42 of 50

2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it.

This week, meet Zoe Hayward - Scottish Ballet's Stage Manager. Zoe joined the company in 2013 and plays a key role in taking our productions far and wide, to venues big and small. She gives us a unique insight into life in the wings and shares her experience of being a Stage Manager for a busy touring company.

When did your passion for theatre begin? 

I grew up in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which was surrounded by inspiring producing companies. We had West Yorkshire Playhouse, Opera North… alongside that my school had the most fantastic drama department. You couldn’t go through my school without realising how powerful theatre is.

What does your job involve?

It ranges from being in every single rehearsal and communicating how the production is developing to everyone else in the company, to ‘propping the show’ - that means sourcing, making or buying all the props. And when it comes to going on tour, we’re the ones ‘on the book’ cueing the show. In ballet, we work off a musical score, which means we must be able to read music.

What is the best training you've done?

I did a post graduate diploma in Stage Management at Guildford School of Acting. While I was there I got a placement at Scottish Opera and went on to work with them for several years after graduating. I joined Scottish Ballet as Deputy Stage Manager in 2013.

Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to get in to Stage Management?

Getting formal training is important, a course which is run within a conservatoire or drama school is ideal for getting experience on productions. While you’re there, take every opportunity to do work placements and make links with the industry. You’ve got to put yourself out there and get yourself known. 

What is the best thing about your job?

We work with talented people in fascinating places. The work that we help produce is at the very least going to change the way someone feels about their day, and at the very best can change the way someone sees the world - and that’s quite a cool thing to do for a day job.

What are the challenges?

I think any stage manager will tell you that the stress of the job is always a challenge. The skill is managing those stressful moments. We tour to such a variety of venues, even on our Scottish theatre circuit, the difference between Edinburgh Festival Theatre and His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen is significant. You could be touring to a community centre in Orkney on one tour and then to the Kennedy Centre in Washington on the next - so we need to be able to adapt while keeping the same quality.

What do you love about working at Scottish Ballet?

There are times when you would love to see your own bed, but being a touring company means we get to see some incredible places. I’ve been round lots of America now, and the Far East… we don’t get a lot of time to explore, but when we do, we take every spare moment to breathe it in.

How has The Crucible been different to other productions?

It is a privilege to see all the developments of this production. Helen’s creative style is very spontaneous which makes the rehearsals a lot of fun. In ballet we often have less on the stage than you might have in any other theatre form because you need space to dance. The sort of engineering technology we are using in this production is a new venture for us. We’ve been working with a company called Tait Engineering who more commonly work on the West End and Broadway. The engineering and the mechanics of The Crucible set is complicated. A lot of work has gone into making sure that it all runs smoothly.

How does it feel when the curtain is about to go up? 

It can feel nerve-wracking. There are quite a lot of air-traffic metaphors used to describe moments of a Stage Manager’s job. Two of which being 'take-off' and 'landing'. In the same way a pilot can feel the process is very normal, you can get so caught up in all the small details and things you’ve just dealt with – a costume issue, front of house ticketing problems, you can forget what the audience is feeling. It’s important to remember the electricity that makes our job so awesome.  

What's your 'get up and go' song?