Ria is working with Connection Crew while she carves out a career as a theatre director; Starting with us in September 2015, the same time as she started a training programme for theatre directing and working part-time as a stage-manager.
Yes, it’s pretty full on making your way in the arts. At the time, Ria was just looking for a filler-job, but as it turns out she’s learnt some unexpected and valuable lessons crewing that she’ll carry with her into her chosen career.
Ria admits she had some trepidation when Jo, a friend and fellow stage manager suggested she supplement her theatre work with crewing. “Jo has a sound bias and I was more of a DSM.” That’s Deputy Stage Manager – it’s a diverse role, not tech focused so Ria was reluctant: “But Jo said, ‘Well, no, crewing’s not just a techy job.’”
“My second point of resistance was that I’m female and I was aware that crewing was a predominantly male thing.” Ria recalls how Jo convinced her that this was okay too: “She said, ‘I’m female and I do this job. Connection Crew don’t push me beyond my physical ability.’” So she took the plunge.
Ria explains how having exposure to the inner workings of the events industry has been surprisingly useful for her work in theatre.
“It’s given me a sense of scale. Starting with the amazing Crew Chiefs here and then beyond, I’ve had the opportunity to observe how people manage teams. It’s human resource management at its ultimate level. From co-ordinating how you unload an artic, to coordinating how you are going to set-up The Ideal Home Show. Ultimately, the principles are the same.”
“In many ways Theatre Directing involves a similar type of coordinating.”
Ria’s learnt useful practical skills too.
“I’ve gained more knowledge that has fed into my theatre work directly. I knew nothing about truss work and my stage building skills have definitely improved too. I also knew nothing about AV and now I have a much better idea.”
So Jo was right in one respect – crewing isn’t just techy. But what about being a female in a predominantly male workforce?
“Sometimes it’s a thing. Saturday morning I was the only female on the floor of Olympia which was being set up for an event. I think there might have been 200-300 men – and me. There were a couple of women who were doing cleaning, catering and high level organisers lurking but they were not visible.”
“But you know what, I’m glad I’ve experienced it. I find it really interesting.”
“In the past I’ve worked in female dominated environments – stage management being one of them. However, in terms of high profile theatre directors the balance is still weighted toward the male side. And so experiencing that as crew is kind of a funny reflection of that” – and potentially useful.
We were pleased to hear Ria say that she would recommend Connection Crew to others making their way in the world of theatre – male or female. In fact she said she already has:
“A lot of the skills are transferable. And it works the other way too – for people who want to move from theatre to events because it allows you to re-contextualise your knowledge. I’ve spoken with some of our clients who we’ve worked with a lot and a lot of them do come from a theatre background.”
And to other women: “It is a heavy job and there is a minimum requirement, but if you’re up for doing everything you won’t be asked to do more than you can. I would reassure them that Connection Crew are the kind of company that are making an active attempt to address the gender balance and my experience has been really positive.”