Whatever your work place or area of expertise, effective team work is something that is highly emphasised as a key employment skill. You will usually find ‘effective
team working skills’ on the list of fundamental personal qualities in a
recruitment process, whatever the nature or level of the job. So how can those skills be nurtured & developed in a HE level arts course, creating the sort of graduates that employers will be falling over themselves to recruit?
Theatre production skills can often be regarded as a mysterious hidden world: black clad figures lurk in the shadows of the theatre’s wings, content to complete the menial tasks whilst letting the performers take all the glory. Most theatre audiences, and indeed even arts professionals in other areas such as administration, are vague about what we actually do. Lighting & costume are pretty obvious, but exactly how is a stage managed? What
is the role of the sound number 3? Andwhat is the flyman actually doing up there above the stage? To an extent we encourage a lack of wider knowledge; after all the mystery of ‘ how did they do that?’ is often whatattracted many of us to the business in the first place, and of course if all goes well we shouldn’t even be noticed.
However, in doing this we are guilty of underplaying the exceptional
team work skills which go into creating a live theatrical production, and the
skills & qualities that have contributed to the UK’s predominance in the
creative industries globally. Indeed as a percentage of GDP, the UK has the largest creative industries sector in the world, and employs 1.5 million people
(see Departmentfor Culture Media and Sport – creative industries).
So what factors combine to create an exceptional team?
- A common purpose: in the theatre that couldn’t
be clearer, as our purpose is to open the show at a given time on a given
date. An immovable deadline always
concentrates the mind!
- Clear roles: the British theatre system
allocates very clear roles to people depending on their area of
responsibility. We all know exactly what
we are required to achieve within the context of any production.
- Accepted leadership: the British theatre system
is very hierarchical, and everyone in the production will know their place, to
whom they are responsible and who is ultimately in charge.
- Effective processes: again the production
systems built up within our theatres are long standing & clear to all,
whatever the context of the production.
- Solid relationships: The time pressured nature of the production
process does not lend itself to lengthy recruitment processes & slow
careful team building. Relationships form quickly, based on mutual respect for
each others’ professionalism.
- Excellent communication: one of the key roles of
stage management is to act as conduits of communication between all other
departments. Face to face contact is
preferred to build relationship & trust, followed up with written
communication to avoid ambiguity. No
detail is too small.
Training in theatre production skills is essentially learning by putting on shows. So it is
no surprise that production skills graduates have an abundance of excellent team
work skills, ensuring that they are highly employable in many fields. And it is no surprise that British production professionals – stage management, technicians, designers – are acknowledged as being the best in the world.