Arts Ambassador and BA MEng Aerospace Engineer Ben McQuigg sat down with Joseph Lynch, president of StageSoc for 2017/18 to talk about his favourite productions during his time at university and to find out more about the Stage Technician’s Society. Image Credit: American Idiot Charlie House Media.
Ben McQuigg: So, what is StageSoc and what was it that made you get involved at the start of University?
Joe Lynch: StageSoc is the society for theatre technicians, who sort the lighting, sound, and stage for shows in the Annex Theatre. I got involved because I’d done theatrical technician work before and school and really wanted to continue it, and I’ve stayed involved because of all the amazing people who make the society what it is!
BM: What is the Annex Theatre?
JL: The Annex Theatre is the main performance space for SUSU Performing Arts Theatrical societies and is located by the Highfield Interchange. A lecture theatre from 9am to 6pm, as soon as the last lecture of the day is over, it transforms into a performance space, with full stage lighting, sound system and often a complex set. Being a lecture theatre in the day, it means that every night it is a very quick turnaround, and we often only have an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready before opening house.
BM: You’ve worked on so many productions during your time at StageSoc and have been Technical Director (TD) for eight shows. I’d say you are one of the unsung heroes of the production teams that put on our shows, what does a TD do?
JL: A TD organises all the technical aspects of a show such as the lighting, sound, video, the staging – all of that stuff and makes sure that everyone is on the same page. Making sure all the sets are built in time, all the lights are programmed, making sure that the production team have someone to talk to. Specifically, in the Annex Theatre, ensuring that late night working is in place and ensuring the upkeep of the health and safety regulations.
BM: What exactly is late night working?
JL: Late night working is where the University security allow us to carry on working in the theatre after hours, sometimes until as late, or early, as 4am.
BM: What is your favourite area of tech that goes on in a show?
JL: My personal favourite is staging because having a really good stage can really make or break a show. At the end of the day that’s what the actors are performing on, so having it being good and awesome is amazing.
BM: What’s been the hardest technical achievement you’ve had to pull off?
JL: American Idiot [Showstopppers] has been a huge challenge, Pure Dance 2017 was another challenge because that was a really tight schedule and it was kind of my first gig in charge in a big venue [O2 Guildhall]. Generally bigger shows are harder, American Idiot has had five the video aspect, with five TV screens on stage playing specific videos at various moment throughout the show, which has been… Fun!
BM: What would be your dream show to TD if you could?
JL: Oh that’s a good question! I think because of my love of stage, The Play That Goes Wrong just because being able to work with that set, which has got so many amazing features, so many hidden details and, spoiler alert, it just kind of falls apart on command, it would be absolutely amazing.
BM: Because of your love of stage, what have been your top three favourite sets in the Annex and why?
JL: Top three, I would have to say… I don’t think I could put them in any order but, American Idiot and Spring Awakening [Theatre Group] both because they had so many levels with deck [platforms on stage] and they used the full size of the Annex, which I think is something that is very rarely put to good use. For a third one, I don’t know, there have been so many good sets. I actually really liked the Jerusalem set, I thought that was really good and Bonnie and Clyde … How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was cool because it had lift doors in it!
BM: Any tips for people wanting to join StageSoc, what’s the best way to go about it?
JL: The best way to join StageSoc is to go to our website and sign up to the forum and sign up to a show to get started. We’re all very friendly so if you sign up to a show the technical director of that show will help you explore what you want to do and get you involved.
BM: Why should you do performing arts tech at university?
JL: You should do tech at university because it is hard work and it is long hours and you do end up thinking, when you’re in the Annex at half three in the morning, what on earth am I doing, but when the show comes together and you can say you’ve had a part of it and that you’ve helped, it really feels amazing. It’s something different to acting, I think I subscribe to the belief that everyone who is in theatre should do tech at least once, just so you have an appreciation for it.
For more details on StageSoc and how to join visit: https://stagesoc.org.uk/
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