“There aren’t many communities like the entertainment industry, where individuals from multiple backgrounds, languages, and nationalities come together to collaborate intensely in order to deliver a product. Add to this the different mentality and beliefs of each person. And an intimacy backstage which far surpasses any work environment you will find, let’s say, in an office building. Plus, the fact that there is often little to no privacy before and after work, when housing is being organized for us by our company. People from all walks of life are being thrown together without much opportunity to get out of each other’s way…….”
I often fondly remember working as a diving instructor in the Maldives. Four years of living and working on a small island with individuals from all corners of the globe, in closest quarters, with hardly any privacy.
Teaching students who are sometimes terrified of the element they are about to enter.
Learning a whole new level of social competence, acceptance, and problem solving amongst my colleagues and friends.
Finding moments of peace within my daily responsibilities.
The odd cheese fondue in front of my room was a rare highlight of relaxation… enveloping my staff accommodation neighbours in wave after wave of strong Appenzeller and Gruyere scents.
Now, as a stage manager, I have exchanged the magical deep blue sea with the also magical deep black backstage.
In many ways, it’s just another island.
And, thankfully, learning and growth always continue…
In 2013, I was able to spend a couple months at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. I’ll never forget my time there. On my daily walk up the mountain from home to the theatre, the cold, fresh air did not only clear my lungs but also my mind. Each time I stepped outside through stage door, I would bump into deer, casually sifting through the underbrush surrounding the centre. Who knows, maybe this was just the deers’ way of sneaking in to graze on a bit of culture without paying for a ticket?
Stepping back into the building, I had the privilege to observe a myriad of cultural events backstage. Entertainment professionals generously shared their experiences with me. I learned heaps about theatre management and marvelled at the strong sense of collaboration I found at the Banff Centre. Some day, I need to return there. They offer residencies for writers and I imagine finishing one of my future creations surrounded by brisk mountain air, in one of my favourite places on Earth.
It’s been just three days since I last went through stage door at the Studio City arena in Macau. And I miss being backstage already. Eleven months ago, our show moved into this performance space. Walking into the arena now, you’ll never even know we were there. Yet the time in between was filled with energy, dedication, passion, dreams, intense growth, good days, bad days, misunderstandings, conflicts, good humor, kindness, compassion, joy, and laughter. There’s nothing quite like working with a show family. I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
For four years, I entered this concrete fortress almost every day. What looks like an oppressive Orwellian government building is in fact the Dragone theater in Macau. A visionary creative endeavor was realized here: The House of Dancing Water. It truly is a show like no other. A fairy tale that rises from below the surface. Magic for ninety minutes. Until the princess and her lover disappear into the stygian depths, leaving the audience with a whiff of chlorine and a brief hope for a better tomorrow.
I experienced the creation of this masterpiece in 2010 and left after three years of operation in 2013. The larger-than-life show is still running strong. For me, this building holds a myriad of memories… good and bad. I believe this is where I so far experienced the steepest learning curve. I loved diving through the aquatic depths, loved working with an amazing, international team backstage. Five million gallons of water are hidden behind these walls. Whilst the audience revels in the mysteriousness of the theatrical spectacle unfolding before them, this body of water also holds surprises, drama, friendship, heart, passion, dreams, disappointment, and corporate politics. Whenever a large group of individuals unites forces to work towards a common goal, there is plenty of ambivalence. Nothing is ever perfect. Yet, looking back, I don’t regret a single minute.
Check out my latest article on TheatreArtLife.
If you’ve always wanted to know what it is show divers actually do in their daily work, then this one is for you! Both, Part 2 (and Part 1 I wrote a few months prior) give you unique insight into a world usually hidden from sight – for, like everyone else backstage, our prime goal is to remain invisible at all times, while helping to create magic on stage.
Big thanks to Theatre Art Life for featuring me in their “A Moment With” series. How did I start my career? What was the best role/job/gig I have done and why? What advice would I give my 18-year old self? … and many other interesting questions. Read all about it here …