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Sophia Dalton: Interview with a London based Stage Manager

Sophia Dalton: Interview with a London based Stage Manager
By Michelle Sciarrotta

Sophia Dalton is an Australian Stage Manager based in London. She discovered a love of new writing early in her career at Queensland Theatre and has worked on new plays for the Hampstead Theatre, Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company. A lover of travel, Sophia has toured across Australia, the UK and internationally with her work.

How did you begin working as a Stage Manager, and where did your love for the field start?

I was introduced to Stage Management by my high school drama teacher, Mr Norden. It was after I auditioned for an inter-school drama festival. I’m not sure what prompted him – perhaps I was just terrible, but afterwards he pulled me aside to ask if I knew what a Stage Manager was. I wasn’t sure, but he suggested I should be one for the show, and I thought “why not?”. I remember loving the feeling of sitting in prompt corner, cueing the show, and once I discovered that you could study Stage Management at University I set my sights on becoming a professional.

What has been your happiest moment, or career highlight so far?

Picking just one is tricky, but it would probably be working as DSM on the revival of David Hare’s “The Judas Kiss”. We opened in London at Hampstead Theatre, toured the UK, then transferred to the West End, and several years later revived the show for short runs in both Toronto and New York. It was my first West End job, so I was constantly learning. The company got on really well so we had heaps of fun, and we had an Australian Director and Designer, so I could finally use Aussie slang and be understood!

What has been your biggest learning curve?

Probably teaching in Palestine at Al-Harah Performing Arts Training Center. Knowing that this was the first course of its kind in the region, I spent days creating a unit to introduce Stage Management to 25+ young Theatre makers. On arrival, I quickly discovered that there were many other factors to consider.

The next day I started again, this time taking into account the time needed for translation, working with the other international trainers to help the students to see Stage Management in the context of their other training, and introducing them to things like Health and Safety based on local venues.

We finished with a colourful promenade performance which was stage managed by the students, through the streets of Beit-Jala, and then held a roof-top celebration and disco. It’s wonderful to have played a small part in the formal introduction of Stage Management training to Palestine, and I’m also proud to have been part of the journey for the first female Stage Manager in Palestine, Jihan Rezeqallah, who is now studying her MA in Stage and Event Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

What advice would you give to those hoping to enter the field?

There is no one way to stage manage a show – what you bring is unique and valuable to the creative process. I would also say that there is so much to learn from the smaller jobs when you start out; listening and watching those above you will provide a great base as you take on more responsibility.

“If you don’t know, ask!” – Sophia Dalton

Read as much as you can about leadership and people management, because people are the key. Finally, let go of perfection and aim for excellence, because it will never be perfect!

How has Covid-19 affected your roles and the industry? How do you think it will change how we work in the future?

I think we are in a dynamic time of change, for Stage Management as well as the industry as a whole. I spotted a great quote by Leslie Dwight on Instagram, which starts by asking:

“What if 2020 isn’t cancelled? What if 2020 is the year that we’ve been waiting for?”

I admit it’s scary to be a freelancer in the current climate, it’s June and we still don’t know when our industry will restart again, or what it might look like. Despite this, I’m encouraged by the fact that there are many conversations being had, at all levels of the industry, to examine how we improve and make changes to make conditions better, and make the industry more inclusive when we do restart.

What resources have you found helpful to keep you going during these strange times?

I am definitely reading The Stage more regularly, and I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us” which is not industry related, but it is full of fascinating discussions about the universal human experience. I’ve also been listening to “Standing By”, which is a new Stage Management podcast by Antonia Collins and Jacqui George.

Web | www.sophiadalton.com

Sophia Dalton

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

Tom Down: Interview with a London based Painter

Naomi Larsson: On Lifting Each Other Up

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