A day in the life of an Assistant Stage Manager

24 June 2019

Having graduated from the Royal Holloway, University of London, Amy Batty completed her training in Professional Stage Management at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She experienced the delights of the operatic world for the first time in September 2017 when she joined Welsh National Opera as Assistant Stage Manager (Prop SM) for Janáček’s From the House of the Dead. Four seasons later and she is now fully immersed in the operatic world. We caught up with her to talk all things Don Pasquale and what an average day with WNO on tour looks like for the stage crew.

‘For me, the world of props is rather magical. To date I’ve moved some naked statues around (Don Giovanni), catered for a very lavish party (La traviata) and attended a skeleton-filled masked ball (Un ballo in maschera). I’ve even had a sword fight on stage, dressed as a pirate (WNO Schools Concert).

This summer I’m working on director, Daisy Evans’ refreshed interpretation of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale – a very exciting and deliciously new adaptation of the popular classic. If you’ve never experienced opera before, this is the perfect show to start you off; it’ll have you chuckling from start to finish and may even leave you feeling a bit peckish. It’s got colourful characters, humour, dancing, music and of course, food! One of the best things about this show is its only 2 hours long, including the interval. That’s enough time to see the show and stop by the chippy on your way home.'

'In this show, my main role is to oversee the setting, maintenance and handling of all the props – from the ketchup bottles to the recycling bins; shish kebabs to the spatulas. The quality of the props I get to play with are mind-blowing. This has been proven by the amount of prop food leftover containers being collected by cleaners in the venues we’ve visited on this tour so far.

Our day starts with the get-in. We first unload the show floor; the rigging of the lighting can then begin. The set then comes in so the van build can start; the props and wardrobe follow. There are lots of props inside the van so I usually collect all of these in one area, ready to go in when the coast is clear. It’s such a great atmosphere when everyone is working on their different tasks at the same time because you can see it all slowly coming together.

During the afternoon, we’ll have a lighting session, which needs certain set props to be in their show positions so setting everything is a step by step process throughout the day. Once the lighting session is over, the singers have some time to go over certain numbers so I may have to move some props around for that too. A very important part of the day for a Prop SM is the shout check. After dinner, the stage manager and I will go around onstage and backstage to tick off every single prop we have in the show to make sure nothing has been forgotten.'   

'My favourite part of the show is the interval. We have 20 minutes to change the van’s aesthetic. It’s all hands on deck for this and in some venues; the audience will even get to see the transformation. 

As the curtain comes down, I head to the WNO lorry to get my big empty box, ready for the get-out. My aim is to clear the kebab van so when the crew and electrics get in there I’m not getting in their way. It’s a team effort to get everything packed away and back onto the lorry. It’s then time to say goodbye and look ahead to the next venue. Every day is a satisfying day on tour!

I love working with WNO and I’m thrilled to be returning to the Company next Season as the Assistant Stage Manager for Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen. I cannot wait to see what props I’ll have to play with…’