We feel Spring Awakening wouldn’t be the fantastic show it is without LODS amazing backstage crew and creatives so we’d love to introduce to you our Deputy Stage Manager, Sophie Cable.

How long have you been volunteering for LODS? 

This is my 3rd show helping out. About 3 years ago I had to stop working as a professional Stage Manager for 3 hip surgeries – that and other health reasons have kept me away, so it’s been a great way for me to keep my hand in at what I love. My fiancé has been part of LODS for a long time, and I’d come to see many shows before and always been impressed at the production standards.  Being able to get involved has been amazing – it’s like being swept into one big family, and SPRING AWAKENING is such a brilliant production, I’m really proud of all the hard work everyone’s put in.

Tell us about what being Deputy Stage Manager for a show like Spring Awakening incorporates

The role titles in amateur theatre are a little looser, you find a few people wearing many hats, and everyone always mucks in. LODS make great Production Teams, and I’m always happy to support them with the knowledge I have from my career. Tricks and little efficiencies I’ve learnt over the years I really enjoy passing on, the whole point is to make everyone’s lives easier – and hence the process can be more fun. It’s a real team effort to find the best way of creating the director’s vision to the highest standard possible.

In rehearsals, I support the director, actors and process. Whatever they need (within reason!) I aim to facilitate – this has a broad range of duties, mostly organisational, I have an eye for both detail and the big picture – I try and spot and solve problems before they arise, in whatever area. I also help cast with lines, prompting and correcting where needed. But it can include anything from creative sounding-board to stationery supplier!

LODS are very well established and self-supporting for rehearsals, so I’ll usually join rehearsals later in the process, and have less to do than I would in pro. For Spring Awakening, the team created a Markup template of the main stage area which can be transported to each rehearsal, which has been incredibly valuable for the actors, creative team and production staff, being able to accurately plan and record spacing and staging. We also have a fabulous Props team, who source and bring all the props to rehearsals and set up with stage management. Being able to use the real thing, especially in scenes with weapons, is crucial for the actors to become accustomed to as early as possible.

My main role is to create and run the show from the ‘Bible’ or ‘Book’ – it contains all the production’s vital information; the concept is that you’d be able to recreate the show with the information in it. Primarily I focus on the script itself: One side of the Book has the script and musical score, so I can follow along – opposite I record all the actor’s moves in the show, props and set movement, lighting cues, anything happening onstage or backstage.

Amateur Dramatics has a short time in the theatre before the audience joins us, so knowing what you’re planning to do when you go in helps hugely. Our technical rehearsal, where lighting, sound and scenery are used for the first time, is done in only 3 hours on the Monday night – something no professional company would dream of. I’ll get most of the lighting cue points from the lighting designer on Tuesday, put them in the Book, and then we do a dress rehearsal that evening, before opening to an audience on the Wednesday night. Compared to the months spent outside the theatre putting the show together, it’s quite something! It takes everyone’s focus and commitment, but most of all planning, to get it done.

Come show time, I sit in Prompt Corner of the stage, hidden away, telling people what to do and when, using the information in the Book. This is done mostly through headsets wired into the other operators in the building, but also through cue lights, which are a bit like a traffic light system. I make sure that things happen on exactly that beat in the music, or that movement – this way if things have to happen at the same time, everyone has someone to coordinate them. I’m also in charge if something goes wrong, advising how to work around it.

For Spring Awakening, lighting is really important, helping to define the two worlds we see, and move between them – I’m looking forward to seeing that, and making it happen at the right moments. The cast will be onstage for most of the show, and the scenery doesn’t move, instead it’s highlighted by the lighting as appropriate. So most of my job on this will be focussed on those lighting cue points, helping take the audience on the journey between worlds and scenes smoothly.

You helped run an intimacy workshop as there are a lot of mature themes covered in this show, can you give us an insight into what this involved?

There’s some big issues here, and many of them are in the public eye at the moment. I’ll try and talk about it without delving too far into them, and I won’t cover enough at the same time. Theatre’s a funny old world, we are known for our innuendo, and how close we all become, and hence boundaries often slip away, but not everyone’s comfortable with that. Nor should we expect them to be.

With themes and actions that are innately intimate within the show, we wanted to make sure that we looked after our cast. The main aim of the workshop was to establish some guidelines about how we approached setting the movement in scenes with intimacy, including consent, in order to protect everyone involved. Part of this involves looking at it in a similar way as choreography – you plan each move, when it happens, how long it lasts. Part of it involves making sure the actor and the character are viewed and discussed separately; CharacterX touches CharacterY’s shoulder, as opposed to ActorA touches ActorB – giving a psychological distinction as protection. Another guideline is that, unlike many acting systems which draw on the actor’s personal experience, the actor should never portray their own personal sexual reactions – that’s not something to share with an audience.

