Jacqui Findlay is our Course Director for BA (Hons) Stage Management. She tells us how her career path led her to realise her excellent organisation skills were ideal for running the show backstage, and ultimately training the stage managers of the future for the past 11 years (and counting!)
Stage Management Course Director
I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Dance and Theatre Arts, but it was always the theatre arts area that I was more interested in. Initially I thought I wanted to be a scenic designer but then quickly realised I could make a career out of making lists, planning schedules and organising people! So, the stage management module in my first year of university is where it all started to fall into place, and I haven’t looked back since.
Working as a freelance stage and tour manager both nationally and internationally. I had a fantastic time seeing the world and creating some amazing pieces of theatre with fantastic colleagues. Working on everything from children’s theatre to opera, pantomime to contemporary dance; the variety meant every day I was learning and facing new challenges.
Coming back to Birmingham and working at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (or Birmingham School of Acting as it was back then) as Production Manager for the acting shows, and employing freelance stage management teams, we saw the opportunity for creating our own stage management course so we could meet the demand internally. Fast forward 11 years, and we’re now generating our own fantastic Stage Managers that are industry-ready and often have confirmed employment before they even graduate!
We produce 14 full-scale shows over the academic year; add to that the projects, workshops, installations etc. and we’re up to around 21 productions, which take place in a variety of venues across the city. Each venue comes with its own challenges, and I think it’s a great opportunity for the students – it’s effectively like we’re going on tour with each production.
Working from our own production facilities at unit 3b, the students work alongside our full-time production department to create costumes, props, set design and technical elements. Their class work is then mainly delivered by Visiting Tutors who are working in the industry, and come in to deliver those specialist modules.
With so much happening, it’s a demanding and intense course which mirrors industry standards and produces proactive, creative individuals. No two days are the same, so it requires organisation, communication, flexibility and often problem solving – some key life skills!