During every opening night party someone will ask: “What part did you play in the show?” As a stage manager, I answer: “Oh no, I work backstage”. This is usually followed by a look of disappointment that I’m not one of the singers or actors they applauded during the curtain call. As sponsors or audience members they fail to comprehend the number of people involved in a production who never get seen on stage.
This started me thinking about the diverse range of people and skills involved in creating the performances we enjoy watching and the lack of recognition for them at traditional award ceremonies. I wanted to create a platform for designers, directors and producers to recognise the work and people who helped them to achieve their visions.
Three years later as I sit with the Technical Theatre Awards team, waiting for our flight to Berlin for the Stage Set Scenery exhibition, I reflect on how this idea became a reality.
It was over a drink (or two) in the Globe pub in Bow Street that the idea was proposed to create a set of awards highlighting the outstanding work of people working backstage. Originally conceived as a small event, most likely to be held in that very pub, the awards instantly gained the support of large companies in the industry such as Phillips, Triple E and PLASA. The first awards were presented two years ago on the Theatres Trust stage at PLASA London Excel Centre.
The awards are operated by a group of volunteers and I have always felt that I am merely a facilitator – the industry itself is in control of how they grow and develop.
During a birthday party for one of our sponsors, Charcoalblue, a previous TTA winner suggested that we needed to improve the nomination process to validate our nominees and winners further. A particularly interesting statement to make as they had won.
So this year we decided to create an independent shortlisting committee, made up of representatives from as many industry bodies and organisations as we could get together, to create an encompassing independent group. This would ensure a fair adjudication from unbiased theatrical professionals.
As the TTAs continue to grow, we have changed the location and in 2015 the awards will be hosted on the Sunborn yacht in the Royal Docks. This is the first step in my vision of seeing the awards presented in a theatre.
In the future I envisage the venue for the TTAs will change yearly with theatres offering to host the awards. The nominees and guests will sit at tables drinking and eating (with the twist that this would all be on stage) and the presenters and hosts backed by the auditorium.
With the continued support of the theatrical industry I hope this vision will soon become a reality. For now I had better get back to work promoting the awards in Berlin.