Drama & Theatre
‘The best job in the world’: Bamboo Manager Project
Sunday, May 1, 2022
Provision can be patchy when it comes to professional stage management training. Paul Bateson speaks to stage management specialist and Bamboo Manager Project founder, Antonia Collins, about her mission to change this.
The Wedding Singer at the Royal Academy of Music, stage managed by Antonia Collins in August 2021
'I think being a stage manager can be the best job in the world,’ says Antonia Collins: stage management specialist, educator, and founder of the Bamboo Manager Project – an organisation offering online courses in various aspects of the creative industries. She should know, with 25 years’ experience as a professional stage manager, lecturing roles at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Florida State University, and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; and a host of professional practise behind her in theatre, opera, and events.
She is telling me about her mission ‘to make sure that every single person who wants to study stage management has access to it’, and how this passionate idea and her impressive professional journey brought her to establish the Bamboo Manager Project (BMP). Although I have seen the non-performing option grow in popularity over the years, in my experience as a secondary Drama teacher, educators can sometimes lack the time, expertise, and resources to do the production roles justice.
© FELIX CHAN
Of course, context varies. Some schools have lighting rigs, sound boards, props and costume stores, a technician, while other schools do not even have a performance space. I know I have personally done my time sweeping up the sausage rolls after breaktime ready for my next class. In some schools, one teacher might have a specialism in set design or stage management, another, physical theatre, or even be a non-Drama-specialist. This variety brings opportunity, certainly, but to support young people who might be set on a backstage career, we perhaps need resources like BMP to support us as practitioners.
‘I think it is vital for children to be exposed to all aspects of the performing arts, including the backstage and production arts,’ says Collins. ‘I am still amazed when I meet people who had no idea that these disciplines could be a professional career.’ So, the series of online courses at BMP look to bring backstage learning into the spotlight.
Courses on offer
Antonia began with Stage Management 101(£800), a ten–session course that takes you through all the basics you need to know to work in stage management. Participants learn about running rehearsals, working with props, creating your prompt copy and opening the show as an assistant stage manager, deputy stage manager and stage manager. The course runs fully online to work at your own pace, but is supported by one–to–one tutorials throughout. Designed for students who have an interest in learning more about stage management, the course covers what a student might learn in the first year as a stage manager at drama school, so is perhaps suited to post–16 or higher education students. However, it would make a great in–depth CPD opportunity for an educator.
Similarly, Introduction to Production Process(£200) is a 12–hour course, designed for people who are interested in how to mount a production, from conception through to performance and closing. As educators we are doing this all the time. Whether staging the ‘school show’, preparing GCSE performance exams, or running Key Stage 3 Drama club, this would provide a good support for any practitioner working with young people, where we often have to be teacher, director, set builder, stage manager and more, all in one.
After a while, it became increasingly clear that a more introductory course was needed, and BMP began to offer What is stage management? – an affordable one-off session where Collins hopes to spark some of the passion for a backstage career that has driven her over the years. She says: ‘it is deliberately only £20 as I would never wish someone to be disadvantaged by the cost. Normally this is a small group session, or one on one, and takes around an hour. I go through the job roles, the career path, and training opportunities plus questions.’ This sounds perfect for a KS3/4 student on a production pathway or with an interest to start one. With this available as a school or group package, it would serve as a great taster session for backstage roles too.
In our job as educators to nurture students’ interests and passions, and provide knowledge, skills, expertise and experience, the BMP can be another resource to draw on next time a young person opts for that backstage role. As Antonia urged me: ‘We have to do better at offering other routes into stage management for young people’ – the Bamboo Manager Project seems a good place to start.