Here at CFT our Learning, Education and Participation (LEAP) department run an annual Work Experience programme designed to support anyone interested in pursuing a career in theatre, those exploring if theatre is right for them, or students taking part in college or university placements.
During July, Sophie Turner joined our Marketing department for a week. Sophie worked with the team on a number of shows, projects and marketing channels as well as our Light a Spark campaign, and wrote this article.
Light a Spark – audiences' first memories of theatre
To inspire a new generation of audiences, we asked people for their first memories of going to the theatre. The value of the arts within hearts and minds can be difficult to quantify. These memories are all different but what is clear is that theatre has a powerful and lasting effect that stays with people for a lifetime.
Natalie describes how her eagerness and excitement for theatre has never left her since watching Les Misérables as a child: “I was too small to see properly so spent the whole show on my father's lap, craning my neck to see the stage. I was captivated by the music, the costumes and the set. The anticipation I felt as a small child is replayed every time I sit to watch a show. At least now I am tall enough to sit in my own seat... just."
Now, years later I’ve come full circle and get to share the magic with my own pupils as their drama teacher
Many theatre-goers talk of the ‘magic’ of theatre; a sense that you can be transformed into a place far away from daily life. Donna Steele talks of her first experience as a literal ‘lightbulb moment’ watching a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company:
“The theatre was full of hanging lightbulbs and the magic of these lighting up was hair-raising. I couldn’t believe the simplicity and impact of this moment. Now, years later I’ve come full circle and get to share the magic with my own pupils as their drama teacher.”
There is a sense of belonging that people identify with their early memories, when discovering theatre. Watching Running Wild at Chichester, Kieran Turnball describes “feeling as if I had been transported out of the auditorium and into the story as if I was a part of it." Ben Caligari similarly describes a sense of home-coming when watching his first show where: “… by the end of the Finale all the tap numbers and glitzy costumes convinced me that was my home. My happy place.”
I just knew how powerful theatre can be and I’ve loved theatre ever since.
For others, theatre offers a space to feel one’s emotions deeply. Tyrone Baptiste recalls watching a production of Things I Know to Be True at CFT:
“My drama teacher said theatre will affect you physically and emotionally. I didn't believe her. How wrong I was […] when we got out of the theatre, I broke down completely in the foyer of the Minerva and in that moment I just knew how powerful theatre can be and I’ve loved theatre ever since.”
These initial moments have a lasting impact; for many it has become a second home, inspiring a career within the arts. Nick Langford describes being transfixed at his first theatre visit:
“At the interval my mother offered me an ice cream. No response. “Are you alright?” she asked. I replied in a hushed whisper, “Isn’t it wonderful?” My love of theatre was ignited, and I have enjoyed a rewarding career as a theatre technician.”
A live moment of theatre can never be repeated but the memories remain and inspire return trips back to the stage. Reflecting upon her first visit to the theatre, Maggie describes how she went to see Billy Liar and now fifty years later, “the love of theatre has never left me. I know it never will.”
Be part of our new exhibition opening later this year by sharing your first theatre memory with us. Head over to our Light a Spark webpage to add yours.
Light a Spark
We all remember our first theatre visit. The moment the lights go down. The excited ripple that goes through the audience. It's truly something special.
Support our Light a Spark campaign and you could gift someone that experience for the first time.