Stage Managing Nights at the Museum

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A student post by Marita Arvaniti, Programme Management Intern, The Hunterian.

When I moved to Glasgow I expected a lot of things; the libraries, the university, the city itself. I did not expect to be spending a good part of my winter interning for The Hunterian and helping in the preparation of the two Night at the Museum events! I first got involved with the Fantasy at the Museum event, along with a number of classmates as we all volunteered to help out. My background in theatre led me to volunteer for the role of stage manager, although I didn’t expect that I would be lucky enough to do that as an intern!

As a stage manager, I was kept pretty busy both in the lead up to the events and on the actual nights. I spent most of my time communicating with performers and organizers alike, trying to iron out the details of how each performance should run; both for the Scottish Fantasy and the Robert Burns events. My job was simple in theory; make sure that everything ran as scheduled and everyone was satisfied. The pop-up performances are an integral part of the Night at the Museum events after all, and they need to both fit the theme of the night and run smoothly during the event. The key to achieving this, it looked like, was a great deal of running around. Thankfully I’d made certain that I wore sensible shoes for both nights.

For the Fantasy event, our performances were varied in kind. They ranged from the reading of Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘The Loch Ness Monster’s Song’ by Professor Alan Riach, to Laura Richmond’s Superhero Science, the hauntingly beautiful border ballads sung by Kath Cambell, and –last but certainly not least– a performance by Bert Finkle and the Markee de Saw, stars of the Glasgow Cabaret scene. It was a beautiful lineup, perfectly balancing musical and non-musical performances and keeping the audience enthralled. I also worked in close contact with the night’s Master of Ceremonies, Professor Rob Maslen, one of the driving forces behind the arrangement of the Scottish Fantasy event. Between the two of us, we somehow managed to leave everyone happy; audience and performers alike!

For the Burns event the role of Master of Ceremonies fell to me along with my other role. Thankfully the Fantasy event had prepared me for it, and a good thing too because the performances were many and each act had completely different needs. The night opened with the University of Glasgow’s very own choir who, under the guiding hand of Katy Cooper, sang a collection of Burns’ songs. This time the programme was full of music, and to best showcase the year’s theme Burns in Translation, the next performers were decidedly not Scottish. A trio of grad students from the university, calling themselves the Celtic Pretenders took over the stage, singing Robbie’s poems in English and Spanish! But translation can be about genre too, and so our final band for the night was no others but the self-appointed Scottish Beatles, The Bum-clocks. A truly rock ‘n’ roll performance to end a very rocking night! And woven through it all were poetry readings in various languages, given by students standing on the balcony overlooking the exhibition space, their voice echoing down to the audience.

Looking back at it, it’s hard to know exactly what to say about my time as an intern. Every time I start it feels as if the whole process lasted no time at all, but instead flew by in a rush of activity and movement. What remains is fragments: standing on the side of the stage as one performer or other enchants the audience, running to the balcony in an effort to solve an issue during soundchecks, writing emails and making program drafts. What remains is the feeling of a job well done at the end of the night, of knowing that you played a small but important part in creating a magical evening, and, perhaps most importantly, of being a part of a strong and caring team of people that will support and help you when needed.

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The Hunterian is grateful to Scotland’s Winter Festivals and the University of Glasgow Chancellor’s Fund for their generous support.

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