Tag Archives: front of house

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week progressing?  Getting through your to do list at a pleasing pace, I hope?

“Team work” is one of those phrases that fills us with dread and fear.  This is because we secretly think that “team work” means “unable to think for yourself”, “willing to let others do your work” or, horror of horrors, “always up for those God-awful trust exercises that supposedly break the ice, but actually make everyone feel cripplingly embarrassed”.

What you discover very quickly in working world (particularly when you work in the arts) is that when it actually happens, team work is flipping brilliant.  Of course we should all have independent approaches, unique ideas and confidence in what we bring to the job as individuals, but we should also enjoy the many advantages that proper team work offers.

As you might remember from previous posts, I am currently working in a front of house team on a large-scale kids’ show in London.  The job is difficult and the show is not really aimed at my demographic, but the experience is ace.  As they say in The Lego Movie song, everything is cool when you’re part of a team.  Here are a few lovely things about team work that might dispel some of those trust exercise (shudder) memories:

In jokes – weeks, months and even years after the event, in jokes can help a team to feel connected to one another.  In jokes are also a good way to just have a bit of fun at work when the chips are down.

People understand why you’re stressed – if you turn to a colleague and go “aaaargh” (or something slightly more articulate), nine times out of ten they will get what you’re on about.  Not having to explain your stress and still managing to get sympathy is pretty darn efficient.

The play’s the thing – working with a whole bunch of people who care about the same project you do is brilliant, because you are constantly reminded that you are all working towards something bigger than any of you.  This can be scary and inspirational in equal measure, but it is always a motivator.

Down time – it is so nice to unwind in the company of people whose day you’ve shared.  There’s a sense of mutual achievement and good humour when my colleagues and I get the train home from work together, even though most of us have at least an hour’s commute ahead of us.  Stopping at the amazing frozen yoghurt place on our way from work to the station helps, too.

Going crazy – work can sometimes take over our lives a bit, and when it does it’s nice to know that the people you work with are going crazy at exactly the same rate, in pretty much the same way and for precisely the same reason.  For instance, the kids’ show I’m working includes some very distinctive music.  Surprisingly, it’s actually very cheering to hear my colleagues humming it all day long, because it means that I’m not alone.  The one time that it’s good to crazy is when you’re in great company.

Have a delightful Friday.

What Kind of Day Are You Having?

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Good morning, dear reader!  How’s your weekend going?

Firstly, I’m very sorry that I didn’t get time to write a blog post yesterday.  I have failed you, and I am accordingly ashamed.  I can only plead as an excuse that I have had absolutely no free time recently, and I am in a constant state of being almost asleep.

This morning, however, I am awake and alert (and a bit high on coffee), and I am determined to make my absence up to you by writing an extra joyful blog post.  Here we go.

Today I would like to discuss what determines a day as good or bad, and what kind of things we let affect the balance.  If we miss our train, receive some bad news or have an argument with someone we tend to dismiss the day as a write-off.  If we receive good news, go on a lovely date or something funny happens at work, we decide that we are having a good day.

Deciding how good, bad or boring a day is based on small incidents is very central to human nature, but it’s alarming how quickly we make the choice.  If something slightly annoying happens to us as soon as we leave the house, we sometimes decide in advance that this is going to be one of “those” days.  I would like to use yesterday as an example of why we are wrong to do so.

Yesterday I woke up late, was feeling a bit ill, and had a hectic day at work involving tricky customers, calling an ambulance for someone who was unwell, technology failing and other small stresses that inevitably accompany front of house theatre work.  I am very lucky to be working with a brilliant bunch of people on this show, but the fact is that we are all dying ever so slightly at the moment.

We had all, by about half past eleven in the morning, decided that we were communally having a bad day.  Luckily, at about half past three in the afternoon something happened that turned the day around entirely.  Something small, but very significant.

The show I’m currently working on is aimed at very small children, and at various points during the day there are a lot of families milling about in the venue.  At around half past three I saw a very small boy wriggling around in his pram, clearly pretty tired, hot and irritable.  At that moment, another family arrived next to the little boy’s, including a similarly young girl who was also in a pushchair, and also looking fairly stressed.

The families were strangers who just happened to be next to one another in a queue, but at that moment the little boy and the little girl made eye contact, and they both broke into enraptured smiles.  They stopped fussing and fretting, and just gazed at each other in silent awe.  The girl’s family moved away after a moment, but the magical moment didn’t end there: the children kept staring at each other in wonder until the girl’s family was out of the room.

