What’s Hidden Backstage?

Watching a live theatre performance is a kind of magic. You’re transported to new worlds, shown different perspectives and given an intimate glimpse into to the lives of strangers. Time stops, disbelief is suspended, your focus transfixed on the stage.

Your attention might be held captive by the goings-on of what’s happening before your eyes, but there’s also a great deal that goes on behind the scenes to make these stories come alive.

This audiovisual piece takes you behind the theatre curtain into the echoic corridors, brightly-lit dressing rooms and dark control booths to show you what’s hidden backstage at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) in Wollongong.

Merrigong Theatre Company manages IPAC and it’s here that we’re introduced to two of its staff, Blair Dutney and Steven Robinson, who take us back-of-house to share some of their industry insights.

Blair is only 24 years old, but his passion and talent for lighting has seen him secure a respected position as Merrigong’s Head of Lighting. He shared a few theatre secrets for this story, including a lesser-known rule originating from his colleague Will Jacobs: “Don’t take your shoes off”.

He explained, “Will took his boots off one day while he was operating and fell asleep on the ‘go button’. He clocked through about 150 cues in 30 seconds. It was one of his first operating gigs, mid-show, for Sydney Theatre Company. I don’t know if STC knows that he fell asleep, but we know!”

Steven’s role with Merrigong is that of Technical Coordinator, responsible for maintaining the venue’s toilets, garbage and air conditioning. “All of those three things are broken all of the time”.

There are plenty of secrets to making the magic happen onstage, but there are also people working behind the scenes with a few hidden talents of their own. Steve revealed, “There’s heaps of techs that are performing artists. I’m only doing this job because I had too many kids”.

“The backstage starts off as a way to pay the bills, and then suckers you in,” Blair added. “Are techs real? No. They’re just other artists that aren’t doing art right now”.

“I’d like to do a gig here and get all the people behind the scenes to do what they do on stage,” said Steve. “We could put on a Wharf Revue style ‘Merrigong Revue’ if we wanted to.”

“And, it’d save Merrigong money because they’ve already got their techs doing it!” quipped Blair.

View the story to see what other secrets of theatre are revealed.

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