Setting the stage for a performing arts career

December 19, 2018

Jaydin (Jay) Shingleton is a budding technician at the NBS Theatre in Westport, who has been learning fast by throwing himself into his work – and now he is getting a qualification while on the job.

Jay (pictured above) has been working at NBS Theatre for a year and a half, and recently signed up to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Entertainment and Event Operations (Level 3), through Skills Active Aotearoa, the industry training organisation for performing arts.

Jay looks after everything from projectors and microphones for meetings, right through to full-on productions requiring rigging, lighting, sound and more. The NBS Theatre also has two cinemas and Jay looks after the cinema screens as well.

Working in the auditorium is the best part of his job, he says.

“I like making sure that people walk out after their show or meeting with either a big smile on their face, or feeling fulfilled that they achieved what they wanted to.”

He likes learning and experimenting with technology, which has helped him get up to speed. He had never used a lighting desk before getting the job, he says, but after “throwing [himself] in at the deep end” a few times he quickly got the hang of it.

Jay says fitting in his on-job qualification has been easy to do. He makes sure he observes everything and asks questions, and does his own research as well.

Jay’s manager Debbie Crackett thought it would be good for him to get the chance to work in a bigger venue with a larger crew. Then she heard that the ASB Civic Theatre in Blenheim was in need of another pair of hands for a short time.

So Debbie sorted out a plan for Jay to head off to Blenheim for a few weeks to join the ASB crew as a “pack-in-pack-out” for the run of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

While Jay was there, he worked as a mechanist and in the fly tower (the large space above the stage from which sets are hung), which he hadn’t done before. He also picked up some good ideas to bring back to Westport.

The trip was a win-win for both venues and for Jay, Debbie says. He got to work with and learn from all sorts of people, and saw ways that NBS Theatre could update their health and safety forms, and site inductions.

“I think collaboration between smaller and larger venues is paramount, especially when staff do not get the opportunity to experience the big shows and venues,” Debbie says.

“And by sharing information, venues don’t have to reinvent the wheel so to speak. For venues like ours that are geographically quite isolated, we benefit immensely from having those relationships.”

Asked what he has learnt on the job so far, Jay can rattle off a long list of professional skills – wrapping up theatre drapes to prevent them getting wrinkled, multiple techniques for coiling and wrapping cables, and much more. He adds, however, that to him the past year-and-a-half feels like one big learning journey that has been bigger than the sum of its parts.

“If I’ve learnt anything from past experiences and even just observing people, it’s that our job can be quite hard sometimes! Whether it’s a lengthy night, heavy equipment, angry people, or a lot of time spent in awkward positions or places. It’s just best to stay calm and happy because you only make things difficult for yourself and others when you’re moody.

“I have also learnt that I have the best job in the world, because it’s something that I enjoy!”