UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 23 JANUARY
A BCU alumna is one of the many faces working hard behind the scenes to bring the multi-award-winning musical, Hamilton, to stages across the country in its first UK and Ireland tour. Stage Management alumna Lauren Wood, who joined the Hamilton team last summer, has worked on touring productions since she graduated from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2017.
Hamilton, a musical biography of America’s Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, first hit Broadway in 2015, making its way to the West End two years later.
As part of its first UK tour, the production will be visiting some of Lauren’s favourite venues around the country, including the Birmingham Hippodrome, where her Stage Management career started.
She said: “After graduating, I worked at the Birmingham Hippodrome, as well as at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as a Stage Manager for their Opera course, and as a Stage Manager for various different productions around Birmingham.
“After working at the Hippodrome for four years, I was able to work with familiar faces in the touring industry and when it was time for me to move on, the perfect opportunity came up for me to join the Les Misérables UK tour as a Rehearsal Assistant Stage Manager, which is where my touring career began.”
When asked what it’s like to be on this tour, Lauren said: “I feel honoured to be working on the first ever UK tour of Hamilton. Before this I had never set up a brand-new tour, I loved the rehearsal process and working with a team of people who also had never worked on the show before. Being part of such a large show as popular as Hamilton has been eye-opening, challenging and rewarding.”
As Assistant Stage Manager, the alumna has a busy schedule. “Our day starts with a reset before the physical and vocal warm up for the cast, and once each side of the stage is set and warm up is complete, we start our checks and open the house. If necessary, during warm up, any props that need fixing will be done in this time too.
“We are lucky enough to have a team that can adjust and move around plots on each side of the stage which means we can run both Stage Left and Stage Right. I like alternating sides as it keeps you engaged and you’re able to jump in and help at any time. We have maintenance days every Friday, where props are fixed, replenished, and kept to a standard of a number one UK touring production.”
When asked what it’s like to revisit the Hippodrome, Lauren said: “I love going back to the Birmingham Hippodrome with a touring production. After working there for so many years it’s so nice to go back and see many familiar faces. Visiting Birmingham, where my career in backstage started, is always nostalgic and reminds me of how it all began.”
Before working on Hamilton, Lauren worked on the likes of the Les Misérables UK and Ireland Tour, as well as in London’s West End on The Great British Bake-Off Musical, Grease and SpongeBob the Musical.
She said: “I always believe that touring can teach you so much about your ability to cope under pressure, and how you are able to problem solve in a time limited, high pressured and sometimes stressful environment.
“With touring you’re expected to be a part of the ‘get in and get out’ for every venue for your department, which for stage management includes setting up the wings with all the furniture and props after the set has been built or packing it away. Touring requires organisation, forward thinking, and resilience especially when thinking about the future, smaller and more tricky venues.”
But Lauren’s career in stage management wasn’t always the plan.
She said: “My passion was always to perform, to be onstage and be in front of an audience.
“Before I decided to go to university, I auditioned to London schools to do musical theatre or drama and did so successfully. However, it dawned on me that I knew nothing but to perform, I had no other understanding of theatre except for what’s required of me on stage. I had a niggle in the back of my mind that I longed for a different career and made the very hard decision to try something new.
“I had dabbled in some stage management during my late teens, and I’d directed and ran some small youth groups. I enjoyed the management side of theatre, watching theatre come to life from the other side, so I found the course at the Birmingham School of Acting and never went back. I have no regrets about the decision I made and am grateful the course supported me in doing so.”
Lauren soon learned she had made the right choice. “Having come from a performing background, adjusting to the course was hard at first. However, the more I learned about the backstage world and what it includes, the more I fell in love with the course.
“Without my course, I wouldn’t be where I am today, it taught me everything I need to know about stage management and all backstage departments. It defined my career and showed me what I am capable of doing.
“The Stage Management course taught me the core skills I need to be a good member of the stage management team; it also gives you an insight into all other departments that bring a show to life. Being aware of the people around you, what they do, what their job entails and knowing what is required of you is very important in this industry. The course taught me many skills that I use in my day-to-day work life.
“Theatre has been my lifelong passion for as long as I can remember, I have been involved with theatre my entire life whether it’s school plays, or at my theatre school. I used to love going to watch Pantos at Christmas and going on school trips to the theatre, which I believe are so important at a young age.”
Lauren’s Stage Management course gave her the industry experience she would need to one day work in Musical Theatre.
She said: “During my final year, we were given the opportunity to do some work experience as part of the course. I did mine at the Birmingham Rep and with the creative team at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Both were incredibly eye-opening to the real world of theatre and very good for making contacts in the industry.
“I also worked at the Birmingham Hippodrome throughout my time at university as a casual technician and dresser, which is where my career kick started as I started to meet people working on many different shows.”
In the future, Lauren would love to embark on a world tour with a large musical.
She said: “To see the world and work on a show you love really would be the dream. I love all theatre and musicals, but if I had to pick, then I would love to work on Harry Potter the Cursed Child as I’m intrigued about how they bring the magic to life, and Mary Poppins.”
Lauren has some advice for anyone considering Stage Management.
She said: “Everything you're taught on the course is valuable; you have so many opportunities to tailor the course to your area of expertise and the tutors are so supportive of your journey.
“Embrace other departments with curiosity and importance – the more you understand about those who work around you, the better working relationships you will have on any production, and you will gain the respect you need.
“Most importantly, have fun. Be good at what you do, be kind, be resilient and you will have a thriving career ahead. Remember that everyone started somewhere, there are so many people to ask for advice, to learn from and help guide you to where you want to be.”
Visit our BA (Hons) Stage Management degree course page for full details on entry requirements and how to apply.