Townsville’s live theatre scene is often complimented as great…“for Townsville”, and one local is here to tell you that it’s actually great, full stop: on the stage, and behind it.
Legally Blonde Townsville Choral Society 2015 at Townsville Civic Theatre.
Katie Boyd, 32, has already been immersed in theatre for two decades, and has participated as a musician, technician, stage manager, production manager, and programming officer, so you could say she has a pretty good eye for this sort of thing. “Townsville has such a huge wealth of talent and variety, and the standard is amazing.”
“There’s a thriving live theatre scene here – straight theatre, musical theatre, dance, music; it’s all represented, and it’s all locally produced. Add the touring shows to that and there’s something to do just about every weekend. We’re really spoiled for choice.”
Starting in the orchestra pit while still in school, Katie found herself immediately drawn to the less obvious parts of a show: all the things out of the spotlight. She followed her nose, helping with microphones, show set up, lighting, backstage crew and eventually as stage manager, volunteering countless hours to local theatre companies while completing a Bachelor of Theatre (Production) at James Cook University.
I’ve never wanted to be a performer, but there are so many people looking for a chance to shine, and we make that happen. – Katie Boyd
When asked about her biggest influences, Katie doesn’t hesitate in recognising the late Brian and Daphne Pease; two stalwarts of the Townsville theatre community.
“I got into Production Management by following two of my favourite people in the entire world around (Brian and Daphne), asking questions and offering my help. When Daph passed away, Brian took a big step back and I stepped up to help. He worked closely with me as a mentor on a number of shows after that until he passed away last year.”
Katie is currently producing Wicked; a show that was supposed to be her next one with Brian at her side. Though an emotional decision, she has chosen to continue with the most challenging and biggest profiled show she’s produced in Brian’s honour.
“The relationships you form in this industry are intense, and you often see your colleagues more than your family. In fact, some of my closest friends have come out of working on shows together, and they are like an extended family now.”
Spring Awakening Townsville Choral Society 2014 at Riverway.
Among Katie’s favourite show experiences is Chicago (where she played seven different instruments in the orchestra) and Chess, which had the biggest cast and crew that she’s worked with. She’s also partial to seeing the appreciation of audiences at Carols by Candlelight and Anzac Day Dawn Services; audiences who often don’t even know she’s there.
“If you’re doing something like sound and lighting, or working in the backstage crew, you’re an integral part of the show, but you don’t want to stand out. Your success comes from making other people’s dreams a reality: I’ve never wanted to be a performer, but there are so many people looking for a chance to shine, and we make that happen.”
Katie’s work isn’t limited to the stage wings. As a production manager she looks after everything from auditions, rehearsal materials, schedules, cast lists, departmental meetings, photo shoots and volunteer recruitment, to liaising with venue staff, managing budgets and even the occasional assistance with marketing and sponsorship.
“The whole process is definitely not a solo responsibility! Part of being a production manager is making sure you’re surrounded by a great team. It’s a lot of working with other people who know their speciality, and bringing everyone together to deliver something amazing.”
Katie describes being a stage manager as being someone who brings order to the chaos. Ultimately the stage manager is the boss once the show’s on the stage and it’s a huge responsibility that requires patience and initiative.
Production management is, as Katie puts it, “a different beast altogether”. In this extremely important role, Katie takes on all of the peripheral work needed to get a show in front of an audience, freeing up the directing team to focus on managing the cast. An all-consuming position, production management isn’t limited to three or four rehearsals a week and can be an unforgiving and thankless job.
“You need to be thick-skinned, super organised, adrenaline fuelled, and immensely focused. Of course you also have to love it, because if you’re not having fun, it just becomes a chore.”
“It’s far too big a job to be a chore.”
But despite the hours involved and the potential for stressful situations, Katie wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her pathway to other people curious about theatre roles that aren’t in the spotlight. Her recommendations include getting involved in anything and everything behind the scenes to see what lights a spark.
“It’s a bit of a process, but it’s such a great world to be a part of. Don’t hesitate, do it.”