Sophie studies BA Fine Art at the University of Leeds and is currently on her year abroad in Marseille, France.
I somehow landed a designer role for my first show in Backstage as the Set Designer for Guys and Dolls! I knew before I got into Leeds that I wanted to join societies, and Backstage really interested me. So I signed up at the freshers fair and finally replied to a crew call a few weeks later. I enjoyed the stress and chaos of pre production and loved the atmosphere of the show nights. For the next two years after Guys and Dolls I set designed two more shows and helped on lots of set build crews. I’m an art student so have always loved art and craft but especially enjoyed learning to build and design safe sets and working with the production team.
My advice to any newbie at Backstage would be get really stuck in early on, even if the other members seem intimidating, they’re not, so just chat to them. You’ll see that it’s a really easy group to become part of and everyone is lovely! Then, after that, my advice is also make sure you study, as much as Backstage is my favourite part of uni, it’s, unfortunately, not what I’m paying £9k a year for. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news).
“I love making something and seeing it used on stage and the difference it can make to a performance.”
As for what to do at Backstage, of course I recommend set! I love making something and seeing it used on stage and the difference it can make to a performance. Obviously, all areas of Backstage make a huge difference to the performance but there is something nice about the physicality of set. The great thing about set is the range of what you can do. I would recommend to any designer to try to push this; the production team will probably give you an idea of what they want but if you have your own idea in mind sometimes there is room to play with. I also like working with the budget and having to be inventive with your money.
One of my best memories of my university life so far was joint set designing with Freddy Marlow (Hardcore Backstager) for West Side Story. The set involved creating a three-sided metal cage on stage and graffiti-ing all over the floors and walls, something we could only do because of the union upgrade! Working together with Freddy meant we had a good mix of the art side and technical side of set and, in my humble opinion, this made for a pretty good team. I loved going to see the show with my non-backstage friends and showing them our set! This is why I love set design at Backstage AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO.
“I gained many valuable experiences and skills working with Backstage for the past two years and cannot recommend it more if you’re looking for somethings to add to your CV.”
As well as set, I have dabbled in other areas of Backstage too. Most importantly committee and as Production Manager for Opera Soc’s Magic Flute. Again, I definitely recommend applying for Production Manager when you feel you understand enough about Backstage as a whole. This was a brilliant experience both emotionally, as it was so rewarding to see the show you have worked to produce for months succeed but also as an experience to cite in job interviews and write on CVs. I gained many valuable experiences and skills working with Backstage for the past two years and cannot recommend it more if you’re looking for somethings to add to your CV.
As for committee; last year I was the Publicity and Communications Secretary, for Backstage Society. Committee was wonderful for the life experience but more importantly for the people I was able to work alongside. Four hour long committee meetings, loading out whilst everyone else is at Fruity Friday (actually this only happened once and was great), and crazy amounts of union food sums up my year on committee. This may not all sound wonderful and occasionally it doesn’t feel it at the time but I absolutely loved my year on committee! Backstage does so many great things and really feels like an important part of the union. It’s a great feeling being part of that, even if it is a small part. I met some of my favourite people in and through Backstage which makes any 3am finish totally worthwhile.
By Sophie Bullen
Posted on 8th October 2016