Whilst Eclipse isn’t the first performance that I’ve worked on, it’s definitely been an eye-opening process to be a part of. At college, I was Assistant Stage Manager for Our House, and assisted our Director a great deal for Little Shop of Horrors, yet I’ve found shadow stage managing for Eclipse to be a very different kettle of fish.
As it’s scripted, Eclipse is incredibly complex from a props point of view, and as Shadow Stage Manger this became my responsibility. One of the characters, Klondike, carries a backpack with an assortment of strange and highly specific items. These include an eagle feather, a fox tail, a boat carved from whale bone, and more interpretive items such as the sun and the moon. As you can imagine, these were near impossible to source or even find close matches for. This was made even more complex as the character has to pull them out of his bag in a specific order due to the dialogue being in verse, as is Simon Armitage’s style. In addition to this, another issue we had sourcing props as a small company was that we simply didn’t have a budget. Our Stage Manager, Molly Moore, and I, had to beg, borrow and steal most of our props. Little things like finding a crucifix suddenly proved unexpectedly difficult. Ultimately, with a few trips to Poundland and Primark, most items were acquired without too much expense and thankfully, the company director eventually settled on a very minimalist design concept which made sourcing props altogether much more manageable.
Aside from the above issues, up until the actual performances, the stage management process is relatively simple once you’ve created a prompt copy of the script, and come opening night, everything looked set to go smoothly. As a result of the minimalist concept, there were no set changes to worry about and furthermore, all props are specific to each cast member so I had few problems keeping track where all the props should be. Despite all this, an hour before the opening night show, we discovered the dryer had broken and the cast were going to have to go on in wet costume. The stage management team is responsible for maintenance of costume as well as props, so we rounded up every available hand to make a last ditch attempt to use the venue’s bathroom hand dryers to dry the costumes as best as we could. It just shows you can’t plan for every eventuality, and in times like these you need to think on your feet and pull together as a team to solve the problem. Apart from this hiccup, being well-prepared and well-rehearsed for a show which wasn’t too technically demanding meant that I was able to enjoy the performances, which is unfortunately rather rare experience as a member of the stage management team.
Being involved in National Theatre Connections has been a fantastic opportunity for me, the opportunity to be a part of The Lincoln Young Company being one of things which drew me to The University of Lincoln. I’ve made a number of connections with others studying at the university, in addition to those working in the industry. The experience as a whole has been a highlight of my first year at university, and has provided me with practical skills through a professional experience that I can use throughout university, in addition to when I leave. Having already performed at Lincoln, I now look forward to going to the Curve Theatre in Leicester, and the challenges it brings.
Eclipse is on 7 May at Curve Theatre, Leicester.
Daniel is a first year drama student at The University of Lincoln. He previously studied at Chesterfield College where he was Assistant Stage Manager for Our House in 2014. He had further experience in stage management in their 2015 production of Little Shop of Horrors. After his studies he aims to become an Equity certified fight director.