LDTA Networking Meeting at the Garrick Theatre

The Lichfield Garrick was the venue for our latest LDTA networking meeting, where we took a trip behind the curtain with a backstage tour. LDTA members were welcomed by knowledgeable guide and trained actor Perdita Lawton, who led us through unseen areas of the theatre following in the footsteps of the famous, and revealing the secrets that make a first class show.Lighting room

The theatre was built in 2002 replacing the 1970’s Civic Hall and is named after one of Lichfield’s most famous sons, actor David Garrick. It is an independent charity, part funded by Lichfield District Council.

While visiting the lighting and sound box Perdy explained how vital lighting is to any stage production as it visually and emotionally enriches a performance. Gobo’s are used to project a range of patterns and illuminate actors as they move around the stage, if necessary lights are specially brought in to enhance an act and pyrotechnics are used for a stunning effect.

One of the highlights of our visit was the opportunity to stand on stage and look out at what the actors see. The main auditorium has clear views of the stage throughout, the first four rows of the stalls are flat-floored, remaining seating in the stalls and circle is raked. The Lichfield Garrick has a Proscenium Arch auditorium, this type of design was the most common form of theatre building in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The term “Proscenium Arch” is used to describe any staging configuration in which the audience faces the stage straight-on regardless of whether or not there is a real “arch”.

The studio is smaller in size and used for more intimate performances where no complex scene changes are required. Known as a black box space the area is capable of endless configurations, seating can be changed and the area dressed for any occasion. Plays, monthly film nights, jazz and children’s workshops are among its varied uses. The Studio can be hired for corporate events and Perdy suggested it would be perfect place to host a unique wedding reception!

Our guide showed LDTA members where the Deputy Stage Manager sits during a show and described what an important and varied role this is. The DSM follows the script during a performance and is responsible for ensuring that everyone is in the right place at the right time. Cueing the opening of the show, calling the actors, costume changes, lighting, sound and technical effects are just a few of their responsibilities. Safety is always paramount and once again this falls to the DMS who makes the decision as whether or not it is safe for any special effects go ahead.

The fly tower enables large pieces of set to be lowered down on to the stage very quickly using cables and hoists. In Elizabethan times the fly man’s job and other stage staff were sailors hired from ships in port who had learned to ‘rig’ ships with ropes and pulleys, the technical staff are still known as the crew and the lights used to illuminate the stage are referred to as the lighting rig. It is considered extremely unlucky to whistle in a theatre, as the sailors used coded whistles on ship to communicate and did the same when in the theatre to signify scene changes. If an actor whistled this could confuse the crew into moving the set or scenery at the wrong time resulting in an accident or even death.

A visit to the dressing rooms concluded our tour and we heard about the unusual requests or demands a performer sets as a criteria when visiting any theatre. These requests are known as a “rider list”, Elkie Brooks specified no air fresheners or recently painted walls when she performed at the Garrick. Speakers are located in every dressing room so the cast are aware of what is happening on stage at any given time and the Deputy Stage Managers’ instructions can be heard.

LDTA members had the opportunity to network in the Theatre Bar while enjoying a selection of delicious cakes and coffee rounding off a very interesting and entertaining morning. For more information about hiring any of the rooms at the Garrick or forthcoming shows please visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com or call the box office on 01543 412121.

Our next LDTA networking visit will be to: Wall – Letocetum Roman Site and Museum on Thursday 19th May @ 2pm.

Please let me know if you require transport to Wall.

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