Routes into a Theatre Career

We asked some of Derby Theatre's staff how they got started in Theatre:

Artistic Director and Chief Executive - Sarah Brigham

I trained at Bretton Hall and was very lucky that my degree allowed me to explore Theatre Making as well as Acting and Directing. When I graduated I worked first as an actor mainly in theatre but also Radio, TV and as a workshop facilitator. I toured across the UK and Europe. I then realized I wanted to understand the business from both sides so I went to work for a small theatre company where, as well as going on the road as an an actor and director, I also got the chance to learn about funding, partnership work and how to put young people’s voices at the centre of the work I make. We developed two really key projects in my time there which worked with specific communities, and this has influenced who I want to make theatre with and for ever since. I left there to work at York Theatre Royal as their Youth Theatre Director which gave me the chance to understand making midscale work and how buildings operate. Whilst there I also carried on freelancing with companies like Red Ladder allowing me to make professional studio scale work alongside my work at York. I moved onto Dundee Rep to become Associate Director where I led the Creative Learning Team and was given the opportunity to direct professional work and be a part of the Senior Management Team. I then moved to The Point to become Artistic Director where I learnt what it was to run a building (and open another one as we opened a second theatre whilst I was there) and it’s there that I really honed my understanding of artist development and how to support emerging artists. Whilst at The Point I also launched my own theatre company and undertook some freelance directing to keep my creativity alive whist I learnt the business side. I moved to Derby Theatre in 2013 as Artistic Director and in 2015 became CEO and Artistic Director. I now enjoy combining the creativity of directing with the day to day basis of running the theatre and my passion of supporting Young People and emerging artists.

Head of Learning - Caroline Barth

After studying English and Drama at Sheffield University, I started my own Theatre in Education company with two fellow graduates.  We made work that toured mainly to schools and I built up my experience of writing, performing, making partnerships, fundraising, working with young people and loading the van!  After that, I went on to be Education Manager at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, where I established their Education Programme including the Youth Theatres and the annual Community Play.  I then worked in Theatre Royal Stratford East where I was able to learn more about culturally diverse work and new writing.  I moved to Derby in 2004 to work with Creative Partnerships, which was a nationally funded programme supporting schools to work with creative practitioners.  This was great as I got a chance to work across lots of different art forms and with brilliant practitioners like Dorothy Heathcote and with many different schools.  I joined Derby Theatre in 2013, which has been an amazing chance to work with Sarah Brigham and others to develop a new model – the Learning Theatre.

Freelance Lighting Designer and Lecturer, Technical Theatre - Alex Stafford Marshall

I started working as a casual lighting technician whilst doing a degree in English Literature. I came to what was then Derby Playhouse as Assistant Electrician, became Deputy and then Head of Lighting. I was given the opportunity to start designing lighting whilst still an Assistant and now work as a freelance Lighting Designer and Lecturer.

Technical Stage Manager - Andy Nairn

I started my career in theatre 13 years ago. I worked in several regional reps and touring houses across the country in many different roles. I have worked across most departments backstage before settling in my current role as Technical Stage Manager at Derby Theatre.

Senior Lecturer, Theatre Arts - Ava Hunt

My journey to becoming a part time lecturer was not traditional - I do not come from an academic background and it was not something that was ever part of my plan. I trained as a professional actor working for 20 years acting, directing and producing educational theatre for young people and communities. I worked as an Artistic Director of Yorkshire Women Theatre and then set up my own company, Tangere Arts. In 2003 I applied to join the Theatre Arts team at the University of Deby to teach their Theatre in Education modules. UoD gave me the opportunity to do an MA and my Higher Education teaching qualification along side my research and continuing to practice as an artist. During my career I was lucky enough to be trained and to work with the professions leading practitioners in the field Dr Dorothy Heathcote and Augusto Boal. I did a research project in refugee camps in Palestine and I produced a new one woman show based on my experience called Acting Alone for Wirksworth Festival commissioned by Amnesty International.

IT Technician - Dave Beckford

When I applied for the job as an IT Tech 6 years ago, while I had a few years of experience as a call centre tech, and some education in computers, it was my amateur tinkering, building and self-teaching as a hobbyist that caught the interviewer’s eye.

Senior Marketing and Press Officer - Heidi McKenzie

I started my career in arts marketing during the Derby Playhouse days, and undertook a number of marketing roles. Following a 10-year gap to have my two boys, I returned in 2008 to work in the city in a marketing, communications and press role for Derby LIVE. In April 2012, I returned to work solely for Derby Theatre in my current position as Senior Marketing and Press Officer.

Programme Co-Ordinator - Lauren Barkes

My route into Theatre originally was through education, finishing with a Drama Degree at the Univeristy of Huddersfield in 2011. I then floated between volunteering with theatre companies, performing in community shows and working part time jobs before being lucky enough to secure my first role at Derby Theatre as a Customer Service Assistant in April 2012. Then in September 2013, after working casually for Front of House, Box Office, Marketing and Learning, I finally landed a full time position as Technical Assistant. I spent two years in this position learning a great deal about how theatre worked but after a year, I was eager for a new challenge. The Theatre developed my role to include some programming administration which I really enjoyed learning. However, at that point I was just dipping my toe unsure if the water was warm enough for me to jump in. Then in October 2015, my predecessor handed in their notice and I had a decision to make; to remain in my comfort zone or to dive in. Safe to say I very much decided to dive in (not so elegantly) and here I am as Programme Co-ordinator. It’s not a role I knew existed before working at Derby Theatre and its safe to say through hard work, determination and brilliant support from colleagues that’s how I ended up where I am today. 

Technical Instructor for Theatre Arts - Leann Dawks

I graduated with a BA in Stage Management and Technical Theatre. Touring the country and working at different theatre venues has been a great way to meet people, learn new skills, experience different genres and develop my career. Being a part of the Theatre Arts team based at Derby Theatre, provides students the experience of working alongside professionals within the theatre industry.

Head of Wardrobe - Tim Heywood

I studied Drama and Theatre Arts at University, so didn’t go down the conventional design school route. I think experience is vital so be it with a local Amateur company or youth theatre just get involved and take every opportunity you can. A good wardrobe manager/supervisor needs to be well organised, have a good knowledge of costume history, a sound understanding of costume construction, know about wigs, breaking down, dyes…all sorts!, so the more experience you can get the better.