I’m pretty sure that today I saw love at first sight happen between two toddlers, and even though it was a tiny incident, it unquestionably made my day.  I am telling you about it, you lovely thing, for two reasons: firstly, I hope that it makes you smile and warms the cockles of your heart.  Secondly, it reiterates the point that I’m trying to make: we should not allow the amalgamation of small inconveniences to blind us to the joy that happens all around us.  If we are going to let small bad things ruin our day, we must also be willing to let small brilliant things make them better.

In the spirit of which, I wish you the best Sunday since records began.

10 Things All Theatre Types Do

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Hello, you lovely thing.  How’s this week treating you so far?

Firstly, I should apologise for the fact that I might not have time to blog every day for the next few weeks.  I’ve just started working on a kids’ show in Greenwich, and I will essentially be eating, sleeping and breathing children’s theatre for a while.  I will do my best to keep up with you lovely people, but please do bear with me if I don’t quite manage it.

Today’s blog is (predictably) a theatre-based list of stuff that happens to everyone when they start working on a new show, particularly in a front of house capacity:

1) You work out very quickly who is going to make you laugh during the nightmare shifts – look out for the people who tend to mutter witticisms under their breath during briefings and people who are good at pulling silly faces.

2) You remember how much fun it is to use radios – you’re basically getting paid to play with walkie talkies.

3) You make a new best friend – in my case, one of my fellow supervisors has already “claimed” me as his latest fag hag.  I feel so honoured.

4) You end up working with someone you already know – I love this about theatre.  Nine times out of ten, we end up reconnecting with a friend or ex-colleague in a wholly unexpected context, and that really helps us to relax into new working situations.

5) You find a fittie – don’t look at me like that.  Everyone does this.  We’re not proud of it, but we all like to work out as early as possible whether there’s going to be anyone in our team who is nice to look at.  Just look at, mind.  We’re professionals, after all.

6) You know the show off by heart within two shifts.

7) You are insanely bored of the show within three shifts.

8) You passionately hate the show within three and a half shifts.

9) You find and immediately set up camp in the nearest decent pub.

10) Cheesy as it sounds, you fall in love with theatre all over again.

Right, I’m off to Greenwich to bring joy to hundreds of children.  You have yourself the most enjoyable Thursday of every Thursday ever.

The Duke of Edinburgh Wants to Help

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Hello, reader!  How goes the world with you today?

A couple days I ago I got offered a front of house job with a kids’ theatre company.  It’s only for a couple of weeks in June while their touring show is in London, but I’m very pleased about it.  I am also pretty chuffed that they’re sending me on a paediatric first aid course this week, even though it’s pretty far away in London terms, and it’s happening during another tube strike.  Wish me luck.

Yesterday I was on the phone to a friend of mine who works in a pub.  (He’s also an extremely talented actor, but don’t tell him I said that.  It’ll only go to his head, and I have to work with him in Edinburgh this summer.)  When I told him about the first aid thing, he retorted “well, I’ve got a…um…food hygiene certificate!”  First of all, first aid beats food hygiene in my humble opinion – come on, my certificate means I can save lives – and secondly, why are we competing (even in jest) over qualifications that neither of us is particularly fussed about?  We would both rather have theatre credits to our names than certificates in health and safety.  So why do we care?

I think all of us care about our qualifications, even the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with the career we’ve ended up pursuing.  This is true of those of us who have GCSEs in obscure subjects that we promptly forgot about the day we turned up to sixth form, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award victims who reminisce about their experiences with haunted expressions.  And why shouldn’t we?  They’re all achievements, for heaven’s sake.

Qualifications that have nothing to do with your main passion are an excellent thing, because they demonstrate that you’ve had a variety of different interests throughout your life, and consequently your personality seems all the more fascinating and multi-faceted.  Also, the only good thing about vamping up your CV to apply for jobs is remembering all of the amazing stuff you can do and have already done.  It’s nice to have a confidence boost just before you throw yourself into the harrowing world of job hunting, isn’t it?

The other great thing about having qualifications that are outside your main field of interest is that you never know when they’re going to come in handy.  My paediatric first aid qualification will be very valuable if I’m ever confronted with a choking child, and although I cannot express just how much I never, ever want that situation to occur, at least if it does I’ll be able to do something about it, which is nice.

Have a lovely bank holiday Monday!  May your day be filled with small but pleasant suprises.