Work Experience at Birmingham Hippodrome

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Here at Birmingham Hippodrome we offer one week placements to young people who want a taster of what working in a big theatre is like. Our work experience placements are designed to give young people an idea of what happens during the day-to-day life of a presenting theatre, exploring the range of work that goes on behind the scenes. We recently welcomed 15 year old Shania Shaffi from Phoenix Collegiate School. This placement in particular was slightly different as Shania is visually impaired, so staff adapted work experience tasks to suit Shania’s needs. Here’s Shania’s own account of how her placement here at Birmingham Hippodrome went.

“I first arrived at the theatre on Monday with my support teacher Miss Dowling; we started off our day with a tour of the Hippodrome guided by Administration Assistant Grace Morgan who looks after work experience students. Grace showed us all around the building and all the different departments and conference rooms such as the Patrick Centre studio. We then went to the box office were I met Richard Wood who showed me how the box office worked. I spent some time with Richard listening to some of the phone calls that he was receiving from customers wanting to book tickets for different shows. Everyone in the box office was really friendly and made me feel comfortable in the working environment. Richard who is also visually impaired also gave me good advice about going to university in the future and how I should deal with it being a visually impaired person. I felt comfortable talking to Richard about being visually impaired and chatting to him about how I cope with things at school. I found learning how the box office works very interesting.

On the second day I arrived in the morning and worked in the offices with Rachel Smith from the Education Department. I was working on a mood board in the Pinterest app on my IPad, the theme for the board was a toy shop for a ballet called The Nutcracker where the toys come to life after the toy shop closes. This was my first time using Pinterest and I really enjoyed it. Everyone was really nice and loved my mood board. After lunch I then went to a primary school called St. Bernadette’s where I watched the Year 6 children practice Annie the musical which was really fun.

On the third day I arrived at the theatre in the morning, and Grace took me to interview different staff members so I could learn about different roles in the Hippodrome. We first interviewed Mark O’ Dwyer from IT, Becky Poulton from finance, Charlie Pette from conference and events, Rosanna Milsom from Development and Amy Haycock from press. They all told me about their job, what they do every day and how much they all enjoy it.

Over all I’ve really enjoyed being at the Hippodrome and I have learnt so much about the theatre itself and the lovely people that work there, and I feel really  thankful and lucky for this experience.”

For more information on our Work Experience Scheme please visit our website – please note all places for 2015 are fully booked.  

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Birmingham born Drew McOnie on choreographing a new production of classic musical Oklahoma!

Here from 30 June to 4 July, a new Music & Lyrics production of feel good musical Oklahoma! has been choreographed by Birmingham born Drew McOnie. We chatted to Drew about his Brummie roots and the inspiration behind the boot stomping dances in Oklahoma!

Tell us about Oklahoma! What inspired your choreography for this?

Oklahoma! is one of the most iconic musicals in theatre history. It redefined what the art form could achieve, in particular with the use of dance as a narrative device. Agnes de Mille, the original choreographer has had a huge impact on my career and indeed on the industry I now lovingly work in. Our production takes it cue from the original in as much as it’s ambition and hunger for the merging of art forms but I think it finds a new muscularity that is proving very appealing to modern audiences.

You’re a Brummie – do you come home to Birmingham a lot?

As often as I can. I have a puppy I share with my parents so we swap him as often as possible. I bet my mom would say I don’t come back enough but I’m there when there is a break in my rehearsal schedule.

What do you like to do when you come back to Birmingham?

Mostly spend time with my niece and nephew. They are growing up very quickly so I enjoy seeing them. We take them to adventure play grounds and I embarrass myself by trying to fit down the slides. If I’m not there then I’m walking the dog around the canals.

If you could recommend somewhere to eat to the rest of the cast what would it be?

Well for a special treat I would recommend Purnells as they do an incredible 7 course taster menu. Another favourite of mine is Bar Estillo in the Mailbox. It’s lovely being so close to the water.

Where do you like to shop?

I probably go between Harvey Nichols at the Mailbox and Selfridges in the Bullring. I don’t usually buy all that much but love to look around!

What are your memories of Birmingham Hippodrome?

Growing up a brummie made the Hippodrome a regular haunt of mine. I remember seeing all the major shows and sitting in the dark wishing all the wonderful imagery had come from my imagination. I remember waiting outside the stage door and meeting Wayne Sleep and being totally in awe of him. I also remember touring there regularly with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures dance company and feeling proud as punch of the facilities in the building and the passionate supportive audiences. It was a particular favourite of even the dancers who weren’t from the area. It also goes without saying that Birmingham has the best Panto in the country so I have been pretty spoilt from the get go. Choreographing last year’s Panto and getting to take my family to watch the show has to be one of my favourite memories.

What advice would you give to any young people who are interested in a career as a choreographer?

Don’t wait to be ‘ready’ or ‘old enough’. Everyone has the right to express themselves and if the way you want to do it is through dance making then start now. No one is going to ask you to start living your dream. Get in a studio and work hard, learn your craft, keep a sense of humour and strive to fall in love with the process as that’s the constant. Everything else comes and goes.

What was the easiest thing about choreographing Oklahoma!?

Getting up in the morning… I was very happy to be going to work. Also the collaborative process, the whole team came together in a very exciting and satisfying way. It was a joy to work on and that was largely down the cast and creative team.

What was the hardest thing?

Dealing with the show’s history. There was a huge amount of pressure on me to create an event on stage with the dances. I was determined to not let the show down. It gave me many sleepless nights but I’m now extremely proud of what we have achieved.

Which part of the show is your favourite?

I would probably I have to say the dream ballet. It was an epic monster to battle with and I adored every minute of it. I still get very emotional watching the end sequence. Watching how much the cast give every night is very inspiring and the way the music and movement comes together gets me every time!

Oklahoma! is here from Tuesday 30 June to Saturday 4 July. For tickets please click here or call our Box Office on 0844 338 5000 #BHoklahoma

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Special event brings Trustees past and present together

We will be saying a very sad farewell to our Chief Executive Stuart Griffiths on 3 July after 13 years.

Birmingham Hippodrome board past and present

Stuart Griffiths surrounded by Board members past and present, wives and husbands, Hippodrome staff and former Hippodrome theatre director Peter Todd.

Ahead of him leaving,  a special drinks reception was held in Studio 5 which brought together Trustees, past and present, of Birmingham Hippodrome Development Trust and Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust boards to thank Stuart for his enormous contribution to the success of the theatre.

It was a rare occasion to have so many of our dedicated Trustees in one room talking about their time here and their fond memories.

John Crabtree and Stuart Griffiths

John Crabtree and Stuart Griffiths

Chairman of Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust John Crabtree gave a speech thanking Stuart before presenting him with a special seat plaque which will be placed on seat M36 in the stalls and reads “Think we got away with it”.

A full interview with Stuart talking about his time here features in the June 25 edition of Birmingham Post and will be available online at Birmingham Post soon.