Getting a performance stage-ready takes more than the theatre company or actors who are cast in the show. In this mini-series, reporter Dana Anderson looks behind the curtain and spotlights those crucial to the success of theatre, but who often go unrecognised.
Launceston is fortunate to have the Princess Theatre on its doorstep - an institution that was built in 1911 and seats 944 patrons. Over its lifetime, many performances and competitions have graced the stage. Front-of-house manager Linda Wise has seen more than a decade of shows bump in and out of the space.
Ms Wise was originally employed as a front-of-house staff member and within a few weeks was offered the front-of-house manager position.
"I do everything in regards to front-of-house. I have got a great team of about 20 front-of-house staff," she said.
"I liaise and coordinate rosters, and anything that needs to be done for getting a show up and running. If it's a show where we use volunteers, I train all our volunteers.
"There's a bit of admin work that goes on during the day and then every time there is a show I'm here."
Ms Wise said she enjoyed being organised and liked everything to feel like it was in control, as the main reason people would come to the theatre was for entertainment and to relax.
"Patrons want to escape what is going on out there in the world and they just want to sit down for a couple of hours and enjoy whatever is on stage. I make sure everything runs smoothly for them to be able to enjoy it," she said.
Safety is rarely something theatre attendees think about, but it is Ms Wise's job to make sure staff are trained to deal with any situations that arise, and that patrons feel safe.
This included during COVID-19 when restrictions heavily impacted the theatre. Numbers were capped and procedures had to change, but now the theatre is close to being back to normal - except for foyer restrictions.
Ms Wise took performing arts at university and wanted to be a teacher. When she realised that would not happen for her, she went off to have her family and then when she wanted back in the workforce, she found herself at the theatre.
"Look at this place. I'm in awe of her beauty, and who gets to say they come and work at a place like this," she said.
"I think because of this building, [the staff] have all got a bit of an ownership to it [with their own history].
What child can get to say they have performed on the stage that these big touring artists have performed on. There are not many places you get that opportunity and I think that's what is special about this place.- Princess Theatre manager Linda Wise
Ms Wise said the past 18 months had shown just how much people had missed attending the theatre - with Mamma Mia recently breaking attendance records with more than 12,500 people through the doors in three weeks - including her and her staff.
However, the COVID-19 period did allow the team to get jobs done that had been pushed to one side, including the archiving of posters. For Ms Wise, seeing some of the older posters brought back memories of previous shows with people such as Tina Arena, The Russian Ballet, dressing The Australian Ballet, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Wiggles, The Seekers, and Bill Bailey.
"It's just the difference on genres that come through these doors. It's not just musical theatre, it's concert-goers, serious playwrights, it's that lovely mix we get," she said.
Though Ms Wise has met plenty of incredible people during her time at the theatre, she admitted the job was not always as glamourous as people assumed, with staff often so busy behind the scenes they were unable to actually watch the shows that were on stage.
Next year brings with it the 2022 season of theatre, which Ms Wise is excited to support and cannot wait to see the excited buzz from patrons around the city again.
Theatre North's box office supervisor Emily Gleeson said she was especially excited for several of the 2022 shows including Shake & Stir's production of Jane Eyre, This is Eden, and tuylupa - a performance in conjunction with the Mona Foma festival.
Ms Gleeson started with the theatre six years ago as a front-of-house staff member. The fit was natural as her mother had worked at the theatre and it became a second home for the now box office supervisor.
"I was already one of the family and then a job opening came up and I was like, hello! I worked my way up through sheer persistence and stubbornness," she said.
"Day-to-day my job is managing the box office team [staffing, rosters], but then also all of the customer relations for box office [ticket sales, show communication]."
One of Ms Gleeson's favourite parts of the job is meeting people and introducing them to theatre. She loves that her regulars know her by name and that she knows them by name too, though when she first started she wondered how she would remember everyone.
The pandemic was a long period for the box office team who were processing thousands of refunds and walking people through postponements or cancellations. Ms Gleeson found the time saddening and difficult.
"It's exciting to be selling instead of refunding and exciting to see people so keen to be back," Ms Gleeson said.
"Everyone who comes through the door talks about how much they missed it and how thrilled they are to be back. This is a really cool office but it's not much without the people in it."
One of the highlights for Ms Gleeson during the COVID-19 period was when theatre started to return to the stage, and the Princess held Coming Home - a community-led fundraiser.
During that first round of applause, I don't think a single staff member had a dry eye which was pretty special.- Princess Theatre manager Linda Wise
Ms Gleeson urged people to approach the box office staff with their questions, whether that was about what shows were on, general ticket information, or a mistake when purchasing. She had someone during Mamma Mia show up on the wrong day, with her ticket for a previous show. The show was sold out, but the team worked something out.
"We're here to problem solve ... there is not much we can't fix, but we can't fix it if people don't tell us," she said.
"I get the theatre can be a little intimidating sometimes. Especially the Princess - it's a Launceston institution - but we are a community organisation at heart. We want everyone to have a good time."
Ms Gleeson echoed Ms Wise's statement in that staff rarely were able to see parts of a show, let alone a full performance unless they booked tickets themselves. However, there was often a juggle if a show was one-night-only and several of them wanted to see it.
Stay tuned for part two of the Behind The Curtain series.
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