Actors are asked to be physically close or exposed to others and with the world’s view changing (for the better) as it is, the industry is moving towards having Intimacy Directors to make sure that this experience doesn’t leave anyone feeling vulnerable, pressured, or used.

This isn’t just about the person being touched – it also involves the person being asked to touch. It’s not just about asking/being asked the question ‘can I touch you’ – it’s about being ok hearing/saying ‘no’. Understanding how that makes you feel, and being able to deal with that appropriately. It’s ultimately about respecting others, and being aware of your effect on the world around you and it on yourself.

For example, in musical theatre ‘lifts’ often involve a male actor lifting a female actor into the air with a hand on their bum – but when this is first given as an instruction to them – how often is the moment had – or even allowed for – where they ask first? I have had male actors tell me they’ve wanted to ask, and felt uncomfortable doing it without asking – I’ve had female actors tell me they don’t feel they can say no, or that they’re not bothered. But allowing for that exchange to happen, is essential.

One can only hope that by opening up the conversation with people, you enable them to take their awareness forward into their future interactions, and the next time they’re in that scenario, they feel more able to ask, answer, and be prepared for whatever answer or conversation may come of it.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? 

Personally, as I mentioned my health has stopped me from pursuing my career in professional stage management. I had 3 hip surgeries in 16 months, which helped me walk without aid again, but I’m in pain all the time and struggle with fatigue and dizziness, due to a genetic condition called Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and it’s lovely (!) effects on my body. This has been quite a rollercoaster for 3 1/2 years – but LODS have provided me with a wonderful way to still get to do bits of the job I love so much as a hobby, while allowing for my limitations. They’re incredibly understanding about my condition, and as I said – everyone mucks in – the Musical Director helped take up the rehearsal marks the other day, she knows it makes me dizzy bending down. (Yes I noticed – thankyou!) If an actor has missed a rehearsal, others will point them in the right direction and catch them up. Those little things that people do to help one another out are indicative of how much of a team LODS are.

It really is a family – everyone supports one another, and there’s something incredibly special about returning to do another show with a team of people whom you mostly know – it’s not something you often do in professional theatre. There you create a close knit family but it’s disbanded at the end of the run – here we pick up again straight away and do another show! It’s great getting to help make the process run more easily with my experience, and getting to be part of the family. And the standards are just as high as professional theatre – I am proud to be a part of it and I hope the audience can see the love and hard work, sweat and tears, that has gone into each show from every person involved.

A challenge Spring Awakening presented was the black box style of design – we have very little scenery but need to represent many locations; by a river, the woods, a graveyard, a classroom to name but a few. You’ll have to come and see it to get the full effect, but the flooring Paul and Kevin Ward have built is beautiful, and gives a great basis. Drew Seal’s detailed and thorough direction and Laura Hurrell’s choreography, with the cast’s attentive work, has created what promises to be seamless transitions between locations, using the cast themselves, chairs, and Joshua Blows’ lighting. Unlike most shows, no crew will appear onstage at any point. This means the cast are responsible for everything, and their jobs aren’t small! But they’ve put in the time, and it shows, and having time to work in rehearsals with props weeks in advance has helped hugely. We now just have to put the final touches to it, and we look forward to showing you all the results of months of work.

Do you have a favourite song in the show?

That’s tough – honestly the biggest commendation I could give this show is that I’ve had it playing in my head for months, and I’m not bored of it yet! It’s such beautiful and varied music. There’s a ‘90s feel to much of it, almost familiar. Which is right somehow, because we’ve all been teenagers – there’s a lot of themes to the show that are familiar to us.

One I really like that I can talk about without giving away any spoilers is All That’s Known – it shows the inner thoughts of Melchior challenging the conventions that he is restricted by, the ‘wisdom’ that his elders are pushing onto him – I think in every generation we challenge society and it’s choices – and should so we can improve. It’s very relatable, and his lyric is beautifully set against latin chanting in the classroom around him (kudos to the boys for learning that!)

Why should people come and see Spring Awakening?

If you’ve read this far the show’s probably shorter than reading this so you’re already invested – come along!

No but seriously… It’s a beautiful show, relatable in some way to most of us, about the experiences, thoughts and challenges of young adulthood. Although it’s set in the late 19th century – those things remain essentially the same today.

It showcases our younger members of LODS incredibly – their vivacity and talent shines throughout. There’s been thousands of person hours poured into this show, and we’d love to share it with as many people as possible. It’ll take you on an emotional ride, make you smile and maybe shed a tear, and the cast sound so amazing – don’t miss it!

To see the finished product book your tickets below. We are at the Palace Theatre from 17th – 20th October 2018. Can’t wait to see you there!