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An Interview with…Natalie Toney – Production and Stage Management Trainee

Since August 2018 Natalie has been working as a Production and Stage Management Trainee at The Watermill Theatre, a role that is generously funded by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.

Charlotte Stroud, The Watermill’s Development Officer, caught up with Natalie as she heads into the last couple of months of the trainee scheme to find out more about her experience in this role.

When you think back to when you applied for the trainee scheme, what was it about this opportunity that appealed to you? Which elements of the job were you most looking forward to?

I was mostly excited about the variety of experience I could gain. The role was very broad in terms of all the elements of backstage and technical theatre you could learn about. I was very interested in learning about lighting and what it would be like to work in a theatre after studying Theatre Production in Sixth Form. I liked the idea that I could learn about a lot of aspects before deciding on which role I enjoyed the most and wanted to pursue.

How would you describe the journey of your year? What did you spend the first few months doing and what tasks have you taken on during the second part of the year?

Throughout the year I have practised and learned a lot about Theatre Production, but I have definitely progressed most with Stage Management. I have been an ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) on three productions at the theatre (Robin Hood, Easy Virtue, and Amélie), a DSM (Deputy Stage Manager) on Moonfleet and am currently an ASM on the rural tour, Our Church. Gaining this much experience in a year and being given the responsibility of working on all of these shows has helped me to learn so much about how to be a Stage Manager and has enabled me to work on a range of productions, from Youth Theatre shows through to large-scale musicals.

Could you tell me something that you have learned about theatre during this year that you didn’t know before?

At the start of the year I had no idea about the lighting side of theatre. Now I know the names of the lights we use in our rigs and I can understand a lighting plan!

Could you tell me about a new skill that you have developed through your role this year? Where might this come in handy in future?

I picked up a lot of new skills through being a DSM on the Senior Youth Theatre production Moonfleet. I learnt how to create a DSM book and how to ‘call a show’ with lighting, sound and video cues. Being given the opportunity to be a DSM on a production has really helped me and if I decide to go down the DSM route of Stage Management, I can now say I have experience in this role.

Is there a particular moment that stands out where you really enjoyed working in this role?

My most memorable moment this year was the opening night for Moonfleet. I was so nervous to DSM as it was such a big responsibility and I had been in rehearsals and making props for the production for around two months. Once the show had started I felt so proud of myself for taking on the challenge of being a DSM and so proud of the show that we had all worked so hard on.

Was there a time where you faced something challenging? Was there a person or a group of people who helped you overcome this?

There was an opening night for one of the shows and I was incredibly nervous, as it was much bigger than any of the other shows I had done – I knew that I didn’t need to be, but the Stage Management team I was working with really reassured me. As we were all part of the same team and working together to open the show we all knew that it would be brilliant and we helped to remind each other that we were all amazing at what we were doing!

Would you like to continue working in theatre?

I would like to continue gaining more experience in the theatre industry. I am really enjoying Stage Management and would like to continue to learn more about the role through working on more shows. I have also really enjoyed working on Outreach shows so would like to be involved in more Outreach events with young people and the community.

Would you recommend this trainee scheme to other young people who are interested in theatre? What advice/tips would you like to pass on to them?

Absolutely! I have learnt so much in a year and have been given so many opportunities to learn about theatre and work on the Watermill’s shows. The people I have worked with at the theatre are so helpful, with so much knowledge about the industry, they have really helped make this year such an enjoyable experience.

The advice I would give to anyone interested in this trainee scheme is to be confident in yourself, be prepared to learn a lot in a year and to always ask questions – even if you have been told how to do a task but are unsure and need to double check!

Natalie has been a real asset to The Watermill Theatre team this year and we would like to wish her every success with her future career.