This week we have a very unique and exciting blog post indeed as member Rachel Byrne fills us in on her wondrous week of work experience in the Abbey Theatre!
When I first heard about this work experience, I wasn’t sure whether or not to even apply. I had only been involved in theatre for about six months, so I figured my chances of being picked against someone who had been doing drama since primary school were pretty slim… But I bit the bullet and posted off my application. A few weeks later, I got a phone call saying that I had been offered a place! I couldn’t believe it and my friends will tell you that I didn’t shut up about it for ages!
So, on Monday the 19th of May, I made my way to the theatre and met the other students and some of the mentors that would be working with us over the week. There were only ten students on the course so we all got to know each other fairly quickly.
Over the week, we got an inside scoop as to how a professional theatre is run and how everything is managed and organised in order for a show to happen. We got to work with the set designers, stage managers, costume designers, the light and sound crew just to name a few.
We got a tour around the costume department and we got to see how all of the ideas change from mood boards to pieces of pinned fabric to beautiful suits and dresses onstage. We also got to see some of the costume stores, where there were rooms that were just filled with shoes, then a room for jackets, then another room for shirts and ties and then, there was a room just filled with socks and belts. Needless to say we all had a field trip, even though we couldn’t try anything on… We got a tour of the props department too. There is a whole building, not a room, a whole building just dedicated to props. Everyone was so excited to see all the authentic old newspapers, bottles, suitcases, and even old bicycles. We got to play with some leftover sugar glass and I got to smash a whole pane over one of the girls heads. There was also a tub of fake blood and we all got a good laugh out of that. It’s made of a type of sugar syrup so that it’s okay to eat it if it gets in your mouth, so one of the guys started drinking it!! We had pains in our sides laughing at him!
We got to have Q&A sessions with people from lots of the different departments. We got to talk to Ruth from the literary department, Kelly from casting, Maeve from communications and even Faich Mac Conghail who is the artistic director of the Abbey. These were all really interesting and I learned so much from just having a bit of a chat.
Apart from tours and seeing backstage, we took part in some workshops. We had an acting workshop with Phil Kingston, where we had to go out into the streets of Dublin, and follow people. Sounds like stalking I know, but it was actually really interesting. We simply had to pick a person and walk in their rhythm and their posture. One of the weirdest, but most fun exercises I done. When we got back to the theatre, we had to work in pairs on an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet… We spent quite a long time on reading the lines in different tones and as we were working in our pairs we had to read them with our eyes closed, reading it like the person we were speaking to didn’t speak English, or even with our backs to each other to again name a few. I really liked this workshop because it showed how differently the script can be interpreted by each person. By the end of it we all knew the lines so well that we probably could’ve quoted them to anyone, word perfect, within a seconds notice.
We also took part in a brilliant workshop from Andrea Ainsworth, the voice director. We spent this time working our voices and opening up the different registers and learning to use our breath properly. We did a lot of exercises to loosen out the muscles around our ribs and we could all feel how much deeper we could breath and how easier it was to fill the space with our voices. I really enjoyed this workshop because whatever way Andrea used the exercises, we didn’t even notice how much we were working so it was so much fun. I think we noticed how much we worked the next day, because everyone’s sides and ribs were sore!
I really enjoyed my week at the Abbey and I learned so much in such a short space of time. When we were all finishing up on the Friday, we were saying how we were going to miss it. I got some really valuable experience and met some really great people, I only wish I could do it all again. I think anyone who has any sort of interest in working in a theatre should give this a go, even just apply on a whim like I did, because there is so much more to a theatre than acting on stage and there are so many departments that there has to be an area of interest for anyone.