbert, last week. It was a packed theatre and opened to some great reviews!

What has been so striking about working in an arts organisation is how in real terms arts cuts can effect organisations. For the scale of the REP, the team is really small which means the staff have to take on a huge amount of work on their shoulders (this is why they are very grateful when an intern can do some of it!) Also cuts mean having to be very creative with ideas and often having to scrap some good ideas and making it harder to take a risk. Luckily for the REP, there are 3 stages, which still give us an option to stage upcoming artists and smaller pieces of work.

I’ve got a busy week coming up but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the lantern making. If you are walking through town, do pop by the Pavilions to say hi! Also the fantastic BFG is coming up, and doesn’t the foyer look good?

                                     The BFG is coming..
The BFG is coming…

Tonight we have the Press night for Solomon and Marion which is playing in The Door. These little beauties have arrived ahead of tonight…

If I needed anymore convincing that this is great place to work, that’ll do it.

I will catch back up with you in the New Year where (fingers crossed) I will be working on our front of house installation.



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