60 Second Interview: Theatre apprentice

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National Theatre at night-time

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"I wish I had known just how supportive people are of apprentices, and how happy people are to share their knowledge with you." Olivia loves her technical theatre apprenticeship at the National Theatre. Today, she shares her story and offers a few tips for anyone keen to follow in her footsteps.

Olivia Richardson, National Theatre apprentice

Name: Olivia Richardson

Company:  National Theatre

Industry: Performing Arts

What is your job? Technical theatre apprentice

How long have you worked here? 2 months

A-levels: Psychology, maths, biology

1. What was your very first job?

I did some casual work as a runner for a little while, but I consider my apprenticeship as my first real job.

2. What did you want to do when you were at school?

When I was at school I wanted to be a clinical psychologist.

3. How did you find out about the industry?

I’ve always had an interest in theatre. When I was in my teens I went to a weekend theatre school, and was exposed to the industry from a performer’s side of things, and I guess that interest just grew to include technical aspects of theatre as well.

4. How did find your technical theatre apprenticeship?

I haven’t done any formal studying based in the theatre industry, but instead I worked hard at getting work experience. I did a lot of volunteering at festivals and local theatres, as well as attending a variety of technical based workshops. I also went back to my theatre school to see my old tutors for some career advice and to get some contacts for people in the industry. This eventually lead me to the National Theatre's website where I applied for the apprenticeship, and much to my own surprise, here I am!

5. What is a typical day like?

As an apprentice, and working in theatre, no two days are ever really the same, but they each start with a roughly hour long commute from Essex into central London. When I get in I go to see whoever my current supervisor is (my supervisors change depending on what department or theatre I’m in, there are three theatres at the NT). I’m then set off on tasks. This can be anything from sourcing equipment, to setting up for an event, to fixing/testing equipment before or after it goes out onto a show. Normally this is with another member of the team, which is great, as I can ask questions and learn while I work. 

6. What’s the best thing about your technical theatre apprenticeship?

I love to see an empty stage change into something completely unexpected and different over the course of a day or two, I also really enjoy getting to work in such a creative environment.

7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

Having a disability can complicate things at times (I only have one hand) but this just means that whoever I’m working with and I have a chance to get creative in figuring out a way to make things possible.

8. What advice do you have for people who want to do a technical theatre apprenticeship?

You definitely have to be prepared to work hard, be a team player and to work unsociable hours which is very common for the theatre industry. Having a background in theatre is bonus I think, but not necessary. Festivals are a great way to get work experience if you don’t mind volunteering, as is ComicCon. I think that having a basic grasp of maths and physics, or at least a willingness to learn it would also serve you well.

9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?

I wish I had known just how supportive people are of apprentices, and how happy people are to share their knowledge with you; because you never know how easy it will be to fit into such a fast paced industry with an entry-level position. Knowing that everyone is so supportive and accepting is a constant reassurance.

10. Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I would like to be working as a technician in a theatre, and would like to still be finding things to learn about. After all, every day is a school day.

It takes a whole cast of characters to get a show on the stage - check out our Performing Arts Career Zone to learn about other careers in theatre and across the performing arts world.

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Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

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