That I’m writing this at the end of my time here says something about how much of a whirlwind this experience has been. While I’ve had some quieter times to familiarize myself with the history and architecture of Mermaid Theatre, for the most part it’s been a blur of paperwork, painting, and tours. As a theatre student, the most fascinating parts for me are getting to see all of the other behind the scenes things that go into making a show- especially those that you don’t always come into contact with as a designer. The contracts, contacts, and research that is required to get the show physically on the road was a completely new thing for me. (The painting, not so much.)
Unlike other “office” positions, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a wide range of projects. Helping to compile tour documents, mail runs, and updates to our website have been balanced with painting (of set pieces, and the stage), inventory counts, and, on two occasions, running the lighting or sound board. I also got to spend two days out of the office entirely while assisting Struan with giving puppetry workshops at local summer camps. The crafty part of the children’s puppet builds was familiar, however the introduction to some of the puppets and their movement was as much of a crash course for me as it was for the kids! I’ve been lucky enough to walk out at the end of just about every day having learned something new.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the summer, other than getting to know the talented and enthusiastic people who work here, has been getting to show visitors around the facilities. There’s nothing quite like watching people discover something that they never realized was in their own backyard, the return visitors who always have to drop by because they love the place so much, or the pure infectious excitement of someone who has fallen in love with one of the shows on tour and is finally getting to see backstage where they never thought they’d get the chance to go. No matter the age of our visitors, it’s hard not to light up at least a little bit when presented with such engaging characters, and the lucky few who got to watch rehearsals or a run through of The Very Hungry Caterpillar before this summer’s trip to China were especially enchanted (myself included). The style and visual appeal of the black light show is a far cry from the look of Rummabubba, Lid-Maker of the Snufflewogs, the show I saw as a child when it toured to my elementary school, making it a completely new experience for me. Too, the sound track was as much a part of the appeal as the puppets themselves- there are many reasons why these shows are as popular with the adults as they are with the children they bring to see them.
In the case of whoever comes along next summer, or the ones after, my advice is:
- to say yes when offered something new (I almost never get to work with children- the workshops were great fun),
- ask as many questions as you need because there is always a new story, historic fact, or skill to learn (the architecture and history of the building is as cool as the company’s and its staff’s),
- talk to everyone who comes through that door as you never know who you’ll get to meet (other artists, visitors from all over, former Mermaid people… all sorts of interesting folk),
- keep paint clothes in the office (you will end up wearing it, just make your peace with that fact early on)
- don’t stress too much about any of it (just take your time),
- and have fun (I know I have!)