Phare Workshops: Production Management 101
Phare staff and performers often take part in workshops to increase their skills and expand their professional and personal knowledge. Last week, we hosted a production management workshop for our technical crew and invited staff from Epic Arts, Amrita, Cambodia Living Arts, Krousar Thmey, Messenger Band Foundation, and Centre École Formation Professionnelle to join in. The workshop was sponsored as part of a grant from the EU Performing Arts Development Project.
“If you are eager to learn, I am eager to teach,” says Tay Huey Meng, a theatre practitioner specialising in production management, stage management and lighting design. He’s addressing a group of twelve students. They all work behind the scenes jobs in the performing arts at organizations all over Cambodia and are taking part in a production management workshop at Phare, The Cambodian Circus.
The one-week workshop was a primer on “what you need to understand in theatre and what every job does. What is a technical manager? What is a set designer? What is a wardrobe manager? What is their main duty, their role? How does everything fit together?”
There are a lot of people backstage at any production and things work more smoothly when everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing. “A technical manager takes care of the technical aspects of the show, like lighting, sound, etc. The stage manager takes care of organizing and coordinating a production, while a production manager takes a larger view. A production manager coordinates things from the very beginning to the very end, when the show gets taken down and the artists and crew are paid. So it’s a bigger job.”
Meng has worked as a theatre practitioner for 30 years. He started his career as a performer in Singapore, first as a singer, then later as an actor and dancer. In 1990, sensing he wasn’t going to achieve great success on stage, he began to learn how things worked backstage.
“I first started as a stage manager, but now I do more technical management, production management and lighting design. I work in Singapore, but, because it is a very small country, many groups find chances to perform overseas. I’ve had the chance to work in over 30 countries and more than 100 cities worldwide, and I don’t restrict myself to only lighting design or a technical management, I take on other roles. And I also work with many kinds of artistic groups from theatre and dance to Chinese opera.”
With all this experience, it was difficult to fit everything into a one-week workshop. After the third day, Meng’s students were already a little overwhelmed by the amount of information. Says Sothon Ann, an Operations Assistant from Epic Arts in Kampot, “We’re learning the basics of the stage, any stage and every stage. It’s a lot of information and a lot to remember. Last night we all watched the show together and then discussed it. And today we are learning how to install a new floor. So we are learning many things. But I’m very happy to be here and to see different ways to do things.”
Few, if any, of the workshop participants have formal training in theatre production. Most have learned on the job and have different levels of knowledge about various aspects of production management. As a result it’s a challenging group to teach. But Meng says it’s a familiar situation for him. “I didn’t go to school to learn these things. I learned from other people as I was working, so I’m happy to pass on the knowledge to others in this way.”
Read about some of the other workshops that Phare cast and crew have taken part in, from financial literacy to lighting design, here.