For the first edition of our new alumni Q&A series, we sat down with Technical and Production Management (TPM) alumnus, Christian Clark, to hear how Central helped prepare him for his latest role as Deputy Head of Lighting on Matilda, currently touring the UK & Ireland.
What made you want to study Technical and Production Management, and why did you choose to do this at Central?
My main experience prior to Central was in Lighting, but I had a huge appreciation and interest for all departments in a production process. I wanted to have a good overview of all departments and be able to manage the process that makes a show happen.
Central is one of the few drama schools that provide such specific courses in each area of theatre. Technical and Production Management was available at other drama schools but only as part of multi disciplined courses where you may only spend a term in the role if you express interest. I was attracted to Central as the opportunity to focus on one specialised area was a much more appealing prospect, as I already knew what I wanted to spend my three years gaining experience in. It felt like the perfect place to pursue my goals.
Could you tell us a little about your latest role and how this came about?
As Deputy Head of Lighting on the Matilda UK & Ireland Tour, I am responsible for assisting the Head of Lighting in the running and management of the department. I am fully involved with fit up and load outs on the tour, managing local crew, undertaking show plots, maintaining the lighting equipment on the show along with the rest of the team, and covering as Head of Department when annual leave or sickness require it. I recently finished as Assistant Electrician for Wicked's Zürich, UK & Ireland Tour, moving straight onto Matilda from this.
What might a typical working day look like for you at the moment?
Day to day this can vary, but most of the time it will be assisting with the running of the shows each day. This usually involves a lighting rig check, followed by the show during which I can be on our desk, stage or tech plots. Once a week we undertake lighting maintenance to keep the rig clean and in working order. During opening week’s in each venue, working days are longer as we set the show up, rehearse and open to the public.
What other notable work/projects have you been involved in since graduating?
Upon finishing at Central, I started as Assistant Electrician at the Dominion Theatre where I stayed for a year and a half, working on The Bodyguard and An American In Paris. I was also Production Manager for Legally Blonde at the Beck Theatre in North West London during this time. I left London for the touring life with Wicked last October, starting at the Theatre 11 in Zürich before the UK tour this year.
How did the TPM course prepare you for the work you have done since graduating?
The TPM course allowed me to learn the management and people skills needed to work with teams of professionals at the top of our industry. Central has a very multi-cultural intake, with people all over the world coming to study and I always appreciated this as it allowed me to work with a range of people. It allows you to appreciate different ways of working to make a production happen. Although I work in Lighting, management, whether in terms of people or assisting in keeping a show maintained and running, is a skill and something I use everyday. I aim to one day be a Head of Department to fully incorporate everything I learnt at a Central.
Whilst working on the touring production of Wicked, you were involved in the show going to Zurich - could you tell us a little about your experiences of working abroad, what different challenges and opportunities came with this?
Zürich was a fantastic experience, and quite scary to start with! The obvious challenge is the language barrier. Although English is spoken over there, it varies person to person. Working together to make the show happen was a unique experience I will take forward should I work on an international tour in the future. Living in another country for two months and fully taking in the culture was a wonderful experience alongside my job, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone if the opportunity arises.
What key moment was there on your course that you feel you learnt the most from?
The key experience for me was in my second year as Production Manager for Acting CDT show Market Boy in the Embassy Theatre. It challenged me in every way, from managing a show process, a team, my technical knowledge and people skills. It was my first opportunity to manage technical drawings and work through difficult production challenges with other members of the team, whilst keeping the moral of the team high. It also allowed me to work very closely with a director in bringing his creative vision to the stage. The outcome was wonderful, and it remains one of my best achievements to date.
What advice do you have for young people thinking about a career in production management?
My advice for starting a career in Production Management is learn the craft in all departments as much as you can. A good technical knowledge is key, but get any and all experience you can. Volunteer from a young age at your local theatres and look at college courses that offer general courses in Production Arts. Networking is absolutely critical alongside the work you do. Hard work pays off in the end, just keep going at it and places like Central are a fantastic opportunity to refine your craft. Looking back I learnt and gained so much from my time there, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Find out more information about our BA (Hons) Theatre Practice: Technical and Production Management course.
The Technical Production Management course at Central allowed me to learn the management and people skills needed to work with teams of professionals at the top of our industry.