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  • Writer's pictureTom Bowtell

What life is like as a Stage Manager for KIT, A.K.A. Assistant to the Deputy Soil Expert...!

Working as a Stage Manager for KIT Theatre’s Adventures is brilliant, inspiring, funny, quite hard work and almost always involves a very early start. Before the pupils of a school have even had their breakfast at home, I can be found somewhere in the school grounds burying fossils, fixing a time machine, setting out secret code chocolate wrappers, hiding alien eggs and Aliens themselves in cupboards. Crazy as that all is, my main jobs (I think), are:

A) To make sure everything and everyone is where they need to be at the right time and in roughly the right costume based on the extremely detailed schedule we’ve been given. AND B) To have the ability to make the decision to completely rip up that extremely detailed schedule, because it turns out year 4 have got P.E in the hall today.

All of this must, of course, be done undercover, in character, with a vague-sounding title like “Assistant to the Deputy Soil Expert”. KIT is the only company I work for that requires this level of undercover deception, and while it is decidedly out of my comfort level to be in character, I must admit it is such a lot of fun and I do like to costume myself for a change. I always carry a clipboard, with the schedule, and all the resources performers will need. I’ve learnt (from bitter experience) that this too needs a disguise, usually a coloured sheet of paper on the front with “Top Secret Bureau of Alien Discoveries” or “The Specific Properties of Fossil Rich Soil from the Jurassic Period” written across it, because children ALWAYS want to know what’s on your clipboard and if it’s written on the front then it must be true.

The schools are always so welcoming, and never seem to mind when a section of their staffroom becomes overrun with laminated dinosaurs, pots of chocolate, cork hats or rubber ducks. The teachers, who we meet in the morning and have come in early to go through the plan for the day and to print out worksheets for later, then act with such convincing shock and outrage when we burst into the classroom or assembly unannounced, that I always have a moment of doubt as to whether they met us earlier or not?

The themes of the Adventures vary, but I usually find I work with 2 performers playing slightly hapless characters who find themselves in need of pupils’ help. There is always a deadline to solve their problems, usually caused by a rather terrifying boss’s imminent arrival at the school. This is my favourite part, after working with the children and their always brilliant ideas for over a day - problem solving, email writing, discovering and wondering - the boss strides in with a flourish, prompting lots of clumsy curtsying on my part. The excitement and pride of the children in presenting their ideas and discoveries is enough to guarantee a tear in my eye and I am always so heartened by the collective desire of an entire year group to really do everything possible to ensure that they get the right outcome for their new friends.

There is so much planning, by KIT, the performers, me, the school and teachers in the run up to an Adventure day (and usually quite a bit of re-jigging as we go along) but it all comes together into something that is pure wonder and magic, educational of course and so much fun.

Written by the magnificent Abigail King!

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